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Now that the Shelbyville Horse Show has been rated one of the 10 best summer events in Kentucky, I have a name to be placed on the guest list for this year’s event:
Gary P. West.
I doubt Hoppy or R.H. Bennett knows West, but they would do well to curry his favor.
See, West wrote this book called 101 Must Places To Visit In Kentucky Before You Die.
It’s handsome, handy and trendy, playing off the “bucket list” theme that emerged from that movie a few years ago and Tim McGraw’s moving ballad.
You see similar lists from writers everywhere, and West’s concept is a good one – even if he seems to have written it with a bit of a bucket on his head.
You see, West hits all the logical concepts, such as the Derby, the museums, the capitol, the Kentucky Horse Park and the historical sites.
He has the ascension of Natural Bridge, the descension into Mammoth Cave and the stagger along the Bourbon Trail.
He has the rainbow of Cumberland Falls, the tranquility of Kentucky Lake, shrines to heroes and the newness/oldness of festivals everywhere.
But one thing this list of 101 does not include is a must-see visit to Shelby County.
That’s right. West’s book suggests there’s nothing in our county that you should see before you die.
I know, just go ahead and call your favorite local funeral home. We all are doomed to nothingness, and might as well just go now.
I scoured this book and frowned with each page.
I saw something called the Fancy Farm Picnic, Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood and even a tour of the Toyota plant in Georgetown (should that be on the list of “101 places to see how you might die before you die?”).
There was the St. X-Trinity football game, an antique store in Louisville, a doll museum in Danville and even Wigwam Village, which wigged and wammed me as a child.
The towns of Maysville, Russellville and some place called Stearns were listed.
But to find even a mention of Shelby, you have to go to the index, where it tells us to go to page 184 to read the word “Shelby.”
You quickly flip to see what had been missed, and, lo and behold, in the section devoted to horse farm tours around Lexington – West writes: “…the American Saddlebred is the only horse breed to have originated in Kentucky….Shelbyville in nearby Shelby County is home to most of the Saddlebreds…”
Let me get this straight: Kentucky’s only native breed of horse has its base in one of the 120 counties, and our farms and show are worth only an afterthought to Lexington?
We are nothing but a footnote for something 50 miles away?
Yes, he thinks we are nothing, and I say let’s fight back.
Let’s get Gary P. West to come to Shelby County and see if he can find something worth seeing, to consider that this could have been 102 things, or perhaps Stearns or the picnic simply could have been bumped.
I’ll bet he might like the horse show, for starters. It’s a headline event, has been around two decades and seems to have some cache with folks who know what visitors want to know, the Kentucky Tourism Council.
But let’s not stop there. Let’s treat him to fried chicken at Science Hill and some sausage from Purnell’s and a glass of wine at Talon.
Let’s bring him back during the holidays to see the lights downtown and tour Wakefield-Scearce.
Let’s feed him breakfast at Bluegrass Country Store, lunch at the B&E and dinner at The Old Stone Inn.
Let’s put him on one of our horses and show him where to catch bass, hunt deer and watch a sunset.
Let’s let him stop and smell the roses at the botanical garden and maybe something less sweet at a farm.
Let’s show him a play at the Shelby County Community Theatre and an evening at Bell House or Maggie’s.
Let’s point out the spot where Squire Boone staked out Painted Stone and the houses that have stood as long as Kentucky.
Let’s let him worship in our churches, see our children perform and play golf at the Cardinal Club.
Let’s give him a pizza from Sam’s followed by a milkshake from McKinley’s and coffee or tea downtown.
Let’s show him an antique, take him on a bike ride along Aiken Road or past Pickett’s Dam in the fall.
My list could go on, and you probably have dozens of other things to add, special treats that you hold close to your hearts and souls.
Let’s send all of them to Gary P. West. Let’s teach him about Shelby County and how it can’t be overlooked.
We certainly don’t have a history of being overlooked.
I used to love it when as a kid I would pick up that old mini-magazine from Standard Oil and find a scene from Shelbyville, a shot from West Main Street or the gallery, perhaps.
And because of that I know exactly the update that Mr. West will want to write as part of an update to his 101:
One thing you must see in Kentucky before you die is Shelby County, because there’s nothing better than a sneak preview of your next destination.