World’s Largest Bourbon Festival Wraps Up 3-Day Run with 91,000 Fans – Proves 3rd Time’s a Charm
They say good things come in three’s. It’s called the Rule of Three (Latin-“omne trium perfectum”). It takes at least three things to create a pattern and in the case of Bourbon & Beyond, the third time’s a charm. Year one was amazing, year two was unfortunately a gully washer and year three, well, it was a charm – the music lineup, the food lineup and of course the bourbon lineup were all rock solid.
What Was the Spark That Ignited the World’s Largest Bourbon Festival?
Bourbon has been a thing in the state of Kentucky for hundreds of years. Even through the dark days of Prohibition Kentucky was one of the only states in the nation that was legally allowed to distribute whiskey for medicinal purposes. Once Prohibition ended those distillery operations came back to life making Bourbon – America’s only Native Spirit. In 2014 Louisville city leaders gathered a work group together to create a long-term vision to make Louisville the world’s best culinary and spirits city.
The work group included business executives, chefs, distillers and tourism leaders and it was divided into three committees: Bourbon, Food and Built Environment. Some of the conclusions of that committee were to use bourbon to market and sell the city and serve as an economic development tool. The recommendations included creating a common marketing strategy for the city around bourbon and food; incorporate bourbon and food into the airport as a gateway; create a bourbon certification and recognition system to educate the hospitality industry including front-line servers and bartenders; and to create an annual world-class signature bourbon and food festival.
Looking back at this year’s 3-day Bourbon & Beyond weekend of food, music and bourbon we can definitely put a big check mark and a gold star next to the world-class bourbon and food festival.
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3rd Year of Bourbon & Beyond Attracts 91,000 Fans
Bourbon & Beyond is produced by independent festival producer Danny Wimmer Presents. The festival offers memorable experiences from top music talent, local and national bourbon distillers, and celebrity chefs that together celebrate the spirit of Louisville. In early 2018 Danny Wimmer Presents and the city of Louisville announced they had signed a 10 year agreement to continue to produce the Bourbon & Beyond Festival, Louder Than Life Festival and to create a third new event which turned into this years inaugural Hometown Rising country music festival. The festivals take over the town for three consecutive weekends. Over the term of the agreement the trio of events is projected to generate $1 billion in economic impact for the city.
The third year of Bourbon & Beyond wrapped up an unforgettable weekend September 20-22 with 91,000 fans in attendance at the Highland Festival Grounds at Kentucky Expo Center.
Seminars Ranged from the Story of Pappy Van Winkle to Slavery in American Whiskey
The Kentucky Gold stage hosted a variety of programs including a Saturday event featuring the Van Winkle family – renowned for the sought-after Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. As with many of the events it was hosted by Bourbon & Beyond’s bourbon curator and best selling Wall Street Journal author Fred Minnick. The family was represented by Julian P. Van Winkle III third generation Van Winkle to produce bourbon whiskey in Kentucky; his daughter Carrie Van Winkle Greener CEO of Pappy & Company; and his son Preston Van Winkle Marketing Manager, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery.
And the festivals final seminar discussed one of the topics that you rarely if ever hear about when talking about the history of bourbon and that’s the influence of slaves in American whiskey. The provocative chat about the history of “Slavery in American Whiskey” hosted by Minnick included guests Andrea Meriweather, a bourbon tourism consultant; Clay Risen Author and New York Times editor; Fawn Weaver Co-Founder and CEO of Nearest Green Distillery; and Freddie Johnson Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Member and Buffalo Trace Distillery VIP Visitor Lead. And by the way, they did hand out samples of 15 year-old Pappy Van Winkle to a select few.
Bourbon & Beyond Music Headliners Span Decades
Foo Fighters, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Zac Brown Band, Daryl Hall & John Oates, John Fogerty, ZZ Top and nearly 50 artists in total across Bourbon & Beyond’s three stages captivated the audience, including several surprise moments. Foo Fighters welcomed special guest Revel Ian on guitar for their final song “Everlong.” The young son of Pearl Aday and Anthrax’s Scott Ian closed out the first night after Pearl opened the festival with her band on Friday. On Saturday, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl sat in on drums with Squeeze for their classic hit “Black Coffee In Bed.” Legendary vocalist Robert Plant ended Saturday night with a mesmerizing performance of songs from the Led Zeppelin songbook as well as his solo material while Zac Brown Band wowed with a number of original hits and covers. Nathaniel Rateliff was also joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a rousing performance. And John Fogerty celebrated the 50th anniversary of his appearance at the original Woodstock with a mini-documentary before his set, while ZZ Top marked their 50th year as a touring band.
The Culinary Stage Smells a Lot Like Bourbon
The Better In The Bluegrass culinary stage and the Kentucky Gold bourbon workshop stage also had their share of special moments. On Friday, master chef and Bourbon & Beyond culinary co-curator Edward Lee was joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer for a cooking demo. On Saturday, former Saved By The Bell and Beverly Hills 90210 star Tiffani Thiessen celebrated the release of her new cookbook, Pull Up A Chair with a demo and book signing. Several music performers also made special appearances on the Better In The Bluegrass Stage including Coy Bowles from the Zac Brown Band appearing with chef Rusty Hamlin, as well as Ben Jaffe from Preservation Hall Jazz Band joining chef Justin Sutherland.
Add it all up and you have a Trifesta – three events taking place over three consecutive weekends. This year kicked off with the premier of Hometown Rising country music festival on September 14-15 where we had the pleasure of hearing Fred Minnick attempt to yodel. Followed by Bourbon & Beyond on September 20-22 and things wrap up with Louder Than Life hardcore heavy metal festival September 27-29, 2019.
And finally, Carrie Van Winkle Greener, she’s a triplet. Cheers!