Most folks know that the Kentucky state flower is the goldenrod, and that our state bird is the cardinal. Many wouldn’t be surprised to know our state horse is the Thoroughbred or that the state rock is the Kentucky agate.
But did you know we also have an official butterfly? (It’s the viceroy, Limenitis archippus). There’s even an official state soil. (In case you wondered, it’s the Crider soil series.)
Over the years, in celebration of our state’s unique heritage and geography, the Kentucky State Legislature has added a whole series of places, events, and things to the list of Kentucky’s official state symbols. In fact, there are almost 40 in all.
Here are a few of them:
Come July, fresh, plump, juicy, homegrown blackberries—Kentucky’s official fruit—will be available at farms and orchards throughout the state. But there may be no blackberry patch more scenic than Ayres Family Orchard, owned by Owen Electric Cooperative member Larry Ayres and family in Monterey, which sits atop a picturesque hill overlooking the Kentucky River valley. Ayres’ Triple Crown blackberries are big and sweet, he says, perfect for cobblers or jams. Freshly picked and U-pick berries will be available July 4 through the first week of August. They also offer apples, peaches, pears, and plums. www.ayresapples.com, (502) 514-1594
Show your kids where milk really comes from and pay homage to Kentucky’s dairy industry by booking a farm tour at Chaney’s Dairy Barn and Restaurant in Bowling Green. Tours at this working dairy farm—owned by the Chaney family since the 1880s—teach visitors about the milking process, pasteurization, and bottling. Watch owner Carl Chaney milk one of the family’s 100 registered Jersey cows during the tour, get a free scoop of ice cream, then head over to the farm store where you can purchase fresh-from-the-farm Jersey milk. www.chaneysdairybarn.com, (270) 843-5567
The history and heritage of coal—Kentucky’s state mineral—are on proud display in historic Benham and Lynch, two former coal camps in Harlan County. Learn about the formation of coal, take your picture with a 2-ton block of “black gold,” and glimpse into the life of an early Kentucky coal miner at the Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham. From mining tools and machinery to items found in early miners’ homes, the museum illustrates that mining was not just a job, but a way of life. Don’t miss the Portal 31 Exhibition Mine in nearby Lynch, where you’ll go underground, touring an actual former coal mine by rail car. www.harlancountytrails.com/kentuckycoalmuseum.php, (606) 848-1530
The precision foot-stomping of Kentucky’s state dance will be on display at the annual Clogtoberfest in Frankfort on October 7. Around 100 dancers from across the state will kick up their heels in Riverview Park at the free outdoor festival, which has been around for some 20 years. Experienced cloggers can bring their dancing shoes and join in. Itching to learn? Go to www.clogdancing.com, click on Directory, then Instructors and Kentucky for a list of clogging teachers near you. (859) 760-8497
To experience bluegrass music at its finest, there’s no better place in Kentucky than Rosine, home of the father of the genre himself, Bill Monroe. Plan to attend the annual Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration, adjoining the grounds of the Bill Monroe Homeplace. This year’s festival, October 4-7, features 40-50 bands representing the best of traditional bluegrass as well as old-time gospel and blues. At the Rosine Barn Jamboree, you can stop by any Friday night to hear great bluegrass and join in on an open jam session.
www.jerusalemridgefestival.org, (270) 274-9181
STATE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT
Ever wanted to try your hand at learning to play the Appalachian (a.k.a. mountain) dulcimer, Kentucky’s state instrument? Kentucky Music Week, held June 17-22 in Bardstown, offers five days of intensive classes for beginners through advanced players.
Learn, listen, and participate—dulcimer means sweet music—at the 37th annual Kentucky Music Weekend at Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater (itself designated as Kentucky’s state amphitheater), July 27-29. You can listen to Kentucky’s best hammered and mountain dulcimer players battle it out at the 2012 Kentucky State Dulcimer Competition. Bardstown: www.kentuckymusicweek.com, (502) 348-5237; Louisville: www.kentuckymusicweekend.com,
OFFICIAL STEAM LOCOMOTIVE OF KENTUCKY
Step aboard history at the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, home to Kentucky’s official steam locomotive, “Old 152.” Built in 1905 by the famous Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of New Jersey, it’s one of only three remaining L&N steam locomotives in the world. During its 50 years of service on the L&N line, it was used to carry both freight and passengers. (It pulled both President Truman and President Roosevelt on various cross-country trips, and also delivered Al Capone to prison.)
While at the museum, book a trip on one of its picturesque excursions (weekends, at varying times, April-December) and take time to view the expansive collection of other rare diesel and steam locomotives. www.kyrail.org, (502) 549-5470 or (800) 272-0152.
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: </>WANT TO VISIT?
For address, times, and more information on the places featured in this story, or to track down a list of more of Kentucky’s official things, go to