Harvest Homecoming 2018 may be in the rear view mirror, but now is the time to make plans for next year’s Bourbon on the River
Story and Photos by Miranda McDonald
Even though Harvest Homecoming is one of Southern Indiana’s most anticipated annual events, I have to admit that I’d never attended it before this year. As I divulge what must seem like a completely shocking revelation, seeing as Southern Indiana has proudly become a second home to me since joining the staff at this publication several years ago, I also must make it known that my absence from the Harvest Homecoming activities hasn’t come without some serious regret. Every October, my social feeds fill up with photos of friends and colleagues posing proudly with a unique piece of art or that perfect fried pork tenderloin sandwich they found while perusing the tents lining the streets in downtown New Albany. That being said, you can only imagine my delight when after years of almost, but not quite making it to the yearly festivities I was invited to attend one of the festival’s newest additions, Bourbon on the River.
“We are the first to bring bourbon tasting, cigars and jazz – all the things we love about the south – to this side of the river,” said event organizer Rosie Bryant.
Bourbon on the River made its debut in 2017 as the premiere bourbon tasting event at Harvest Homecoming. This year, it not only expanded the list of distillers participating from four to eight also quickly sold out, even after doubling its attendance. The expanded list of distillers involved in this year’s event included Diageo Bulleit Bourbon, Michter’s Distillery, Jeptha Creed Distillery, Copper and Kings American Brandy Company, Evan Williams Distillery, Brown-Forman, the Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company and Starlight Distillery, one of the event’s main sponsors.
At the event, all distilleries showcased a unique cocktail or pour featuring their specific libation. Each of which, I had the pleasure of tasting. A few of my favorite alcohol-infused concoctions included the Peerless Harvest Apple Rye and the Double Starlight Blackberry Lemonade, a sweet mix of lemon juice, Starlight Distillery Blackberry Whiskey, and simple syrup that was topped off with three ice cubes and a lemon slice.
As Rosie walked me around the Sounds Unlimited Productions’ Party Tent on the River – the event’s location since its inception – I couldn’t help but sway slightly to the buoyant beat of the Pharrell Williams hit song “Because I’m Happy” while Bard and Eddie of the local band Jake & Elwood performed for the crowd. The band’s set list, a true array of classic hits that spanned from the ’80s to present-day, provided an upbeat soundtrack for the evening. However, it was “Love Shack” by The B-52s and the liquid courage provided by Michter’s neat pours that really got the crowd moving toward the dance floor.
After I sampled my fair share of the local spirits and engaged in a bit of dancing, I eagerly made my way to the food table located directly beside the craft beer booth in the front area of the tent. Sam’s Food and Spirits provided a variety of perfect party snacks that included green chili wontons, spinach dip, bread pudding and an additional assortment of cheese boards for the VIP area.
While I carefully made room for a few slices of Gouda and Colby-Jack cheese next to the rather large pile of chili wontons on my plate, I asked the lady standing next to me what she liked most about the event.
“I love the bourbon, but it is really the social part that brought me back this year. It really feels like a reunion with old friends,” she explained.
Aside from the bourbon, live entertainment and culinary delights, there was also a cigar lounge that had been erected directly outside of the main tent. With cigars and bourbon being such an historical pairing, The Office Cigar Lounge provided baskets of fine cigars for attendees to enjoy.
There were also several raffles that took place throughout the night. Some of the prizes included thermos mugs, candle baskets and t-shirts. The largest prize included a barrel head engraved with the official Bourbon on the River Logo, and the signatures of all the master distillers from the participating distilleries.
I didn’t happen to win any raffle prizes, but the night thoroughly exceeded my expectations and allowed me to get my very first glimpse into what Harvest Homecoming is truly all about: bringing the community together to celebrate the rich heritage of Southern Indiana.
After my Bourbon on the River experience, I reconnected with Rosie to ask if there was anything additional attendees could look forward to at next year’s event. She responded: “The Harvest Homecoming Festival was voted as the top fall festival in Indiana. That’s an award we cherish. Every member of the festival, from board members to the volunteers, put their heart and soul into it. Going into our 52nd year, we will strive to make it even better. Bourbon on the River is a new event, so we are always asking for input on how to improve it.”
Bryant later added that there will be changes to the current ticket prices of $60 for VIP and $45 for general admission. However, what those changes will be has not been decided yet. The board is also looking into moving the event to Bicentennial Park.
However, one thing that won’t change at next year’s Bourbon on the River event is a unique experience that pairs live entertainment and appetizing food with the best bourbon Kentuckiana has to offer.
Bourbon on the River 2019
Want to know more about tickets or participate as a sponsor or distillery? Contact Rosie Bryant at 502.541.4056. Learn more about the event at HarvestHomecoming.com