Fall means festivals. School festivals. Church festivals. Festivals celebrating old wars. Festivals celebrating shrimp.
Paducah is no different. Fall brings street carnivals and fairs of one kind or another but the biggest one of all is Barbecue on the River. We already know Western Kentucky knows barbecue. Seventeen years ago, the organizers decided to capitalize on that passion and create Western Kentucky's answer to Memphis in May while raising lots and lots of money for charity.
Every booth is hosted by a charity around Paducah who then brings in the barbecue experts to smoke up the meet and hopefully win a trophy in the competition. All the festival goers benefit from the competition as we feed our faces with the best in smoked pork and chicken. The charity's benefit by keeping the proceeds to benefit their organization!
Over the course of three days, more than 30,000 people flood (no pun intended) the riverfront to take in the live music and food as well as the "Old Market Days."
Barbecue on the River didn't started until I was in high school. So, while it is a highlight of my year now, I don't have any happy memories of gobbling down barbecue at the festival as a child. In a way, I feel like that is a testament to the event that it has grown so quickly to become an essential outing as the seasons begin to change. I look forward to Barbecue on the River every year because it reminds me of all the ways Paducah grew and changed in the ten years I was gone and of all the new memories I have to create with my own children in the falls to come.
~ Sarah Stewart Holland