FRANKFORT – If you’re still looking for that perfect gift, or for an experience that puts a Kentucky spin on the season, the good news is that there is no shortage of opportunities even as time starts to draw short.
The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet does a great job of bringing Kentucky’s Yuletide contributions together under one website (Kentuckytourism.com). There, you can learn about such things as the Christmas Front Porch Pickin’ at the Country Music Highway Museum and Breakfast with Santa, Frosty and Friends at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park this coming weekend.
The website also has truly unique events like one-of-a-kind Christmas light displays at the Kentucky Horse Park, which draws more than 120,000 visitors each year, and the Louisville Mega Cavern, which bills itself as the only underground display in the world through which you can drive your vehicle.
If you would rather see something under water instead, there is always Newport Aquarium’s Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa. He’s been making this stop for about a dozen years.
If you and your family love timeless holiday movies, the Kentucky History Museum in Frankfort has an exhibit dedicated to “White Christmas.” The tour, which costs between $6 and $12 per person, features memorabilia on loan from the Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta and runs through Jan. 30.
If you’re looking for a gift with ties to the commonwealth, one of the best places to stop is the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea, which features items from more than 650 artists. Many of our state parks and local businesses also feature these products as well.
It’s worth noting that our creative community is a major driver behind our economy. It generates about 60,000 jobs, according to a 2014 study by the Kentucky Arts Council, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Another worthwhile point to make is that Kentucky has a couple of direct connections to the holiday itself. A little more than two centuries ago, on Christmas morning in 1809, Ephraim McDowell made history as a pioneer in abdominal surgery when the Danville doctor removed a 22.5-pound ovarian tumor from a woman. The 25-minute surgery, done before the days of anesthesia, was a major success, and the patient lived for another 32 years.
Two years ago, meanwhile, Lexington Catholic High School and several nearby middle schools earned an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records when nearly 1,500 people took part in what is now recognized as the world’s largest game of Secret Santa, a gift-giving game.
If you’re making plans to ring in the new year, many of Kentucky’s state resort parks will be hosting events that night featuring music or a special event. Five of these parks, including Jenny Wiley, also take part in a nationwide program known as “First Day” hikes, a good place to start on Jan. 1st for those whose resolutions may include getting more exercise. For us, the guided hike starts at 9 a.m. on Lakeshore Trail, and a mountain bike trip starts at 1 p.m. on the same trail. Meet in front of May Lodge about 15 minutes before each hike to take part.
The start of a new year means a legislative session is not far away. In 2016, the General Assembly will return to the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 5th, and meet for 60 working days. Passing a two-year budget to run state government will be our biggest priority.
As always, but especially during this time, I encourage you to let me know your views on any issue affecting the state. Should you want to write, my email address is [email protected]
To leave a message for me or for any legislator at any time during normal business hours, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
For now, let me end by saying that I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Rep. Greg Stumbo serves as speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.