Saturday afternoon, Kenny Conder was enjoying a drink on the pier behind the Owensboro Convention Center.

A large number of people in summer dress, both inside the convention center ballroom and outside, were doing the same thing. Lined up along the pier and on both sides of the ballroom, numerous beer brewers, wine vinters and bourbon distillers were serving up the beverages at the convention center's third "Cheers on the Pier."

Conder said he was new to the festival, but was impressed.

"It's good. I think anything that brings people down here is a good thing," Conder said. "That's what they did all this work for."

The smell of beer filled the air Saturday, as craft breweries from across the region served specialty beers to the crowd. As organizer Trevor Cravens took tickets, a couple came out with a bottle of mystery wine they'd purchased from Oliver Winery, as part of a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club. The couple told Cravens they were going to try out the mystery wine at their hotel, then head back to the festival.

Cravens, who puts on several beer festivals each year, and one as far away as Wisconsin, said the Owensboro event is always a pleasure.

"Everyone seems to keep running into people they know," Cravens said. "I know they're here for the beer, but it's a good opportunity to get out with your friends. We don't get as many inquiries about, 'what's your beer list?'

"This is the only convention center that lends itself to do an event like this," Cravens said.

Alex and Whitney Haynes, of Owensboro, were relaxing at a table on the pier, while a band played bluegrass music nearby. This was the couple's first time at the festival.

"We don't know anything about beer," Whitney Haynes said. "I'm not a beer drinker. I'm more of a bourbon kind of girl."

But the couple were having fun, and said they would like more events to bring them and others to the convention center.

"We like any chance to come down to the convention center," Whitney Haynes said. "We were talking about how we wish there were more things ... It would be nice to have more stuff down here."

Alex Haynes said the couple would return to future "Cheers" events. Scott Lykens, sales representative for Goodwood Brewing Co. in Louisville, said he has been to each "Cheers on the Pier" event, and said he is in Owensboro on business quite often. Festivals like Saturday's "Cheers" are important in a competitive beer market, Lykens said.

"Some people think this is a hobby, but it's a business," Lykens said. The brewery was showcasing six beers at the festival.

"Any time you've got six beers in front of 1,000 people, hopefully they'll find things they like" and will buy at a local liquor store or bar, Lykens said.

"This is a really terrific festival because it's on a pier," Lykens said, and said Cravens and co-organizer Tisha Dean put on "flawless beer festivals."

"It's easy to want to be part of something that's perfect," Lykens said.

Conder, like Whitney Haynes, also said he would like to see more events that bring people downtown to the convention center.

"It's a festive mood, and I think everybody is having a good time," Conder said of the event. Meanwhile, Conder's group was planning their next stop, to hear the Velvet Bombers at the Smothers Park band shell.

"We'll make a night of it," Conder said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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