Bourbon on the Banks Festival Written by Patti Nickell

If there are two things that most Kentuckians relish, it’s bourbon and festivals.  The two come together on Saturday, October 1st from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the annual celebration of Bourbon on the Banks.

Now in its third year, the festival provides those 21 years of age and older with an afternoon slate of activities designed to appeal to a host of interests.

Spirits enthusiasts can stroll the historic path along the Kentucky River in River View Park where representatives from some 59 distilleries, craft breweries and wineries will be stationed for tastings.

For the bourbon lovers, this year’s festival will also provide unique interactive opportunities designed to educate them on America’s only native spirit.

We’re betting this is one educational experience that will have no trouble attracting participants.

Foodies, music lovers and art collectors won’t be left out either. 

Ten food vendors have already signed up and will offer a wide range of items from hamburgers, gourmet hot dogs and barbecue to Asian fare and alcohol-infused baked goods.

Nothing goes better with good food than good music.  Five musicians will be stationed at intervals along the riverfront, providing festivalgoers with bluegrass, country, jazz and pop.

Those hoping to pick up a bourbon-themed handmade collectible won’t be disappointed either.  Bourbon will be featured in the work of 19 artisans in items such as coffee, BBQ sauce, maple syrup, candles and even furniture crafted from bourbon barrels.

While the riverfront activities are the focal point of the festival, there are several other events planned.  The September 30th VIP Reception & Bourbon Auction will recognize women in the bourbon industry – from master distillers to brand ambassadors.

It will be held at the Kentucky Historical Society, and there are still a limited number of tickets available.

That same night, Broadway Street will be transformed into Bourbon Street with all the color and pageantry of NOLA’s iconic street.  Aerialists and fire eaters will keep things lively, while local restaurants and merchants, along with regional food and beverage vendors will be on hand for those who want something other than fire to eat.

While Bourbon on the Banks provides plenty of fun, it also has a philanthropic focus.

As a private, non-profit 501 © (3), Bourbon on the Banks will use a portion of the funds generated from the event to fund student scholarships to the Kentucky State University Fermentation and Distillation Program, as well as to provide scholarships to Frankfort/Franklin County students to attend any distillation and spirits college accredited program.

Part of the proceeds are earmarked for the White Oak Initiative, dedicated to preserving and sustaining the white oak tree used in the manufacturing of bourbon barrels.

Additional revenue from Bourbon on the Banks serves as a stimulus to economic development in Frankfort’s downtown district.

According to Executive Director Diane Strong, Bourbon on the Banks is more than simply an excuse to drink the commonwealth’s favorite spirit, albeit for a good cause.

“Each pour is more than just a drink,” she explains.  “It’s about appreciating history and tradition, understanding the legacy and art of making bourbon, and bonding with friends.”