Before there were hundreds of bourbon-centric events throughout the year in Louisville and throughout Kentucky, there was the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. And after 27 years, the five-day event always held during National Bourbon Heritage Month continues to attract more than 50,000 people to Bardstown for all sorts of ways to celebrate and enjoy Kentucky bourbon.
This year, the 28th annual KBF will run from Sept. 18-22 and feature all the familiar favorites like Bourbon, Cigars & Jazz, the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, the Great Kentucky Bourbon Tasting & Cocktail Party, and the ever-popular World Champion Bourbon Barrel Relays.
And there will be some different features as well, according to the KBF’s new Interim Executive Director Mike Mangeot. He tells us the biggest change will be on Bardstown’s Great Lawn, which will now be open Thursday through Saturday instead of just the weekend. Also big news: The participating distilleries in the festival will now be able to sell cocktails on the lawn.
Mangeot is the tourism director for Bardstown, and he lucked into the role of KBF interim director when there was some staff turnover earlier this year.
“We were faced with the prospect of not having the festival this year,” he explains. “Because of its importance to Bardstown, the (KBF) board asked if Bardstown Tourism would manage the festival, and we said yes.”
Mangeot says there also will be an educational stage added to the festival where attendees can meet master distillers and learn more about the bourbon-making process.
He’s looking forward to hosting everyone this September and plans on putting in many hours to make sure everything runs smoothly this year. We asked what it is that keeps the Kentucky Bourbon Festival going strong for nearly 30 years, and Mangeot knows exactly why.
“The continued support of our distillery partners and the community of Bardstown and Nelson County,” he says. “The residents take great pride and ownership in being what I call the original and most authentic bourbon festival in the world.”
For a look at all the events – some of which are free and some ticketed — check out the Kentucky Bourbon Festival’s website.
We caught up with Mangeot before all the madness starts to ask him some very important questions …
What was your first concert?
I went to a lot of concerts when I was young since my dad (Dan Mangeot) ran the Kentucky Derby Festival, so I don’t really remember the first one I attended. However, the first one I purchased my own tickets to was Bruce Springsteen — Born in the USA Tour.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Tourism. I’ve been very fortunate to serve at both the national, state and local level in leadership positions in the industry, and it has given me a great perspective on the challenges and opportunities for Kentucky.
What job would you be terrible at?
I think any position where I simply came in and sat at my desk, doing the same thing every day would drive me insane. I don’t necessarily consider myself overly creative, but I like to take on challenges and find solutions. Not having an outlet like that would be terrible for me.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar?
Jack Fry’s has been a favorite for my wife and me for a long time. Heirloom Restaurant in Midway is also a favorite — it’s small and intimate and great for a quick dinner or cocktail. And Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar in Bardstown is outstanding.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once?
I think our country would be a better place if everyone traveled overseas at least once. Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” I think that is more true today than any time in my life.
Where would you direct a newcomer of Louisville to get a feel for the city?
As a tourism person, I, of course, would recommend attractions that give a good overview of the city. I’d hit Museum Row — Slugger Museum, Frazier Museum, especially with their new bourbon attractions, the Ali Center, and finish it off with Kentucky Derby Museum. And then I would highly recommend a trip to Bardstown!
What keeps you here (in Kentucky)?
My wife and I were both born and raised here, and this may sound corny, but we both really love this state. It’s beautiful and the people are truly some of the friendliest you will find anywhere. We want to see Kentucky grow and prosper economically, and unfortunately, that’s a challenge right now.