The Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau advertises Owensboro as the home of bourbon, bluegrass and barbecue.

And this fall, it's starting to push all three attractions a lot harder.

"We're buying two full pages of ads in the Bourbon Review," Dave Kirk, the CVB's destination management director, said recently. "O.Z. Tyler is also buying two pages. Ours will focus on the entire Owensboro experience. Theirs will focus on the distillery."

But it's not just about ads in a magazine, he said.

"We're getting a whole lot more," Kirk said. "It's a comprehensive approach. Their website gets more than 1 million hits a year. Their Facebook account has 143,000 fans and their Instagram has 100,000. They also send out email blasts that we'll be featured in."

There's a bluegrass tie-in too, he said.

"The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum has a stake in this," Kirk said. "They have a bluegrass bourbon from O.Z. Tyler that they sell."

Mark Calitri, president of the CVB, said it's important to focus on bourbon because "bourbon people have money to spend."

Eric Gregory, executive director of the Kentucky Distillers Association, said people who drive the Kentucky Bourbon Trail visiting the distilleries across the state are relatively young and affluent.

Seventy percent are between 25 and 54 years old and make between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, he said.

Seventy-five percent stay in hotels while on the Trail and the average person spends between $400 and $1,200 while traveling the trail, Gregory said.

Kirk said the CVB is creating professional videos to promote the community.

"We're taking our video production to professional levels," Calitri said. "We're using helicopters for aerial views, hiring actors and creating expert-level messaging."

Kirk said Alexander Francis Films of Owensboro has "shot a lot of footage at festivals and other events for us. The commercials feature O.Z. Tyler, the Hall of Fame and music from Friday After 5, the Miller House, Lure, places that have music. It's part of the Brand USA promotion."

Brand USA, the overseas marketing agency for American tourism, last year selected Owensboro as one of its Top 10 American music cities, with the emphasis on bluegrass music.

But it also included the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, Friday After 5, Live on the Banks and other music venues in the community.

And a short video about Owensboro on its website has already drawn nearly 6 million views, Calitri said.

The ads are running in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Mexico.

Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer for Brand USA, said last spring, "What we're trying to do is get tourists learning about and thinking about new experiences and new places. Some of them have been to Disney World and Las Vegas and think they've seen America. We want them to know that there's more to America."

Last year, he said, 78 million people from other countries visited America and Brand USA was responsible for 1.2 million of them.

The advertising, he said, has a long-term impact.

"We are working closely with the Kentucky Department of Tourism to attract European journalists to visit Kentucky and experience the great things this state has to offer for travelers," Calitri said. "The journalists then return to their home countries and write articles and spread the message."

He said, "Recently, we had Crash magazine from the UK that printed a great article on Owensboro's music scene. This month, we have seven European journalists from the UK and Germany coming in to experience barbecue and bluegrass music."

They'll be attending the Mandolin Orange concert at the Hall of Fame on Sept. 28.

Kirk said earlier, "Anytime we have visitors from out of town -- bus tour operators or travel writers -- we take them out for barbecue."

This weekend's 14th annual Grillin' & Chillin' BBQ Cookoff at Diamond Lake Resort in West Louisville was expected to draw 40 cooking teams from seven states to Daviess County.

And the International Bar-B-Q Festival each May draws thousands of visitors from several states to town.

Targeting Lexington

Calitri said the CVB is working with WLEX-TV, Lexington's NBC affiliate, to promote Owensboro in central Kentucky.

"We want to say, 'If you haven't been to Owensboro in a few years, come check us out'," he said.

"This opportunity allows us to enter into the central Kentucky market, which has a substantial population base," Calitri said.

The CVB is also working on plans to promote the new artificial turf fields at Jack C. Fisher Park to out-of-town teams next year, but Calitri said he's not ready to announce details yet.

The city is working to replace the dirt and grass in the infields at the four ballparks at Fisher Park with a synthetic material to prevent mud and water on the basepaths.

The synthetic material dries quickly after a rain.

"We used to have a lot of teams from up north come down for tournaments," Jared Bratcher, the CVB's sports marketing director, said earlier. "But we had too many rainouts, and they stopped coming. I think we can get them back. With turf, we won't have that problem."

Plans also include a new mural by the registration desk at the Owensboro Convention Center to promote the community.

"There's a big white wall with a lot of space," Calitri said. "We want to put up a large video screen to show what all is going on in town. We would control the content."

At Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, the CVB wants to update the wall over the baggage carousel.

The wall was last updated when Smothers Park was new in 2012.

Calitri said the CVB wants to add new photographs and a giant screen TV that will show local attractions.

And he said the agency is working on an ambassador training program to help front-line people in hotels and restaurants be able to provide more information about Owensboro to guests.

"We're going to Franklin, Tennessee, to look at their program, Calitri said.

Last month, the Kentucky Department of Tourism said spending by tourists in Daviess County climbed 3% last year to $218.52 million.

That represented a $6.31 million increase in money coming into the community.

"We're the sixth-fastest growing county in the state" in terms of tourism, Calitri said then. "We're trending in the right direction."

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301,

(1) comment

Mark Calitri

Owensboro has a very deep connection with its brand of bluegrass, bourbon, and barbecue. It is more than a slogan, its a message that resonates with potential visitors-Mark Calitri

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