FRANKFORT – While the temperature outside may not feel like fall just yet, many of the traditional signs of the season are starting to arrive.
One of the most telling is the sheer number of festivals that has already started to take place and will run through Halloween. They are centered on items you might expect – tobacco, apples and bourbon – and a few more that may seem odd until their history is known.
Laurel County, for example, is the birthplace of both Kentucky Fried Chicken and Lee’s Famous Recipe, so it hosts the Chicken Festival in late September. It features the world’s largest skillet to make sure no one goes home hungry.
Fulton in far western Kentucky has what it calls the world’s largest banana pudding to go with its Banana Festival, which commemorates a time in the late 1800s when the town had the only ice house on the rail line between New Orleans and Chicago. At one point, as many as 70 percent of the country’s bananas made a stop there.
If that dessert doesn’t suit you, the Apple Festival in Casey County features a 10 foot-wide apple pie, not to mention a 10-foot chocolate chip cookie and a 10-foot pizza.
Marion County’s Ham Days Festival has grown from six country hams more than 40 years ago to more than three tons of the breakfast staple today. Trigg County also has a festival dedicated to this delicacy and has been around almost as long.
In the mid-1980s, it debuted a two-ton biscuit, which would also fit perfectly with Washington County’s Sorghum Festival when it welcomes visitors in early October.
Other festivals focused on what could be considered side dishes or seasoning include Berea’s Spoonbread Festival later this month and Union’s Salt Festival in Northern Kentucky in mid-October, which recognizes the salt lick that was the site of the country’s first large-bone fossil discovery. Some unearthed there were displayed at the White House, and Thomas Jefferson kept some in his personal collection.
If agricultural products are understandably the most popular items for fall-time festivals, they aren’t the only ones. Hazard has the Black Gold Festival, to commemorate the role coal has played in Kentucky, while nearby Lee County has the Wooly Worm Festival, which is perfect for those who believe the worms can predict the upcoming winter. Supposedly, each of the worm’s 13 segments corresponds to each week of that season, with light brown meaning a mild week and black signifying cold.
Carter Caves State Resort Park has a festival centered on Appalachian music, and Georgetown has festivals featuring not one but two forms of transportation: horses and airplanes.
To learn more about these activities and many more, visit http://www.kentuckytourism.com/events/ online. The state’s Department of Travel and Tourism does a wonderful job of grouping these in an easy-to-find but comprehensive format. After you do that, I encourage you to join the festival circuit on at least one or two weekends during the next two months.
In an effort to see what more Kentucky can do to promote this industry year-round, the General Assembly recently established the Tourism and Development Subcommittee. Its first meeting, held in late July, focused on the industry’s total impact here – about $13 billion a year in economic benefits alone – while its most recent meeting discussed a legislative proposal that would call on all schools to start late in August. Proponents say moving in this direction would boost tourism, while opponents say school districts should retain control of their calendars.
This issue promises to be debated more between now and the end of the next legislative session in April. If you would like to let me know your thoughts on this matter, or anything else affecting the state, I would like to hear from you.
You can address letters to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.
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