A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – Fall may technically have begun early last week, but for many Kentuckians, it really started about a month ago, when the season’s first wave of festivals arrived.
Our nation has always used the harvest period as a time of celebration, and these gatherings, many of which draw tens of thousands of tourists, seem to grow more popular with each passing year.
There certainly is no shortage of themes. From the start of September until Halloween, you can find festivals or special events across the commonwealth dedicated to at least 18 different items, some of which are common – apples, bananas and coal – and others that are not: outhouses, riverboats and salt.
In their own way, those last three are truly unique. The Great Outhouse Blow-out, for example, is a race featuring teams pulling portable privies. It’s sponsored by Penn’s Store, which is located near Lebanon and is believed to be the United States’ oldest country store still operated by the same family.
In mid-October, meanwhile, the Festival of Riverboats will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Belle of Louisville, which is the world’s oldest Mississippi-styled riverboat still in operation.
As for the Salt Festival, which is held in Northern Kentucky, it pays tribute to a salt lick that is home to the nation’s first explored fossil site. Some of the large bones found there were displayed at the White House, and President Jefferson kept some for his personal collection.
If you’re looking for something else one-of-a-kind, Laurel County brings out the world’s largest frying skillet each fall as part of a celebration recognizing its role as the birthplace of both Kentucky Fried Chicken and Lee’s Famous Recipe. The skillet can cook up to 600 quarters of a chicken at a time.
Kentucky’s oldest festival – Court Days in Mt. Sterling – has been around since 1794, just two years after the commonwealth became the country’s 15th state. Court Days earned its name because that was the time each year a traveling judge would hold court. Those living nearby used this event to sell goods and visit town, and the event grew from there.
Should you decide to travel elsewhere across the state to attend one of these festivals, consider taking one of the 20 roads that make up the Scenic Byway System, six of which have received national designation. Those include the Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway – which features sites tied to our 16th President and the bourbon industry – and the Country Music Highway in Eastern Kentucky, which winds past the early homes of such stars as the Judds, Loretta Lynn and Ricky Skaggs.
Overall, tourism is one of Kentucky’s largest employment sectors, and it was responsible for more than $12 billion in direct and indirect spending in 2013, according to a study released this past spring by the state’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
That Cabinet, by the way, has an excellent website highlighting the festivals and other activities available throughout the year. Its website is www.kentuckytourism.com, and “festivals and events” can be found in the bottom left-hand corner.
If you would like to contact me about any issue affecting the state, I would like to hear from you. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.