Calitri pushing for more city events

·3 min read

Jun. 26—When Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, looks ahead to the coming fiscal year, he sees one thing that's needed — more events.

"Owensboro is an events-driven town," he said. "We have to have more events."

Calitri said, "Our competition keeps heating up. It's getting very competitive out there. We'll have to ramp up too. We have to be bigger, bolder and better."

A year ago, The Hemmings Motor News Great Race brought 115 vintage vehicles into downtown on a 2,300-mile road rally from San Antonio to Greenville, South Carolina.

Hundreds of people from across the region lined Veterans Boulevard to see the vehicles and drivers.

Calitri wants to bring the race back to town in 2023.

And he's hoping to find out soon if that can be arranged.

Owensboro is a finalist for GeoWoodstock XX, the world's largest geocaching festival, which will be on Memorial Day in 2023.

Calitri said the event could bring 5,000 to 7,000 geocaching enthusiasts to town from all 50 states and more than 30 countries.

Previous events have seen geocachers from Germany, Egypt, New Zealand and Canada.

Calitri said, "I'm talking with Tim Ross, the city's public events director, about creating more events around it if we get it. The more things we have going on that weekend, the more people we can expect to come."

The CVB has a strong focus on bluegrass and bourbon.

Calitri said he's working on two bourbon-themed events for 2023.

One will be in connection with the International Bar-B-Q Festival in May and the other involves working with bourbon societies in cities like Nashville and St. Louis to get them to take a road trip to the Green River Distilling Co. in Owensboro.

The more societies that visit, the more tourism dollars the city will attract, Calitri said.

He said he's also looking four "brand new bluegrass events" in addition to what's already here.

American Queen Voyages' American Queen, American Duchess and American Countess paddlewheelers are scheduled to stop at English Park 14 times this year by Nov. 9.

Each will bring between 150 and 400 passengers from as far away as California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota to town, Calitri said.

The passengers already visit the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Green River Distilling and the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Sarah Haynes, the CVB's destination sales and service manager, said, "We're trying to incorporate the boats into more things in the city."

She said the boats want that.

One major thing that draws visitors to the city is tournaments.

Chris Gendek, destination development and sports management director for the CVB, said, "This July is really busy. We have back-to-back world series in softball and baseball. We'll have welcoming ceremonies and a parade at Friday After 5."

The new flooring at the convention center is also letting it host a Battle of the Blue Bridge basketball tournament on July 9-10.

Gendek said another basketball tournament is coming to the convention center in December.

"We have to keep the pedal to the metal in '23," he said. "There are 11 open weekends now at the convention center, but some of those have pending events."

Calitri said hotels are offering packages to bring people to town.

"Downtown is safe," he said. "People like our riverfront and the restaurants."

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com