Champions Park during the Louder Than Life Festival

About three years ago, Mayor Greg Fischer started a Bourbon and Work Food Group for the purpose of boosting bourbon-related tourism in Louisville. That group, composed of about 50 individuals representing distilleries, restaurants and tourism agencies, produced a report highlighting initiatives important to achieve if Louisville was to become “the world’s best culinary and spirits city.”

At the top of the list was to create an annual “world-class bourbon and food festival.” And while there have been meetings and discussion over how the city could produce such an ambitious event, that discussion ended recently when a private firm in the business of festival production stepped up and said — “We’ll do it.”

Thus was the creation of Bourbon and Beyond, made public this week by Danny Wimmer Productions, an L.A.-based festival promoter with events currently in 11 cities, including the Louder Than Life Festival that’s now planning its fourth rendition for Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

“it was going to be a partial city event, then Danny Wimmer Productions decided to take all the risk and produce it themselves,” said Chris Poynter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer. “It shows how far we’ve come in the growth of our bourbon and food industry that a private company sees it and does it at its own risk.”

Bourbon and Beyond is set for Sept. 23-24, the weekend before Louder Than Life, in the same location. Champions Park is on River Road west of Zorn. The property will be rented to Wimmer Productions by Metro Parks for the entire period.

The decision by the L.A. firm to double its presence in Louisville is a coup for the city.

“The committee had a few meetings, but it was so much for us as a city to take on,” Poynter said. “Wimmer was always at the table. It’s good news for the city, because when it comes to bourbon, our philosophy is the more the merrier.”

In Wimmer Productions’ March 20 release announcing Bourbon & Beyond, it promised the festival will “blend the best elements of a bourbon festival, a food festival, and a music festival into an all-encompassing, unforgettable weekend.” It suggested that distilleries, restaurants, world-class musicians and craftsmen would participate.

Bourbon-and-Beyond-logowEatDrinkTalk obtained the company’s pitch to prospective sponsors, which included an impressive list of celebrity chefs (most from out of town), distilleries and performers. The latter included comedians Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari, along with musical acts The Black Keys, John Mayer and Hall & Oates. Highlighted are area distilleries and restaurants. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee those acts will come to Louisville. An announcement regarding the lineup of performers is expected in the next few weeks.

It’s quite an ambitious production, given there’s only a few months to prepare. However, Wimmer’s team had already planned to be here for Louder Than Life, and Poynter said the company has been involved in the Bourbon and Work Food Group for two years.

The Bourbon and Beyond web site, for now, consists of a single page, a letter from Wimmer to his “fellow bourbon-lovers.” In it, Wimmer pens a love letter to the city. It reads, in part:

I wanted to tell you that I have fallen in love with your city. I produce events all over the country, and what impressed and inspired me about Louisville is its chefs, restaurants, horses, outdoor life and, of course, bourbon.

It has become my personal mission to help others around the world discover what I discovered when I first came here: an authentic mix of Southern charm and cosmopolitan sophistication, wrapped in an unparalleled civic pride. It is Louisville’s uniqueness that leads me to today’s announcement.

Later, he compares the association of Louisville and bourbon to that of Napa and wine.

Poynter said the new event adds to the city’s efforts to be a year-round mecca for bourbon lovers, pointing to the Bourbon Classic in February, the Bourbon Affair in June and the opening of distilleries along Whiskey Row, including Angel’s Envy.

“We’re really building out a 365-day tourism experience with major festivals on top of that,” he said.

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