Mark Calitri: Visit Owensboro will lead the comeback story.

During uncertain times, one thing is definite. We will be better as a result of these crises. Everyone loves a comeback story, and Owensboro will come back better than ever. We’ve been the underdog before, and we thrive in that role.

As the virus continues to evolve, our local small businesses, along with the hospitality and restaurant industry, have taken the hardest hit financially. Everyone in our community is affected by this novel virus.

But one thing I’ve learned since moving to Owensboro a couple of years ago is this city’s strongest asset is our people. I’ve never seen people come together in such a way to benefit the common good more than they have during this pandemic.

Think about it. When you’re on walks with your family, have you ever seen so many people smile and wave? What about the community help fund — made possible by a collaboration of several organizations — that’s now over $600,000 going directly to benefit those who need it most during this difficult time? All of the distilleries making hand sanitizer and individuals sewing cloth masks? Those drive-thru or carry out workers risking their health to feed your family?

I want to be clear. The entire tourism industry is in uncharted territory. Experts say this will affect our business seven times worse than 9/11. We’re hurting. The hardest part is we don’t know when we will be able to open back up.

The important thing is we will reopen. We are rescheduling. We are rebooking. We are aggressively pursuing new events. We’re doing more with less in our marketing efforts. We will be ready to welcome back our visitors.

We are believers in partnerships and the power of collaboration. Together, Owensboro will weather this crisis and build a stronger economic future.

Column: Calitri keeping positive economic outlook


Mark Calitri promoting travel: The CVB is “collaborating with other partners, like restaurants and more attractions, to continue to offer these staycation packages with different amenities. We hope to announce additional staycation options soon.”



On March 13, the coronavirus pandemic reached Owensboro and hotels saw cancellations begin to mount.

“One hotel reported that they lost over $50,000 in future reservations,” Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a week later. “That’s in one day!”

More than five months later, the local and national hospitality industries are still struggling.

So, the CVB has launched “Operation Staycation” — incentives to get area residents to vacation in local hotels.

“People love a good deal and are ready to get out and have some new adventures,” Chris Gendek, the CVB’s destination services director, said this week. “A staycation in Owensboro is a great recipe for that.”


Mark Calitri highlights The Bourbon Review says Owensboro is the perfect bourbon themed weekend escape


Kentucky’s fourth largest city ranks even higher on charm, adventure, and we’re sure it’s the best bourbon-inclusive getaway destination you can plan to visit right now.

Owensboro, Kentucky is, from the moment you enter the city limits, one unexpected turn after another. Riding in past industrial sites, the expectation is set modestly, and then suddenly, the streets open up into a charming downtown, thriving main street, and diverse wonder of spaces to explore (and a distillery picking up momentum with each new barrel filled).

Mark Calitri highlights, “One of the most popular bourbon publications in the WORLD, The Bourbon Review says Owensboro is the perfect bourbon themed weekend escape. How’s that for national and international recognition!


Have you experienced the Green River Bourbon Distillery—yes its on the official world famous KY Bourbon Trail! 

Owensboro: The Long Weekend Bourbon Country Escape


Mark Calitri drives home the message that Owensboro is Kentucky’s music city

“Excitement continues to build on the successful first year of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” said Mark Calitri, president of Visit Owensboro. “Hosting this nationally televised PBS special event drives home the message that Owensboro is Kentucky’s music city.”


BLUEGRASS NOW! To Premiere Nationally On PBS Through March 2020


Mark Calitri reports on tourism: Owensboro continues to see success in ‘Operation staycation’.

Owensboro continues to see success in ‘Operation staycation’. 40% of people still don’t feel safe traveling outside their community-so Owensboro has the answer!




Mark Calitri speaks tourism recovery and the Owensboro Convention Center

Venue management company Spectra announced that David DiSalvo has been appointed as Director of Sales at the Spectra-managed Owensboro Convention Center.

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, DiSalvo more than two decades of experience in facilities management and hospitality to his new role at the OCC.

Most recently, he served as s the Director of Sales at the Kalahari Resort in Mount Pocono, PA. His other experience includes stints in the Bluegrass state as Director of Sales and Marketing for the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY.

“When looking at candidates for this position, Dave really accelerated to the top of the list with his vast experience in multiple areas of tourism. He truly understands what it takes to lead a successful team, and we look forward to working with our hospitality partners to bring quality events to Owensboro,” commented Laura Alexander, General Manager.

“Dave brings a strong resume of successful experience. I look forward to working with him and General Manager, Laura Alexander to bring more business to Owensboro and create an economic impact to our community,” stated Mark Calitri, President and CEO of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.




Operation Staycation

You’re tired.  Tired of being stuck at home.  Tired of virtual learning.  Tired of cooking.  Tired of the same routine over and over again.  You deserve a break.  Visit Owensboro is excited to announce Operation Staycation is ready for launch. Get out of your house and into an incredible staycation either with or without the kids.  It’s your call.

“People love a good deal and are ready to get out and have some new adventures.  A staycation in Owensboro is a great recipe for that,” said Chris Gendek, Visit Owensboro.

“The latest Longwoods International Travel Sentiment study finds that 40 percent of people do not yet feel safe traveling outside their community.  Being sensitive to that, we want to offer ways to feel like you’re on a vacation without actually having to leave Owensboro,” Dave Kirk Visit Owensboro.

Book any local hotel in the month of September and receive discounts at The Brew Bridge, The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Ole South BBQ.  Upon check in, you’ll receive a discount card to all three of these local attractions. Now’s the time to save yourself some money, have a date night, a family night, maybe a night to yourself?

“I can’t say thank you enough for our hotels and attractions working together to offer this opportunity for a staycation.  We’re living in tough times but we’re working together to move forward.  We’re collaborating with other partners like restaurants and more attractions to continue to offer these staycation packages with different amenities.  We hope to announce additional staycation options soon,” added Gendek.

To book your hotel, click here


Mark Calitri announces new tourism development: ‘Energy on Ice’ coming downtown Owensboro



From 2004 to 2011, BB&T Plaza at the RiverPark Center became a giant skating rink, part of downtown’s “Winter Wonderland.”

The event drew an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people to downtown between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day each year.

But it got to be too expensive and ended after eight years.

On Nov. 27, a new version — “Energy on Ice” — will be staged on McConnell Plaza near the Owensboro Convention Center.




The $105,000 price tag is being picked up by Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Atmos Energy, Boardwalk Pipelines and the Staton Family Foundation.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Lelan Hancock, assistant city manager, said Thursday. “There was quite a bit of interest when it was at the RiverPark Center. I think there will be this time too.”

In March, just before the coronavirus pandemic reached Owensboro, Fred Reeves and David Johnson, owners of A+ Leadership, told a meeting of We Are Downtown to expect an announcement in “a couple of weeks” about a major event that would run six weeks in the winter.

The pandemic slowed the announcement until Thursday.

Most of the 12,900-square-foot plaza at the RiverPark Center was filled with the skating rink.

The new one is smaller — about 4,800 square feet.

“That was real ice at the RiverPark Center,” Hancock said. “This is synthetic. Rain doesn’t melt synthetic ice, so we’ll have less downtime. But it responds almost exactly like ice for skating. It’s a really neat product. It should be a real generator for downtown traffic.”

Laura Alexander, general manager of the convention center, said there’s another advantage to the synthetic ice.

Can be used in summer “The RiverPark Center had to rent the equipment each year,” she said. “But we bought this. We can put it up in 85-degree weather. If a convention wants an ice-skating night in the summer, we can do it. It’s something unique that most cities don’t have.”

Hancock said “Energy on Ice” will be available on Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. from Nov. 27 until the first of the year.

“If there’s enough demand, we can adjust the end date,” he said.

Skates will be available to rent.

The cost will be $8 to $10 to skate including skate rental.

Hancock said the rink will hold 15 to 20 skaters during pandemic restrictions or 30 to 40 when the pandemic is over.

“We’re always looking for things to bring people downtown,” he said. “It’s a winner for Owensboro.”

He said, “The sponsors are the reason we can do this.”

Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said the energy companies joined with the city, Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, convention center and the chamber to bring the event to Owensboro.

“We wanted to form a unique partnership to bring outdoor staking back to Owensboro and to bring people from across the community and region to our downtown,” Buzz Backstrom, vice president of marketing and business development for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, said in a news release.

Jimmy Staton, president and chief executive officer of Southern Star, said, “Quality of life is an important value in Greater Owensboro and we are thrilled to be able to add to that.”

Mark Martin, vice president for rates and regulatory affairs at Atmos, said, “We all know that quality of life is major component in our talent recruitment and economic growth.”

Mark Calitri, CVB president, said, “The outdoor ice-skating rink will be a wonderful amenity for not only residents but visitors too. We view the rink as an incredible tourist attraction that will bring people to Owensboro to spend money thus fueling our local economy.”

The convention center will manage the ice rink, rent skates and set up food booths.

From time to time, different groups have suggested bringing back “Winter Wonderland,” an event created by the late Zev Buffman, when he was president of the RiverPark Center.

But no one was able to find a way to make it affordable — until now.

The Kentucky Travel Industry Association listed Winter Wonderland as one of its Top 10 Festivals & Events for November through February in 2011.

In earlier years, it was also named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com