Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kentucky Horse Park

Having descended from the mountains of West Virginia we entered the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky… replete with white fences, horses everywhere, prosperous looking farms and large houses.

After diligent research Tom discovered the Kentucky Horse Park RV facility on the outskirts of Lexington where there are wonderful facilities for horses; horse boxes galore, outdoor arenas, an indoor arena, a three day eventing course, polo fields, museums and a Hall of Champions where among others we saw the famous horse Cigar – Adele had a chat with him! The RV Park itself has about 200 sites; there’s a large swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball court and basketball court. However, the most popular game is called corn hole - for those of you who never heard of it - it comprises of two boards (two feet by four feet) tilted at an angle and one pitches a sack of corn weighing about a pound the object of which is to get it into the hole at the top of the slanted board.  Quite large groups of people get together to play - Adele tried it and realized it takes some practice.
On our first day we drove to a Shaker Village in nearby Pleasant Village 25 miles south of Lexington. We had a very interesting day, learning that the Shakers were a group of dissenting Quakers founded and led by a Manchester, England lady named Ann Lee. Having departed England they set up numerous villages throughout the Northeast of the US and spread south into Kentucky. After having joined and signed a covenant men and women (some of whom were husband and wife with children) lived separate celibate lives in large groups called “families”; there were separate hall doors to the large houses, one for men and one for women, women lived on the right, men on the left again separated by two sets of stairs. The original village had 34 building on 300 acres. In the various houses "faker Shakers" as one of the period gowned women informed us practiced the different skills of the Shakers – they were self-sufficient; furniture making (which is still popular), straw bonnets, hat boxes made from wood (now a collectors’ item) and weaving. However their biggest business was in vegetable and flowers seeds.
The Industrial revolution was the beginning of the end of the Shakers as people migrated from agriculture to factory jobs in the cities, of course the celibacy requirement did not help in attracting new recruits.  Similar to the Moravians they believed in equality of the sexes and considered honest work as a prayer.  They had no ministers or preachers - if someone was inspired to stand up and say something at Meeting they did. When they sang songs they twirled around and shook their bodies hence the name Shakers.  Some of their hymns are still sung today, "Amazing Grace" and "Dance, Dance wherever you may be" among them.  Most of us know of the Shakers from the line of furniture they designed. They had 44 miles of dry stone walls surrounding the 300 acres and Adele remarked on this to one of the women to be told it was the Irish who built the walls. As we learned in other places, once  again this Shaker Village was saved by a group of people who got together to preserve this historic place when plans were proposed to build Highway 68 by razing the village.

On another day we took a walk in downtown Lexington which has some nice old buildings, especially an old indoor shopping area and Mary Todd Lincoln’s House. To complete our day we went to the movies in a lovely old, beautifully renovated cinema in the center of town and enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a very funny movie aimed at our age group featuring among others Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Go see it. We both just finished a good book on the life of Lilly Langtry “Because I loved Him” by Noel B Garson which gives a great insight into Victorian/Edwardian England and the US.
On the recommendation of the Visitors Center we took a drive along Harrodsburg Road to view Keeneland Racecourse and some immaculately manicured famous horse ranches where many Kentucky Derby winners were bred.

Bluegrass Kentucky is most definitely a beautiful State.

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