Barbecue on the River now represents Paducah's largest festival, but it didn't start out that way.
Twenty years ago, about 16 teams competed on a gravel parking lot in downtown Paducah. This year, more than 40,000 people are expected to flood the streets along the riverfront to sample the offerings of more than 35 vendors, all of whom cook for charity.
Although the festival has seen changes in the past two decades, it's still all about drawing the biggest crowd, serving "some of the best dang barbecue," and raising the most money for charity, festival director David Boggs said.
"If it doesn't deal with these three things, we're not really interested," he added.
This year's three-day, patriotic-theme festival will offer its typical fare of more than 90,000 pounds of meat, a full lineup of musical entertainment and a variety of juried food contests. Four green guests will also make an appearance at the festival.
"I never thought I'd be excited to say that the Ninja Turtles were going to come to my event," said Boggs, who, after some thought, managed to rattle off the popular characters' names - Michelango, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael - at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Students of Hwang's Martial Arts will join the mutant turtles in martial arts performances on all three days of the festival. The turtles will also be available for a meet and greet and for fan photo opportunities.
The one-night Porkstock event kicks off the festival at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24. The festival officially begins the next day at 11 a.m. and runs through 11 p.m. Saturday.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.