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With memories of the long winter starting to fade and the Memorial Day weekend now behind us, the time has come to begin planning for summer.
There certainly is no shortage of activities nearby or across the state, and their popularity can be seen in the bottom line. According to an annual study released earlier this month, Kentucky’s tourism and travel industry was responsible for $12.5 billion in direct and indirect spending in 2013, which was a 2.6 percent increase over 2012. Overall, these businesses employ nearly 176,000 people.
Some of the Kentucky’s key assets, of course, are our state resort parks, which are part of a system that features 49 overall. Money is limited in the upcoming two-year budget, but I’m proud that the General Assembly was able to set aside $2 million extra for park improvements.
For those wanting to take in more of the outdoors, Kentucky also has close to 900,000 acres of national forests, more than 50 lakes open for boating or fishing and 12,000 miles of trails.
The Bourbon Trail offers a different type of trip for anyone interested in knowing more about an important part of Kentucky’s heritage. New distilleries are opening regularly, and over the past five years, nearly 2.5 million people from every state and 25 countries have made at least one stop along the way.
This month, incidentally, is the 50th anniversary of Congress’s declaring bourbon to be unique to the United States, and they might as well have limited that just to Kentucky, since we’re home to 95 percent of the world’s production.
For those wanting to travel around the state, there are several milestone events being celebrated this year.
In southeastern Kentucky, for example, descendants of Daniel Boone’s family will join with many others next month to re-enact that pioneer’s early work to make the Cumberland Gap more accessible to settlers nearly 240 years ago.
Both the Belle of Louisville and the Governor’s Mansion turn 100 this year. The Belle is the world’s oldest Mississippi-style steamboat still in operation, and the mansion is one of just a handful of executive residences across the country featuring public tours. Its predecessor, located less than two miles away, is worth visiting as well, since it pre-dates the opening of the White House.
Kentucky has also garnered a lot of attention for its outdoor theaters. The Pioneer Playhouse in Danville turns 65 this year, and two of its famous alumni include actors Lee Majors and John Travolta, who appeared there when he was 15.
The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and “Stephen Foster – the Musical” have also been around for decades. The former, located in Louisville, is the country’s oldest free festival dedicated to the famous playwright, and the latter, based in Bardstown, celebrates the composer of our most famous song, “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Another famous “home” worth taking in is the restaurant where Colonel Sanders perfected his original recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s located in Corbin and has been remodeled to mirror what it looked like when he manned the kitchen in the 1940s.
Kentucky is used to having the eyes of the world on it in May, when the Kentucky Derby is run, but a couple of major events are planned for August as well. This year, the PGA Championship, one of professional golf’s four majors, will take place at Valhalla in Louisville, and three years from now, on August 21, 2017, Hopkinsville will be the focal point worldwide for a major solar eclipse.
If you would like to know more about some of the events I’ve mentioned, the state’s tourism website is a great place to start. It can be found at www.kentuckytourism.com <http://www.kentuckytourism.com/> .
Should you need to contact me for any reason, please don’t hesitate to write to me at Room 329G, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Terry.Mills@lrc.ky.gov. To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.