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Court Days and Stone-Fenced Byways

Celebrating Bowling Green

Court Days and Stone-Fenced Byways
Daniel Boone had an eye for natural beauty, as witnessed by the lush central-Kentucky Bluegrass region where he chose to settle. He was not, however, alone.

“You always hear about Daniel Boone,” says Nancy Turner, executive director of the Winchester/Clark County Tourism Commission. “He was all over Clark County. But Captain Billy Bush was right there with him. We consider him our founding father.”

Turns out Bush and Boone built Fort Boonesborough together and it’s a local honor to be a Bush descendent. Turner, a ninth-generation Clark Countian herself, is related by marriage, a connection that doesn’t hold water among some of the clan’s diehards.

Kentucky Highway 627 is lined with old limestone walls, built when early settlers were clearing the hilly, lush farmland that each fall hosts the horses and hounds of Lexington’s Iroquois Hunt, winding along the Kentucky River, passing by the reconstructed 1775 fort, the sturdy 1780-era Old Rock Barn built on original Bush property, and William Bush’s gravesite.

Two other historic sites due to open to visitors in late fall 2003 and in 2004 respectively are Lower Howard’s Creek Nature Preserve, a 244-acre tract for hikers that was once a mid-1700s “subdivision” of 100 settlers, and the Clark County Earthen Works, site of an 1863 African American-manned Union fort, that will interpret Civil War activity for tours with re-enactments.

Founded in 1793, Winchester boasts one of the country’s few intact Victorian downtowns. See it on a leisurely Summer Heritage Tour every Saturday through August.

Kentucky’s eminent explorer receives due honor every Labor Day Weekend during the Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival, which begins at College Park, home of his life-sized bronze likeness. The lineup for its 25th year includes bluegrass music master Homer Ledford, country stars Kellie Coffey and Steve Azar, and lots of crafts and food.

Food’s the focus the second weekend in October at the city’s Bluegrass Heritage Festival and Burgoo Cookoff, a fund-raiser for the Bluegrass Heritage Museum, due to open in late fall in the former Guerrant Clinic, an impressive Edwardian brick home where mountain poor once received free health care.

Thanks to a Kentucky General Assembly decree, folks have been pouring from the mountains into Mt. Sterling for 200 years to Court Day, held the third Monday in October. Begun as a day to hold county court, people would come to see who might be hanged, and to sell or trade everything from livestock and farm equipment to guns and hunting dogs.

“We don’t hang people anymore,” laughs Gerald Atkinson, director of the Mt. Sterling/Montgomery County Tourism Commission, housed in an 1815 home that was once the county jail, “but we still do trade pretty much everything except animals.”

The three-day event, held this year October 18-20, draws around 170,000 visitors with 900 vendors.

Another wildly popular local tradition, the Ruth Hunt Candy Company, made its first Blue Monday bar in 1921. The official candy of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, Ruth Hunt’s 70-plus handmade confections include melt-in-your-mouth pulled cream candy and bourbon balls. On a tour, you can see goodies being made from scratch in old copper kettles. And yes, you do get samples.

During the winter holiday crunch, says chief cook Junior Carroll, “We use about 1,000 pounds of sugar, 100 quarts of cream, and 30 pounds of butter a day.” His “sugar bowl” is a 55-gallon drum.

For information on Winchester tourist attractions, go online to or call (800) 298-9105. For Mt. Sterling, go online to or call (859) 498-8732. Also nearby are Stanton, (606) 663-1161, and Frenchburg, online at or call (606) 768-9000.

Area Attractions
•Other must-do Winchester attractions include a free tour of Ale-8-One Bottling Company, (859) 744-3484; a play at a redone 1925 movie house, the Leeds Center for the Arts, (888) 772-6985; a ranch horseback ride at Deer Run Stables, (859) 527-6339; and a tour of a freshwater shrimp operation at Avalon Farm, (859) 744-4860.
•Pop on the Mountain Parkway off I-64 to Stanton for Red River Gorge-ous scenery. Line up land and water guides, instruction, and rentals at Red River Outfitters, (606) 663-9701. Or get directions to Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve and to Millstone Quarry at the Red River Historical Museum, (606) 663-2555.
•Down KY 460, Frenchburg offers lovely Cave Run Lake, (606) 784-6428, and the unusual Swamp Valley Museum, (606) 768-3250.
•Hunker down for fried banana peppers and catfish on the Kentucky River at Hall’s on the River Restaurant, (859) 527-6620, or at Sister’s Café, (859) 745-0990.
•Duffers can challenge the 98 sand traps at Mt. Sterling’s Old Silo Golf Club, (877) OLD-SILO, then wedge in for Sunday brunch at Graham’s Grill. Start your day at the August Fly In Breakfast and Air Show at Mt. Sterling-Montgomery County Airport, (859) 498-1000, or chow down on good ol’ home cookin’ at Granny’s Restaurant, (606) 768-6099, in Menifee County.
•Sleep it all off in a Cave Run Lake cabin at Howard’s Rentals, (606) 768-6347, or in a historic former hospital nurses’ home, Winchester’s Guerrant Mountain Mission B&B, (859) 745-1284.

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

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Celebrating Bowling Green

For families looking for something to do this fall, the south-central Kentucky town of Bowling Green has a lot to offer, from celebrations honoring a famous cake mix company founder to friends from other cultures, or a festival featuring the beauty of hot air balloons in flight.

Bowling Green will celebrate one of its native sons August 22-23 with the Duncan Hines Festival. Several events are held around town that weekend, including a recipe contest featuring Duncan Hines products, a duck derby, a bake-off to create the world’s largest brownie, and a kids character breakfast, an opportunity for the young and the young at heart to have breakfast with favorite characters from cereal commercials. Call (270) 782-0800 or (800) 326-7465, or go online to for a schedule of events.

The Bowling Green/Warren County Regional Airport will play host to the U.S. Bank Balloon Classic September 5-7. The 2003 Classic will mark the 12th year of the event. Activities include balloon races, a balloon glow, carnival rides, and live music. For more information, call U.S. Bank at (270) 745-7600.

The Bowling Green International Festival, held the last Saturday in September each year, unites several nationalities in a celebration of heritage and diversity of Bowling Green residents.

“Celebrations” is the theme for the 2003 festival that will take over Fountain Square Park on September 27. The International Festival traditionally features music, dance performances, exhibits, demonstrations, authentic foods, and merchandise vendors. There are plenty of children’s activities, including contests, storytelling, and workshops.

“The biggest new thing this year is the parade,” says festival Executive Director Kim Mason. All the details for the 2003 International Festival aren’t yet finalized, but information on activities and performance times as well as a listing of area hotels offering discounts to visitors will be posted on the festival’s Web site.

“Imported talent varies each year, but many local artists are regularly featured, including Hispanic dancers, Middle Eastern folkloric dancers, Japanese dancers, and Vietnamese dancers,” Mason says.
For more information about the Bowling Green International Festival, call (270) 796-2777 or go online to

There are lots of area destinations to visit while in Bowling Green. For those who like the outdoors and hiking, take a visit to Lost River Cave.

Lost River Cave has served many purposes throughout history, including serving as shelter for Native Americans, a milling area, and even an underground nightclub.

A tour of Lost River Cave and Valley begins with a historical river walk to the cave opening that emphasizes the history, geology/hydrology, and folklore of the cave. The walk is followed by a boat tour into the cave. The boat tour allows visitors to see the large rooms of the cave and its other features.

About two miles of hiking trails and a butterfly garden are also on the grounds.

The boat tours are available year-round. Tours start at the top of each hour, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT, weather permitting. Reservations and group rates are available from September to April. For prices and more information call (270) 393-0077 or (866) 274-CAVE, or go online to

Bowling Green offers a wealth of museums and history, including a Civil War-era home turned museum, a museum that celebrates Kentucky’s rich history, and a science museum that provides hands-on learning.
Riverview at Hobson Grove sits on a hill overlooking picturesque Hobson Grove Park and Hobson Grove Golf Course at the end of Main Street. It served as a munitions storage place during the Civil War and was completed in 1872. The home has since been restored to interpret the 1860-1890 time period and turned into a museum representing the lifestyle of a prosperous Victorian family in Kentucky. Riverview is open for tours Tuesday through Sunday. For admission prices and more information call (270) 843-5565.
The Kentucky Museum and Library, on the campus of Western Kentucky University, houses several artifacts from throughout Kentucky’s history and a library containing documents beneficial in studying state history or doing genealogical research. For museum and library hours and admission costs, call (270) 745-2592 or go online to
Barren River Imaginative Museum of Science, or BRIMS for short, is a unique hands-on science museum where visitors can experience the force of a mini-tornado, generate static electricity, or suspend their bodies with the magic of mirrors. It is located at 1229 Center Street, near the campus of Western Kentucky University. For times, tour information, and admission costs, call the museum at (270) 843-9779.
The Phoenix Theatre, at 545 Morris Alley in downtown Bowling Green, is a 154-seat facility where the not-for-profit Public Theatre of Kentucky produces annual seasons of plays and musicals from September to May. For the list of plays, dates, and cost, call (270) 781-6233 for more information or to make reservations, or go online to

Amanda Vincent is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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