In the grand tradition of so many UK players before him, Nerlens Noel will attend Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, Kentucky later this week.
What is it about this three-day festival that lures Kentucky’s superstars from Lexington to the hills of Eastern Kentucky? Maybe it’s the Cornhole Tournament (think of all the practice they got during the Big Blue Madness campout), the Quilt Show, or the promise of mischief in the Moonshine Shack. Or, the chance to connect with UK fans outside of the basketball court. For Nerlens, it’s probably the latter, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness for the Shriners Hospital for Children, the event’s charity.
What is Hillbilly Days anyway? Since 1977, Pike County has held the annual event to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospital in Lexington, with the Shriners decking themselves and their tiny little cars in hillbilly garb to entertain the crowd. Since then, it’s grown into one of the largest festivals in the state, bringing over 100,000 people to town each year to appreciate what the festival calls “our unique Appalachian heritage and culture.”
Nerlens is hardly the first Wildcat to make the trek to Pike County. Back in KSR’s olden days, Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford, and Lukasz Orbzut all went to the festival with Matt as part of the KSR Barnstorming Tour, and last year, Terrence Jones capped off his transformation into a fan favorite by throwing up three goggles while riding the mechanical bull.
Now, Nerlens is still rehabbing from his ACL surgery, so no mechanical bulls for him, but can we expect an equally surreal photo op?