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I Love the Fair, 2013 edition

I almost missed the state fair this year. 

I was out of town the first weekend, and by Wednesday, when we had no definite fair plans, I started to a panic. I almost caused a fight trying to get my husband to commit to a day, fearing the ducklings and quilts would be packed up before I could get my yearly dose. 

But this story ends well, with an impromptu, post-podcasting trip with Melissa. We only stayed four hours, but in that time, we made it through most of the exhibits. Tiny owl and bald eagle at the Kentucky Raptor Rehabilitation booth? Yes. Ducklings? Would I ever skip them? Cakes and enormous produce? But of course. 

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A bald eagle carved from elk horn

With only a few hours on the second weekend, we made some sacrifices. We skipped the quilts, saw no shows, and only checked in on a couple of pigs (for livestock, I prefer the first weekend's poultry and rabbits. Also the mold-free baked goods in the competitive entries).

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The most beautiful chicken I've ever seen, at last year's state fair

Still, I love the fair. I am giddy within five minutes of arriving ("Miniature horses! I love the fair!") and exhausted by the time I leave. I miss it when it's over, and I firmly believe you need two days at the fair. Next year, I'll be sure to get at least a full one.  

More photos here

Kentucky, you have ruined me

I am not that well-versed in liquors, but since moving to Kentucky, I've learned about bourbon and have started taking it for granted. I expect a selection of bourbon behind the bar, and when I ask for bourbon on a plane, I don't expect the following: 

Me: Do you have bourbon?

Flight Attendant: Is this bourbon? Shows me Jack Daniel's 

Me: Um... no... 

FA: I have bourbon, hang on. Goes to front of cabin, comes back and shows me Dewar's 

Is this bourbon? 

Me: No, that's Scotch

FA: Is this not bourbon? Shows me Jack Daniels again 

Me: No, but it will do.   

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I have been that confused server ("What is 7&7?") -- and would probably still be confused if asked about brandy or Scotch. I just forget that outside of Kentucky, bourbon is not a given. 

 

Come to Louisville (a letter to a friend)

Hi friend,

Lonely Planet says Louisville is the top U.S. destination in 2013. I wish you'd visit, so I'm writing to let you know why it's always a good time to come to Louisville. I know I already did this on the podcast, but in case you missed it, there is exciting stuff going on every month. 

November 14, 2010

OK, so January and February are tough and almost over. We did have the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships in January, and it was the first time they took place in the United States. I'm sorry you missed it. Regardless of when you come, though, I can always offer:

-A food extravaganza - Gabe and I both cook, but we probably won't while you're here. We want to take you to all our favorite places. You want to eat that crazy Louisville sandwich, the Hot Brown? We'll do it. Do you prefer vegetarian? Hillbilly Tea, Dakshin, Vietnam Kitchen, or Queen of Sheba have some good veggie and vegan options. We'll go to Hammerheads and over-order appetizers, Mayan Cafe and snack on salbutes and the best lima beans you've ever had. There will be at least one brunch. 

-A drink extravaganza - We may not cook for you, but we will make you some drinks. If you're up for it, we'll take you to the many fine establishments serving signature cocktails and craft beers around town. We'll while away an afternoon with beer at Holy Grale, a former chapel. We can spend the whole day at Garage Bar, playing ping-pong while going broke on Basil Gimlets, pickled vegetables, and turkey wings. We can tackle part of the Urban Bourbon Trail. Last call is at 4 a.m., so there's plenty of time to visit a few places, endurance allowing. I'll be done by 2, but we have an extra key. 

-The Bourbon Trail - This is less Louisville and more Kentucky, but we can always visit any distillery you like. Most are within an hour's drive. Learning about bourbon never gets old. Neither do samples. 

Jim Beam

-The Colonel's Grave - Oh, you're going to come to Kentucky and not pay homage to the man behind the state's most famous export? We live about five minutes from the cemetery where Colonel Sanders is buried, and we can stop by on the way to brunch. The cemetery, Cave Hill, is also an arboretum, so we could also walk around longer. 

Depending on your interests, we can also hit up the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Thomas Edison House (see, we have non-sports-related museums!), the Frazier History Museum, Waterfront Park, or my new favorite, the Big Four Bridge. Maybe when you visit, the Indiana approach will be finished. Then we can walk across the Ohio River and actually descend into Indiana, where new adventures await. 

Now a few events you might want to plan your trip around:

Humana Festival of New American Plays (Feb. 27 - April 7) - If you love theater, you should visit during this month-long festival. Then I will finally partake of this event in my own town. 

Kentucky Derby Festival - The number of events for this festival increases every year. Here are my favorites:

Thunder Over Louisville (April 20) - This gigantic fireworks show launches Derby Festival (there are Derby Festival events before this, but really. This is not Mardi Gras. I cannot celebrate a horse race for a full month). We can join the masses on the banks of the Ohio River, or watch it on TV at a bar, where it is guaranteed to be dry and warm. 

The Great Balloon Glow (April 26) - This is now part of the Great Balloon Festival, making it a festival within a festival. There are also two hot air balloon races, but I love seeing them all gathered and fired up at night on Bowman Field (an airport). 

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The Great Steamboat Race (May 1) - Another event I have never been to, but it's still a favorite, because it is a race between two steamboats. The winner is actually determined by points earned from challenges that include a calliope contest. 

Cherokee Triangle Art Fair (April 27-28) - This is not actually part of Derby Festival, but it  happens the weekend before Derby, right outside my apartment. It's smaller and less insane than St. James in October. 

Derby (May 4) - I have not been to the Derby yet. We can go together! Just know we'll have to mill around by the paddock or in the infield. I have no connection for fancy seats. We could also go to Oaks, the fillies' race on Friday. This may be less crowded, but not less expensive. In any case, we'll find a good party to attend. The bars stay open all night Friday. 

Forecastle Festival (July 12-14) - The line-up has yet to be announced for this three-day music festival on the river. Wilco and My Morning Jacket headlined last year. Let's see who they have coming first. 

Lebowski Fest / Pee Wee Over Louisville (July 20-21/Sept. 7)- Again. I've never been to Lebowski Fest, but if you come for it, you bet I'll go. More interesting to me is the first Pee Wee Over Louisville, organized by the founder of Lebowski Fest, Will Russell. Imagine -- if Pee Wee Over Louisville goes the way of Lebowski Fest, you'll be able to brag that you were at the first one. Update -  due to a cease & desist letter from the Paul Reubens people, Pee Wee Over Louisville has been canceled.  

Kentucky State Fair (Aug 15-25) - If you've never been to a state fair, you should go to your home state's. Or come here in August while ours is on. Oversized produce. Quilts. Antique Bibles. A duckling slide. Freddy Farm Bureau. Deep-fried Girl Scout cookies. Trust me. You'll love it. 

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So… when are you visiting? 

Blueberry Traditions

Two years ago, I decided I should try to carry on a family tradition of berry picking. From about third grade until I left home, my family spent one Saturday morning each summer at an orchard. We would get up around five or six to arrive early and avoid the worst of the Texas heat. We did it when we lived outside Dallas, and we found a new place when we moved to Houston (The King’s Orchard, now apparently a parking lot for the Renaissance Fair). We’d carpool with family friends, bring sunblock and sandwiches, pick for a few hours, then head home. My mom, in a jumpsuit and gloves, headed to the blackberries. The rest of us stuck to blueberries. When we got home, we made blackberry jam, and bagged and froze the blueberries. And then, blueberries for the rest of the year.

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I missed this in college, but never made a real effort to locate a farm near St. Louis. But there are a few options around Louisville, so my first summer in Kentucky, we decided visit Huber’s Orchard. So Gabe and I met some friends at the farm in Starlight, Indiana, where we rode a tractor-pulled flatbed trailer to the blueberry bushes. We picked (and ate) blueberries for at least two hours, and when we checked out, our harvest weighed in at around 20 pounds. The berries lasted us the whole year and were mostly consumed on cereal and in pancakes.

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