Bourbon festival returns

Feb. 10—TRAVERSE CITY — More than 100 bourbons will be available to sip during the second annual Traverse City Bourbon Festival next weekend.

Paul Starr, from event organizer 5475 Days, said last year's event sold out and they "anticipate doing that this year."

Starr said he has planned festivals for more than 10 years. He started in Lansing with a beer-focused event at the ballpark and now does about eight bourbon festivals around the state.

Adding a festival up north in the winter made sense to him. Starr said most of their bourbon festivals take place from January through April, before it gets too warm outside.

"I've always liked the Traverse City area," Starr said. "I've been to Suds and Snow. I thought it'd be a fun Valentine's Day weekend event."

Available drinks will include Grand Traverse Distillery cherry whiskey, Iron Fish Distillery Maple Bourbon, Mammoth Distilling Northern Rye No. 02 and Traverse City Whiskey Co. Lakeside Peach Whiskey. Beers, cocktails and wine are also available.

"It depends on what you want to try," Starr said.

VIPs have "access to all the super rare bourbons and ryes," while general admission attendees can still find "quality stuff," Starr said.

"I try to build a list and try to put something at every ticket level that's a quality pour," he said. "We're trying to educate bourbon drinkers. We recommend bourbons for people's palate."

Maria's Food Trucks, based in Saginaw, will serve Mexican cuisine during the Traverse City Bourbon Festival. Owners Luis Coss and Juan Estrada are planning to bring carne asada and birria tacos.

"That [birria] has a smoky flavor — just like some bourbons up there," Coss said. "We love being in Traverse City and meeting people up there."

The Traverse City Bourbon Festival will take place from 4-6:30 p.m. and 7:30-10 p.m. Feb. 17 at Visions Weddings and Banquets.

In addition to tastings and food, Michigan-based group Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish will provide live music.

General admission is $60; VIP tickets are $100 and include access to more beverages. Additional tasting tickets can be purchased during the event.

Proceeds will go to the nonprofit Friends of the River. For event tickets and a full beverage list, visit