What Does Kentucky Proud Mean?

Kentucky Proud

So what does the slogan Kentucky Proud mean?

Most travel writers stay busy writing about places far from home. But since a rocky year has kept me close to home for the longest stretch in a while, it’s time to take care of some long-overdue business.

I’ve been wandering remote places for many years. And as any traveler knows, the default icebreaker received on the road is predictable: where do you come from? When I tell people that I hail from Kentucky, the responses range from a shocked “Really?!” to a misguided “Oh…you must really like chicken.” Even the few Americans I meet abroad look confused when they find out that I’m not from New York, California, or Portland.

And while a few cultured individuals met over the years replied with either “Kentucky bourbon!” or “I love Bluegrass music!” – far more didn’t know the first thing about the place I’m sitting now. Or worse yet, proved that their minds have been decayed by stereotypes oozing from the TV.

So without further ado, this is what it means to be Kentucky Proud:

On Lexington

Lexington, Kentucky

My hometown isn’t big, but it’s not that small. Around 300,000 people call Kentucky’s second-largest city home, but it surely doesn’t receive as much attention as Louisville. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was once bored here. But since I began vagabonding in 2006, Lexington has grown more and more into a place that I am proud of. In fact, I actually miss this city now when I’m gone. Seeing all those perfectly manicured horse farms while coming into the Blue Grass Airport brings tears to my eyes every year.

Forget all the generalizations of conventionality. Sure, you’ll still find sad nine-to-fivers queuing for corn syrup at the local Applebees on Friday nights, but Lexington has become increasingly weird. In case you didn’t know, weird is a term of endearment here in Kentucky. Some of Louisville’s weirdness has crept east along I-64 and caught on well in Lexington.

Sure, a few rednecks (more on them later) still move to Lexington in search of fortune and indoor plumbing, but check out these stats:

  • Lexington tied for 10th place among the cleanest cities in the world, as ranked by Forbes.
  • Lexington ranks 10th in the country for education with a college graduate rate of around 39.5%. More than one out of every 10 people here hold a master’s degree.
  • Lexington was named 4th best city for business and careers by Forbes.
  • The median income for a family here is $53,264 – way above national average.
  • Kiplinger named Lexington the 5th best city in the U.S. for young professionals.

Not bad for a city that ranks only 62nd in America for population. As a full-time starving artist, I’m unfortunately on the wrong side of most of these statistics, but still.

There are numerous outdoor festivals, farmers’ markets, outdoor arts events, and a free hybrid trolley system. A generous handful of craft breweries, wineries, hipster and/or hippie cafes, and independently owned eateries ensure that residents have plenty of places to chat about beards, bikes, and Lexington’s openly gay mayor, Jim Gray.

But despite the grown-up statistics, Lexington feels like a college town. With around 30,000 students, the University of Kentucky guarantees that there is never a shortage of cheap-beer-filled red Dixie cups being clutched at any given time. Luckily, there are enough resident Irish here to balance the sorority shrieks that ring out from bars.

People Aren’t as Inbred as You Think

Dancers in Lexington, Kentucky

You have to go digging deep in the hills to find those toothless stereotypes, the same inbreds that exist in the shadows of every state. On the contrary, people here are surprisingly good looking. The University of Kentucky has always been a favorite of Playboy for some reason. And despite Hollywood being a flaky place far, far from here, for better or worse, we’ve fed a steady stream of talent into the gaping cocaine maws.

We supplied at least two of People magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive: Johnny Depp and George Clooney. Clooney hails from my hometown of Lexington, and Johnny has been spotted popping into bars around downtown. Even William Shatner hangs around Lexington and has a farm here in Kentucky. I’ve met him twice.

We raised a Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors) and turned him loose on Hollywood. Tom Cruise spent a chunk of his childhood in Louisville. More than a few people swooned over Maverick in his pre-crazy days. Ashley Judd and Jennifer Lawrence – two gorgeous Kentucky women – have been making jaws drop for years now. I’d take Katniss Everdeen in my foxhole any day.

While not much of a looker himself, Larry Flynt – an Eastern Kentucky native – created quite a popular magazine of physically endowed people: Hustler.

People Are Creative Here

Creative Kentucky

No surprise that I’m going to mention Hunter S. Thompson (Louisville) or his cohort, Ron Whitehead – two of my most twisted literary influences. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize twice along with the Nobel Prize, Ron Whitehead has helped keep Kentucky weird for decades. He even befriended and edited for Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and other dangerously genius edge-dwellers.

Ever cringed during dialogue about zombies while watching The Walking Dead? Thank Robert Kirkman, a Richmond native. Missy Hughes, born in Lexington, convinced strangers to hang out naked on the Discovery Channel’s hit show Naked and Afraid.

I can now proudly name Sturgill Simpson in this roundup of Kentuckians making creative ripples in the murk of this world. Hell, I even got to hang out with him at my birthday cookout before leaving the U.S. last year. If you’ve never heard of him, his new album has the people at NPR and Rolling Stone reliving the 60s and still trying to figure out what just happened.

Kentuckians Are Tough Bastards

Tommy Gun

Photo is Public Domain

Let’s skip the easy ones, like Muhammad Ali from Louisville. Garrett Morgan was an African-American from Kentucky who invented the first traffic signals and gas masks. Neither are very fun, but both are necessary evils. John T. Thompson – inventor of the famous Tommy Gun – was from here. So was Jim Bowie, one tough folk hero with a big knife. He probably could have used John’s invention while fighting for the Alamo.

Even Lewis and Clark met near Louisville in 1803 to plan their epic walk to the Pacific Ocean.

Kentucky Proud

Kentucky in the Civil War

Kentucky Civil War

Assume that Kentucky is part of the South? Think again. Come visit between October and April and tell me how southern the weather feels. And you won’t find many barefooted people sat around on porches with lemonade at any time of year.

Contrary to widespread rumor, Kentucky actually sided with the North during the American Civil War. The state began as neutral, then switched allegiance to the North after those pesky Confederates violated neutrality. President Abraham Lincoln, another Kentucky native, recognized the importance of Kentucky with his famous quote: “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” Interestingly, his sworn enemy, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was also from Kentucky.

Two tough Kentuckians fighting for the fate of a nation. No wonder the war dragged on for four years.

On Horse Racing

Kentucky Horse Racing

This is the Mecca for all things equine, especially racing. The grandson of William Clark (yes, the explorer) had some big shoes to fill, so rather than hack through the wilds of North America, he started the Kentucky Derby in Louisville. Mission accomplished.

Why are horses in Kentucky so good at what they do? The limestone in the water here makes their bones extra strong. It’s also what makes bourbon, well…bourbon. The tentacles of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the world, spider throughout the state and deliver sweet limestone everywhere.

On Rednecks

Red River Gorge Kentucky

Yep, we’ve got ‘em. And I’m willing to bet that you do, too. Go outside of the metropolitan areas in Kentucky and you’ll not only find gorgeous landscapes, but also a few frightening people who are convinced that the South will rise again.

You’ll find the same density of trailer-dwelling, meth-cookers in the hills of California, Florida, or even New York State, for that matter. But that doesn’t stop television shows such as my beloved Family Guy from taking every opportune jab they can at the Bluegrass State. Here’s a little secret: most of the stuff Hollywood feeds you on television is bullshit.

For the record, I just spent several weeks chasing chickens around an organic farm in rural Kentucky. There weren’t any rednecks, just good people wanting a peaceful, self-sufficient life. And every friend I have is either thinking of hiking in the mountains or heading that direction whenever the sun is shinning. Not all people who prefer life outside of cities belong to the redneck subculture.

On Basketball

KY Wildcats Basketball

Photo by TheSunShinesBlue

I don’t really care that much about sports that involve balls. But I do enjoy the madness. I was watching NCAA championship wins while in diapers. A nervous energy permeates the city during games, and I’ve had more than my fair share of good times celebrating; it brings the city together. With the most wins ever, the Kentucky Wildcats (based here in Lexington) are the most decorated NCAA basketball program in history.

I was downtown for the riots after the championship wins in 1996, 1998, and 2012. Chaos still ensued during our runner-up years of 1997 and 2014. The Louisville Cardinals stepped up to win the championship in 2013. That trophy feels very at home in Kentucky. Oh, and our cheerleaders are just as good: they’ve won the national championship 21 times – more than any other school in the U.S.

On Kentucky Fried Chicken


Finally, on to my pet peeve. The legendary old coot, Colonel Sanders, was actually born in Indiana. This guy’s legacy has caused me a lot of trouble over eight years of international travel. His restaurant was the Sanders Court and Cafe, opened in Corbin, Kentucky. OK, I’ll concede that the world’s second-largest restaurant chain is headquartered in Louisville. But the first Kentucky Fried Chicken actually opened in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952.

Fazolis (Italian) and Long John Silvers (fish n chips), two other fast-food restaurants, also got their starts here in Lexington. But thanks to the Colonel’s marketing efforts, Kentucky is forever associated with chicken.

In 1987, KFC became the first Western restaurant allowed behind China’s iron curtain. And even today, there are still more KFCs in China than in the U.S. I’ve seen more than my fair share of young Asian couples dressed nicely for a date night at KFC. There are a few KFCs around Lexington, but smart people don’t eat there. Seriously.

We don’t have sprawling chicken farms in Kentucky. Lexington is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” for a reason. You’ll see lots of horses, and a few cows, but you’ll have to go looking for chickens. I accidentally did. Seriously, don’t make yourself sound like a marketing-brainwashed ass by mentioning chicken the next time you speak to someone from Kentucky.

Come See for Yourself

Say what you will about this state, but until you’ve smelled the air here, don’t fall for the stereotypes. Happy Chandler was spot on when he said, “I’ve never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking of going home or actually going home.” After walking in more than 30 countries over the last eight years, I couldn’t agree more.

As Hunter S. wisely said: Buy the ticket, take the ride…

Kentucky Horse

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73 Responses to “What Does Kentucky Proud Mean?”

  1. Great read!

  2. Wow! Great post about Kentucky. In the short space of that post, you may have covered the entire history and everything important in the history of Kentucky. Now that I have read the condensed version, a history of Kentucky is on the “to be read list”. Too may books. Too little time.

    Keep up the good writing.

  3. Greg,

    Thank you so much for taking on the (international) perception of Kentucky! It gave me goose bumps. I’m an aspiring travel writer and also hail from Kentucky. Although I now live (most of the time) in West Hollywood CA, I keep a cabin in Appalachian Kentucky near my aging parents. I typically spend about three months a year there (usually three separate trips).

    I fly into Bluegrass airport at least three times a year and get the same emotional feeling as you’ve described. It’s certainly different than what you feel when you fly into Casablanca, Entebbe, Sydney, London, J’burg, etc. I’m going down to Panama tomorrow for a few days but will be right back there in KY in July. Southern Turkey in September, but right back in Kentucky in October.

    It would be wonderful to catch up some day.

    Best, Randy

    Ps: I appreciate how you tactfully handled the “Redneck” issue. 🙂

  4. Thanks for this Greg. I’ve only ever been ‘through’ Kentucky, en-route to somewhere further afield, so know little about the State (I was only 12 then).

    This is a good glimpse and setting the record straight.

  5. Beautiful!! Well said!! Looking forward to getting a beer at West 6th one day!!!

  6. While waiting for my train at a station in Munich, a pair of businessmen from India (if memory serves) asked me where I’m from. I told them and was shocked when one replied with a smile: “The big blue building! I’ve been there on business.” I was so pleased at his familiarity with my relatively small city instead of a stereotypical remark about KFC or incredulity over the fact that I was actually wearing shoes (yes, I have experienced that reaction before from an inner city youth in Washington DC), and suddenly home didn’t seem so far away.

  7. Some people haven’t a clue, Mary. Not Kentucky, but…

    Years ago, in Southern California, my wife was introduced as being from Oxford, England. This wide eyed, 19 year old girl asks, in all innocence and sincerity, “Is that near New Zealand?”

  8. Nice job in selling your state and hometown. I had the pleasure recently of driving through your state on my way from TN to OH. The parts I drove through were very scenic and I stopped numerous times to read the historical roadside signs about various civil war facts. I have now put Kentucky on my list to explore on one of my motorcycle trips.

    At least most people have heard of Kentucky. When I tell people I am from North Dakota, most people seem surprised that anyone actually lives there or they immediately say, “oh the place where Mount Rushmore is” I swear some people don’t even realize that North Dakota is a state 🙂

  9. Nice post. I definitely saw a lot of creativity in the state. I would like to come back and spend more time in Lexington.

  10. Are you on the tourist board’s payroll now Greg? 🙂

    Great read this one!

  11. So glad I found your blog! Great stuff.

  12. #kentuckykicksass

    Ps. George Clooney is from Maysville 🙂

  13. I’m from Mount Sterling, went to Centre… so of course spent the first 22 years or so of my life hovering around Lexington (though I did spend a year down the street on Taylor Blvd from Churchill). I have also lived in Mexico and Latin America…. and your comments about the KFC stuff…. just spot on. Thanks for a happy ready =)

  14. Maleah, I’ve heard that before. But everything I can come up with says he was born in Lexington. Maybe he grew up / went to school in Maysville. Depends on the definition of “comes from” I suppose. 🙂

  15. Some good info, not much I didn’t know having been born in Winchester, KY where many of us are descendants of the original settlers of Ft Boonesborough. One thing not mentioned: J.R.R Tolkien based Hobbits on people from Kentucky including the wreath of smoke from tobacco in pipes, limestone walls in The Shire, a love of ham. Tolkien never made it to KY, but friends in KY sent him and his family KY hams during th World Wars for Christmas, helping keep his family fed. Look in appendices referencing “The Hobbit” in “The Lord Of The Rings” and you will read a hobbit’s recipe as a hot brown. Really.

  16. The Corbin hotel and restaurant opened approx 12 years before the MO store. Yes it wasn’t called “KFC” but it was the original and the name was so that Col Sanders, an official KY colonel like my Grandpa, could franchise his recipes and foods and make sure everyone knew where it came from.This may be an embarrassment for you but as for my family, who have been in southern KY since well before the civil war,we are proud of all the KY sons. My family still cooks like the Col. did and not like PepsiCo does now. We are proud of KY not for how it has conformed to the world but for how it’s beautiful land supported us for hundreds of years. Yes some of our homes still had outhouses as recent as the late 90s and we learned to look for snakes carefully. All the men in my family fought for this country and my Papaw, 82nd AB 325th glider infantry, was a hero in battle and in the concentration camps where he gave up his rations to starving jewish prisoners to help them survive. My great-mamaw sold chickens to the doctor who came around 3-4 times a year to provide healthcare for her kids. She picked dandelion greens and made her own corn bread and butter and cooked everything in lard and no one ever had cholesterol issues.We have a huge family and even the 4th and 5th cousins are as close as if we were brothers or sisters. Everyone has always worked hard and we were never embarrassed about anything in our lives. We love God first and then family and neighbors. I don’t need to compare my home to places like LA, NY and such because as far as I’m concerned we are better off. Knox county is paradise compared to any city and I am proud we have our own unique kind of people who are rock solid and have hearts of gold. I hope one day you can really experience that Kentucky.

  17. “Until you’ve smelled the air here, don’t fall for the stereotypes.” I’m saving that line for the next time I travel! I once had a woman on the Long Island RR ask me if I’d ever seen a multi-story building before coming to NY. (I’m from Louisville.) I wanted to reply, “Nope! We only have barns!”

  18. George Clooney grew up in August KY. He graduated from Augusta Independent School. George’s parents Nick and Nina Clooney still reside in Augusta KY.

  19. Hi Greg, A fun article to read. Welcome Home!!

  20. Kentucky sounds like a great place, makes me want to visit it.

    Diane,”….if I’d ever seen a multi-story building before coming to NY.” — Don’t you just love the way people grab hold of the wrong end of the stick (providing they can spell it ;))

  21. I won’t lie, I’m terribly disappointed by this piece. You aren’t defending Kentucky by placing our largest cities on a pedestal and claiming that they aren’t like the “scary” “redneck subculture.” You’re not defending Kentucky when you have to ridicule the Appalachian side to do so. The hills and mountains are just as intelligent, creative, and interesting as the metropolitan area, even if the poverty is worse and there are, God forbid, trailers. Kentucky as a whole is wonderful. Eastern, central, and western alike.

  22. My mom comes from Letcher County, so I’m very familiar with Appalachia, and certainly not everyone out there belongs to the redneck subculture. I head that way to hike every chance I get.

  23. great read, I am an international traveler as well and the KFC thing kills me every time as well. well written friend

  24. this article is so full of errors, it’s disgusting. the writer should be ashamed of himself. really.

  25. Garrett Morgan in 1922 did not invent the traffic light,he copied the invention of Lester Wire who created the traffic light in 1912

  26. Lester Wire invented the first electric traffic light. Garrett Morgan developed a hand-cranked, mechanical traffic signal.

  27. Pretty good stuff, but a bit of revisionist history. If Kentucky “sided with the North” during the War a between the States, why are 92 of the 94 Civil War monuments statewide dedicated to the Confederate dead? Kentucky’s attempt at secession was unsuccessful because of the proximity of Union troops. Kentucky is most definitely a part of the South!

  28. Yea u make alle southern Kentuckian people sound bad! We don’t chase chickens all day either! We like to hunt , and fish ! We like to enjoy the out doors! Your article is very bias, and you stereo type to much! If you mentioned red necks you got mention the gangster/ hip hop community!

  29. Hey Greg, nice article. I’ve lived in Lexington for the last 10 years and really enjoy it. I moved here from Washington, DC. I think it’s the perfect sized city. The city has its problems like any city, but overall is a very nice place to live or visit.

  30. To reference certain subcultures of Kentucky with disdain, whether they be rednecks or sad nine-to-fivers, negates the overall beauty of our state and implies the beauty of her people is only those few who have become famous through their talents; worse yet is the implication that those who make Kentucky wonderful are those who escape her boundaries and become cultured.
    While it takes a worldy perspective to realize there is more to life than the hollers of Appalachia, it takes humility to appreciate its inherent beauty.
    -this perspective from a world travelled, educated, Kentucky Wildcat loving Lexingtonian.

  31. So you’d take Katniss Everdeen in your foxhole? What a lucky girl. Not too shy about gender objectification, are we? Or shaming people from Appalachia about their lack of dental care. The mountains are the source of the Kentucky culture you seem to be proud of. I too have traveled the world & visited Asia (many Kentuckians do, you forgot to mention our strong tie to Japan via Toyota, but I guess that wouldn’t make the “world traveller” feather in you cap as tall) anyway, I was less irked by my China colleagues smiles when they associated Kentucky with fried chicken, than I am by the actual perpetuation of stereotypes in this article. And Hustler isn’t a magazine about good looking people. If you ever picked one up, you’d find its a porn mag with close ups of vjays & penises. Technically, I guess you could call people good looking based on their genitalia, but would seem to be more of a fetishy thing. Look, I’m not a hater. I’m proud to be from Kentucky too, but more because of the kindness & character of the people & not how many movie stars we birthed. You are right that there is something special about the state, but then you listed horses & basketball. It’s just more complicated than that. Do the work to understand why. The civil war history was a start. And by God if you’re going to quote Hunter Thompson, make it relevant, not an afterthought thrown in to end your piece. He deserves better.

  32. Another interesting fact: while the war of 1812 was not foungt on Kentucky soil more Kentuckians died in it than soldiers from any other state.

  33. Sarah, you’re entitled to all of your negativity aside from the jab about gender objectification. I am a feminist, and I can assure you that by saying someone is attractive, and in this case a good soldier, is not objectification. Do you feel that I also objectified Tom Cruise?

  34. Chickens are a 900 million dollar Kentucky industry; they are among the top 5 products exported and the most grown/most exported livestock statewide. The chicken industry creates thousands of jobs in a multitude of industries, from other farms that produce corn and beans for feed to ag biotechnicians that optimize feed and chicken growth. Kentucky is also known nationally for our high chicken production.

    So much classist poppycock in this article; a common trait found in many Kentuckians – something the article failed to mention.

  35. Come on, as a feminist, didn’t you reread what you wrote & realize it sounded a bit like the lecherous old man on family guy? The soldier respect thing did not come across at all in your section about beautiful people. And yes you were objectifying Tom Cruise. And I don’t know why I responded so negatively to this article to feel the need to hash it out in the comments section. I guess I started reading it thinking cool, this guy is going to have a nuanced perspective on Kentucky and then when I was finished reading I was like, nope. I also felt like your tone was condescending, like look folks, I’ve been around the world and people think I belong to much bigger cities, but I’m actually from here. Big whoop. And you were probably sanguine when you wrote it and far too lighthearted for the amount of criticism, and fact checking you received. But to be fair, if you’re really going to breakthrough stereotypes your going to have to do more than a Google search. It just seems cheap to say Kentucky is cool because Jennifer Lawrence & George Clooney were born there. They don’t live there now? Right? And KFC is totally wrong, but that’s because they buy genetically mutated chickens from Tyson, not because it’s a nuisance to explain away on your travels. I was sort of interested in the civil war stuff because KY has a really complex racial history, but you seemed to just cut a corner & say Kentucky isn’t Southern, which isn’t really true. So that’s what bothered me, and sorry to be negative. I just feel like sometimes it’s better to get some real feedback from someone interested in your topic.

  36. Apologies for not being clearer and feedback appreciated. Actually, the gist wasn’t that people think I’m from big cities. Sadly, the rest of the world doesn’t know much at all about Kentucky because they only meet travelers from those places I mentioned. There’s certainly much more to Kentucky than celebrities, horses, and basketball. This post, as a whole, actually wasn’t written at all for fellow Kentuckians who already know the real deal. More so for the numerous people I meet in Europe and Asia who only associate Kentucky with KFC. 🙂

  37. Love the read, I’ve been stuck in Tucson,AZ my wife and I are planning on heading home in 2015 selling everything been in AZ 20 yrs to long coming back to my ol Kentucky home see ya soon

  38. Although allegiance was deeply divided, the elected General Assembly in Frankfort flew the Union flag.

    “On September 7, 1861, the General Assembly passed a resolution ordering the withdrawal of only Confederate forces.[28] Magoffin vetoed the resolution, but both houses overrode the veto, and Magoffin issued the proclamation.[29] The General Assembly ordered the flag of the United States to be raised over the state capitol in Frankfort, declaring its allegiance with the Union.”


  39. Great read, but where is mention of the American muscle, the thoroughbred of race cars being built in Bowling Green, the Corvette?

  40. Great article EXCEPT the part about Kentucky not being Southern. Public opinion was divided on the issue, with many counties sending a greater number of troops to the Confederacy. One could argue that Kentucky’s eventual political affiliation with the North during the War Between the States was largely because we were OCCUPIED by the United States while still maintaining some identity as part of the Confederate States of America. Please be more careful on you represent our status. Loved every other word of this article and I’m so proud to be a Kentucky girl 🙂

  41. I was typing so furiously that I left out some words, but y’all get the idea.

  42. Greg, I thought your article sweet and reflective. It could have been twice as long and still have more facts and wonders to offer. I spent many summers in the Blue Grass region. My father was born in Louisville, but spent the last 51 years of his life living and raising his family in Miami. My mother, siblings and I never once had any doubt where he would want to be buried. You quoted: “I’ve never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking of going home or actually going home.” It brought tears to my eyes remembering him watch the Derby every May and waiting for “My Old Kentucky Home”. Although most of my family remains in Florida, my daughter’s college choice was Centre College, one of the finest schools in the nation. Much like your experience upon telling people where you are from, I get blank stares at the mention of a school most people have never heard of. She fell in love with Centre on her first visit. I asked her why, and she said, “Everyone was so friendly, it felt like home to me”. Kentucky is and will always be in my heart, a very special place. Thank you.

  43. Wow. Could you have inadvertently and ironically been more faux posh Northern and high brow? Sad.

  44. Fun Fact(S): KY had two Governors, two congresses and several state capitals during the civil war, both Union and Confederate ! Union Capitals were, at times, Louisville and Frankfort, depending on where the front was. The Confederate capitals were Bowling Green and Frankfort. We weren’t neutral at all… Though we fought for both sides in the war, they say KY didn’t truly join the Confederacy until the harsh reality of Reconstruction. Ironically, Kentuckians that supported the Union during the war did so hoping to preserve the institution of slavery.

  45. Living in Boulder Colorado I was actually bummed with the stereotypes in this article. Chicken and horses. Despite his obvious way of putting down those from the “hills” and only focusing on people from the “big” cities. I am proud to be great-granddaughter of a one armed bootlegger from Corbin and his son (my grandfather) who became a doctor and proud atheist. How’s that for breaking stereotypes? Imagine that from all those toothless “hill” people! I recommend those proudly hiding behind the “I’m from the weird big city” step down from their high horse. Side note my grandfather had his practice in Lexington off New Circle Road but never forgot where he came from and certainly never acted above it.

  46. So much of this is so wrong from the facts to the understanding of Kentucky culture. I think I found the problem. Citing Wikipedia as a research source is never acceptable, but it does explain the many factual errors in the essay.

  47. as one long-raised in Elizabethtown KY, a well-travelled strategy consultant, former army officer, a KY Colonel, alumnus of both University of Louisville AND University of Kentucky, I will tell you that your piece shows a rather myopic view of our great Commonwealth. I’ve often, only somewhat tongue and cheek, referred to myself as an erudite redneck. The term comes from those who draw their life from the soil of our Earth; I’m proud of it. To equate the term as ignorant, may be reflective of your own, in some regard. I am a socially liberal, fiscally conservative voter. I drive a 4×4 pickup, love my 1st AND 2nd Amendment rights, and am proud to have worked in tobacco barns and hay fields growing-up. Make sure you encourage people to come and enjoy the off-the pavement parts of KY. Lake Cumberland, the great theater of Paintsville and Morehead, the solitude and grandeur of Land between the lakes, lake Malone, and Red River Gorge. The best of KY is found in its people, it’s contrast and the history that saw the opening of all of the USA thread through the Cumberland Gap with Daniel Boone and David Carr, my Great, great, great Grandfather.

  48. I appreciated your article but have to wonder why while breaking down some of the myths and stereotypes about Kentuckians you reinforced others. Appalachia might be more difficult to explain to outsiders than basketball but if you truly cared to share the full picture of the rich diversity of the state you would have tried. Instead you dismissed the entire region by saying that you’ll find “the same inbreds that exist in the shadows of ever state”. You’ve simply reinforced an image of people you yourself clearly don’t understand. And that’s a shame.
    Its also a shame that you couldn’t have know Lexington in the 70s and 80s. The Bar, Cafe LMNOP and Breezings were places where people from small towns could come and hang out and really be themselves. Downtown Lexington at night was alive with diversity. Its not something that just recently filtered down from Louisville. Its been that way for years!

  49. Nice piece. I’m a 62 y.o. born and raised in Benham, Harlan County and now living in Munich, Germany. Left KY long ago but always fun to see people’s responses when you say you’re from KY! Was at a play in London (England not KY!) a few years ago based on Woody Guthrie’s life. In was a great play including audience participation. For some reason an actor asked who in the audience was from Kentucky. I shouted out Harlan County! It so startled and threw him off – he admitted no one ever responds to that – it was hillarious for the entire audience! You never know where a hillbilly is going to show up. Fun piece. Keep up the good work!

  50. Jud and Joyce,

    Thanks for replying.

    I’ve failed if it has somehow been construed that I don’t appreciate Appalachia — my parent’s birthplace. Jud, sounds like we both share the same political beliefs. I also drive a 4×4, hunt, fish, worked on a farm (mentioned in article), and spend every sunny day I can in the Gorge or Gap (also mentioned in article). Certainly not everyone out there belongs to the redneck subculture (also mentioned).

  51. Wow, so much thin skin in some of these posts. Are y’all sure you’re really from Kentucky? Kentucky is lacking for nothing and the people are genuine. Am I the only one who somewhat selfishly enjoys the seeming lack of knowledge others have for the state? I’ve lived in Manhattan and Miami, it is surprising how people appreciate so little about anything located between the two. My father was a Kentuckian and my mother a Texan. They were truly two of the smartest, articulate, refined and sophisticated people I have ever known; both from small towns you would have to search for on a map. The splendor of Kentucky was no secret in our house. I sort of like it that way.

  52. In fighting the stereotypes, You stereotyped the rest of Us, the people from places other than Lexington and Louisville, like Letcher county, Harlan, Pikeville, Mt. Sterling, Bowling Green and Hindman. We’re not all inbred, Meth addicts, or toothless, although many of Us live in Double wide trailers (and Love Our little comfy, country Homes.) Before You judge the rest of Us, go outside of the concrete of Lexington and really smell the air…. All of it.

  53. Poultry happens to be the largest agricultural industry in the state of Kentucky. You’re little rant about chickens is actually invalid.

  54. I thought George Clooney & his famous Aunt were from Cynthian/Maysville area, not Lexington….

  55. Yep. I agree with Cheyenne up there. Redneck doesn’t have to automatically be a negative. How about they’re just goddamn people? Just like Johnny Depp, just like the artists you mentioned. What are you 16?

  56. Thank you for the enlightening article about KY. Most of the country just doesn’t get it. I was raised an Air Force Brat and have lived all across the USA and some places abroad. I lived in a small town in Logan County from the ages of 11 and 14. As an adult I moved to San Diego and lived there for 18 years. KY never left my mind. At 42 I decided that I had had enough of the California lifestyle and moved my family to KY Lake in Western KY. The school systems are head and shoulders above the schools in California. The people are friendly and welcoming. We have now lived here 11 years. We have not regretted the move for a moment.

  57. Greg,
    Tough to sum it all up in a short blog ..
    But you definitely hit the High points.
    Thanks for reminding me of what I miss !!
    I could hear “I Wanna Go Home”
    by Sundy’s Best (2 more Kentuckian Musicians) Playing in the background when I was reading.

    Take care Brother

  58. Cheyenne, when I read this I don’t think the writing stereotyped the more rural areas of Kentucky at all. He was saying that yes, rednecks exist here, just like they do in every other state. The Kentucky redneck stereotype is highlighted more in Hollywood than any other though.
    A highlight of Lexington is not necessarily a slam on the rest of the state, you know?

  59. I absolutely love this article! Great work! If you’d made it any longer, it would take away the point of the short read. People need to stop getting so personally offended. I would hate to, God forbid, work with them.

  60. Well, so far we’ve heard that Clooney comes from Maysville, Augusta, and Lexington. IMDb, what is considered the authoritative source for this Hollywood nonsense, claims he was born in Lexington. (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000123/). His fansite says that he did go to highschool in Augusta. Rosemary Clooney, his aunt and a famous actress, comes from Maysville; entirely possible he grew up some there, too. So ‘comes from’ can mean ‘born in’ or ‘grew up in.’

  61. You forgot to mention that we are also the Bourbon Capital of the World as well. Matter of fact the city of Bardstown was actually deemed the most beautiful small town in America. Many distilleries are located in Bardstown and most of them include very interesting tours. Jesse James stayed at the downtown bar called Talbot Tavern. Many of the people here are very genuine I mean every year the night before Thanksgiving there was an event called the Turkey Kick where free bus rides were given to those who attended. You ride from bar to bar having a good time. But after Girls Gone Wild visited the city ended it lengthy rain. GGW was not meant for a beautiful small town like this, people did not want that kind of attention, though you will find that many of women from Bardstown in particular are very pretty but hold true to their morality unlike many other places in the U.S. I could go on and on about how wrong Hollywood portrays Kentucky but it would not matter just like they do with other places. If people would just visit or read about Kentucky they would probably realize they have never been to a place like it. And as far as rednecks goes I’m sure glad we have them. Like you said they are in every state but not all of them are ignorant hillbillies. I would probably consider myself a redneck only because I grew up hunting, fishing, camping, and working on farms. Does that make me illiterate or stupid? If things actually turned for the worse in this country rednecks will stand the best chance of surviving because many of them have learned self reliance which you won’t find much of in any major city. Most rednecks are just hard working genuine people who enjoy things like horseback riding, canoe floats, shooting guns, or working outside. Yes I said we enjoy working outside! Cutting wood is something I actually enjoy. Gets your mind off of life, school, and money. It’s great exercise and good for relieving stress.

  62. Ridge, couldn’t agree more. And I enjoy every one of the hobbies that you listed. Also agree about cutting wood — very therapeutic!

  63. Other places have Super Bowls, World Series, the list goes on… but as Irvin S. Cobb said, “Until you go to Kentucky and with your own eyes behold the Derby, you ain’t never been nowheres, and you ain’t seen nothing!”

  64. I’m pretty sure George Clooney is from eastern Kentucky, and Johnny Depp is from Owensboro. Louisville has also won more championships than just 2013 and has been to the final four several times.

    This article was more about Lexington and somewhat Louisville than Kentucky. The metro part of Kentucky is tiny compared to the rural part ( which I believe is the best part of the state and definitely not as stereotypical as this article makes it out to be) and you definently can’t base all of Kentucky on your experiences in Lexington. As someone who had spent their entire life in Kentucky, mostly the central and western part of the state, this article didn’t sound that much like Kentucky to me.

  65. Can’t wait to visit. Thanks for the interesting information on a place I previously knew nothing about!

  66. Nick Clooney was on Ch 27 for many years here in Lex. Nick and Nina lived here in Lex. at that time! George could of very well been born here in Lex. George would of had to been pretty young back then also? Nick also had a dance show similiar to Dick Clark’s Bandstand….except it was local!
    Check w/Ch 27 to see if they have the record on the years that Nick was here in Lex.?

  67. for some reason everyone forgot to mention the best and by far sexiest muscle car of all time is made in bowling green ky yes you all guessed it the corvette and yes it is the only plant in the us so your welcome world for these amazing cars

  68. I’ve read the article and the comments. Given that the State of Kentucky is larger than a few countries I’ve been to, I’d say Greg has covered it pretty well. He, like myself, can never know everything – and – neither can we who comment.

    Regardless of who we are, where we come from or what our state of being is – like it, want it, believe or not, we all have only one thing in life. From the second we were conceived in our mothers wombs, there is only the single iron clad guarantee – we will die. That’s it.

    So let’s stop the stupid bickering and get on enjoying life.

    Remember this, we made it out of the womb – many haven’t.

  69. Thank you so much for this article. IN 21 years of living in Siwtzerland, I think I am up to 7 Europeans I’ve met who have been to KY and most people respond with KFC. Having gone to college in NY state I prided myself on being from a different state and personally crusading for bursting stereotypes.
    What I really cannot bear in KY though is the climate, so I have not lived there since I was 18 – 40 years ago.

  70. Hey there,

    I was revisiting your page as I am wont to do from time to time and while reading your Ky section thought of another famous entertainer who hails from Ky and not listed, or at least I didn’t see his name.

    Harry Dean Stanton is from West Irvine and I have been a fan of his movies and Characters for years.


    Thanks for providing so much good reading!

    Take care,

  71. Thanks, Joe. You are correct! My brief list is anything but complete.

  72. My favorite thing about this piece is your excitement about meeting Sturgill Simpson and then his wife dragging your blog entry in the comments. Oy.

  73. Casey, I’ve had the pleasure of hanging with Sturgill a few times now. Great guy. Haven’t met his wife yet but I hope to one day. Although the comment section took an unexpectedly negative turn, the post (my blog, my opinion) was filled with love for my state. That definitely includes Whitesburg, Letcher Co, and neighbors, where I still have family.

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