FRANKFORT – Fall may technically have begun last Friday, but it could be argued that it really began several weeks ago, when many communities began hosting a wide array of festivals popular during this time of year.
There certainly is no shortage of themes, with some events centered on such well-known staples as apples, chicken, country ham, bourbon and tobacco. Other gatherings, however, feature products that may seem obscure to those not from the region.
The Salt Festival in Union, for example, recognizes the salt lick that later became home to the country’s first large-bone fossil discovery. For the past 30 years, meanwhile, Lee County has celebrated the wooly worm, which some say can forecast the upcoming winter. Each segment on the worm corresponds to a week, with brown signifying a mild spell and black representing snow and cold.
Most people might not associate bananas with Kentucky, but in Fulton, the fruit is still fondly remembered. Back in the late 1800s, nearly three-fourths of the nation’s supply briefly stopped in that far western Kentucky community to re-load ice needed to keep the fruit cool as the train carrying the cargo made its journey from New Orleans to Chicago.
A highlight of that festival is a one-ton banana pudding. Large food items, in fact, are not an uncommon sight this time of year. Several decades ago, Trigg County’s Ham Festival cooked up a two-ton biscuit, while Laurel County – the original home of both KFC and Famous Recipe restaurants – has a skillet that can fry hundreds of chicken quarters at a time during its World Chicken Festival. Other oversized items include 10-foot pizzas, cookies and apple pies.
Kentuckians have been getting together for food and fun for quite some time. Our 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.
Other festivals with a link to our heritage center on Appalachian music, horses and coal, while Marion County’s Gravel Switch highlights the outhouse, which may or may not be fondly remembered by many.
If you and your family would like to attend one of these festivals, consider taking one of the 20 roads that make up Kentucky’s 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.
If you’re not sure where to start, the good news is that the state’s Department of Travel keeps a handy listing on its website of everything I’ve mentioned and much more. Just go to www.kentuckytourism.com and click on “Search Events” about midway down the webpage.
As always, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about issues involving state government. You can write to me atRoom 432F, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
o 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.