A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Ohio bests KY in New Riff Distilling National Bourbon Day interstate tug-of-war on the Purple People Bridge

The first New Riff Distilling National Bourbon Day interstate tug-of-war is in the book and the team from Ohio is victorious.

Ken Phillips, founder of New Riff Distilling congratulates Brent Callahan of the winning Cincinnati Parks Foundation team in Friday’a tug-of-war (photos by Mark Hansel).

New Riff organized the event, which featured teams anchored by New Riff’s 2020 Community Barrel awardees: The Cincinnati Parks Foundation and The City of Newport’s 225th.

New Riff’s Community Barrel program leverages the sale of bottles and donates the proceeds from a barrel’s worth of Bourbon to each awardee.

“This is a great celebration, the tug-of-war itself was pretty exciting,” said Ken Lewis, founder and president of New Riff Distilling. “It’s about two things, great bourbon and the fact that we are one community and we work, play and have a good time on both sides of the river.”

Each team had plenty of help including, on the Ohio side, the Cincinnati Reds mascot Gapper, and Who Dey, the tiger from the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Northern Kentucky Tribune is on hand as New Riff Distilling celebrates its Big Bourbon Toast on National Bourbon Day (June 14, 2019) with an interstate tug-of war on the Purple People Bridge. Despite a valiant effort from the Kentucky team, the Ohio squad carried the day. New Riff’s Ken Lewis said he plans to make the tug-of-war an annual event.

Hundreds also came out to the Newport Southbank Bridge, which is known to many as the Purple People Bridge, from Ohio and Kentucky to cheer on their respective teams.

Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso was a member of the Kentucky tug-of-war team. Peluso said he was disappointed to lose, but “there’s always next year.”

Jack Moreland, president of Southbank Partners, said the event is one of the very neatest things that has ever been done on the bridge, for lots of different reasons.

“One of which is it brings out the Ohio folks and it brings out the Kentucky folks in great competition with one another,” Moreland said. “It’s great day for everybody, it’s a great day for bourbon and it’s really a great day for the Purple People Bridge.”

Just below the bridge, on Riverboat Row, the Newport Italianfest was in full swing. 

Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso, who participated in the tug-of-war, said the event showcases  just how much is going on, on both sides of the riverfront.

“You look at what’s going on over here and over there, and it’s just a lot of fun,” Peluso said. “This is the first time that the Cincinnati side has beaten the Newport side on anything.It was a lot of fun, a little disappointed, but hey, there’s always next year.

The competition was spirited, as evidenced by the blisters on this participants hands.

Last year, New Riff celebrated National Bourbon Day by unveiling it’s namesake bourbon, four years in the making.

Lewis said the tug-of-war was such a success, he plans to bring it back every year.

“I don’t think we’ll top this, we’ll just keep doing it year after year, the main thing is we’re going to keep making great whiskey,” Lewis said. “We’ve got some great things in the barrel, getting older and older, just like us.”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

Who Dey the Bengal mascot celebrates the victory in an appropriate manner on National Bourbon Day.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment