After a one-year absence because of COVID-19, Bourbon on the Banks’ return was a welcome sight.

Bourbon on the Banks took place this weekend with several events that included Bourbon Street on Broadway and a VIP auction Friday and a festival along the banks of the Kentucky River at River View Park and an after-party Saturday.

The festival Saturday featured food trucks and booths, merchandise booths, live entertainment, and distillery and brewery booths where free samples were given.

“It’s so nice to see so many people coming to this,” County Judge-Executive Huston Wells said. “I’d say 50% of the people we’ve talked to aren’t from Frankfort. This is great for the City of Frankfort.”

Among those traveling from out of state were Clarissa Moses and Matthew Washington, who came from Long Island, New York.

“I was looking for something to do in Kentucky. He’s always wanted to come to Kentucky because he loves bourbon,” Moses said of her fiancé. “I was googling and found this.”

Moses and Washington have no ties to Kentucky, and the only other time Washington has been in the state was when he stayed in Northern Kentucky while attending a conference in Cincinnati.

They arrived Friday and among the things they did before going to the festival was attending Bourbon Street on Broadway and visiting Bulleit Distillery.

“It’s been amazing,” Moses said.

“Everyone is so nice, so accommodating to make sure we’re having a good time,” Washington added.

Melissa VanHouten and her husband, Bert, hadn’t planned to attend the festival, but they were there Saturday.

“We just decided at the last minute to come here, and it’s been amazing,” Melissa said. “I don’t drink bourbon, my husband does, but the beer has been good.

“It’s nice getting out. The last year has been difficult, but this seems to bring back a little bit of normalcy. Everyone has been so nice. It seems like everyone is in a great mood.”

That’s what Shelby Dozer, working at the Goodwood Brewing Co. booth, found.

“It’s been great,” Dozer said. “Everyone’s been very nice. They’ve had all kinds of questions to ask about our beer. This is the first year I’ve worked this (event), and I have no complaints so far.”

That was what Diane Strong, the executive director of the event, was hearing from sponsors.

“I’ve heard from several sponsors, and they’ll be back,” she said.

Bourbon on the Banks was presented by Community Trust Bank. Expree Credit Union was the sponsor for Bourbon Street on Broadway, and CRM Companies allowed the use of the Mayo-Underwood parking garage.

Strong said the event wouldn't have been possible without a group of about a dozen people who worked hard to make it happen.

“We’ve far exceeded our numbers this year,” she said. “We’ve far exceeded our proceeds, and we did it with about half the sponsorship. It’s been a hard year for businesses.”

This year’s event had sold 1,100 tickets, and there were some walk-up sales Saturday. In 2019, Bourbon on the Banks drew 800 people.

Proceeds from the event are used to fund scholarships for the distillation program at Kentucky State University, and some money also goes to the KSU marching band, which performed at Bourbon Street on Broadway Friday.

“I’m thrilled,” Strong said. “We’ve had a couple hiccups along the way, but everything has come together. The stars and moons are in alignment, and I’m as happy as can be.”

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