Shelly Hunt of Desperados BBQ in Buffalo, N.Y., said she was eager to get back to Danville after receiving such a warm welcome last year. She wasn’t surprised people were ready to dig in once the raindrops stopped.
“We had pouring rain last night and pouring rain this morning, and it didn’t seem to make a bit of difference,” Hunt said Saturday.
Hunt, who is on the board of directors for the National Barbecue Association, said that organization and the Kansas City Barbecue Society, which sanctions cooking competitions, have both seen their membership increase. She attributes the spike in interest to people taking authentic barbecue methods from their traditional homes in the South and Midwest to other parts of the county.
Hunt has helped bring her specialty to a region she said was bereft of real barbecue flavor until recently. She learned to cook pork properly (cooked slow with smoke) when she was living in Kansas and said it was impossible to go back to eating what was generically called barbecue (made fast on a grill).
Barbecue connoisseurs like Wes Berry now have the event circled on their calendars as well.
Berry, an English professor at Western Kentucky University, recently completed writing “The Kentucky Barbecue Book,” which documents his barnstorming of 160 barbecue restaurants across the state in the last three years. Berry was in Danville shooting a segment about small businesses he hosts on WBKO television in Bowling Green, an area known for its barbecue.
Berry, a native of Barren County, said about 80 percent of the barbecue restaurants in the state are west of Interstate 65. It pleases him to find a celebration of his favorite dishes springing up somewhere unexpected.
“Whenever possible, I try to steer our show toward meat,” said Berry, who also shot footage at the Twisted Sifter in Danville and Marksbury Farm Market in Camp Dick.
The BBQ Festival brought in people from at least nine states last year, a number Simmons said likely will jump due to the buzz surrounding the event and a beefed-up advertising effort. Many of those who came last year said they encouraged their friends to make the trip this year.
Bruce Johnson, a Danville native, lives and works in Richmond. He said the chance to sample beer and barbecue in his hometown on a fall afternoon brought him back for a second year.
“We came (in 2011) and had a blast, so I have been talking it up to everyone I know in Richmond, telling them they need to come down,” Johnson said.
The event also was a draw for those who make part of their living traveling to wherever the state’s signature beverage is served. Tom Fischer started bourbonblog.com six years ago and has seen Kentucky bourbon become the fastest growing spirit in terms of sales internationally during that time.
Fischer shot video at last year’s festival, and the success story of the event led to a partnership with the website as a sponsor this year.
“It is awesome to see so many people out enjoying something like this,” Fischer said.
All of the proceeds from beer sales from the festival go to the Heart of Danville. Sales were so brisk in 2011 it immediately became one of the group’s largest fundraisers.
SO YOU KNOW
The Kentucky State BBQ Festival continues today at Constitution Square Park.
Admission is free.
11 a.m.: festival opens
11:15 a.m.-noon: tailgating on the pit, demo stage
Noon-12:30 p.m.: holiday on the pit, demo stage
1-2 p.m.: The Mojos, main stage
2:15-3:15 p.m.: bean eating contest, main stage
2:30-2:45 p.m.: hog calling contest, main stage
3-4 p.m.: Custom Made Bluegrass, main stage
4:15-4:45 p.m.: award announcements, Big Green Egg raffle drawing, door prize drawings, main stage
5-6 p.m.: Long Tall Deb, main stage
5 p.m.: festival closes