There’s a new billboard on I-65 at the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.
“Bourbon. Bluegrass. Authentic,” it says.
There’s a picture of Sam Bush, the “father of newgrass,” wearing a Kentucky jersey and playing his mandolin.
And there’s a picture of a bottle of O.Z. Tyler bourbon and a glass of bourbon that’s either half full or half empty.
“We’re partnering with the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum and O.Z. Tyler Distillery to promote Owensboro,” Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Wednesday. “When we split the costs three ways, billboards are affordable.”
“We’re trying to market Owensboro as a destination,” Dave Kirk, the CVB’s destination management director, said of the billboard. “We’re a one-stop shop with bluegrass, bourbon, barbecue and shows.”
Earlier this year, he said, there was a billboard on I-65 near Nashville’s Nissan Stadium advertising the Owensboro Air Show.
Another billboard was on I-65 in Louisville advertising bluegrass, bourbon and the air show.
This year’s air show drew an estimated 70,000-plus fans from several states.
Kirk attributes part of that crowd to the billboards.
He said the CVB is also putting advertisements inside the terminal at Evansville Regional Airport, promoting concerts and the O.Z. Tyler Distillery being part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“We like the Evansville market,” Kirk said. “People from Evansville come over to a lot of events in Owensboro.”
He and Calitri were in Nashville earlier this week for the Travel South USA International Showcase.
“There were international group tour operators from all over the world,” Kirk said. “Friday, 10 of them will visit Owensboro on a familiarization tour. We’re taking them to the Marty Stuart concert at the Hall of Fame, Preservation Station, Moonlite and as many places as we can work in. There are people from Italy, Germany and France in the group. They’re loving the bluegrass and bourbon.”
The tours typically bring groups of between 40 and 60 people, he said.
Most tours are booked a year in advance, Kirk said, so the results of this week’s visit won’t likely bring Europeans to Owensboro until sometime in 2019.
“But we already have a group of 40 to 50 people from Germany coming in April,” he said.
Kirk said he’s trying to bring foreign visitors into town when there are shows at the Hall of Fame.
“They’re going to have a couple of outdoor ROMPs downtown next year,” he said. “We hope to bring groups to town during those.”
Earlier this month, the CVB won first- and second-place awards from the Kentucky Travel Industry Association for its advertising.
“Earning both a first-place and second-place award on the same stage is not only an honor, it’s validation that we are moving in the right direction with our marketing efforts,” Calitri said.
The first-place award was for the agency’s campaign to bring more people to Owensboro for last summer’s ROMP Fest at Yellow Creek Park.
“We used an array of advanced digital marketing techniques, including videos put together in partnership with Alexander Francis Films, marketing brochures and several blog posts and social media photography,” Kirk said.
ROMP saw a record 27,000-plus fans from several countries and the Saturday night show drew 12,000 people, selling out the park for the first time.
The second-place award was for a CVB video on why tourism matters.
“Tourism affects all of us in a positive way,” Calitri said. “It brings millions of dollars into our community.”
State officials said in May that tourism means $310.7 million to the Daviess County economy and creates 2,078 jobs here.
Kirk also won the KTIA emerging leader of the year at the conference.