Bowled Over

Liberty Bowl Stadium(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

Liberty Bowl Stadium
(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

There’s more to bowl-game trips than football

As football season fades into history, host cities gear up for events that really score. Get ready for kickoff with a tour of the 2015 bowl games in cities across the South — which are great places to visit anytime.

December 23

GoDaddy Bowl; Mobile, Alabama; Ladd-Peebles Stadium

Let’s start your tour with the week leading up to the bowl game in Mobile. The focus is on the bowl’s eve and its Mardi Gras-style parade. Marching bands and cheerleaders from each bowl team will help pump up team spirit. The parade culminates in a giant pep rally on the waterfront at Mobile Bay. So don’t sit on the sidelines. Get into the action.

Other sights to see:

USS Alabama in Mobile Bay

USS Alabama
(Photo courtesy of USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park)

The USS Alabama arrived in Mobile Bay in 1964 and opened for public tours a year later. Bill Tunnell, executive director of the USS Alabama Memorial Park, says bowl week is always a lot of fun for players and fans.

One of the best places to view Mobile’s historic past is at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. The cathedral’s stained-glass windows date to 1890, so bring your camera. And this would be a good place to say a prayer for a successful Hail Mary near game’s end. The church is at 2 S. Claiborne St.

Where to eat: Regina’s Kitchen, 2056 Government St., a mile from the stadium. Best bet: muffuletta with a side of potato salad.

December 26

Camping World Independence Bowl; Shreveport, Louisiana; Independence Stadium

On our next stop, the days leading up to the bowl game see a marked change in the city of Shreveport. Fans sporting team colors are out in full force enjoying the many cool, old places to eat, drink and socialize along the riverfront. There will be a pep rally, which consistently draws big crowds. And there’s always been a free event for families: Fan Fest — a fun time with face painting, jump houses and more.

If you feel the need to shop, there’s no better place to go than Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets, home to 60-plus stores. “It’s probably the most-popular destination for football fans,” says Chris Jay, with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.

Kids will enjoy spending time at Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center. It’s always ranked in the top 10 of children’s science museums in the country.

Where to eat: Sam’s Southern Eatery, 3500 Jewella Ave., 0.7 miles from the stadium. One of the best spots in town for fried seafood. Favorite dish? It’s a coin toss between the 3N3 — three shrimp and three fish fillets — or the shrimp with red beans and rice.

December 30

Birmingham Bowl; Birmingham, Alabama; Legion Field

The journey continues as the year winds down. It’s one of the smaller bowl games, but don’t be blindsided by the fact that there will be as much play-by-play action off the field as on.
Bowl eve begins with the Monday Morning Quarterback Club Team Luncheon. The public is welcome, but tickets are required. Then, at 2 p.m., the Uptown Street Fest and Pep Rally kicks off a huge celebration with team bands, cheerleaders, players and live music.

And if you have time, make a drive to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum with its collection of almost 750 vintage and modern motorcycles and race cars.

Where to eat: Niki’s West Steak and Seafood, 233 Finley Ave. W, 2.7 miles from the stadium. Some of the best soul food in Alabama. Fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, stewed okra and white beans are favorite sides to daily entree choices.

December 30

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl; Nashville, Tennessee; Nissan Stadium

Hot Chicken Eating World Championship (Photo courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

Hot Chicken Eating World Championship
(Photo courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

The home of country music earns a stop on the itinerary. Last year’s Music City Bowl was one of the highest-attended in its 17-year history, and organizers are hopeful to repeat that success this year. To kick things off, there’s a battle off the field on game eve: MusicFest and Battle of the Bands. It begins with the Hot Chicken Eating World Championships, followed by a free concert at Riverfront Park. The evening ends with the two team bands “duking it out” on the streets.

While in town, be sure to make time for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where the history of country music comes alive.

Where to eat: Manny’s House of Pizza, 15 Arcade Alley, 0.8 miles from the stadium. Creative pies are the trademark of this pizzeria, as well as great spaghetti and calzones. A local favorite.

December 31

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl; Atlanta, Georgia; Georgia Dome

Don’t forget to plan a New Year’s Eve stop. When traveling to a city the size of Atlanta, deciding what venues to visit is difficult. And during bowl week, they’re often crowded. The Peach Bowl draws one of the largest of all bowl crowds. Visitors enjoy the restaurants, sights and sounds of The Big Peach, including the Peach Bowl Parade. Dozens of bands and floats pass through the streets.

To narrow down the playing field of other sights to see, there are two places near the Georgia Dome. The College Football Hall of Fame is a touchdown for football fans with its interactive exhibits and helmet and jersey collections. And for fishy folks, there’s the Georgia Aquarium and the inhabitants of its 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water.

Where to eat: Jamal’s Buffalo Wings, 10 Northside Drive NW, 0.7 miles from the stadium. Scramble over to Jamal’s for a football tradition: wings. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, but don’t let that stop you.

January 2

AutoZone Liberty Bowl; Memphis, Tennessee; Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium

Bash on Beale Pep Rally (Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

Bash on Beale Pep Rally
(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

There’s nothing sad about ending a bowl season journey at the home of the blues. As if Beale Street wasn’t busy on any given day or night, it scores big with an undercurrent of excitement that builds as the Liberty Bowl teams come to town, exploding at the Bash on Beale Pep Rally. The area comes alive beginning at 3 p.m. with a parade featuring local bands, team bands, cheerleaders and more. When the parade ends, the pep rally begins. And this year, it all happens on Jan. 1, the day before the game.
And if there’s time in your schedule, don’t forget a tour of Graceland, as well as Sun Studios where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and more sang the blues.

Where to eat: Soul Fish, 862 S. Cooper St., 1.4 miles from the stadium. The best catfish, Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos in Memphis, but the place scores an extra point for its oyster po’ boys.

Tech-Savvy Traveler:

As if the holidays didn’t provide enough excitement, it’s nearly time for an unending blitz of college bowl games. There are a few apps to help get us even further into the game. Team Stream is a popular sports news app by Bleacher Report. Want the latest scores and highlights? The ESPN app alerts you when your team scores. Searching for a social media society of sports fans? FanCred’s app could help visiting fans survive a trip into hostile territory.

For the love of food

A Q&A with Stephanie Parker, a blogger from Birmingham, Alabama, who loves to share recipes and family adventures with fellow foodies on her blog “Plain Chicken.” Check out her blog …

What do readers find at your blog in addition to recipes?
Stephanie Parker: In addition to recipes, Plain Chicken posts about our world travels and our three cats, and we also post a weekly menu on Sunday to help get you ready for the week.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SP: Blogging started as a way for me to store recipes. I would make food and take it to work. People would ask for the recipe later, and I had to search for it. I decided to make a blog and store everything online. The blog started expanding because we were in a dinner rut. I decided to make one new recipe a week. Well, that morphed into four new recipes a week. Plain Chicken has totally changed my life. I was in corporate accounting for over 18 years. Plain Chicken took off, and I was able to quit my corporate job and focus solely on I am so lucky to be able to do something that I love every single day.

Everyone has different tastes, so when the extended family gets together, what kind of menu can you plan to please everyone?
SP: Pleasing everyone is always hard, especially nowadays with all the different diet plans people are on. I always try to have something for everyone. If you know someone is vegetarian or gluten-free, make sure they have some options. But for me, at the end of the day, I’m their hostess, not their dietitian.

What are some ideas for getting the children involved in preparing the holiday meal?
SP: Getting the children involved with preparing the holiday meal is a great idea. When making the cornbread dressing, let the children mix up the batter and crumble the cooked cornbread. Have the children mix the cookie batter and form the cookies. For safety’s sake, just make sure the adults put things in the oven and take them out.

Budgets play a big role in planning holiday menus. What are some ideas for hosting a party with “champagne taste on a beer budget?”
SP: Plan your menu early and watch the grocery store sales. Buy ingredients and store them for the holidays. Freeze what you can, and store canned/dry goods in the pantry. Wholesale clubs, like Sam’s and Costco, are also great places to buy large quantities of items and meats.

Do you have a good recipe for the holidays you’re willing to share?
SP: Yes. Spicy Ranch Crackers are a great snack to have on hand during the holidays. The recipe makes a lot, and the crackers will keep for weeks. They are perfect for unexpected guests and are also great in soups and stews.

Spicy Ranch Crackers
Spicy Ranch Crackers
1 (1-ounce) package ranch dressing mix
1/2 to 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 box saltine crackers

Combine dry ranch mix, cayenne pepper and oil. Pour over crackers. Toss crackers every 5 minutes for about 20 minutes, until all crackers are coated and there is no more oil mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Store in a resealable plastic bag.

Other food blogs that might tempt your palate:
This site combines a love of reading, writing and cooking into a blog that will keep you busy in the kitchen creating recipes that have been tested and tweaked for delicious results.
Even for people who work with food for a living, the editors at Saveur “were overcome with desire,” and named this blog its “Blog of the Year” for 2014.
This Prattville, Alabama-based blog focuses on Southern food with the idea that “food down South is not all about deep frying and smothering stuff in gravy.”

Connected Christmas

Your 2015 Gadget-Giving Guide

Ah, Christmas. It’s approaching quickly, and it’s never too early to start shopping. But are you struggling with what to buy that someone who has everything? Here are some of the season’s hottest items that are sure to impress that technologically savvy, hard-to-buy-for family member, significant other or friend.

Wocket Smart Wallet


If you’re tired of keeping up with all the cards in your wallet, the Wocket is for you.

The Wocket Smart Wallet is the world’s smartest wallet. How does it work? First swipe your cards using the card reader included in the Wocket. Information like your voter registration or any membership or loyalty cards with bar codes can also be entered manually.

The information stored in the Wocket is then transmitted through the WocketCard.
The WocketCard gives the information to the point-of-sale device when it is swiped, just as with a regular credit card.

For only $229, you can own the smartest wallet on the planet. Order yours at


The Lily Drone

Have you been considering getting a drone, but can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger? Meet Lily, the drone that takes flight on its own, literally. All you have to do is toss it up in the air, and the motors automatically start.

Unlike traditional drones that require the user to operate what looks like a video game controller, Lily relies on a hockey puck-shaped tracking device strapped to the user’s wrist. GPS and visual subject tracking help Lily know where you are. Unlike other drones, Lily is tethered to you at all times when flying.

Lily features a camera that captures 12-megapixel stills, and 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, or 720p at 120 frames per second. You can preorder today, but Lily will not be delivered until May 2016. Expect to pay $999.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

If you’re looking for a new personal assistant, Amazon has you covered. The Amazon Echo is designed to do as you command — whether it be adding milk to your shopping list, answering trivia, controlling household temperature or playing your favorite music playlist.

The Echo, which uses an advanced voice recognition system, has seven microphones and can hear your voice from across a room. The Echo activates when hearing the “wake word.” The Echo is constantly evolving, adapting to your speech patterns and personal preferences. “Alexa” is the brain within Echo, which is built into the cloud, meaning it’s constantly getting smarter and updating automatically.

It’s available for $179.99 on



Have you ever wondered what your beloved pup is doing while you’re not at home? Wonder no more. iCPooch allows you to see your dog whenever you’re away. By attaching a tablet to the base of iCPooch, your dog can see you, and you can see them — you can even command iCPooch to dispense a treat.

Just download the free app to your tablet or smartphone and never miss a moment with your pup!

iCPooch is available for $99, not including tablet, from Amazon and the website

Classic Christmas Cookies

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky, makes family cookie recipes her own.

Cookies so good Santa won’t want to leave

By Anne P. Braly,
Food Editor

We all know that holiday cookies are a lot more than sugar, flour and eggs. They tell a story. Remember walking into grandma’s house only to see warm cookies she just took from the oven sitting on the counter?

Hope Barker has similar stories when she reminisces about baking cookies with her mom. Her favorite recipe is a simple one: sugar cookies.
“My mom and I used to make these when I was young,” she recalls. The recipe came from an old cookbook — now so yellowed and worn with age that it’s fallen apart, but, thankfully the pages were saved and are now kept in a folder.

She learned to cook at the apron strings of her mother, Glyndia Conley, and both grandmothers. “I can remember baking when I was in elementary school,” Barker says. “My mom and I made sugar cookies to take to school parties. And Mamaw Essie (Conley) taught me how to bake and decorate cakes. From Mamaw Nora (Cottle), I learned how to make stack pies — very thin apple pies stacked and sliced like a cake.”

She honed these techniques and soon became known for her baking skills in her town of West Liberty, Kentucky, so much so that she opened a bakery business that she operated from her home, making cookies and cakes for weddings, birthdays, holidays and other special events.
During the holidays, cookies are in demand. Not only are they scrumptious, but just about everyone loves them, too. They make great gifts from the kitchen, and if you arrange them on a beautiful platter, they can become your centerpiece.

“Cookies are easy to make and easy to package,” Barker says. “They don’t require plates and forks, so they are more convenient than many other desserts. Also, because they are less time-consuming, you can make a variety in less time than many other desserts. They can be decorated many different ways. And who doesn’t love to get a plate of pretty cookies?”

But there is one big mistake some less-practiced cooks often make when baking cookies — overbaking.

“If you leave them in the oven until they ‘look’ done, they are going to be overdone,” Barker warns. “The heat in the cookies will continue to bake them after you have taken them out of the oven.”

She says the best outcome for pretty cookies is to start with the right equipment — a good, heavy cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. “This will keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet and help them to brown more evenly on the bottom,” she says. And when finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before putting them in a sealed, airtight container to keep them moist.

Barker no longer caters, but she continues to do a lot of baking during the holidays for family, coworkers and friends.
Cookies, she says, just seem to be a universal sign of welcome, good wishes and happy holidays.

Sugar cookies are a delicious and versatile classic during the holiday season. This is Hope Barker’s favorite recipe. They can be made as drop cookies or chilled and rolled for cut-out cookies. You can use the fresh dough and roll balls of it in cinnamon sugar to make Snickerdoodles, or use it as a crust for a fruit pizza.

Classic Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup milk
Additional sugar (optional)

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix very well. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Make sure all ingredients are well-incorporated.
For drop cookies, scoop fresh dough into 1-inch balls and place a couple inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Smear a small amount of shortening on the bottom of a glass, dip the glass into the sugar of your choice and flatten each dough ball into a disk about 1/4-inch thick. Continue to dip the glass into sugar and flatten the dough balls until all are flattened into disks. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Bake the cookies at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.
For rolled and cut cookies, refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. Roll out portions of the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size/thickness of the cookies. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.

Sugar Cookie Variations

Various Sugar Cookies Frosted Cookies
Bake either the rolled or drop cookies. Prepare your favorite frosting recipe (or buy canned frosting) and frost the cooled cookies. Frosting can be tinted with different colors and piped on in seasonal designs.

When making the drop cookies, mix together 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with 1 cup granulated sugar. Roll each ball of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and then put onto the cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass into a disk shape and bake as directed.

Maple Cookies
Replace the vanilla flavoring in the recipe with maple flavoring. Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. On the stovetop, stir together 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons milk; stir well. (Be careful as the mixture will splatter a little when you add the milk.) Put saucepan back on stove and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over 1 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and mix on low/medium speed until smooth. Drizzle the warm frosting over the cookies with a spoon. Allow to cool completely.

Jell-O Cookies
Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. When the cookies come out of the oven, spread a thin layer of light corn syrup on the tops with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with Jell-O gelatin powder of your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Fruit Pizza
Use about a half batch of the dough and spread evenly in a greased jelly roll pan. This will be the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough begins to get some color at the edges and on top. Let the crust cool completely. Mix together 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 7 ounces marshmallow creme. Spread this over the crust. Cut up about 4 cups of fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwi, bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples, etc.) and stir together with a package of strawberry fruit gel. Spread the fruit mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate before slicing and serving.

An exceptional network

2011 Trevor PhotoBy Trevor Bonnstetter
Chief Executive Officer

Every month or two a news story will appear that looks at the so-called “digital divide” between big cities and rural areas like ours. This narrative paints a picture that rural Americans have a more difficult time getting reliable Internet access through broadband.

While statistics may back up that idea in some parts of the country, I’m proud to say we’ve built a network to make sure our area is the exception.
In some of the recent numbers I’ve seen from the FCC, there is a stark contrast between broadband access in rural America and in big cities, if taken as a whole.

As you’ve read in these pages before, the FCC has redefined broadband speeds and based on those thresholds, 94 percent of urban residents have broadband access, compared to only 55 percent of people in rural America.

It would be easy to see those numbers and think rural America has been left behind in today’s technology-driven, connected world.

But that’s not the case here in our part of Western Kentucky and Tennessee. We’re happy to offer speeds well above those thresholds to our customers. We’ve built a network that any provider, anywhere would be proud to call their own.

We are pleased to be the exception to those numbers because it means we’re serving our customers. But we’re also proud to be exceptional because it means our founders were right about banding together to create WK&T.

Cooperatives like ours were founded by local residents who knew a reliable communications network was important and were willing to join together to bring such a network to our area.

The statistics clearly show that corporate America is not meeting the needs of rural communities like ours. Giant media companies don’t see enough profit in our region to invest in building a network.

That’s where cooperatives like WK&T come in. We answer to our board of directors, which is elected by the people we serve, and we put the utmost importance on the trust our members place in our cooperative.
October is National Cooperative Month, which is a great time to think about our business model and how it benefits families and businesses in our area.
In a news release from the USDA published in July, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “Broadband is fundamental to expanding economic opportunity and job creation in rural areas, and it is as vital to rural America’s future today as electricity was when USDA began bringing power to rural America 80 years ago.”
Sec. Vilsack is correct. Without access to broadband, our community would be at a disadvantage. And without WK&T our area wouldn’t have such access.
Please join us in October (and throughout the year) in celebrating what our founders created and all the advantages we enjoy today because of their vision and dedication to their communities.

An unmatched Kentucky tradition

SONY DSCFancy Farm Picnic draws thousands each year

By Patrick Smith

Each year, on the first Saturday in August, people visit Fancy Farm, Kentucky, for a church picnic.
But this isn’t a normal church picnic where attendees bring a dish to pass and old-timers talk about the weather. This is the Fancy Farm Picnic — complete with more than 10,000 people, 18,000 pounds of barbecued pork and mutton, rows and rows of carnival-style games and political stump speeches from candidates who, over the years, have vied for every major office in the Bluegrass State. Even presidential candidates have stopped by to take part in the revered Kentucky tradition. And, all of this is hosted by a town of fewer than 500 people.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced Kentucky weather in August, the temperatures often climb into the 90s by midday, and the humidity is thick enough to make any clothing other than what’s vitally important seem gratuitous. But the weather doesn’t stop people from attending by the thousands — nor do the miles of parked cars or the smell of hickory wood smoke so heavy that it forms a haze over the picnic grounds. The allure of the picnic seems to draw more people in each year.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

Though the picnic has always been a notable event, locals attribute the growth to the added attention the media has given the event in recent years. Local television stations and newspapers often feature reports about what to expect leading up to the event each year. And in the days and weeks that follow the event, headlines featuring the words “Fancy Farm” will regularly grace publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. National television stations like MSNBC provide live reports, while C-SPAN broadcasts the political speeches live. Even Food Network has featured the picnic’s home-cooked, hearty fare.

This year’s event will be the 135th Fancy Farm Picnic, and as always, there will be free admission and free parking.


Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2014

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2014

Those familiar with the raucous infield crowds of the Kentucky Derby will find some similarities during the political speeches given at Fancy Farm. The atmosphere features politicians trading jabs, while in-state supporters and opponents, who arrive by the busload from as far away as Lexington, bicker back and forth so loudly that it’s difficult to hear the candidate’s speech. They’ll also heckle the candidates — something some hopefuls have learned to deal with, but making it difficult for others to stay on point.

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2009

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2009

In the political arena, it’s an event so big, national political action committees create teaser video trailers for the speeches that will be given at the event by their candidates, like when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was challenged by Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes in 2014. It’s also inspired local businesswoman Cynthia Elder to write a book, “The Politics of Fancy Farm,” which she hopes to have completed in time for this year’s event.

During the event, Democrats will line their tents with blue yard signs, while GOP supporters do the same with red signs, leaving a walking path just a

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2013

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2013

But the event hasn’t always been so politically charged. A.B. “Happy” Chandler is often credited with the picnic’s transition from a local homecoming event to a stage for political speeches while he was running for Lieutenant Governor in 1931. Over the years, Vice Presidents Alben W. Barkley and Al Gore, U.S. Senators Jim Bunning and Rand Paul and U.S. presidential candidate George C. Wallace have spoken at Fancy Farm.


Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elder

The picnic’s traditions are maintained by families that have held volunteer jobs for generations. On Friday morning, meat is unloaded from a box truck, blessed by a Catholic priest, and thrown onto two rows of fiery barbecue pits that go on for hundreds of feet. It’s monitored through the day and night by volunteers, before another group of volunteers arrives at 6 a.m. to begin deboning, weighing and preparing the meat in styrofoam containers. Never mind the simple presentation, the barbecue is cooked so well, hungry patrons stand in line 20-persons-deep to fork over their cash at 7 a.m. — three hours before the picnic formally starts.

Officially named the “World’s Largest Picnic” in 1985 by the Guinness Book of World Records, there’s more than just barbecued pork to eat. The waist-high black chalkboard menu for the 2013 picnic listed 1,900 pounds of chicken, 1,400 pounds of potato salad, 410 pounds of lima beans, 258 pounds of green beans, 225 pounds of peas and 193 gallons of corn. They sell out every year.


Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

While the children’s games are held under small, pop-up tents and steel-beamed buildings, and the political speaking takes place at its own open-air pavilion with a permanent stage. The largest building houses hundreds of feet of picnic tables, lined with people playing bingo. Every hour or so, participants play a new card for a big prize, such as a flat-screen television, or tickets to see the St. Louis Cardinals or Kentucky basketball.

Then there’s the raffle. Each year, picnic organizers give away a vehicle. This year, same as 2014, they’ll raffle a brand-new four-door Jeep Wrangler hard top. Winning the biggest prize can be as cheap as $5, and you don’t have to be present to win.

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

Photo courtesy of River Birch Productions © 2010

For a more social gathering without the political pressure, the Knights of Columbus Hall is the place for fellowship on Friday night. A fish fry and music follow the 5K walk/race, and the endless preparations for the picnic begin in February. Family members depend on relatives to drive in and fly in from places like California, Texas, Minnesota, Virginia and New Jersey just to see friends and volunteer for the jobs their families have held for decades.

The bands continue to play on Saturday, and the K of C Hall holds a continuous home-cooked meal at its air-conditioned facility. The money raised — usually about $200,000 dollars gross — goes to St. Jerome Catholic Church, a parish of about 650 people, and the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky.

And no matter what brings visitors to the Fancy Farm Picnic — the politics, the food, the games or fellowship — longtime picnickers don’t plan on missing it anytime soon. But if they do, at least they know it will be the only church picnic featured the next day in The New York Times.

If you go
The 2015 Fancy Farm Picnic will take place on Aug. 1.
The political speaking portion of the event will be emceed by Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio.


Icehouse Gallery offers art appreciation and education for the whole community

Photos courtesy of Lynn Bartlett.

Photos courtesy of Lynn Bartlett.

By Patrick Smith

For 25 years, the Icehouse Gallery and the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild have filled a void in the community by highlighting local art and culture.

Though the historic icehouse building, which houses the gallery, once faced destruction, it has since become a community gallery, providing a stage for arts events and a resource for students.

Managed by the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild, the Icehouse Gallery presents visitors with a rare opportunity in a small, rural area. The gallery offers events featuring arts education and art appreciation, as well as the chance to purchase unique handmade gifts, such as paintings, sculptures and pottery.

“We sell art, show art and teach art,” says Ric Watson, gallery director. “If someone wants to learn more, we’re the place in town to do it. They can’t really get that from anywhere else.”

The gallery typically hosts about 10 shows annually. Often the themes vary, dependent on trends in local and regional art. Two of the most popular shows, however, occur annually: the Quilt Show and the Gourd Patch Festival.

Each April, the gallery hosts its month-long Quilt Show, coinciding with the American Quilter’s Society Annual Quilt Show and Contest in Paducah. The Gourd Patch Festival, held each September, also features outdoor entertainment, various competitions and art workshops for locals.

After moving to the Mayfield area about 25 years ago, Mary Jackson-Haugen saw the need for more culture in the community and chose to try and create a showcase for local art. She began building a base of volunteers and created the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild. The organization, originally located on West Broadway Street, gave artists a place to showcase their work, as well as the opportunity to swap ideas and offer classroom training.

Not wanting to see Mayfield’s historic icehouse building torn down, about five years after the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild began, local officials offered the icehouse building to Jackson-Haugen as a permanent home to promote art appreciation and education for the community. Now, more than 20 years later, for many in the community, the Icehouse Gallery has become part of the area’s culture.

“Lots of people come in and look at the artwork like it’s a museum,” Watson says. “But we feature something for everyone. We want to provide something special — something we think the community needs.”

The Icehouse Gallery also hopes to fill in the gaps left by art education in local schools by providing longer, more focused classes on everything from painting and sculpture, to classes focusing on drawing superheroes.

The gallery space is also available as an event venue for meetings, wedding showers, receptions and community entertainment.

“We’re set aside as a place uniquely dedicated to art in Mayfield,” says Watson. “You can be serious about art or just appreciate the space as a meeting place. We just try to provide a venue for everyone to enjoy.”

If you go:
Address: 120 North 8th Street, Mayfield
Phone: 270-247-6971
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission is free.


Device of the month: Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft_Surface3-2Microsoft has an instant winner with its newly redesigned Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. They did more than just drop the word “Pro” with their latest version. The Surface 3 features a slightly smaller screen size and still has the great battery life, locking magnetic keyboard and sturdy kickstand. The tablet also offers the full Windows operating system and Microsoft Office, making it a true hybrid between a laptop and tablet. Best of all, Microsoft significantly dropped the price well below its $900 Pro version — the new one rings in several hundred dollars cheaper. The WK&T Technology Store has them on hand now.

Tech Tips: Send your student back to school with a new computer or tablet

It might be hard to believe, but it’s almost time for kids to head back to school — Shhh, don’t tell your kids I said that.

While school supply lists aren’t getting any shorter, the benefits from putting a computer or tablet in your student’s hands is growing. Each day in school, students are required to do more and more work with a computer. During a typical school year, they’ll use computers for everything from online classes and enrichment activities, to project research and writing. There are even thousands of educational games that can help improve students’ grades.

So before the new school year starts, consider a new computer or tablet for your student. It can be one of the best investments you’ll make to ensure their success.

Don’t have a student headed back to school this fall? No matter your current situation, WK&T is happy to help you find the right computer for your needs. And with that in mind, there’s no doubt that shopping for a new computer can seem like a discouraging endeavor, so let’s hit the highlights of some of the factors to consider when purchasing a new desktop, laptop or tablet.

Tablets give users fantastic portability and have a longer battery life — typically good for nine to 10 hours of consistent use. You also have the added convenience of having an onboard camera for photos and a built-in keyboard. But, a tablet’s portability and extended battery life comes at the expense of processing power and screen size. Your tablet won’t be as fast a laptop or desktop, and you generally don’t have the option of a larger monitor.

Laptops offer a larger screen size, usually 11 to 17 inches, and they also have more processing power than a tablet. Laptops offer the ability to use the full versions of software suites, like Microsoft Office and Adobe’s Creative Cloud. But the increased screen size and processing power means your laptop’s battery life will decrease. You’re also losing some portability, because a laptop’s keyboard and computer housing make the device a little more bulky and heavy. If you want the best of both worlds, you can hook your laptop up to a docking station and use a larger monitor and full-size keyboard, but still take it with you when you’re on the go.

Unlike tablets and laptops, desktops can’t roam with you. But being locked in place isn’t all bad. With a desktop, you can get the largest monitor, the fastest processor and the most storage. Don’t forget that a desktop always has to be plugged in, so during a power outage, there’s no battery to keep you connected — but when they’re running, the possibilities are practically limitless.

In the end, all three devices will be able stream online movies, store large amounts of photos and smoothly surf the Internet — but in order to make the best decision for you, consider how you or your student will use the machine the most.

WK&T sees no lost time for accidents in 2014


WK&T celebrated the completion of 2014 with no lost time for on-the-job accidents. WK&T has an average of 70 employees, who worked nearly 140,000 hours safely in 2014. In addition to WK&T’s office and sales personnel working safely, linemen frequently work in hazardous conditions, and this reflects the cooperative’s commitment to making sure every employee of WK&T makes it home safely each day. Thank you and congratulations to WK&T’s employees for this great accomplishment!