By LARRY VAUGHT
OWENSBORO — When I was invited to come to Owensboro for a weekend to see how entertaining it could be, I wasn’t sure what to expect — especially since I brought my grandsons, ages 7 and 4, with me.
But we had a great time on our weekend visit and will definitely return. Owensboro’s Friday After 5 has to be one of the best kept secrets in the state. There were six locations with music the Friday night we were there, including the always popular Jimmy Church Band. However, our foursome liked the duo Jill and Kate the best. Jill and Kate were playing at a patio setting just off the banks of the Ohio River and despite the windy conditions, they were terrific. Of course, maybe I should not have been surprised since they were former background singers for award-winning singer Kelly Clarkson. Now Jill Pickering and Kate Rapier are on their own both singing and writing songs from their home base in Nashville. They were great interacting with fans and were terrific with my grandsons during a break in their show. But the best thing about the whole event is that it is free every week. The RiverPark Center was filled with folks of all ages and all types of attire. It was just a fun night for everyone and the RiverPark to me was every bit as enticing and wonderful as the San Antonio Riverwalk.
You have food vendors in various locations as well as vendors with various other wares. But where else could you also go and get free popcorn to go with free music and find a host of volunteers who could not wait to help with any questions you might have.This is the 20th year for the event that covers an eight block area on the riverfront. Tourism officials estimate over 50,000 folks attend during the summer but from what we saw Friday night, the total should be much higher because this is a fun time.Earlier in the day we went to Smothers Park where there is a fabulous playground for children as well as a splash area that my two grandsons did not want to leave. Surprisingly, it was not that crowded on a Friday afternoon but that certainly changed Friday night. We also had a delightful dinner at Fetta Speciality Pizza and Spirits that included an entertaining conversation with managing partner Tim Turner. He explained how he sent a truck to Rhode Island to buy what most consider the nation’s best pizza dough and then experimented until he came up with a dough he thought was even better. My youngest grandson and I are now big fans of the mashed potato/bacon pizza but based on the size of the crowd, every type of pizza at Fetta is popular. You can buy two sizes of pizza and each day there are also speciality pizzas offered by the slice.It’s also located in the riverfront area and made it easy to eat and then get to the music venues.
Obviously a trip to Moonlite Bar-B-Q was on our must-do list because of the great food and fabulous buffet. However, I got a behind the scenes look at Moonlite thanks to owner Ken Bosley and now I’m ever more impressed with the restaurant here that employs about 120 and seats 350 — and had folks waiting in line for it to open the buffet Saturday morning. Ken told me plenty about the history of Moonlite and how when his parents bought the restaurant it seated maybe 30. He explained how the restaurant had expanded in stages and even the entrance had been changed when the family learned highway construction was coming years ago.
Ken Bosley took great pride in explaining how the meat is fixed and the special care that goes into it daily. He seemed especially proud of the burgoo and estimated Moonlite fixes 70 gallons of burgoo per day. He explained how the banana pudding — one of the restaurant’s signature desserts among the many offered — was his grandmother’s recipe.
It was amazing to see the quantity of mutton, pork, chicken and beef being cooked. It was also surprising to see how many people used the carry-out option or stopped by to purchase barbecue sauce and other Moonlite products.
Bosley said there’s nothing quite like the barbecue in western Kentucky and doesn’t see that changing any time soon.
“We all have our little secrets for what we do, but nobody does it better,” he said.
And one other thing that really caught my attention — the buffet and menu prices are a lot more affordable than what one might expect.
For more information go to http://www.moonlite.com.