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Pig Out at Ham Days

Frogs are Hopping at Newport Aquarium

Pig Out at Ham Days

If you enjoy a salty slice of country ham and having fun with porcine puns, get your curly tail on down to the 39th annual Marion County Country Ham Days in Lebanon.

With the 2008 theme, Barrels of Fun, the festival officially takes place the weekend of September 27-28, but there are also many pre-week events to enjoy, like Swine and Dine, where local restaurants each make a signature appetizer and drink in honor of Ham Days.

The festival evolved out of the downtown merchants annual sidewalk sale, Festival Chairperson Bernadette O’Daniel says. “A few of the guys got together and said, ‘Why don’t we serve country ham?’” she explains.

Initially, six hams fed the ham-clamoring masses, but now between 30,000 and 50,000 people usually attend, gathering in Lebanon’s town square to feast on more than 6,000 pounds of country ham.

Following the Hog Calling Contest on Saturday, September 27, people will gather downtown for the 1 p.m. PIGasus Parade to watch more than 100 entries file by. This year’s parade grand marshal is Patrick Henry Hughes, who despite physical disabilities has become an accomplished pianist, vocalist, and trumpet player. His family recently received a new home courtesy of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition TV program. Hughes, from Louisville, has family in the Lebanon area, O’Daniel adds.

O’Daniel says there’s a pleasing mix of returning sentimental favorites as well as new events to entertain festival-goers. The Marion County Country Ham Jam features live entertainment on the Main Street stage, there will be a children’s parade, and more than 200 arts, crafts, and marketplace vendors.

Other activities include a car, truck, and motorcycle show and an antique engine and tractor show, country ham breakfast, several children’s contests (Little Miss, Jr. Farmer, pig relay, and spelling bee), Hay Bale Toss, the Pokey Pig Fun Run, a Ham and Biscuit Eating Contest, and the Hog Heaven Christian Music Festival.

A country ham contest will be held, with the winning ham auctioned off to the highest bidder, and a country store will sell official Ham Days logo items like pins, T-shirts, and piggy banks.

Will they ever run out of pig, hog, or ham-themed event names? O’Daniel simply snorts at the notion.

“We have a Pig Latin all our own,” she says, laughing.

During your stay, there are plenty of places to eat—29 different restaurants through a two-mile stretch downtown, says Chris Hamilton, executive director of the Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission.

The area also boasts a strong Civil War heritage, Hamilton says, as a drive along U.S. 68 in Lebanon and Marion County includes the site of Camp Crittenden, the fourth-largest black soldier military post during the Civil War. You’ll also pass the site of the Battle of Lebanon and historic cemeteries.

“Because of interstates and parkways, many travelers bypass these comfortable and educational routes, never realizing what treasures they are missing,” Hamilton says.

“Lebanon is the epicenter of historic Highway 68, not only for its location but for its scenic beauty and dining and shopping experiences along the way.”


Marion County Country Ham Days
September 27-28
For more information about Marion County Country Ham Days, including directions, call the Lebanon-Marion County Chamber of Commerce at (270) 692-9594 or go online to

Area Attractions

Historic Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch, opened in 1845, holds a Kentucky Historical Landmark designation and is the oldest country store in America that has been continuously operated by the same family (the Penn family since 1850). Visit on the Web at for hours and upcoming events like the annual Great Outhouse Blowout, this year on September 6, or call (859) 332-7706.

Maker’s Mark Distillery tours, 3350 Burks Spring Road, Loretto, (270) 865-2099, Tours begin every hour on the half-hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday–Saturday with Sunday tours 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., March through December.

Barrel-making tours at Canton Cooperage and Kentucky Cooperage in Lebanon can be arranged by calling the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission at (270) 692-0021.

The Kentucky Bourbon Tasting Room is located at the Blues on Tap Restaurant & Bar in Lebanon at 110 N. Proctor Knott Avenue, (270) 402-2583. Visit for information.

Historic sites and tours in the area include the Lebanon National Cemetery, Belltown Cemetery, and Ryder Cemetery, which include the graves of many Civil War casualties and slaves, the General John Hunt Morgan self-guided driving/walking tour, and the Historic Homes & Landmarks of Lebanon self-guided driving/walking tour. Go online to for more information.

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

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Frogs are Hopping at the Newport Aquarium

The carnivorous, sticky-tongued Colorado River toad. The charismatic red-eyed tree frog, the most photographed frog in the world. The hardy ornate horned frog—a “mouth with legs” that will eat its own kind.

Newport Aquarium is celebrating frogs—warts and all. Frog Bog, featuring 30 different kinds of frogs, plus interactive experiences highlighting different senses and replicating frog habitats, is a fitting tribute to these cold-blooded, freshwater wonders. It is, after all, the Year of the Frog, so designated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums because 2008 is a leap year.

“There are about 5,000 species of frogs in the world and the aquarium has acquired 30 of the most interesting ones,” says Dr. Jerry Carpenter, a retired biology professor from Northern Kentucky University and volunteer at the aquarium. Carpenter, who continues teaching a summer course on biological photography at NKU, photographed many of the frogs for the exhibit that runs through 2009.

“The leaf frog, one of my favorites, has stick-like projections over its eyes and brown ridges down its back to make it blend into the leaf litter where it lives in the Solomon Islands. The Vietnamese mossy frog, also known as the jeweled frog, has pretty, multi-colored warts all over its body,” says Carpenter. Many poisonous varieties are boldly colored to warn predators of their dangerous, toxic skins. Toads are frogs; the word “toad” is used for frogs that have warty, dry skin and shorter hind legs.

Interactive activities keep the fun hopping, including climbable musical frog replicas that “sing” at the push of a button and a Frogger-type video game with a pad you jump on to help Frog get to the other side of the road. Hidden within a wooden “frog habitat” is a giant climbing structure with tunnels, tubes, and slide so kids can stretch their own legs and do a certain amount of leaping—as well as exploring Bog exhibits.

But the frogs are the headliners. The tomato frog, as colorful and attractive as its name implies. The Oriental fire-bellied toad that flashes brilliant orange and red warning spots on its belly when threatened. The Surinam toad, aquatic its entire life with the female protecting her eggs by keeping them in little pockets on her back.

“There are so many beautiful and fascinating frogs in the exhibit,” says Carpenter. “It’s very rewarding to see them being used to help tell about the amazing world of frogs and the dangers they face.”

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, frogs absorb toxins through their skin, so when waterways become polluted, the frogs are the first to die. Through its exhibit, Newport Aquarium hopes to create awareness about the global amphibian crisis: more than 500 species of frogs are critically endangered and threatened with extinction due to environmental changes and pollution.

Besides Frog Bog, Newport Aquarium has dozens of exhibits encompassing thousands of animals from around the world—sharks, alligators, jellyfish, piranhas, penguins, the always-engaging otters, and others—in 14 galleries and one million gallons of water. Interactive activities include touching a shark and patting a penguin, plus a theater that presents an aquatic-themed film and dive shows.


Newport Aquarium
One Aquarium Way
Newport on the Levee
(859) 261-7444
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily year-round. Extended summer hours through August 30: 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Saturday. Admission: $18.95 adults, $11.95 children ages 2-12, free children under age 2. Summer Family Hours special: 2 kids free with each paying adult, 4:30–7 p.m., Sunday–Friday. Behind-the-scenes tours on selected dates for additional fee.

Frog fever
Chalk it up to their bug eyes and ever-present smile, people love frogs.

“Most of us grew up playing leap frog and hearing happy stories about tadpoles transforming into frogs and how kissing a frog will magically get you a prince,” says Jerry Carpenter, whose early years watching tadpoles transform into froglets “jump started” his career in biology.

Indeed, the agreeable amphibian abounds all around town. At Newport on the Levee,, a collection of handcrafted Good Luck frogs big and small, made of metal and ceramic and with Latin American flair, are leaping off the shelves at Mango Arts.

A hop, skip, and leap down the road in Bellevue’s Historic Fairfield District,, frogs are everywhere: they have a starring role at Splendid Things, in enamel picture frames, cast-iron wall hooks and doorstops, wind chimes, bird feeders, hand-beaded key chains, and hand-painted necklaces from Guatemala, among other items.

At the Cozy Cottage, the frog is given his due in artisan-made planters, pot holders, oven towels, and other home accessories. Yoga practitioners become the frog at the new yogahOMe studio in the yoga asana (pose) called bekasana, meaning “frog,” and you can purchase Toadal Fitness frogs from Tresori that replicate different yoga poses.

At Graeter’s Ice Cream, the Frog Bog Sundae, a specially concocted, limited-release treat (mint chocolate chip ice cream with bitter-sweet chocolate sauce and green and brown sprinkles), celebrates the aquarium exhibit. It’s available at all Graeter’s locations through Labor Day, including those in northern Kentucky and Lexington.

Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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