CVB, convention center always busy | New

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Last month, Owensboro saw two major state conventions with about 1,000 attendees each.

But the United Methodist Conference of Kentucky and the Kentucky Bar Association didn’t just decide to bring their conventions to Owensboro.

Conventions, trade shows, events, meetings, and social gatherings must be recruited by staff at the Owensboro Convention Center and the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Mark Calitri, president of the CVB, said the two organizations are constantly working to persuade state associations to hold their conventions in Owensboro.

“We’re working with Tim Ross, the city’s Director of Public Events, to create unique experiences for them,” he said. “Things like block parties with games and music and food trucks.”

Proposals submitted to associations include items such as block parties and other amenities, a list of hotels and their rates and prices for use of the convention center.

“We’re competing against Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky,” Calitri said.

But Owensboro has two things conventions really love, he said — the riverfront and downtown safety.

In 1993, that safety brought a major truck show to town.

Gary Case decided to move his Stylin’ Concepts National Sport Truck Championships from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to the Executive Inn Rivermont in Owensboro that year due to city safety.

He saw the Kentucky mirror mosaic on the wall of a downtown building.

“It wouldn’t have lasted a week in Cleveland,” Case said. ”It would have been destroyed. They told me it had been there for years.

Next, he visited Holiday in the Park, a Christmas village at Legion Park.

“They said they left it up all month,” Case said. ”It wouldn’t have lasted a night in Cleveland. You don’t realize what you have here.”

So he brought his truck show with dozens of expensive vehicles to town.

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Calitri said 2022 is on track to set an “all-time chamber record”.

He said that the OMG!con gathering of cosplay and anime enthusiasts and the ROMP bluegrass festival took place on the same weekend last month.


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And local hotels saw 91% occupancy on Friday and Saturday nights.

Calitri said the success of OMG! con caused the CVB and the convention center to turn their attention to such things as a GI Joe Toy Expo and anime gathering.

The CVB and convention center also pursue weddings and family reunions as they bring people to town.

Calitri has three large wall calendars in his office – one for 2021, one for 2022 and one for 2023.

The idea is to tell at a glance whether a certain weekend is open to new events, he said.

Both organizations also organize indoor and outdoor sports tournaments.

Calitiri said Jeff Esposito, who started in May as the center’s general manager, has kicked off and is working to bring more events to town.

The CVB’s 3% tax on hotel room rentals provides the money needed to run the agency.

“We meet with them every Tuesday to go over potential business, tentative events and final agreements,” Calitri said.

The Executive Inn Rivermont, then the largest hotel in western Kentucky, regularly drew conventioneers until it closed in 2008.

The convention center only opened in 2014.

And Owensboro lost a lot of momentum in those six years, Calitri said.

But it’s coming back strong now.

Calitri said he hopes the big Hemmings Motor News race, which brought 115 vintage vehicles downtown on a 2,300-mile road rally from San Antonio to Greenville, South Carolina, the last year, will return in 2023.

And he expects to find out next month whether Owensboro will win GeoWoodstock XX, the world’s largest geocaching festival, taking place somewhere on Memorial Day in 2023.

Calitri said the event could bring 5,000 to 7,000 geocaching enthusiasts from all 50 states and more than 30 countries to town.

And he said the International Bar-BQ Festival will add elements of bourbon and bluegrass next year to attract more people.

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