Elephant Ears and Ice Cold Beer, Kentucky State Fair 2013.

Last weekend I attended the 2013 Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.  As usually, everything from “elephant ears” to “ice cold beer” was for sale!  People lined up in front of the latest rides on the Midway, while wanna-be Major League Baseball pitchers tried to knock over the heavy milk bottles with the really soft-softballs,  in order to win the 3 dollar stuffed animal for their “baby-girl” and  teenage farm girls brushed their blue-ribbon cows, in preparation for the 4-H livestock judging contests, all integral parts of a State Fair.  For me, the best part of any State Fair is not all the delicious fried foods (like fried-twinkies, fried donut-burgers, fried-pickles, fried-snickers bars…etc…), although they are oh so tasty.  But rather, the best part of a “State Fair” is the incredible diversity of people in attendance.  It really is a micro-cosmos of our country on display.  When I attend a State Fair, I feel like a little kid who shakes a snow-globe and then watches all the snowflakes fall onto the miniature buildings.  I feel almost mesmerized by the thousands and thousands of people, of all shapes and sizes, ages and colors… following no particular route, darting in front of me on their way to the various food vendors and displays.  If people watching is a “spectator-sport” then a “State-Fair” is like the Super-Bowl of people watching!  I am convinced I saw the reality TV star “Honey Boo-Boo.”  I’m sure she was eating a roasted ear of sweet corn and practicing a dance move while singing a Justin Bieber song!  The cast of Swamp-People was there (no not really), but their body-doubles were there, drinking cold-ones!  I ate all of the foods that one is not supposed to eat, but for just one day, who cares!  That funnel cake tasted so delicious!   I covered every corner of the State Fair, it took me and my friends about 6 hours, we wanted to experience it all!  After a great day, we and our sore feet made our way to the Highlands neighborhood for a good cup of coffee!  If you have never attended a County or State Fair, I highly recommend it!  It will be a typical americana-experience to long remember!

Below, an assortment of photographs from the 2013 Kentucky State Fair.

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Cake, Cake and More Cake….. ICES 2013.

I hope I’m not the only one who had no idea what “ICES” was… until last weekend!  ICES is short for the “International Cake Exploration Societe” and last weekend they held their annual USA convention in Lexington, Kentucky.  Now a three day “Cake Convention” is not normally something I would attend, but… with the words “exploration” and “cake” in the title… how could I go wrong?
A few weeks ago I got a cold-call from a number I didn’t recognize with a Miami area code.  I know a few people from Miami so I took the call.  On the other end of the line was a friendly sounding gentleman named Raul from Bogota, Colombia.  He was calling me on his Magic-Jack and explained that he had found my name and contact information from a popular business networking site.  He wanted to know if I could help him.  Raul is a baker and would be attending the 2013 ICES Convention and needed a Spanish speaker to help translate for the event.  Not knowing much about cakes, other than they taste really good, I decided to accept his request for assistance!  What a wonderful decision that turned out to be.  You see the world of “cake” is really pretty interesting, not to mention tasty, and I had the opportunity to see it from the perspective of an insider for 3 days.  Raul, his son David and another Colombian friend named Cesar, came to the convention to make more contacts and sell cake making products like they have been doing for over a decade.  They were concerned that they didn’t speak English well enough to deal with the public, that’s where I came in handy.  I speak Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and a bit of English and was eager to sharpen my language skills over the 3 day event and maybe eat some tasty cake.  The annual convention in the USA is held in a different city each year.  Everything that goes into or on-top of a cake is bought and sold at the convention.   People come from all over the world to see the latest cake making products… cake air-brush machines, cake photo-printers, silicone cake molds, textured cake rolling-pins, colored-fondant, frosting and chocolate flowers were just a few of the hundreds of products available at the convention.  All weekend Raul demonstrated his products and I translated what he was saying, answered questions from potential customers and helped him sell his goods… after 3 days of “cake-speak” and translation, my head was hurting…. There were plenty of funny moments!  A large group of women from Nigeria attended, evidently fancy cakes are now very popular in the oil-rich republic.  The women were a trip…. all had great senses of humor, were always looking for a “deal,” and never wanted to pay the marked price on anything!  They made the weekend both challenging and funny!
I really enjoyed the convention and made some wonderful friends who just happen to make really tasty cake!

Below, a few of the beautiful cakes displayed at the 2013 International Cake Exploration Societe Convention in Lexington, Kentucky.

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The Resting Place of Lt Presley O’Bannon, USMC.

I decided to take in some local history today so I visited the Franklin, Kentucky Cemetery overlooking the Kentucky River and the Kentucky State Capital.  The cemetery is the resting place of many historically important Kentuckians.  I was looking for just one gravesite, the resting place of a famous Devil Dog.  Located only about 75 feet from the gravesite of Daniel and Rebecca Boone is the gravesite of Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

You have never heard of Lt Presley O’Bannon?

Well maybe you have heard the line in the Marines’ Hymn,
“…. to the shores of Tripoli…”
Or maybe you have heard of the Barbary Coast Pirates?
Or maybe you have heard of the Mameluke Sword?

All of these things are connected with Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

Born in Virginia in 1776, Lt O’Bannon joined the Marine Corps in 1801 at the age of 25.  4 years later, he found himself commanding a small group of Marines aboard the USS Argus and would later see  combat action in Tripoli in the First Barbary War against of course, a group of Barbary Pirates.
On April 27, 1805, Lt. O’Bannon led an attack in the battle of Derna, Tripoli and is credited as the first American to raise the American Flag on foreign soil during a time of war.  A local leader, Hamet Karamanli, was so impressed with O’Bannon’s bravery that he awarded him with the mameluke sword as a gesture of respect.
Today all Marine Corps Officers carry a replica mameluke sword much like the one given to O’Bannon!
I am proud to say I earned a mameluke sword in 1986 and will keep it till the day I die!
Lt O’Bannon only served for 6 years in the Marine Corps.  In 1807 he resigned as a Major and moved to Kentucky.  He further distinguished himself by serving multiple terms in the Kentucky State Legislature and the State Senate.
Presley O’Bannon passed away in 1850 at the age of 74 in Russellville, Kentucky, leaving a legacy that will long be remembered by all Marines!

Below, a few pictures of a plaque commemorating O’Bannon and his gravesite.

Above and Below, pictures of the front and back of the sign commemorating the gravesite of
Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon in the Franklin, Kentucky Cemetery.

Above, the gravesite and the back of the commemorative sign.

Below, the gravesite of Marine Lt Presley O’Bannon.

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NuLu… East Market District 2013.

NuLu, short for New Louisville is also known as the East Market District in Downtown Louisville, Kentucky.  The neighborhood features numerous cool restaurants, galleries, breweries and antique shops.  One website promoting the area called it an “offbeat cultural mecca on the Ohio River.”  Whatever you call the area, it’s certainly worthy on an afternoon visit, and that’s just what I did this past weekend.  While exploring Louisville on my motorcycle a few weeks ago, I stopped briefly in the NuLu District and decided I needed to go back for a longer visit.  The nice thing about visiting the NuLu on a Saturday or Sunday is that the local “Flea Market” (called the “Flea Off Market”), takes place on the east end of Market Street so you can see the NuLu and also visit the Flea Market at the same time.  The Flea Market had various artists selling their crafts and half a dozen Phood-Trucks selling Tacos, Burgers and the like!   There was even one enterprising businessman selling cocktails in a makeshift “patio-area.”  The locals were very friendly, I stopped one young lady to ask what streets were considered part of the “Official NuLu District” and she talked to me for about 15 mins!  I always say the best way to get great information on a particular area is to ask a local.  They are usually very friendly and love to share good tips with others!  Tour books and web-pages are great places to start your research about an area but the information can often be dated.  The locals have the latest scoop and know the great places to eat that are not necessarily the best known or most popular with tourists!  Never be afraid to ask a local for information!  While in the NuLu I visited the art gallery, “Local Speed.”  It’s a branch of the “Speed Museum” while the main Speed Museum is closed for 60 million dollars worth of renovations, set for completion in 2016.  In front for the “Local Speed” was a huge blackboard with the words… “Before I Die” painted on it, and then a series of lines and blank spaces, allowing visitors to fill in what they wanted to do “before they die.”  Many of the write-ins were pretty normal, stuff like… “Visit Tibet” or “Take a Mediterranean Cruise…” etc… but some of the write-ins were pretty insightful!  It’s nice to see that many of the entries were simple statements about “helping others”……. Hmmmmm, maybe there is hope for mankind yet!   I had lunch at a funky taco shop called “Taco Punk.”  The tacos were tasty and as colorful as the employees’ tattoos!  I walked the streets and back alleys of the NuLu for a few hours and took some photographs.  I found some urban vegetable gardens, pretty cool, and even a street named “Nanny Goat Strut Alley”…. Hmmmm…. what took place there 100 years ago?
If you are ever in Louisville, take a few hours and visit the NuLu…. you will soon learn that Kentucky is not as behind the times as some people like to think!

Above and Below, some of the architecture of buildings found in the NuLu.

 Below, the “Before I Die…” blackboard in front for the “Local Speed” Gallery.

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