To put Kentucky into words is hard, because Kentucky is more than a collection of places. It’s more than thoroughbred horses grazing on rich limestone-fed land in the rolling hills around Lexington. It’s more than the blazing colors of Appalachia, lit on fire by autumn days. It’s more than the bustling downtown streets of Louisville, where new enterprise lives in historic buildings. It’s more than weathered tobacco barns, bourbon distilleries, record-length caves, and bluegrass festivals. Kentucky is a feeling, like sunshine in the winter or rain on a warm spring day.
The birthplace of bluegrass music and home to the first integrated college in the south, Kentucky is at once traditional and progressive.
Kentucky is home to cave miners and environmental activists, farmers and country music stars, doctors and artists. It’s home to people who register Democrat and vote Republican, people who think basketball is religion, people who consider the first Saturday in May to be a holiday. It’s a place of contradictions that somehow draws people in—those who have lived in the Bluegrass State their entire lives and those who show up as transplants, but become, just like bluegrass itself, practically native. Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler once said, “I’ve never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t coming home,” and he was right. Even those of us Kentuckians who are displaced still consider Kentucky home. It’s the place we all want to end up, the place where people not only know you, but know your momma, your daddy, and your grandparents, too.
Kentucky is a place of warm hospitality, where people treat neighbors like family, and are never too busy to sit on the porch for a glass of sweet tea and some gossip. But to assume that Kentucky is all country roads and simple pleasures would be wrong. The state has big urban areas, with top-ranked hospitals, innovative art galleries, award-winning restaurants, and first-rate universities. The birthplace of bluegrass music and home to the first integrated college in the south, Kentucky is at once traditional and progressive.
Although people say statistics don’t lie, the truth about Kentucky is found in the spaces between. Too often stereotyped and misunderstood, Kentucky will blow you away if you only give it a chance. Just be aware that once you arrive, you may not want to leave. But hey, that’s okay. Kentucky welcomes you to stay just as long as you’d like.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Kentucky.