With passion for barbecue


In the beginning…it started with two ladies and a dream. The dream was to create an event similar to Memphis in May. With a reputation for great Western Kentucky barbecue, it only stood to reason that the River City was the ideal location for a barbecue festival.

Enter Ro Morse, then Director of the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Susie Dawahare Coiner. One day while having lunch at the Ninth Street House, Ro overheard Susie talking about planning a barbecue event as a fundraiser for a local charity. The two ladies immediately saw the mutual benefit of working together. Ro approached the CVB board to ask for support knowing that it would have a favorable impact on tourism as the years progressed.

After gaining support from the CVB, Ro and Susie were off to find chickens and pigs. They headed down Highway 45 to Seaboard Farms, now ConAgra, developing the event on the way. The general manager of Seaboard (ConAgra) told them that he could not offer financial support but agreed to supply the chickens. Kicking each other under the table, Ro and Susie were ecstatic but remained cool as cucumbers.

On the return trip, they came up with the idea of a Barbecue Tournament & Pig Out and decided to make it a Community Charitable Event that ran from dawn to dusk. They then sold the idea to Joe Metzger, Metzger Packing Company, who graciously agreed to supply the pork. Metzger Packing Company was a long time supporter of the Barbecue on the River.

Beginning Thursday, September 24, the smell of chicken and pork will hover over 2 ½ blocks of camps in historic downtown Paducah. More than 80,000 pounds of chicken and pork will be grilled, smoked, cooked and eaten, and nearly $400,000 raised for local charities. Teams from all over the region will compete for the prestige of being named Grand Champion.

Along with the smell of smoked chicken and pork hovering over the camps, the music befits the scene as hot blues, bluegrass, jazz and classic rock fill the air. It’s like coming home to a big family reunion, no matter where you are from.

Although Paducah’s Barbecue on the River is a fun event, the contestants are very serious about their barbecue. The “local flavor” of West Kentucky Barbecue is renown throughout the land. Amateur and down-home chefs find themselves competing against restaurateurs and professionals who want to prove that their barbecue is the BEST! A number of contestants have developed spin-off careers with barbecue related products from cookbooks to sauces - making Barbecue on the River a small business incubator! 

“Get your appetites ready!” says Chair Susie Coiner, as she and a whole crew of loyal and willing volunteers continue the tradition with the 21st Ever Barbecue on the River & Market Days.

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And for a taste of Barbecue on the River 365 days a year visit bbQ & More - a unique boutique at 321 Broadway.