Saturday, September 29, 2012

More than Bourbon

Kentucky is many things but if you happen to travel to the northwest portion of the state, you will think that Kentucky equals bourbon. The area just south and east of Louisville is dotted with distilleries, many of them famous. Maker's Mark and Jim Beam, among others, make their product here in the hills. 

After spending five days there, I can't figure out why the residents think bourbon is the only reason to visit. I toured a distillery years ago and once was enough to satisfy my curiousity. On this trip, I wanted to see other things. That proved to be more difficult that it should be.

The residents of the area assume that all visitors are there to follow the bourbon trail, hopping from one distillery to another. Most of them, while delightfully pleasant and kind, are clueless about other things that might interest visitors. Things like the magnificent knobs (hills) covered with trees that must offer spectacular views in the fall. Or the little town of Glendale with its charming shops.  In fact, when we said we were not following the bourbon trail, most people couldn't figure out why we came.

When we think fall color, Vermont or Wisconsin or Michigan come to mind. We could also include northwest Kentucky. Sadly, neither the county nor the state is capitalizing on the beauty of the area. There are no fall festivals, no Halloween Haunts, nothing to draw people in. The few parks that exist are mentioned in passing in the literature but unless one reads very carefully, one is apt to think there isn't much there. Thankfully a woman at a visitor's center stressed the 14,000 acre Bernheim Arboretum or we might have missed the many miles of hiking trails and the beautiful views found inside. 

I hope Kentucky, and particularly the counties in this area, take a step back and consider the great natural gift they have that has nothing to do with bourbon. Perhaps in the future, they will. And perhaps that will encourage them to develop new ways to engage tourists and residents both. Then again, perhaps I don't understand. It is possible that the residents don't want strangers or their money coming in. Maybe advertising only the bourbon trail is a way to control outsiders and keep them away from the rest of the area.  

Either way, it's all about communication. 

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