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Kentucky by Heart: Kentucky is full of interesting topics to write about; sharing 33 of the best


By Steve Flairty
KyForward columnist

Finding fresh material to write a weekly column about Kentucky is always a bit of a challenge, but the fuel that makes it work for me is the unabashed passion I feel for such a place as this.

Hopefully, the passion connects closely to the adoration my readers have for the Bluegrass State. But alas, I must understand that not all who happen to read Kentucky by Heart are hard-wired like me… and they need reasons to “feel the love” for the state. I bet I could come up with 33 items off the top of my head… in fact, yep, here they are:

1: The Keeneland and Churchill Downs race courses are meccas for Thoroughbred horse enthusiasts worldwide.

2: If you like unique, awe-inspiring buildings, The Kentucky Castle, near Versailles, is one to give a good look. I drive past it nearly every day and am always wowed.

The Woodford County Public Library (Photo from WCPL)

3: Postcard books by Carl Howell, who lives near Hodgenville, are treasures. Beautiful reprints and an amazing, nostalgic feel are the features. His latest is Kentucky’s 120 Counties: A Post Card Album (1900-1925) {Butler Books}.

4: The Pendleton County Historical & Genealogical Society is located at Butler, Kentucky. I feel a special pride because the museum sits inside The Fryer House, a stone building more than 200 years-old—and where my mother was raised.

5: Kentucky is the birthplace of the first United States Poet Laureate, Robert Penn Warren.

6: As of 2016, there were 12 covered bridges left across the state. I once vowed to visit ALL of them with my family, and almost did. Give it a try. It’s a treasure hunt adventure.

7: Visit the Woodford County Public Library; you’ll be very impressed by their kind and knowledgeable service. The building is nice, also.

8: The Louisville Leopard Percussionists group are young children making wonderful music.

9: Make plans to tour the Kentucky Veteran & Patriot Museum, in Wickliffe, at the far western tip of the state. Curator and veterans’ advocate Sandy Hart will show you what real passion is.

10: Read the 11th chapter of Stinking Creek, by John Fetterman. It tells of two brave and compassionate women who came to Knox County in the late fifties and changed lives for the better.

11: Reading John Egerton’s Generations will give you a real Kentucky experience.

12: The Newport Aquarium is worth the money, all ages.

13: There are four Kentucky teams in this year’s NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament.

14: There are two Kentucky teams in this year’s NCAA Women’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament.

Kentucky Veteran & Patriot Museum in Wickliffe (credit KVPM)

15: Murray State’s Ja Morant is a basketball magician, one of the most fun to watch college players I’ve seen in years.

16: Kendall Harvey, an elderly man from Adair County, built more than 150 three-wheel bikes adaptable to those with disabilities. He gave them away as gifts.

17: McBrayer Arena, on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, is a great place to see a public event, especially a basketball game. You’ll also love the easy in, easy out parking.

18: Kentucky is a “long” state, over 300 miles. The terrain is diverse and mostly beautiful.

19: The price of living in Kentucky is at a reasonable rate.

20: Read A Literary History of Kentucky, by William S. Ward. It shows the state’s rich heritage of letters, and doesn’t even include the most recent spate of great writing.

21: A day trip to Rabbit Hash is all about nostalgia and a feeling of “community” at its best.

22: Danville and Bardstown are not far apart and are two of the prettiest towns in the state.

23: I’m still an admirer of the floral clock sitting proudly outside Kentucky’s capitol building in Frankfort.

24: The study of Isaac Shelby, the state’s first and fifth governor and also a war hero, is highly enriching.

25: Ouita Michel’s restaurants around the central part of Kentucky are glorious.

26: It’s heartwarming to drive through Falmouth, in Pendleton County, and reflect upon how the town has overcome a couple of devastating floods and a tornado since back in the 1960s.

27: People from all over know about the Mammoth Cave system, the largest in the world.

28: Local history museums in Cynthiana and Winchester are fascinating to visit, even if you’re not from those places.

29: A monthly reading treat is Steve Vest’s “Vested Interest” column in Kentucky Monthly.

30: The southeastern city of Middlesboro, near the Cumberland Gap, is located in a meteorite crater formed long before you and I were ever born.

31: Daniel Beard’s boyhood home was in Covington. He merged his organization, Sons of Daniel Boone, with the Boy Scouts of America when it was founded in 1910.

32: The Hilltoppers was a vocal pop group that originated at Western Kentucky University in the early 1950s. It had many national hits, and the trio appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

33: The Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap is incredibly beautiful and a great place to hike.

Now those were off the top of MY head…but I also asked for some quick help from some friends on Facebook who feel the same. Here are some of the featured items that attract them:

Carolee Papouras, who grew up in Pendleton County but now lives in Cleveland, Ohio, is happy that Kentucky people “are respectful and pull off the road for a funeral procession,” while Cyndee Banta, of Nicholasville, is fond of the weather. “It’s a true four-season living type of place, but it does have a mind of its own even in that real. From the snow falling one day, to 60-degree weather the next, sometimes Kentucky sends you on a wild weather adventure.”

Winchester native Craig Caudill mentioned the fact that, besides Alaska, Kentucky has the most miles of waterways and “is home to one of the most diverse populations of both game and non-game species of wildlife in the country.”

“Above average antique shops,” a reason that people love Kentucky.” (Photo from Pinterest)

Lake Cumberland’s beauty is special to Donna Brann, of Williamstown, and Kay Huff, of Winchester, adores The Lexington Cemetery visuals during all seasons. Hopkinsville resident Ruth Lature, among other things, likes the state’s “much better than average antique shops.”

“Fireflies” is the short and sweet answer from Jill Snyder, of Wilmore. Or does she mean “lightning bugs”?

Thomas Williams gets a kick out of wild turkeys foraging outside his bedroom windows. Debbie Rice, of Lexington, asks: “Where else can you have dinner in castle?”

Rich Mellette lives in Canada now, but he experienced “love at first sight” when he approached Eastern Kentucky University, where he registered for classes, back in 1973. Lexington church choir director Maria Lester is wild about the state’s wonderful people.

State apiarist (bee specialist) Tammy Horn Potter is excited about The Bluegrass Sheepdog Trials, and Bowling Green resident Dory Hudspeth fixates on Kentucky’s “landscape, full of unseen depths, sinkholes and caves.”

Burt Ladd, of Nicholasville, praised The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Frankfort and the covered bridges of northeastern Kentucky, along with “the one in Washington County.”

And on another day, I might come up with 33 different reasons (off the top of my head, too) to love Kentucky, and other friends might share theirs also.

That’s what makes us pretty well-rooted and fresh, doesn’t it?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

steve-flairty

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)


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