Visitors feast on their favorite barbecue chicken and ribs at Paducah’s Barbecue on the River & Old Market Days Festival
Wafts of barbecue smoke tantalize taste buds as they drift over downtown Paducah, Kentucky, and the river front. Every September, the Barbecue on the River & Old Market Days Festival showcases top barbecue teams from around the country.
It’s also a favorite fundraiser. Every booth has a cooking team paired with a serving team of local volunteers representing a specific nonprofit. All proceeds from the 3-day event, minus the cooking team’s expenses, are donated to the nonprofit.
The barbecue judges include folks attending the festival, like my sister and a cousin. At 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, they joined other judges around a table to taste and rank 10 barbecued chickens. Several other tables of judges tasted tens of other entries. The judges at my sister and cousin’s table all quickly agreed on the best and the worst but held different opinions of the other 8. Needless to say, they had their fill of chicken for weeks, perhaps months, to come!
Festival goers eat at a given booth for a variety of reasons: the style of barbecue, the awards won, the nonprofit it supports, the length of the line, the signage, the availability of seating …or pure impulse. The place we chose won 2nd place for ribs in 2008 – that was good enough for us. The ribs were tender, tasty and delicious!
Live music, booth shopping, and a variety of activities, including a race, towboat tour and line tossing contest, keep folks coming back the three days.
The annual Barbecue on the River & Old Market Days Festival runs Thursday through Saturday, during the third week of September.