When it comes to being home to icons known around the world, few states can compete with Kentucky.
We have a derby that owns the first Saturday in May; a chicken restaurant chain that has grown from a single location in Corbin to more than 15,000 in 125 nations; and a cave so mammoth that it is longer than the combined lengths of the second- and third-longest on the record books. The six million-plus barrels of bourbon now resting in our warehouses, meanwhile, represent more than 90 percent of the world's production, and we are of course a world leader in tobacco production.
Those may be our most-famous calling cards, but Kentucky excels in numerous other ways, some of which are a bit more obscure.
Not many are aware, for example, that Kentucky manufactures about nine of every 10 disco balls bought in the United States; almost two out of every three bowling balls bought worldwide; and virtually every Post-It Note we use to jot down our lists and reminders.
Elsewhere in sports and entertainment, Kentucky makes most of the playing cards we shuffle and many professional boxing rings, including the one in Madison Square Garden. We also are where the houseboat industry first set sail more than 60 years ago.
We have the world's largest inland lobster tank -- which uses Louisville's UPS hub to quickly deliver lobsters to restaurants around the country -- and are home to Reynolds Wrap, which got its start here nearly 70 years ago.
The world's largest peanut butter plant is in Lexington, and elsewhere in the commonwealth you'll find factories that churn out Hot Pockets, Airheads candy and, of course, Uncrustables sandwiches.
Dippin' Dots, a staple at many amusement parks, is centered in Paducah; Long John Silvers opened its first restaurant in Lexington in 1969; and that city was also where Fazoli's began in 1988.
Speaking of food, Kentucky is the corporate home for Papa John's, Texas Roadhouse and Yum! Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell.
Beyond these ties, Kentucky can also boast some citizens whose names are all but lost to history but who made a mark just the same.
That includes Patty and Mildred Hill, two Louisville sisters who in the late 1800s wrote what is arguably the most famous song ever: "Happy Birthday."
Mary Towles Sasseen, a Henderson teacher from the same era, is believed by many to be the true founder of the Mother's Day; and others say Murray's Nathan Stubblefield should be called the inventor of the radio, not Guglielmo Marconi.
Another figure from the commonwealth with a disputed historical connection is David Rice Atchison, who some argue is the first native Kentuckian to technically be president, pre-dating Abraham Lincoln by more than a decade.
The technicality is that his "presidency" lasted only a day, at most. The story stems from the fact that President James Polk ended his term on a Saturday in 1849 and Zachary Taylor -- who actually called Kentucky home for many years -- refused to be sworn in on a Sunday. Since Atchison was Senate Pro Tem at the time, putting him in line for the presidency, some say he became our country's temporary leader.
For what it's worth, the Missouri senator who was born in Lexington did not take his newfound responsibility seriously; he later said he had slept through most of the day because of late nights in the Senate during the previous week.
Another person from that same timeframe continues to live on today in the record books as half of the tallest couple ever to marry. Letcher County's Martin Van Buren Bates and his bride were each more than seven feet tall, and it was said his feet nearly touched the ground when he rode his horse during the Civil War.
These are just a few of the countless stories of famous places, products and people that share a Kentucky connection. If you know of any others, I'd like to hear about them.
You can send them to me by addressing letters to Room 329F, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Wilson.Stone@lrc.ky.gov.
If you would like to leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.