History of the International Bar-B-Q Festival: "It's a tradition"

OWENSBORO, KY (WFIE) - When the smell of burgoo and mutton takes over downtown Owensboro, so do the people.

Some people come for the food, and some for the events, but for others, it's all about tradition. It's a tradition that goes way back.

Danny Thomas and his cooking team at Blessed Mother start the BBQ prep days in advance. Their family members have been cooking since the first festival in 1979.  But before that, it was all about the picnics.

Danny has an old photo of his grampa from one of those picnics.  The Catholic churches would draw hundreds to their picnics. They were so popular, the city decided to bring everyone together, for an international Bar-B-Q festival on the riverfront.

Danny's resume includes 22 years of burgoo stirring for Blessed Mother church. Mostly for bonding time with friends and family.

"It's good fellowship and camaraderie. We have the kettles so close, you're talking to each other," Danny said.

But the teams also have another motivation to swap the mutton for a medal. That's the coveted Governor's Cup.

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"We've won almost 50% of the times. There's a lot of competition that wants to get up there with us," Dan said.

Like Danny Thomas, Dan Thomas has been coming to the Bar-B-Q Festival for 35 years, and he'd argue he's a pretty good cook since St. Mary Magdalene's brought home the trophy 18 years overall. The trophy could mean a good picnic turnout which is the church's largest fundraiser each year.

"We enjoy the competition. It's more of a tradition, but it's also a lot of work," Dan said.

So What keeps the cooks like Dan and Danny coming back every year?

"It's in my blood," Danny says, "I love getting out here and being with people."

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