Bardstown, Kentucky, is a proud town, with signs throughout its downtown declaring it the "Most Beautiful Small Town in America" and the "Bourbon Capital of the World."
"We're the rolling hills," Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist and Convention Commission Executive Director Samantha Brady said. "We're the rickhouses. This is where they store the bourbon. This is where some of the bourbon legends live."
Every year, Bardstown welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors seeking that authentic bourbon experience, with 10 unique distilleries within a 16-mile radius of the town. According to Brady, between 40,000 to 60,000 visitors come every fall for the Bourbon Festival. But this year, the crowds won't be on the streets of Bardstown.
"It's just not the right time but there'll be a time," Brady said. "It'll come back. And so we're just taking a break."
According to Brady, festival organizers made the decision to take this year's events online to offer guests a virtual experience while keeping them safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But that does not mean guests cannot enjoy bourbon in Bardstown as many of the distilleries and other attractions are back open, albeit with health and safety guidelines.
"You can still come to our distilleries," she said. "So I always like to say, you talk about National Bourbon Day or we talk about the Bourbon Festival, but every day in Bardstown is really a festival of bourbon."
Brady said the loss of visitors and revenue because of the pandemic have been tough, but she said with many of the attractions naturally allowing for social distancing plus the draw of avoiding the crowds found in bigger cities, things could be worse in Nelson County.
"All in all, we have done better than expected, and I think that's the draw of small town America. I think that's a big plus for us."