My Old Kentucky Home
Contrary to popular myths, Kentucky is not a state filled with stereotypical hillbillies, moonshine, and illiteracy. In a totally modern world, southern and eastern Kentucky overflows with passion for not only arts and culture, the areas embraced within the Appalachian Mountains build a visual bridge to the past and the future.
Considered an economically deprived state where educational and career opportunities are a bit behind the times, Southern and Eastern Kentucky are two of America’s best-kept secrets. Embracing the borders of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Tennessee, Kentucky is a state filled with the richness of family values, country but classic culture, and arts and crafts that could easily decorate, or cover, every mountain top and tree.
Rolling hills and mountains of Kentucky
The beauty of the state sketched within the Appalachian Mountains is breathtaking. Simply designed mountain homes blend into the natural settings of nature. Antique horse-drawn carriages travel at a relaxed, slower pace on the scenic back roads. Draped in a sea of bluegrass, majestic horses prance gracefully in fields lined with white fences and mansions in the background. Many of the estates contain private family graves sitting on hill tops. General stores still cater to a population enjoying a life of simplicity, or refinement.
Bluegrass music, hand stitched quilts made from intricate fabrics of their life, wood carvings, blacksmithing, hand designed walking canes, photographs taken from the back hills of Kentucky, all of these are only a sampling of the quality of life illustrated by the artists of Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
Kentucky Music Hall of Fame
The building housing Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum, located off I-75 in Renfro Valley, originated from horse stables. Music artists from all varieties, including the blues, jazz, mountain, bluegrass, and country, are displayed for all to enjoy.
The significance of African-American music, church revivals, minstrels, and song books dating back to the 1800’s, teach us how the passion of music continues into the twenty-first century.
Promoted as one of Kentucky’s national treasures, Renfro Valley is a relaxing and fun park in the valley where time stood still. Located near Cumberland Falls, Renfro Valley offers variety shows, comedy, barn dances, and entertainment the entire family can enjoy. The emphasis is down home family fun. Each show has a theme. Renfro Valley’s goal is to provide the audience an event to remember. Family style dinners, complete with fried chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, rolls and delicious country cooking tease the taste buds at Lodge Restaurant. The table is set with plates turned upside down, and if you leave hungry, it is no fault of the restaurant.
Magnificent Kentucky landscape with horses at Snug Hollow
Chrisman Mill Vineyards located near Nicholasville, KY
Touring Chrisman Mill Vineyards is an educational event for all who enjoy the history of Kentucky wine. Located in an area traditionally known for the first commercial vineyard in the United States, Chrisman Mill Vineyards has a gift shop filled with unique gifts for the wine connoisseur, epicurean, and the hard to please. Lunch may be served, catered by Denise Nelson. When visiting, don’t forget to taste the fruits of their delicious wines.
While in Nicholasville, visit the Old Jessamine County Jail, Camp Nelson Heritage Park, and be certain to dine at The Three Suns Restaurant. Chef Sherrie Keller-Pauley prepares the best pecan crusted chicken you will ever taste.
Money and the Love of Wood Carving
The love for woodcarving is more than a passion for the Money Family, Kentucky folk artists. Lonnie and Twyla Money work as a team, carving and painting gourds and wood into creative works of art imagined from simpler times.
The Bookworm with his collection of Readers Digest books
Money’s workshop is divided into organized bins with numerous gourds ready for construction. He grows most of his gourds, shaping them into carvings of lizards, dogs, poodles, turkey, and other ideas from his imagination.
One of his most interesting pieces is a worm sitting in a rocking chair, holding a collection of Readers Digest books. “I call him the bookworm,” said Money, smiling. “Mostly, I use poplar wood from Kentucky. I like working with gourds because they make shapes easier. Some of my work is displayed in art galleries, museums, and we take them to arts and crafts shows.” Phyllis George and Ted Turner are only two of the celebrities who collect the Money’s award winning folk art.
Sarah Culbreth shows her passion for pottery making at Tater Knob Pottery, Berea, Kentucky
Tater Knob Pottery
Pottery is another art of refinement in Kentucky, especially near Berea College. Sarah Culbreth and her husband, Jeff Enge, are proprietors of Tater Knob Pottery and Farm. They attended Berea College, a four-year liberal arts college.
“Berea College is the arts and crafts capital of Kentucky,” said Jeff Enge, who worked as ceramic labor in the ceramic apprenticeship program at Berea. Originally from Minnesota, he stayed in Kentucky because he likes the atmosphere. A pottery artist since 1975, Enge enjoys the smell of a small town.
One of the most successful pieces, and a bestseller at Tater Knob Pottery, is the spoon bread dish, gift boxed with the recipe for one of Kentucky’s favorite dishes, spoon bread.
When visiting Tater Knob Pottery be certain to look for the outhouse. Still in working condition and set on a hill to the left of the entrance, the outhouse is a nice topic of conversation and something that most of us living with modern conveniences take for granted.
Snug Hollow Bed and Breakfast
Adventuring into a remote area of a few country miles east of Berea is a cozy, eclectic log house with a large, comfortable family room with a warm fireplace serving as the focal point. Snug Hollow Bed and Breakfast is etched on 300 acres of farm land, complete with mesmerizing views and a melodic creek. The bed and breakfast offers guests a tempting front porch with a view of mountains, horses, and tranquility. High on a hillside is a private family cemetery. Owner Barbara Napier prepares organic vegetarian dishes amongst the setting of a main house with a comfortable loft upstairs. The farmhouse has an antique piano downstairs, breathtaking views of landscapes and nature, providing guests a venue of country life befitting simpler times in a relaxing, sophisticated manner. Snug Hollow offers a taste of simplicity and charm at its finest.
View from the porch at Snug Hollow Bed and Breakfast
The Art of Quilt Making
Quilt making is an additional art form still in existence in Kentucky. Homer Young, a retired coal miner, has been a quilt maker since childhood, learning the art of hand stitch quilt making from his mother. Patterned with passion from the designs he and his wife create, Young said, “Quilt making is more than an art form, it is a part of our family heritage.” Young has several pieces displayed in museums and he has won several awards.
Coal mining gave inspiration to many coal miners including a successful photographer who travels the back roads of Kentucky for his muse. He discovered his eye for photographer while recuperating from a serious injury at the mines. “I just wanted something to do,” he said. “So I went to a pawn shop, bought a camera, and started taking pictures of the back roads.”
Entrance to mine number five
Coal miners and their families consolidated Johnson City, Kentucky. Peering inside the narrow entrance to mine number five, you get a creepy feeling of claustrophobia, along with a vivid image of what coal miners experienced in the tomb like environment. Water drips inside the blanket of darkness of the mine entrance, echoing with hazardous sounds of doom.
A favorite tourist spot – Butcher Hollow
Driving along the roads to Butcher Hollow is a fascinating adventure. Butcher Hollow is the number one tourism spot in Eastern Kentucky. The roads are narrow with modern homes located next to shacks and dilapidated buildings. There is a rustic atmosphere driving along the one lane dirt roads leading to Butcher Hollow. The simplistic childhood home of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle paints a visual impression of family life to visitors of the area. Guests must stop at Webb’s Grocery to arrange a tour. The grocery store looks like a general merchandise store of the 1950’s era. Novelty license tags hang on the walls, an old Pepsi Cola ice box and penny candy are only a few of the reminders of life during simpler times.
Carving Walking Canes
Russell Rice, a kind gentle 84-year-old man of Kentucky heritage, hand carves walking canes made from Kentucky sassafras, dogwood, maple and beech woods. Designed with twisted snake designs, faces, the Kentucky Derby, Presidents, and other ideas, Rice said, “Everything on my sticks is from my mind, heart, and my hands. I look for just the right piece of wood with a shape I can use. If the
handle doesn’t grow on the wood, I don’t use it.” Word of mouth has been his best advertising.
Southern and Eastern Kentucky, kissed with views of mountains, the Kentucky Apple Festival held in Paintsville, bluegrass music, coal mining history, hand stitched quilts, arts and crafts, and songs like the “Blue Moon of Kentucky, or the State song, “My Old Kentucky Home,” are only a taste of the richness of culture and art offered in Kentucky. Why not plan a trip today and step back into a state where simplicity and charm are the ultimate ingredients for the appreciation of life, family values, and culture.
Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a talented, award-winning writer of screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and numerous articles for regional, travel, news and trade publications. In February 2004, she received the Grand Goldie Film Award for her screenplay, Not My Papa.
Photographs by Barbie Perkins-Cooper
Contact Lists – “Welcome to Kentucky”
Southern & Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association
2292 South Highway 27
Somerset, KY 42501
Chrisman Mill Winery
2385 Chrisman Mill Rd.
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Chris & Denise Nelson, Proprietors
Money’s Folk Art
431 Money Rd.
East Bernstadt, KY 40729
Snug Hollow Farm & Country Inn
709 McSwain Branch
Irvine, KY 40336
Barbara Napier, Innkeeper
Tater Knob Pottery
260 Wolf Gap Rd.
Berea, KY 40407
Sarah Culbreth, and Jeff Enge, Owners
Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum
PO Box 85
Renfro Valley, KY 40473
Renfro Valley Entertainment Center
US Highway 25
Renfro Valley, KY 40473
Paintsville Tourism Commission
304 Main Street
PO Box 809
Paintsville, KY 41240
Butcher Hollow and Webb’s Grocery
1917 Miller’s Creek Rd.
Van Lear, KY 41265
Herman Webb, Owner