Archive | October, 2011

Our Fall Road Trip to Evans Orchard and Cider Mill (they have pumpkins, too)

24 Oct

We took an impromptu road trip this weekend to Evans Orchard and Cider Mill in Georgetown, Kentucky, and discovered that a pumpkin patch is no longer just a pumpkin patch.

My mother says we used to get our pumpkins every year from a man who set a bunch he’d picked from his field on his front porch next to a coffee can where you stuck your cash to pay for the pumpkins you took home.

There was no pay-by-the-pound, there was no trudging through fields of pumpkins still on the vines. There certainly was no corn maze, obstacle course, petting zoo, camel ride, apple orchard or live music.

Apparently, pumpkin patches have come a long way.

At Evans Orchard this weekend, we found all of the above and more. We picked our pumpkins, indulged in lunch from the Sweet Apple Cafe and sipped our apple cider while listening to a lovely rendition of “My Girl.” We bought six or seven mini pumpkins, coming to about $7 and then spent a collective $50 in the gift shop on fried apple pies, apple donuts, candy apples, pecan apple butter, peanut butter fudge and cartons of apple cider. What pumpkins?

We didn’t set foot in the dirt fields, but we could’ve if we wanted to pick our own pumpkin. We didn’t walk up and down the rows of apple trees with baskets in hand, but we could’ve if we wanted to pick our own apples. Just like we could’ve taken a hay ride, we could’ve walked in circles atop a very perturbed looking camel, and we could’ve participated in the pet costume contest — but we couldn’t even coax Bows into posing for a picture. There was so much to do we couldn’t take it all in.

But we left happy with pumpkins in hand and fried apple pies stuffed in our mouths. A pumpkin patch is no longer just a pumpkin patch … it’s way better.

Check out Bows in all of her googly-eyed glory. (No wonder she didn’t want to be in our pictures).


What it’s going to cost you:

Not a thing just to go and walk around. You’ll pay by the pound for big pumpkins and gourds, and $1-$2 for the small ornamental varieties. Visit the gift shop to spend even more cash on some delicious desserts and fun decorations. Kids activities including camel rides, the petting zoo and the corn maze are also going to cost you. Find a full list of activities and prices on Evans Orchard’s website. 

Hours and Directions:

Evans Orchard and Cider Mill is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. And it’s not just a pumpkin patch and apple orchard! In the spring time, you can pick strawberries and in the summer months you’ll find peaches and pears. The orchard grows We grow 15 acres of peaches, apples and pears, two more acres of small fruit, and more than 20 acres of farm-fresh vegetables.

From Lexington, you’ll travel eight miles north of the I-75 bridge (exit 115) on Newtown Pike (Highway 922). Take a right onto Stone Road and the orchard is the third drive on the left.

To see a map and find other directions, visit Evans Orchard’s website.

Plan Your Road Trip to the Trigg County Country Ham Festival

14 Oct

Post by Blair

I have an enthusiastic affinity for food festivals – barbecue, ice cream, chili, Moon Pies. You find it, I’m up for a weekend trip of arts and crafts booths, live music, and cooking and/or eating competitions of any form. I think my fondness for these most basic culinary celebrations was instilled in me at an early age when my family decided to make yearly pilgrimages to the Trigg County Country Ham Festival in Cadiz, Kentucky.

We went under the guise of visiting my grandparents who lived in the small rural community at the most western tip of the state. But really, my dad was going for the country ham and despite my mother’s eye rolls when Dad began enthusiastically packing up the family in the car each year, she secretly loved the weekend celebration too.

My early memories of Ham Festival vacations are fond ones – talking my parents in to buying me a bunny (which grew into a rabbit and made lots and lots of baby bunnies with my brother’s rabbit), nearly throwing up my corn dogs after too many rounds on the Tilt-A-Whirl, sitting on a straw bale with my grandfather listening to Bluegrass music and eating snow cones. There may even be photographic evidence in existence of me chasing around a baby pig in a ‘Sack the Pig’ contest that was one of the highlights of the festival until animal rights activists declared it inhumane and officially nixed it from the weekend lineup (the photos are well-hidden too, by the way).

Last year, my younger brother and I went back to the Ham Festival for the first time in many years. And it was … exactly how I remembered it. Cured country hams still hung in a tent near the courthouse on Main Street waiting to find out if they were grand-prize winners. Carnival rides and games still filled a nearby park, arts and crafts booths lined the streets alongside food vendors offering deep fried everythings (Snickers, Twinkies, pickles, etc). But perhaps the finest tradition of the Trigg County Country Ham Festival is its claim to fame: The World’s Largest Country Ham and Biscuit.

Yes, you read that correct. It’s the world’s largest. It’s Guiness Book-official. The huge biscuit debuted in 1985 during the 9th annual Ham Festival. It was 4,000 pounds. A crowd of over 15,000 people were on hand to view the biscuit and parade in its honor grand marshalled by University of Kentucky Basketball Coach Joe B. Hall.

The recipe has since been halved, and each year a 2,000-pound version (10.5 feet in diameter) is baked in a custom-built oven and removed by fork lift during the festival. The recipe includes 150 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of salt, 6 1/2 pounds of sugar, 39 pounds of shortening, 39 cups of water, 13 gallons of buttermilk. Add 16 large baked country hams and it is served to the masses.

The 35th annual Trigg County Country Ham Festival is this weekend (Oct. 14-16). To learn more about the history of the event as well as a schedule of events and directions to the festivities, check out the Ham Festival’s website.

I hope to run into you in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl! (I’ll be the one with a country ham biscuit in each hand).

Kentucky (Tall) Tales: Lexington’s Narcotic Farm

10 Oct

Photo courtesy of Scientific American from photographer Arthur Rothstein and the Lexington Narcotics Farm Collection

If you’ve ever driven out U.S. Highway 421 — or Leestown Road for the locals — headed north and away from Lexington, you’ve passed what used to be the U.S. Public Service Hospital in Bracktown. It sits back away from the road on the right, just past Masterson Station Park. Today, it’s the Federal Correction Institute, but it used to be a hospital for prisoners who were being treated for drug addiction.

Between 1935 and 1975, most everyone sent to prison for drugs in the U.S. was sent to the United States Narcotic Farm located at this prison hospital. And from 1953 to 1962, government doctors tested LSD on 300 human patients at the public service hospital. Because there was no money to pay the prisoners for their participation, they were given a choice of time off their sentences or the drug of their choice. Most chose the drugs.

Despite the controversy of these experiments, the filmmakers of The Narcotic Farm — a documentary made in 2008 about this Lexington experiment station — note accomplishments at the institution remain milestones in addiction science and treatment. Its most important contribution might be how it transformed the way society views addicts.

Check out this chilling photo slideshow from Scientific American of Lexington’s Narcotic Farm.

Gunpowder, Cannons, and Horses, Oh My! The 149th Anniversary of the Battle of Perryville

4 Oct

When the first battles of the Civil War broke out in April of 1861, ladies and their gentlemen brought picnic lunches and sociability to the edges of the battlefield. However, as the casualties mounted on both sides, the spectators quickly realized the war was no Sunday afternoon frivolity. Luckily for us, the 149th Anniversary of the Battle of Perryville was, and yes, you can bring a picnic lunch.

No soldiers, horses, or spectators were harmed in the staging of this re-enactment.

Just a little history:

The Battle of Perryville, fought October 8, 1862, was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War, and the largest battle fought on Kentucky soil. Lasting approximately 6 hours, more than 1,400 men were killed, more than 5,500 wounded, and almost 1,200 men captured or missing. Kentucky played host to several other skirmishes thanks to its border-state status, including the Battle of Mill Springs, the Battles at Forts Donelson and Henry, General John Hunt Morgan’s infamous raids, the Battle of Munfordville, and the Battle of Paducah. As a border-state, Kentucky was a key to the strategies of the Union and the Confederacy. Lincoln was quoted:

“I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

“I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. … We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of the capital.”

The state’s position along the Ohio and Mississippi River made the successful occupation of Kentucky by either army, a tactical advantage, and in 1862, the Confederates launched their Kentucky Campaign, pushing North from Tennessee.

The Battle:

from the Schedule of Events:

Around 1:30 in the afternoon of October 8, 1862, members of the 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Leonard Harris’ Brigade, deployed skirmishers to the left of General McCook’s Union line, which was deploying on the fields. Soldiers from Company A and F were sent out some three hundred yards in front of the 33rd OVI to reconnoiter the area for any sign of the Rebel Army.  They soon found elements of Wharton’s 8th Texas Confederate Cavalry which were conducting a sweep around the main Confederate force’s right flank.

Wharton’s 800-man Cavalry force swept down on the skirmishers of the 33rd Ohio Infantry and drove the skirmish line back. Wharton’s men, who were also known as Terry’s Texas Rangers, withdrew from the area unaware of the full strength of the Federal Army.

The rolling terrain of the “Chaplin Hills” created “line of sight” problems for both armies. Wharton grossly misjudged the strength of the Union deployments and when Maney’s Confederate Brigade moved into position from the fields, they found a much stronger Federal position than was anticipated.

Maney’s veteran Confederates eventually pushed the Federal line back and with the help of Wharton’s Cavalry overran the Federal guns of Parsons’ Union Battery, which were positioned on the hill.

Maney’s men continued to advance through the cornfield which extended into the trees on the left. They crossed the Dixville Road and pushed further to the Union position on the far hill. A desperate hand-to-hand fight ensued and the Confederate advance stalled. Darkness soon followed and the Battle of Perryville ended.

Although the Confederates were victorious, the outnumbered southerners were forced to withdraw, giving up the field and eventually the state to the Union.  The massive Confederate offensive, which occurred during the summer and fall of 1862, was turned back.

With Confederate defeats in Maryland and Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln gained the military clout he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the war went on for 3 more years, Confederate forces were never again able to mount an offensive equal to their 1862 campaigns.

Going to the Re-enactment

If  you’re not a fan of loud, percussive noises, walking, or the milling about of large family groups, going to the re-enactment is not for you. If, however, you enjoy action, interaction, and history, you’re going to love it! This years re-enactment featured about 75 re-enactors from the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry reenacting company, based out of Cincinnati, OH. We chatted with one of the Union men, and he told us they participate in approximately 2 re-enactments/month during the summer (high-season for re-enactments) and visit plenty more.


Going to the re-enactment will cost you $10/per car, more for passenger vans and buses. There are a few add-ons at the State Historic Site as well, such as a Guided Battlefield Tour ($5/person) and the Ghosts of Perryville Tour ($10/person led by SHOCK, the Spirit Hunters of Central Kentucky). Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the ghost tour this time around, though I doubt my nerves could have handled it.

Traffic & Parking

The programming information for the re-enactment warned us to beware traffic congestion and troubles parking, but we didn’t have any troubles at all. Perhaps it was the virtue of a Sunday afternoon, or that it wasn’t quite the sesquicentennial (more on that in a bit) but we made it to Perryville quickly and easily, and the uniformed gentlemen guided us straight to parking.

A Few More Notes

  • The battlefield is BIG. And not only is the battlefield big, but the entirety of the Perryville State Historic Site is big. The soldiers at the actual Battle of Perryville had trouble navigating the terrain, and you will too if you don’t wear good walking shoes. Heck, you might have trouble if you don’t wear good walking shoes, we had a bit of trouble walking sideways across the hills, and up the hills, and down the hills. But it really does make you appreciate just how easily an entire army might sneak up on you from atop a ridge.
  • We had a BEAUTIFUL day to go watch the re-enactment, warm in the sunshine, cool and breezy in the shade. But, as we all know, Kentucky weather is notoriously fickle and the battle will go off sun, rain, or snow. The reenactors this year had to spend the night in below 40-degree temperatures in their Civil War Camps and the Battle itself was fought during one of the worst droughts in Kentucky history, so be prepared.
  • On that note, you may also want to bring a chair. Some of the folks had picnic blankets and stadium chairs, and a great vantage point to watch from. Bear in mind however, you will be dragging that chair with you everywhere you roam across the park.
  • If you’re easily startled by loud noises, here’s your warning: there are guns and cannons, and they make loud, startling noises. When the cannon went off the first time, there wasn’t a single person in the crowd who didn’t yelp or jump. And when the cannon kept going off, people continued to be startled by it, along with their pets.
  • Which brings me to another note: yes, you can bring your friendly dog, but there are lots of horses and children running around, and loud noises like I said, so it might be wise to bring your dog only if he/she has a zen-like demeanor and wonderful social skills.


(yeah, I made up a word, so what?)

The best part about going to a Civil War Battle re-enactment is interacting with the reenactors- say that 5 times fast. We chatted with a few fellas from the Union company, one of whom was clearly brave, because he let Blair aim his rifle! The reenactors WANT you to come talk to them and ask lots of questions and they really know their stuff. They can tell you all about how the soldiers lived, trained, and fought; what their families were doing back home; and plenty of other great history and culture tidbits from the 1860s. You can check out the camps they set up (and yes, live in during the reenactments) and shop for re-creations of artifacts from the time period. I’m actually still upset we didn’t wear our hoop-skirts for the occasion…

The Sesquicentennial

No, I did not just make up another word, honest- go check out Webster‘s! If you didn’t know it already, we are in the midst of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, aka the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War. Fort Sumter has already commemorated the event along with many other Civil War battle sites and history sites. Perryville will be honoring its sesquicentennial next year, and they let us know it will be a BIG EVENT. Re-enacting companies will be coming in from all over the country to lend a hand to the authenticity of the battle, and over 6,000 soldiers are expected! The dates are already set for next year’s festivities, and you can bet that traffic and parking may not be as easy to come by for next year’s event. However, if you do go, you will most definitely be treated to a unique and exciting experience, that though it may come from a dark period in our history, will surely put a smile on your face.

Wait! There’s More!

Check out these photos of our trip from My Old Kentucky Road Trip’s guest photographer, Elliott Hess:

We have more photos from the Battle of Perryville re-enactment over on our Flickr Photostream or you can visit for more information.


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