FRANKFORT

If there is one theme binding the numerous festivals that take place across the commonwealth each year, it's that if we raise it, grow it or use a lot of it, there's almost certainly a community that celebrates it.

Most of these festivals take place over a 10-week period that begins in late August and runs through Halloween, and food is often the focal point. During that time, you can find events dedicated to apples, chicken, country ham, sorghum, bourbon, honey, barbecue and even salt.

In far West Kentucky, there is a unique event that celebrates the banana, which might seem odd at first but makes sense when considering that, in the late 1800s, Fulton was a key stopping point for refrigerated rail cars taking the fruit from New Orleans to Chicago. The town had an icehouse that helped keep the bananas fresh on their journey, and for a time, as many as 70 percent of the bananas the country ate stopped there. If you happen to travel there this week -- the festival runs through the 17th -- one of the key highlights is a one-ton banana pudding.

Creating oversized foods is a recurring theme at our festivals. Laurel County celebrates its role as the founding home of KFC and Lee's Famous Recipe by firing up a skillet that can cook hundreds of chicken quarters at a time.

There have been 10-foot-wide pizzas and cookies at the Apple Festival in Casey County, while a country ham festival in Trigg County has featured a two-ton biscuit and Ham Days in Marion County boasts several tons of the salty breakfast and dinner staple.

Among the non-edible items, there are festivals dedicated to coal, horses, riverboats, Appalachian music, the first full moon after harvest and even the wooly worm, which supposedly can tell us what kind of winter to expect. Each of its 13 segments corresponds to a week during that season, so if you see a segment that's light brown, expect a mild week, but black segments mean it will be cold.

Our oldest festival -- Court Days in Mt. Sterling -- got its start way back in 1794. Its name is a throw-back to a time when a traveling judge would arrive each year to hold court. Those living nearby tended to gather in town to trade or sell items, and it just grew from there.

Locally, of course, we have our own Festival on the Square this weekend, which includes the 54th annual Franklin Car Show.

If you're less interested in festivals but would still like to take in some unique sites, Kentucky has a lot to offer there as well.

We have more than 50 locations that have a connection to the Civil War, for example. Those range from such battlefields as Perryville and Mill Springs to President Lincoln's and Jefferson Davis' birthplaces and the National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville.

Kentucky's Scenic Byway System, meanwhile, consists of more than 20 roads, six of which have a national designation, that give you a chance to learn more about Kentucky without even getting out of your vehicle.

There is Woodlands Trace, which takes you through Land Between the Lakes, and the Country Music Highway in Eastern Kentucky, which commemorates the early homes of such stars as Loretta Lynn, the Judds, Dwight Yoakam and Ricky Skaggs.

Other roads honor Duncan Hines; re-trace the paths some of our earliest settlers took; feature the sites marking the early life of President Lincoln; and wind through Red River Gorge, which is beautiful in its own right but is also home to one of the first places in the Western Hemisphere where agriculture got its start.

All of this information and more can be found on the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism's website, which does a wonderful job of bringing these activities together. If you and your family are looking for something different to do, you can find it at www.kentuckytourism.com.

As always, if you have any questions about this or any other aspect of state government, please don't hesitate to let me know. My address is 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.

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