Yes, girls just wanna have fun. It’s not about where you are or what you’re doing, but about spending quality time with girlfriends who accept you no matter what
Though four hometown girlfriends and I always had a ball on the occasions we saw each other after Mayfield High School graduation, it wasn’t until our 40th reunion in 2005 that we made a pact to rendezvous each year somewhere special. So we spent an unforgettable first weekend at a cabin on Kentucky Lake, wolfing down mile-high meringue pie at Patti’s 1880’s Restaurant, driving go-karts, having massages, and laughing until we wept while crammed into a photo booth.
Our yearly getaways are times that we all treasure, no matter what life tosses our way.
“Getting together is like being home again, catching up with what’s going on in town,” says one of my west Kentucky chums, Anne Wyatt McLaughlin, now a North Carolina mountain girl. “But the best is sharing what’s happening in our lives. It’s like picking up a favorite old book and reading new chapters about our families and careers, dreams and hopes. The love, laughter, and fun are comforting and renewing.”
Turns out, we’re not alone. Women—and men—are discovering the benefits of getting away with like-minded others, be they friends, family, or co-workers. Though all admit that the commitment to meet grows each time, beginnings, destinations, and durations of stay vary.
As many as 10 thirty-something former high school pals from Berea convene three weekends a year to scrapbook. In April and October, the women board a houseboat on Laurel Lake in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and in January, stay at a Cumberland Falls State Resort Park cabin to take advantage of special low rates Kentucky State Parks offer state workers from November through March.
“For the moms, it’s a retreat from their kids,” explains Katie Richardson, a customer service representative for Peoples Bank in Berea. “We stay up late, sleep late, don’t fix our hair or wear makeup, and just hang out in sweats. I usually do more talking than scrapbooking. It’s about bringing memories together.”
A larger group in Pendleton County—as many as 17 “Wood Cousins” and friends—has come together annually since 2000 to celebrate All-Girl Weekend. Descendants of 10 siblings of the Wood family from Falmouth, the women range in age from 16 to 68. Their rite-of-passage event has taken place at numerous sites, including Churchill Downs in Louisville and Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park in Carlisle. Last year’s gathering hit the Kentucky Artisan Center and Boone Tavern in Berea, and took in a Loretta Lynn concert in Renfro Valley.
A family favorite, says Melody Williams, district librarian for Wheelersburg, Ohio, Local Schools and the only cousin residing out of state, was a 2008 Wild West-themed murder mystery dinner weekend at 1851 Historic Maple Hill Manor B&B in Springfield.
“We booked the entire property,” Williams says. “Everyone designed and made costumes ahead for the murder mystery, which was so much fun. For the rest of the weekend, we got to feed the farm’s llamas and alpacas, hear the owners’ Civil War haunting stories, and just relax and play games in our pj’s.”
Common work goals and shared humor bonded four Kentucky community education directors at a Paintsville training session a few years ago. A goodbye gathering when one gal changed jobs became a sightseeing jaunt and a “slumber party with goofy pajamas.” The women now have several reunions yearly.
“Most (getaways) are just one night and always involve understanding and bonding,” says Cora Heffner, Community Education director for Clark County Public Schools. “The longest was three days in Florida last June. We flew down together and rented a Jeep and a condo, and giggled and ate and shopped and swam and lay in the sun and talked and talked.
“We don’t meet a set time of year. One of us will say, ‘I’ve got to get out of here. You guys coming?’ It has become important to us all to have someone to lean on who gets you, understands the problems of your everyday life, and has enough distance to bring a fresh perspective.”
All girlfriend getaway groups agree that these times spent out of their day-to-days are total positives.
“It really doesn’t matter what we’re doing or where we are,” says former Mayfield resident, now living in Connecticut, Kaye Britt Particelli. “We share a common history and with each visit we add more memories. I can’t wait for the next getaway!”
GIRLS GET OUTTA TOWN
In 1994, Columbia resident Glenna Hammond and her eight sisters, whose ages span from 46 to 67, began their annual trips when a rain check for a cancelled outdoor drama inspired them to meet the following year. Though a few jaunts have been out of state, they often peruse information in Kentucky Living on the Commonwealth’s myriad rendezvous possibilities. Each sister brings a specialty from her kitchen, and all pile into a van.
“As we age, we seem to spread out a little more, so someone always makes a comment that the van’s getting more crowded,” Glenna laughs. “We have fun no matter where we are.”
Since one sister lives near Irvine, one outing took them to a cabin at Snug Hollow Farm Bed & Breakfast. From there they visited Natural Bridge State Resort Park, and shopped for handmade crafts in Berea and at nearby Tater Knob Pottery. Other sister destinations have included Mammoth Cave, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Breaks Interstate Park, Big South Fork Scenic Railway, U.S. 23 Country Music Highway, and Kentucky Down Under.
PLAN YOUR OUTTA TOWN GIRLFRIEND WEEKEND
Ashland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (U.S. 23 Country Music Highway), www.visitashlandky.com or (800) 377-6249
Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky, www.kentuckybb.com or (888) 281-8188
Berea Tourism Center, www.berea.com or (800) 598-5263
Big South Fork Scenic Railway, www.bsfsry.com or (800) 462-5664
Kentucky Down Under, www.kdu.com or (800) 762-2869
Kentucky State Resort Parks, www.parks.ky.gov or (800) 255-PARK (7275)
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: GIRLFRIEND MAFIA
To read about the group of 16 girls from Owensboro Southern Junior High School who have been gathering since 1959, what Kentucky destinations they recommend, and why they are known as “the mafia,” go to girlfriend mafia.