About 1,300 bourbon aficionados, many of whom poured in from out of town, attended the first-ever Bourbon on the Banks Saturday.
Organizers of the inaugural event, which took place at River View Park and Ward Oates Amphitheater on Saturday, were pleasantly surprised with the turnout.
“Easily more than half of the attendees weren’t from around here,” Rene True, who is treasurer of the Frankfort Bourbon Society, said after reviewing a summary of ticket sales Monday afternoon.
He noted that attendees traveled from as far away as Australia, Toronto, New Mexico, New York, Michigan, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.
Festival-goers also came from the larger nearby cities as well — including 60 from Louisville; 45 from Cincinnati; and 32 from Lexington, True added.
Festival Board Chair Tom Bennett, who has lived in the capital city all his life, said he saw many people he didn’t know at both Friday’s Bourbon Street on Broadway and Saturday’s main event — which is a good sign on the tourism front.
“We wanted to bring new faces to Frankfort and this has become a real broad-based community event,” he added.
One of the few hiccups organizers experienced was nearly letting the winners of the cocktail contest get away before the presentation.
Hatfield & McCoy Moonshine won the competition “hands down,” but when Bennett went to congratulate the winners, their tent had been vacated. A vendor in a neighboring booth said they had just packed up and may still be in the parking lot.
Bennett hotfooted it to the top of the floodwall and hollered down to the Hatfield & McCoy representatives, who were in the vendor parking lot at the Farmers Market Pavilion.
“I said, ‘You won the cocktail competition,’” Bennett told The State Journal Monday afternoon. “We almost let them slip out of town.”
In fact, many vendors noted that Bourbon on the Banks was a well-organized festival. Roughly 140 volunteers donated their time.
Bennett specifically credited Wendy Kobler, whose work brought the event to fruition, and the Board of Directors — Kristin Cantrell, Charlie Jones, John Senter, Roger Crittenden, Amzie Wenning, Jim Tidwell, Brian Delambre and Chris Cribbs.
However, just as organizers are wrapping up this year’s event, they will need to figure out who will step up to fill Kobler’s shoes, as she announced late last month that she was leaving Frankfort to fill a similar position at Ithaca College in New York.
Bennett said nothing has been decided yet, but after news of Kobler’s departure broke, the Bourbon on the Banks board asked True to work alongside Kobler for a smooth transition as it begins to work on the 2020 event.
“We’re excited about the prospects and at this point we are open to maybe doing a themed event,” Bennett said, adding they are already seeking 2020 volunteers, who can visit the Bourbon on the Banks website for more information.