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rabbit hash general store in kentucky destroyed by fire

Losing a Landmark: Fire Guts Kentucky’s Iconic Rabbit Hash General Store

It is a historic landmark, an iconic Kentucky roadside attraction, and for anyone who has ever made the journey to Rabbit Hash General Store nestled on the Ohio River just outside of Burlington, Kentucky a fantastically memorable road trip stop.

Built in 1831, this 185-year-old store is more of a local museum than just a quick-stop. It has survived mudslides and floods, the Great Depression, 38 U.S. Presidents, and generations of families moving in and out of the area. But last night, the store caught fire and after dedicated crews spent hours fighting the flames, the general store was left gutted—only the front facade of the building remains, salvaged by firefighters.

The owners have started a Go Fund Me page to help raise donations to rebuild.

The fire was reported around 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, February 13, 2016, and around 11:30 p.m. firefighters were able to remove the distinguishable front facade of the store. The front sign was later salvaged from the wreckage. The old wooden structure burned through a nearly five-hour fire fight.

Rabbit Hash General Store had been in continual operation since it opened in 1831. My Old Kentucky Road Trip visit the store in 2014 and loved exploring the antiques and collectables that the store had to offer. We had some pretty amazing barbeque there as well and were dying to go back for one of the town’s famed barn dances.

My Old Kentucky Road Trip to the Rabbit Hash General Store

Rabbit Hash General Store Kentucky

From My Old Kentucky Road Trip: Historic Destinations and Natural Wonders, The History Press available here. 

Located in the northern part of the Pennyrile, the only thing we know for sure about Rabbit Hash’s name is that it actually wasn’t called that at all when the town was founded. The original post office was established in 1879 as Carleton, Kentucky. Within about two months, the population and the postal service realized the name needed to be changed. There was too much confusion with Carrollton, Kentucky, just down the river.

According to one popular theory, the town was named for a popular meal after an abundance of rabbits fled to the hills during an Ohio River flood. Variations of the story say that it was named in response to two hungry travelers passing through during the flood, or that everyone ate rabbit for dinner one Christmas when the river was flooded. Another theory says that a boatman played a prank on the unsuspecting town doctor, inviting him over to dinner but serving the same rabbits the doctor had trapped himself. But these are all just theories.

Did You Know: Rabbit Hash is famous for having a dog as its mayor! Lucy Lou was elected in 2008 and serves as the current mayor. Anyone can vote in the elections, it’ll just cost you a dollar. Proceeds go to repairs and preservations of the historic district.

Rising Sun, Indiana sits across the Ohio River from the general store. The twin towns of Rabbit Hash and Rising Sun used to be a lot closer back in the day, socially speaking. During bitter cold winter days, the citizens would walk back and forth across the frozen river to visit friends, do business, or just to say they had.

Back in the early nineteenth century, Kentucky’s border extended all the way to the low water mark on the other side of the Ohio River. That meant Kentuckians had control of the waterway, and businesses like Meek’s Ferry sprung up at popular ports. The two towns grew up together, and the ferries played a big part in transporting goods between the growing populations. That’s the real story about how the Rabbit Hash General Store became so integral to the community. A group of farmers originally built the structure to house their goods while waiting for the steamboats to arrive for commerce. Since the first manager and proprietor, James A. Wilson, opened for business in 1831, the Rabbit Hash General Store has been in continuous operation.

Triple Crown and Breeders Cup champion American Pharoah enters retirement

A Retirement Fit for A Legend: Grand Slam Champion American Pharoah is Living the Good Life

It was a retirement party like no other.

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah arrived at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud on a cool autumn morning this week, ready to begin the next chapter of his historic career: early retirement.

The historic horse was the 6-and-a-half-length victor in the 1 and 1/4 mile Breeders’ Cup Classic that took place on October 31 at Lexington’s Keeneland Race Track in a track-record time of 2:00.07. American Pharoah became the first horse in history to complete the dubbed “Grand Slam” of horse racing: A Triple Crown victory (winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes) and a Breeders’ Cup Classic win.

Now, he rests. Sort of.

Arriving with a police escort, the unflappable 3-year-old walked calmly out of his van and strode easily past a throng of paparazzi to the Ashford stallion barn to his new digs. His trainer, the Hall of Fame horseman Bob Baffert, brought along a bag of baby carrots – the champ’s favorite treat – for good measure.

So what is retirement like for a champion, history-making 3-year-old? According to Ashford stallion manager Richard Barry, American Pharoah will be turned out in a paddock next to pensioned champion Thunder Gulch, who will serve as his 23-year-old babysitter.

Triple Crown and Breeders Cup champion American Pharoah enters retirement

Al Bello/Getty Images

“Young horses, when they get out, tend to run around a lot, and if they have company it just encourages them to run around,” Barry told BloodHorse. “But if you put a 23-year-old boy beside them, he’ll kind of look at him and go, ‘Son, you can run on your own.’ He’ll spend an hour looking at Thunder Gulch eating grass, and try to get him to run, and he won’t run anywhere, and then he’ll figure out that he should eat some grass himself.

“After that, it’s pretty easy. He’ll get into a routine, he’ll get turned out first thing in the morning. We’re in here at 6:30 a.m. He’ll get turned out as soon as it’s daylight, brought in before lunch, groomed… he’ll have to go through his shots and vaccinations, then we have to test-breed him just to show him what’s what, and we’ll wait then for the season to start. He’ll be in that basic routine until the season starts. When the season starts, we breed at 7:30 in the morning, 1:30 in the afternoon, 6:00 p.m. in the evening if necessary, and that’ll be the routine for the breeding season.”

What a life.

And just wait until they announce his stud fee.

Morganna the Kissing Bandit My Old Kentucky Road Trip

“For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re KISSED / At the old ball game.”

Tonight is the first game of the 111th World Series, and though the closest Major League Baseball teams are in Cincinnati and St. Louis, it’s a Kentucky native who lays claim to the title, “Baseball’s Unofficial Mascot.”

Morganna the Kissing Bandit was one of the most infamous traditions of America’s Favorite Pastime from the 1970s through the 1990s. She kissed everyone from Nolan Ryan to George Brett and Cal Ripken, Jr. during big games, and even branched into other sports to lovingly attack players like Kareem Abdul Jabbar with her lips.

Morganna the Kissing Bandit My Old Kentucky Road TripMorganna grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, attending games at Eclipse Park with her grandfather. But it was in Cincinnati at a Reds game where she made her first “attack.” In 1970, she ran to center field at Crosley Field, where she gave Pete Rose a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. A few years into her notorious career, in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Morganna said, “A girlfriend dirty-double-dared me to do it.” She also recalled that Pete Rose was not pleased at the time. “He used terrible language and I was kind of hurt,” she said. “The next night, however, he tracked me down to the local nightclub where I was appearing and apologized with a bunch of roses.”

In a recent ESPN E:60 documentary, in which Moganna gave her final interview, Pete Rose remembered being “scared” of the girl chasing him to his position. He also recalled telling her, “You’re going to get in trouble!” and that she replied, “I sure-in-the-hell hope so!”

A Cincinnati sportswriter dubbed her “The Kissing Bandit” and the rest was history. In all, Morganna kissed almost two dozen baseball players—including George Brett at the 1979 All-Star Game—and hundreds of other athletes and entertainers. She became a pop culture icon of the 1970s and 1980s, appearing on late night talk shows, game shows, and according to her IMDB page, the 1996 movie, Kingpin.

Morganna the Kissing Bandit My Old Kentucky Road TripUnfortunately, her well-publicized hobby also had consequences. She was arrested ~20 times in her career for crimes ranging from public indecency to trespassing, but was never convicted.

Her other line of work was as an exotic dancer, and she made most of her money dancing in Las Vegas, Houston, and Oklahoma City. That is, until she married an accountant and settled down in Columbus, Ohio. In 1999, she all but vanished from the public eye. Morganna’s 15 minutes had flickered out, and she retreated to a quiet life.

Morganna’s last interview with the ESPN crew is definitely worth the watch. The former baseball players featured offer fond memories of Morganna and her madcap antics. Several commented that they felt they had “made it” if they earned a kiss from Morganna, or that their teammates were jealous.

In an era before you could become Insta-famous or a Twitter-lebrity, Morganna cultivated her fame in the best way she knew how: through her fanaticism and charisma. “I’m not a sex symbol. I’m a comedienne. I make folks smile. I make them laugh—and that makes my day,” she told the Houston Chronicle, “What are we here for, if not that?”

E:60 PICTURES “MORGANNA THE KISSING BANDIT” from Bluefoot Entertainment, Inc. on Vimeo.

why is kentucky bourbon different from whiskey? kentucky bourbon festival

What’s the Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey? And Other Things You Need to Know Before the Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Who is out there enjoying the Kentucky Bourbon Festival happening in Bardstown, Kentucky? We’re headed to the festivities this weekend to celebrate Kentucky’s native spirit, but before we go, we wanted to share a few things about the beverage that you may not know!

Many of us in Kentucky consider ourselves experts in the bourbon field (drinkers and thinkers, of course), and we’re happy to spread our knowledge and share our bottle with anyone who saddles up on the next bar stool.

Despite the myth surrounding its origin, in 1964 Congress officially named bourbon America’s native spirit and the beverage became the most regulated whiskey in the world, having to meet strict criteria in order to be labeled “bourbon.” All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbon. Bourbon distinguishes itself from whiskey in five key ways:

  1. The mash bill, or recipe, must contain at least 51 percent corn.
  2. Bourbon is distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
  3. Bourbon is aged in new, charred oak barrels. Fun fact: almost all of those barrels, once used, are sent to distilleries in Scotland to age their whiskeys.
  4. It must enter the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, or 62.5 percent ABV.
  5. It must be bottled at 80 proof (40 percent ABV) or higher.

One of the most common misconceptions about the production of bourbon is the myth that the spirit can only be called bourbon if it is produced in Kentucky. In actuality, a bourbon can only be called “Kentucky Bourbon” if it is distilled in Kentucky, and 95 percent of all bourbon manufactured comes from the Bluegrass State.

We hope to see you this weekend at the Bourbon Festival in Bardstown! Enjoy responsibly.

 

It’s National Cheeseburger Day! And Kentucky’s Own Kaelin’s Restaurant Invented This Delicacy!

We know you’re excited and out celebrating National Cheeseburger Day with a version of the American tradition for each of your three meals today. But did you know that Kentucky was home to the very first cheeseburger? Yep! Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville invented the cheeseburger. Well at least according to some.

A cheeseburger is a hamburger with cheese added to it. Seems simple enough, right? Well it isn’t if you’re the one trying to stake claim on crafting the very first cheeseburger ever made. Ever.

Adding cheese to your beef-and-bun combo became popular in the 1930s, and here in Kentucky, every good citizen and burger enthusiast knows that the cheeseburger was invented at Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville. In 1934, Carl Kaelin threw caution to the wind and placed a piece of American cheese on a hamburger patty in his new restaurant. A culinary treasure was born, and Louisville still claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and rightfully so.

Restaurants in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California, both claim the rights as their own. Ultimately, in 1935, a trademark for the name “cheeseburger’ was awarded to Louise Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado. But what’s in a name? That’s simply a formality.

Today, Kaelin’s Restaurant is closed and Kaelin’s Coffee House now stands in its place on Newburg Road. But the legend of the cheeseburger lives on, and with it, a town proud of its claim to culinary fame.

Enjoy a patty with cheese for us today! We just tried this delicacy at the Kentucky State Fair: a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched in the middle of two Krispy Kreme donuts! We know you’re jealous.

The cheeseburger was invented in Louisville, Kentucky at Kaelin's Restaurant. Celebrate National Cheeseburger Day

Lebanon Kentucky is home to the Mayberry Pie Festival and other great attractions

Plan Your Road Trip to Lebanon, Kentucky’s Mayberry Pie Festival

We’re going to be honest here, you had us at “pie.” We didn’t have to read more about this inaugural festival or all of the great events scheduled for the weekend. Pie was enough. But for those of you looking for a great time this weekend (sweet tooth or not), head to Lebanon, Kentucky in Marion County for the first-ever Mayberry Pie Festival August 13-16, 2015.

We’ve made it no secret that these Small Town, Kentucky festivals are some of our absolute favorite road trips. With local charm and traditions, delicious food, and some of the greatest citizens of the Commonwealth, you can’t beat them. Here’s what’s in store for you in Lebanon-turned-Mayberry this weekend:

Bringing their acts to town are comedians Michael J and Joey I.L.O., who portray Barney Fife and Otis in the traveling comedy show, “Barney Fife Fully Loaded,” and Karen Knotts, the daughter of Don Knotts and originator of the tribute show, “Tied Up in Knots.” Other Mayberry fun includes a Pub Crawl with Otis, live music with the Honeysuckle String Band, a pie eating contest (see you there), fishing tournaments, and a screening of a Don Knotts movie.

Mayberry Pie Festival in Lebanon Kentucky honors Barney Fife's real life daughter Karen Knotts

Find the full schedule of events here.

Never been to Lebanon? You’re missing out! Lebanon is the “Heart of Bourbon Country.” The epicenter of Kentucky barrel and bourbon making. Other attractions include the Maker’s Mark Distillery, Limestone Branch Distillery, the Kentucky Cooperage, and WhiteMoon Winery. For outdoor enthusiasts, Gorley Naturalist Trail presents challenging hiking and biking and the scenic splendor of 47 bridges. Incorporated as a city in 1815, Lebanon played a crucial role during the Civil War and is today on the Civil War Discovery Trail.

 

Road Trip Tips

Road Trip Tips: Five Kentucky Road Trip Must Haves

We’re going to be at the Lexington Public Library Beaumont Branch on Wednesday, August 19 from 6-7:30 p.m. talking about My Old Kentucky Road Trip, some of our favorite destinations, our tips for traveling, and a few pointers for you as you hit the road! We’ll also have a few books for sale. We’d love to see you and chat about Kentucky road trips! Call the library to learn more and to make a reservation!

A camera

Whether it’s a cell phone, a nostalgically-appropriate film camera, or a fancy digital one with more buttons than Kentucky has counties, grab something to help you capture a memory and to help you share what we’re sure will be a grand adventure. But don’t forget to be present. Take in your surroundings; experience the history and wonder of the fascinating Bluegrass State. Don’t be so busy capturing memories that you forget to make one.

road trip tips

A full tank of gas and a map

Don’t think for even a second that your iPhone is going to have service or your GPS is going to know exactly where you are in the far corners of this great state. Spoiler alert: You’re going to see “searching” come up across your screen more than once. Do yourself a favor and bring along a reliable map. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did. Make sure you fill up the tank in case you make a few wrong turns along the way. And don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions. One of the parts we love most about Kentucky are Kentuckians, who are always willing to lend a hand, mend a flat tire, point you in the right direction, and fill your head with some of the best (tall) tales you can find.

The perfect playlist

Nothing sets the tone for a perfect Kentucky Road Trip like the perfect playlist. Give these tried and true ‘on the road’ songs a go:
“Mustang Sally,” Wilson Pickett
“Everyday is a Winding Road,” Sheryl Crow
“Fast Car,” Tracy Chapman
“I Drove All Night,” Cyndi Lauper
“Runnin’ Down a Dream,” Tom Petty
“On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson
“Love Shack,” B-52s
“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” The Proclaimers
“I’ve Been Everywhere,” Johnny Cash
“Route 66,” Chuck Berry
“America,” Simon and Garfunkel
“Take it Easy,” The Eagles
“Here I Go Again,” Whitesnake
“Born to Run” Bruce Springsteen

Or handpicked for your travels across the Commonwealth, try these Kentucky-themed tunes:
“Kentucky Woman,” Neil Diamond
“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn
“Home,” Sundy Best
“Muhlenberg County,” John Prine
“Kentucky Rain,” Elvis Presley

road trip tips

A best friend(s)

Road trips are an amazing thing, but without a good friend or favorite family member sitting next to you, it’s just a ride in a car. We started My Old Kentucky Road Trip as two friends from the Bluegrass State who realized we’d never taken the opportunity to explore our home. Since the beginning, we’ve traveled more than 5,000 miles across Kentucky, uncovered a countless number of hidden gems, made our way through a thousand perfect road trip songs, met a few handfuls of unforgettable locals, and we’ve done it side by side, windows down, singing along and laughing. The perfect travel companion is all you need for a perfect road trip.

A good sense of humor

Even the best laid plans go awry. Things are going to go wrong; something is going to end up different than you expected it to. We promise, these unplanned treasures have been the absolute best parts of each and every one of our road trips so far. They make for the best stories; they leave you laughing the loudest. They become the stories we tell over and over. The only thing that’s required of an Old Kentucky road tripper is to experience the Bluegrass State. There are going to be places that you love and places that you don’t. There are going to be grand adventures, and there are going to be trips where you pull up to the gate of a state park as the park ranger locks it for the night. Accept it, laugh about it, and get back in the car. There’s something else to see right around the corner.

A Road Trip to Fancy Farm

If you’re willing to make the drive to Graves County this weekend, be sure to wear something that’s NOT red or blue—unless you’re ready to rally for your favorite political candidate. The average church picnic  conjures up images of potluck suppers, neighbors sharing a picnic table, or children playing across the lawn. When you attend St. Jerome Catholic Church’s Annual Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, fellowship and meals shared among friends becomes a loud, raucous political rally, where the color red or blue obligates you to cheer (or jeer) the candidates delivering their stump speeches underneath the Lyin’ Tree. 

Ongoing as a church and charity fundraiser since 1880, St. Jerome’s Annual Picnic and BBQ, known simply as “Fancy Farm” across the Commonwealth, captures the full attention of the nation during contentious election years. Upwards of 15,000 people attend annually and consume more than 18,000 pounds of BBQ mutton and pork while listening to candidates speechifying from the platform. The largest recorded attendance was in 1992, when nearly 20,000 people turned out to see Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Fancy Farm, Kentucky itself counted its population at only 458 in the last census, and it takes all those citizens and more to pull off the largest political event in the state. More than 600 volunteers work tirelessly each year to smoke pork and mutton, fry chicken, set up, and later clean up what can only reasonably be described as a hootenanny.

Every candidate gets an equal voice at Fancy Farm. The two major political parties line up their candidates, testimonials from prominent party members, and their loudest volunteers and supporters to make a showing at Farm Farm. 

Though the parties are very clearly split—Democrats to one side of the podium, Republicans to the other—the crowd is actually very genial, if not down right friendly. We’ve never seen a single person heckled for a particular lobby they were espousing or candidate they were supporting, though trust us, the candidates were heckled plenty. Colorfully dressed characters from both sides roam through the crowds with their particular shtick.

 

Last year, we spent most of our day wandering through the crowd, scoping out the various carnival games, entering the raffle to win a car—a tradition since 1924—and of course, eating BBQ. You have to try the barbecue nachos; they’re a more recent addition to the menu. 

St. Jerome’s Catholic Church held the first annual church picnic in 1880 “down by the creek,” according to local oral histories. The event was moved to a location near the local elementary school in the 1910s to offer shelter in case of bad weather. 

The picnic has always been held on a late summer weekend, or in other terms, close to Election Day. Such a large gathering of citizens was an opportunity for local and state candidates to come and make their final pleas to voters underneath the old oak tree in front of the school. 

The so-called “Lyin’ Tree” was struck by lightning in 1974, but the stump remains behind with a plaque that reads: “Lightning struck this 133 year old oak tree on April 15, 1974. The tree trunk remains a symbol of the years since 1880 where political speeches were made on the first Saturday in August at the Fancy Farm annual picnic. Some of America’s greatest statesmen have spoken under the shade of this great oak tree.” Former Republican Governor Louie Nunn joked at the 1979 picnic that the tree had died as a result of all the political speeches over the years, saying, “too much fertilizer will kill anything.”

Nunn has a place on a long and illustrious list of politicians who have campaigned at Fancy Farm, including Vice President Alben Barkley, Senator John Sherman Cooper, and Governors AB “Happy” Chandler, Wendell Ford, John Y. Brown, and Martha Layne Collins. Most recently, the picnic was a flashpoint for the 2014 U.S. Senate race between challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes and victorious incumbent Mitch McConnell.

Sponsored by the St. Jerome Parish, the political events of the day start with prayer and the state song and national anthem. As every native Kentuckian knows, it’s hard not to swell with pride while singing the state song surrounded by thousands of friends from the Bluegrass State. Then the candidates come out. 

Surrounded by staffers, supporters, family, and the state police, the crowd propels the speaker onto the dais (newly renovated to look like a front porch with fans to keep the speakers cool) amidst yelling supporters and taunters. From there it’s lights, camera, action, with scores of local and national media reporting the scene for those who didn’t attend. 

Never is the term “stump speech” more clearly defined than at Fancy Farm. Candidates are (almost) literally delivering their campaign promises from a stump. The proceedings are much too large and engineered now for anyone to actually stand atop a tree stump, but you get the gist.

And it’s not like there’s really anything new to say at Fancy Farm. Most folks are there as supporters for a particular candidate, and its hard to imagine the majority go with an open mind that could be swayed. In fact, Fancy Farm has become a sort of pan-generational tradition where the Good ‘Ole Boys pass on their connections and handshakes to the up and coming movers and shakers of the various political parties. 

That being said, Fancy Farm is an Experience—capital E. For a state with such a diverse political climate, the small, deeply-rooted Kentucky town is the quintessential locale for such a unique tradition. Travelers with an open mind shouldn’t miss a yearly opportunity to convene with colorful characters and bombastic politicians, or to treat themselves to a good meal that’s been more than 130 years in the making.

If you go:

It will be HOT! We’re talking the first weekend in August in a Southern town, in a large field without much shade. Dress comfortably, wear good walking shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty, and don’t forget sunscreen. 

What it costs:

Nothing. Unless you want to eat BBQ, and you DO want to eat BBQ. Plan to bring cash with some decent variation amongst your bills, you don’t want to be the rude person in the concessions line holding 15,000 people up because you were waiting on change.
How to get there: 

Its incredibly easy to make the drive down to Graves County. Take the Western Kentucky Parkway and the Purchase Parkway toward Mayfield, then up Kentucky 80 to Fancy Farm. You can also navigate by the density of political signs along the road as you drive, but that’s less precise.

If you spend the weekend:

Your best bet is to backtrack toward the State Resort Parks at the Land Between the Lakes, or book a hotel room in nearby Paducah. But, book ahead of time! Western Kentucky hotels fill up quick this weekend.

My Old Kentucky Road Trip Chevrolet Corvette

The Little (White) Corvette: A Kentucky Love That’s Gonna Last

Unfortunately, the first Chevrolet Corvette wasn’t produced in Kentucky. That honor goes to Flint, Michigan. BUT! We do lay claim to all of the Corvettes produced since 1981.

But we’re big fans of history here, just as much as we love our culture today. So, here’s to you Flint, Michigan, and the 1953 Corvette! Without your “Polo White” exterior and lack of outside door handles (really!) Bowling Green, Kentucky, would be without one of the coolest and most unique museums in the world.