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BBQ, Blues and Bikes kicks off this week

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By Amber Coulter

The streets of downtown Elizabethtown are expected to be roaring with hundreds of motorcycle engines, thrumming with blues bands and smelling like tender barbecue Saturday.

BBQ, Blues and Bikes is scheduled from noon to 10 p.m. and is expected to bring in motorcycles and visitors from as far as Arkansas, Illinois, Georgia and Ohio.

Rik Hawkins, one of the organizers, said the event is an important opportunity to draw visitors from throughout the central United States.

“Those are people who might never have come to our communities,” he said. “It certainly helps to expose the heartland and who we are and bring folks here.”

Hawkins isn’t surprised at the response to the first of what he thinks will be an annual event. He said organizers have worked hard to market it and make sure word spread.

Activities include blues music all day from bands such as The Blooze Brothers, D’Man and The Alleyhounds and One Shot Johnny.

There also is a children’s area with magic shows, puppeteers and a contest to dress as bikers and decorate their bicycles and tricycles.

Heath Seymour, executive director of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council, said the new event has generated a lot of local excitement because it channels some of the best elements of the season: barbecue and taking motorcycles out on a warm, clear day.

“It’s just the perfect way to kick off the summer,” he said.

Seymour knows motorcycles are gaining in popularity, but he has been surprised by how many who work in downtown Elizabethtown own one.

“It seems like every shop where I stop and talked to them, they said, ‘Oh, that will be great. I’ll get my bike,’” he said.

Hawkins hopes the event improves each year to bring fun and an economic boom to the area.

A similar festival in Fayetteville, Ark., began as a one-day event with 300 motorcycles. Over 12 years, it grew into a four-day draw for about 400,000 and annually brings about $35 million into the local economy, Hawkins said.

He hopes doing a good job early on with the Hardin County event and attracting regional interest will lay a foundation for the area to have similar success in stimulating the economy and revitalizing downtown Elizabethtown.

“We’re very excited about what this can do for Elizabethtown and Hardin County,” Hawkins said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.