FRANKFORT – One of the great things about Kentucky is that there is never a shortage of things to do, especially when fall arrives. Every weekend, and most weeks during that time, you can find a community celebrating just about anything that has a connection to the commonwealth.
Food is often a focal point of these festivals, and together they would make a good meal. Those items range from apples, chicken, country ham, sorghum and bourbon to honey, barbecue and even salt.
At the opposite end of the state, there is a festival dedicated to the banana, which commemorates a time in the late 1800s when Fulton was a key stop between New Orleans and Chicago. Refrigerated cars carrying up to 70 percent of the bananas eaten in the country at the time stopped there for a fresh load of ice.
A highlight of that festival is a one-ton banana pudding. Oversized food like that is common, in fact. Laurel County celebrates its role as the founding home of KFC and Lee’s Famous Recipe by firing up a skillet that can cook hundreds of chicken quarters at a time.
There have been 10-foot-wide pizzas and cookies at the Apple Festival in Casey County, while a country ham festival in Trigg County has featured a two-ton biscuit and Ham Days in Marion County boasts several tons of the salty breakfast and dinner staple.
Among the non-edible items, there are festivals dedicated to coal, horses, riverboats, Appalachian music, the first full moon after harvest and even the wooly worm, which supposedly can tell us what kind of winter to expect. Each of its 13 segments corresponds to a week during that season, so if you see a segment that’s light brown, expect a mild week, but black segments mean it will be cold.
Our oldest festival – Court Days in Mt. Sterling – got its start way back in 1794. Its name is a throw-back to a time when a traveling judge would arrive each year to hold court. Those living nearby tended to gather in town to trade or sell items, and it just grew from there.
I may be a little biased, but none of these gatherings compares to what we have here in our community. Last weekend’s Middle Creek Reenactment and the Jenny Wiley Pioneer Festival early next month really help us to honor and appreciate our local history.
If you’re less interested in festivals but would still like to take in some unique sites, Kentucky has a lot to offer there as well.
Speaking of Middle Creek, we have more than 50 locations that have a connection to the Civil War. Those range from such other battlefields as Perryville and Mill Springs to President Lincoln’s and Jefferson Davis’ birthplaces and the National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville.
Kentucky’s Scenic Byway System, meanwhile, consists of more than 20 roads, six of which have a national designation, that give you a chance to learn more about Kentucky without even getting out of your vehicle.
There is our Country Music Highway, of course, which gives us a look back at the early lives of such stars as Loretta Lynn, the Judds, Dwight Yoakam and Ricky Skaggs.
Other roads re-trace the paths some of our earliest settlers took; feature the sites marking the early life of President Lincoln; and wind through Red River Gorge, which is beautiful in its own right but is also home to one of the first places in the Western Hemisphere where agriculture got its start.
All of this information and more can be found on the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism’s website, which does a wonderful job of bringing these activities together. If you and your family are looking for something different to do, you can find it at www.kentuckytourism.com. I encourage you to take a weekend or longer to see what we have to offer. You won’t regret it.
Rep. Greg Stumbo serves as speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.