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Sippin’ and Stewin’ in Lawrenceburg

History in the Capital City

Sippin’ and Stewin’ in Lawrenceburg

For the past 10 years, every September, the mouth-watering smell of fresh beef, pork, and vegetables wafting from huge pots of the traditional stew simmering outdoors has lured folks into the central Kentucky town of Lawrenceburg for the Anderson County Burgoo Festival.

“We have something for everyone of every age,” says Sandy Peggs, co-chairman of the 2005 event, September 23-25. “There’s entertainment all three days, arts and crafts, street dances. On Sunday, there’s a downtown church service, gospel groups, and kids’ activities.”

Begun as an event the whole town could participate in, the festival keeps growing, just like Lawrenceburg. Its population is fast approaching 10,000.

“The last 12 years we’ve been in the top 10 fastest growing communities in Kentucky,” says Anthony Stratton, Anderson County judge executive. “We’re focused on managing growth to preserve our small-town atmosphere, which is one reason people like to live here.”

The limestone waters of this countryside birthed the bourbon industry. Six counties in the U.S. produce 95 percent of the world’s supply. Anderson is one of them.

With production dating back to the 1860s, Four Roses’ name grew from a Southern belle’s answer to a marriage proposal, saying if the answer was “yes” she’d be wearing a corsage of four roses to the ball.

“Bourbon is a drink with a macho image,” says Jim Rutledge, chief operating officer and master distiller at Four Roses, and current chairman of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown. “Having roses on a label is unusual in this industry.”

But the rest is pure Kentucky. Here, visitors learn how bourbon is made. Peek into enormous bubbling fermentation vats and smell charred white oak barrels, magically turning limestone water into an internationally revered spirit.

Across the county where Young’s High Bridge spans the Kentucky River, daily tours at Wild Turkey Distillery begin at an 1800s trainmaster’s house and continue through a production facility, bottling line, and rick warehouse, where the “angel share” (escaping vapors) of aging bourbon has a mouth-watering caramel, woody aroma.

All bourbons are made by the same process. Well, almost.

“Distilling bourbon is just like cooking at home,” explains master distiller Jimmy Russell, who at age 70 has logged 50 years in the business. “You and I can cook the same dish and call it the same thing, but you might cook it a little differently. The percentages of corn, rye, and barley malt; the cooking and distillation temperatures; the proof that you still off; the proof you put in the barrel—those all play an important part, and it’s different in every distillery.”

As is winemaking at every vineyard. The largest producer in the state, Lover’s Leap Winery has grown from 750 vines that owners Ann and Jerry Holder hand-planted five years ago into nearly 30 acres. Turns out that Anderson County’s soil is great for grapes.

“When people see our vineyard in the summer, they say it looks like Napa Valley,” Ann says.

Lover’s Leap gives tours and tastings all year. “We’re a working winery,” she continues. “You get to see whatever’s going on here, depending on the season.”


Anderson County Burgoo Festival
(502) 839-5564

Four Roses Distillery
(502) 839-3436

Kavanaugh House Bed & Breakfast
(502) 839-9880

Lover’s Leap Winery and Vineyard
(502) 839-1299

Wild Turkey Distillery
(502) 839-4544

For more information on Lawrenceburg and Anderson County attractions, call the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce at (502) 839-5564 or go online

More Anderson County Attractions
Vintage vehicles and muscle cars cruise Lawrenceburg’s Main Street at Anderson County Vintage Car Shows, (502) 859-3913, every second Friday evening from mid-April through October. Or make it a weekend, grab your fishing gear, and get ready to haul in a bucket load of small-mouth bass at 158-acre Beaver Lake, 10 miles west of Lawrenceburg off U.S. 62. Or if you love the links, play 18 public holes at nearby Bob-o-Link Golf Course, (502) 839-4029.

Sate that outdoor appetite at a home cookin’ lunch buffet or Friday night dinner buffet at Tony’s Barn, (502) 859-3030, or bib up for smoked prime rib every Saturday night. Come Thursday nights and catch Anderson County Judge Executive Tony Stratton’s bluegrass band, Stringtown. Each May, Lover’s Leap Winery rocks with a zydeco band on Mardi Gras Night, and in July with island music on Caribbean Night. The Fall Grape Stomp speaks for itself.

Rest your stomped-out feet overnight at Kavanaugh House Bed & Breakfast, Antique Mall & Tea Room, where Rhoda Kavanaugh ran a school from 1914 to 1945 that launched so many Navy (and Army) officers, it was known as Little Annapolis. Hosts Dan and Kay Clark offer breakfast and lunch. History hunters can see Mrs. K.’s chair and other local relics at the Anderson County Historical Society Museum, (502) 839-1815.

Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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History in the Capital City

At the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort, you’ll find the expected exhibits featuring the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Boone, and others well-documented in Kentucky’s past.

But you’ll also see facts and artifacts about many other past and contemporary Kentuckians of note, and discover facets of Kentucky life within the depths of a coal mine shaft (complete with coal scent), in a wooden country church pew, or admiring the lavish furnishings in an upscale antebellum home.

Operated by the Kentucky Historical Society, the Center opened in April 1999 in the city’s historic downtown district.

“It’s Kentucky’s home for history—it’s where it lives,” says Tami Vater, former communications/marketing officer. “It is more than 12,000 years of Kentucky history all in one place, from prehistoric to present day.”

The $2.8 million permanent exhibit, A Kentucky Journey, features more than 3,000 artifacts divided into eight main areas of Kentucky life. Some items on display are priceless, such as Abraham Lincoln’s like-new pocket watch or framed scraps from some of first lady Martha Washington’s dresses. Others are interestingly quirky, like a tree root that resembles a snake. Display items are actual artifacts or in some cases reproductions, and exhibited items change periodically.

No flash photography is allowed, to preserve the integrity of all the exhibit items, but this is no stereotypically stuffy museum, commanding silence or a hands-off approach from patron. As you travel into each area of the exhibit, with accompanying backdrop murals of actual people and places in the state’s past, sensors prompt animatronic people and animals to life, and speakers emit accompanying sound effects like chirping birds and rustling leaves.

Walk onto a river flatboat to read more about life on the waterways, or challenge your grasp of state history with interactive question-and-answer stations throughout the exhibit.

Kentuckians making entertainment history are also given their due, with music and memorabilia from Kentucky-born crooners like the Judds and Dwight Yoakam, and former ER and movie star George Clooney, who donated a set of scrubs signed by the show’s cast.

The Keeneland Changing Exhibits Gallery area of the Center houses temporary exhibits. Until the end of the year, the featured exhibit explores the impact of rivers on the state’s history with A River Runs Through Us: The Rivers of Kentucky, open during regular Center hours.

Upstairs, the Thomas D. Clark Library boasts more than 90,000 volumes for genealogical research by family name, location, census data, and other sources, and the special collections department contains oral history on audio and video tapes, diaries, rare books, and photographs.

Vater suggests allowing about 90 minutes for your visit. But before departing for any of Frankfort’s many other history-rich attractions, on the ground floor, stop by the Center’s 1792 Store for an array of Kentucky-crafted items.

The Center also holds periodic workshops and programs for children and adults of all ages, as well as a museum theater program.


Admission for each of the following three attractions in downtown Frankfort: $4 adults, $2 youth 6-18, children 5 and under and Kentucky Historical Society members, free. School groups, $2 each. Second Sunday of every month, free. Tickets sold at History Center and Military History Museum (military discount with ID). Free parking. Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1-5 p.m. Closed Mondays, most holidays. For more information, go online to

Kentucky History Center, 100 W. Broadway, Frankfort, 40601, (502) 564-1792.

Kentucky Military History Museum, 125 E. Main Street, Frankfort, 40601, (502) 564-3265. Examines Kentucky’s volunteer military organizations from the Revolutionary War through the present. Featured exhibit through September 11, 2005: Into the Wild Blue Yonder, commemorating Kentucky’s Air National Guard history.

Old State Capitol, 300 W. Main Street, Frankfort, 40601, (502) 564-1792. On-the-hour tours begin at the History Center, with last tour at 4 p.m. Capitol dates from 1830 to 1910.

Area Attractions with Free Admission
Capital City Museum, 325 Ann Street, (502) 696-0607, offers a compilation of history and politics items related to Frankfort and Franklin County. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Kentucky State Capitol, 700 Capitol Avenue, (502) 564-3449. Self-guided tours of the rotunda Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Sunday 1-4 p.m.; guided tours every half hour Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Also guided tours of the Executive Mansion, Tuesday-Thursday, 9-11 a.m.

Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Coffee Tree Road,

Old Governor’s Mansion, 420 High Street, (502) 564-3449, recently renovated. Tours: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Daniel Boone’s Grave, Frankfort Cemetery, 215 E. Main Street, (502) 227-2403. Summer hours: 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; winter hours 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist & Convention Commission: To learn more about attractions, lodging, and restaurants in Frankfort, go online to or call (800) 960-7200.

Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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