Owensboro landed GeoWoodstock XIX, the world’s largest geocaching festival, for Memorial Day weekend in 2023.
Mark Calitri, chairman of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the announcement was made at 4 p.m. PT Saturday at GeoWoodstock XIII in Abbotsford, B.C.
Geocaching fans in the crowd immediately began searching for “Owensboro” on their phones, he said.
And on Sunday, many of them were already making hotel reservations for the May 24-28, 2023 event.
Jesse Tuttle of Cincinnati, executive director of AFK Geocaching and organizer of the Owensboro event, said, “Conservatively, I expect 5,000 homes to be represented in Owensboro.”
He said when the event was held in Cincinnati in 2018, more than 12,000 people from all 50 states, most provinces of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a dozen European countries participated in it.
“Delta had to add extra flights from Europe for this,” Tuttle said.
“Already, since Saturday night, 300 households have registered for the Owensboro event,” he said. “They come from most states as well as the UK, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and China.”
Tuttle said, “We’re going to fill all the local hotels and invade the family businesses.”
He said geocachers travel to explore the culture of the cities they visit.
Tuttle said he heard about a dozen people interested in visiting the Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts.
“People are excited,” he said. “I heard six or seven people say that after meeting Mark Calitri they were excited to come.”
Calitri said he would be happy if even 3,000 to 4,000 people showed up.
That many would fill local hotels and stay as far away as Evansville and Bowling Green, he said.
“To understand the importance of this event to Owensboro and the great achievement Visit Owensboro has made in securing it, you need look no further than some of the previous cities that have hosted it,” said Hank Phillips, President. of Kentucky Travel Industry, in a statement. Release.
Previous host cities include Nashville, Jacksonville, Dallas, Raleigh, Denver, Seattle and Vancouver.
Phillips added, “This event provides us with an incredible opportunity to showcase tourism across the state of Kentucky.”
Biggest convention ever in town“This will be the largest convention group ever in Owensboro and is sure to have a significant impact on our local businesses over Memorial Day weekend,” said Tim Ross, director of public events for the city.
Calitri said Doug Macrae, one of the developers of Ms. Pac-Man 40 years ago, was at last weekend’s event and said he’ll be in Owensboro next year.
For Calitri, the announcement had been long in coming.
In April 2020, with Owensboro a month into the coronavirus pandemic and the hospitality industry reeling, he set his sights on landing the event.
At the time, Calitri wanted it in 2021.
But COVID-19 has delayed everything.
The CVB is working to create events to bring people to town that week.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is working with him, Calitri said.
Planned events include hay rides at Reid’s Orchard and visits to Marengo Cave in Marengo, Indiana; Mammoth Cave; the Evansville Zoo; USS LST-325 at Evansville; a drive-in movie night and Friday After 5.
Block parties are planned in Evansville and at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro.
In 2021, Owensboro attracted more than 700 geocachers from 39 states — including Alaska — and Great Britain to search for hidden caches during the Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure on Memorial Day weekend.
It was the first time the event was held in Kentucky.
Geocaching is a recreational activity of hunting and finding hidden objects.
GeoWoodstock began in 2003, when a Tennessee geocacher, Joe “JoGPS” Armstrong, had a vision for an event that would bring together the best “cachers” from across the country.
The first was in Louisville and drew over 1,000 people.
“Receiving GeoWoodstock is a great achievement and puts Owensboro on the national stage,” Calitri said. “The bidding process was extremely competitive and involved over four years of hard work to win the deal. Our team stayed after and never gave up.