Kentucky Bourbon Festival ready for a drink after COVID, flood and strike

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Many bourbon lovers like a little water with their bourbon, but the organizers of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival would have preferred something a little more polished this year.

Six inches of rain fell over Bardstown on Wednesday, leaving parts of the festival grounds soft and muddy. Festival directors said installation for Thursday, opening day, was delayed 12 hours as a result.

“We don’t want to see problems anymore, but you know they are happening,” said Kentucky Bourbon Festival president David Mandell. “We’re going to ride with it. We want everyone to come here. Obviously, this is a paid event. We are going to have a wonderful time; we are going to work in the mud. But the sun is shining and we’re going to drink bourbon.

This is the first year of ticket sales at the festival, a change that hasn’t gone well with some Bardstown residents used to the laid-back community event of the past. In all, 9,000 tickets were sold, most months in advance, for the four-day event.

This year the Festival will take place without Heaven Hill. Labor strike sidelines the spirits giant as picketers demand better working conditions. However, strike leaders said they had no issues with the annual bourbon festival.

“I can’t sit here and say, ‘Don’t go,’ said United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23-D president Matt Aubrey. “There are millions of bourbon lovers around the world, but at this time I wouldn’t be producing the Heaven Hill product.”

At Buffalo Wings and Rings in Bardstown, management expects a 15% increase in festival business, despite the withdrawal of all Heaven Hill products in solidarity with local workers.

“We already saw a huge increase in sales yesterday,” said Jessica “Red” Raines, regional manager of Buffalo Wings and Rings. “We ended the day up 63% from last Wednesday, and our bar was full of Heaven Hill supporters yesterday.”

Just a week ago, the biggest challenge for festival directors was the pandemic. Ticket holders will be required to show proof of vaccination or undergo a rapid COVID test on site.

Copyright 2021 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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