Danville, Ky– I discovered the Kentucky State Barbeque Festival quite by accident.
On a trip home from another assignment, I had the greater part of a day to kill. In a search for events in Kentucky, I discovered this festival. It was already in progress, and it was on my way home, so I took a beautiful ride through the Kentucky countryside and discovered Danville, Kentucky.
Danville has a population of just under 17,000. In 2011, Money Magazine placed Danville as the fourth best place to retire in the United States.
It’s the home to Centre College, which hosted the U.S Vice Presidential debates in 2000, and 2012.
Called the “City of Firsts,” it housed the first courthouse in Kentucky, was the first capital of Kentucky and hosts the first state-supported school for the deaf.
When I came here two years ago, I was only able to spend a couple of hours at the event before turning for home. I met the organizers and some of the sponsors, and of course, had something to eat. I came away with new friends, and a promise to come back and spend more time.
I spent this past weekend at the festival, and got a real “taste” for this amazing fundraiser.
The Kentucky State BBQ Festival is a 501(c)3, non profit and proceeds from the festival benefit the Heart of Kentucky United Way.
Brad and Cindy Simmons are the driving force behind this event, but the people of Danville, Kentucky and the Champion Pit-Masters are the real stars. Brad developed his relationship with these pit-masters while competing on the circuit himself. He no longer competes, but his “friends” are more than happy to support the festival, and they look forward to returning year after year.
In the world of competitive food events, these are the LEGENDS of the circuit.
Brad and Cindy, and the folks at the Wilderness Trail Distillery, have ALWAYS had time for me and have been willing to help me around the grounds and into the lives of these amazing pit-masters. There’s something for everyone at this festival. Music, food, kids events, vendors and demonstrations.
This festival is NOT a competitive event, it’s an eating event, and each of the pit-masters sell their food and products. It’s a “win-win” situation for everybody and it’s just going to get bigger and better. Having moved from the streets of downtown Danville, to the grounds of the distillery, the future is bright, not only for the event, but for the money they raise for the United Way. If you go away hungry, it’s your fault.
I have NEVER been treated with such hospitality as I have here.
The VIP event on Friday night was an opportunity to meet and greet the pit-masters, who are more than willing so sign autographs, pose for selfies, or just give some advice to us “back yard” pit-masters. These people LOVE what they do and have a real passion for cooking. They’re also very good with their fans, answering questions about everything from their favorite “rubs” to “how did you get on TV?”
When I went to greet Mike Mills, at Friday night’s event, he said, “you’re the guy with the strange name, I remember you.”
Well, if you’re going to be remembered for something….
After he gave a presentation on his whole hog preparation, it was time to eat. A full on buffet including Mike’s whole hog filled our bellies, while the band played. As I sat down to eat, I look up and Mike asked if he could join me. No food talk, just talk about family and grand kids. These are genuinely some of the nicest people on the planet.
Everybody from the volunteers to the sponsors to the police officers working the event, were so helpful and friendly. I’m sure it’s a madhouse behind the scenes, (just try to get Cindy to stop for a minute), but the festival appears to run as smooth as a fresh rack of ribs.
I chatted with everybody I could talk to and they loved being here and looked forward to next year.
There was only one problem. Each time I stopped to chat with one of the pit-masters, I was greeted with, “here, taste this.” I’ve never ate so good as this weekend.
The music was good, the food was great and the turn-out was awesome. After last years virtual rain-out, this weekend was a welcome site to everyone.
I’ve covered festivals big and small and at the end of the day, it’s the people I meet on this bike that thrills me the most. From Mountain View, Arkansas, to Sturgis, to Danville, Ky and beyond, I keep discovering amazing people and places. Places I would have never gone, and people I would have never met, had it not been for this motorcycle.
Danville, Kentucky has a lot to be proud of with the Kentucky State BBQ Festival. A community with leaders who have vision and a commitment to growth and aren’t afraid to think outside of the box.
From an idea over a glass of wine, to one of the top 20 events in the South, the Kentucky State Barbeque Festival is a winner for everyone.