There’s nothing like food at a festival. If you can fry it, you'll find it at Riverbend. Before those mouth-watering dishes are prepared, health inspectors have to give vendors the green light.

Lowe Wilkins and his environmentalist team from the Hamilton County Health Department spent Thursday thoroughly inspecting vendors.

"As we issue those permits we're looking for temperature controls, hygienic practices - making sure they're washing their dishes and cooking products correctly as well as refrigeration,” Wilkins said.

Inspections will continue Friday to ensure all 36 vendors are ready to go.

"We're there to protect public health, we're there to ensure that and basically make sure we educate people and we work with them and if necessary enforce the situation to ensure public health standards,” Wilkins added.

Vendors are held to the same standards as restaurants.

  • Food protection
  • Employee health
  • No bare hand contact
  • Hand washing station
  • Warewashing facilities
  • Food source
  • Water supply
  • Safe food temperatures

Wilkins says if a vendor is not compliant they will work with them to fix the problem on the spot to make sure they can open for business.

“If you understand what errors are being made we try and explain why and in knowing why they hopefully won't make the same mistake in the future,” Wilkins explained.

Vinny Barber with Jimmy Bears BBQ is new to Riverbend this year. He received a passing grade, but health inspectors discovered meat at the wrong temperature. The food was thrown out and inspectors explained temperature requirements.

“You learn the nuances of what going on and that way you protect your product and protect the integrity of what you're doing,” Barber said.

Wilkins says in his 30 years with the health department, Riverbend typically has a high compliance rate. He attributes that to high standards and daily inspections. Over the course of the festival, the health department will conduct more than 300 inspections.