The following post is what I hope to be Part I of a series of posts highlighting some of the most unique UK fan groups from around the country. If you belong to any kind of UK fan group or organization (official or unofficial) that meets regularly for games or other regularly scheduled meetings, email me at [email protected] and tell me your story. Where are you located? How did the group get started? What is interesting or unique about your group of UK fans?
Our first group of UK fans have been gathering together now for 23 years at what they call, “The Ohio UK Convention”. The 2012 convention took place this past Saturday in Franklin, OH, (Dave Baker’s hometown) which is about 40 miles north of Cincinnati, and special guests included Larry Vaught, Jennifer Palumbo, the National Championship Trophy, UK Linebackers Coach Chuck Smith, and UK Director of Basketball Operations Chris Woolard. The group has hosted an extremely impressive list of guests over the years that they are very proud of, which includes Joe B. Hall, Kyle Macy, Dave Baker, Tom Leach, Oscar Combs, Mike Pratt, and Ralph Beard, just to name a few. I am personally honored to have been asked to attend next year, and hopefully some of the rest of the KSR Crew will join me there as well in July of 2013.
The group’s very first meeting was held in Columbus, OH in July of 1990. Generating the idea for the inaugural meeting, which later became known as the Ohio UK Convention, was Arvel Fugate of Middletown, OH and Jack McKay of Bethel Park, PA. Their dear friend and fellow Cat fan, Dean Perkins of Vandalia, OH, was seriously ill, so Arvel and Jack wished to cheer him up by assembling a group of UK fans to talk hoops in the third weekend of July. The inaugural meeting drew eight fans, and 23 years later, it is still held every year (now in Franklin, OH) on the third weekend of July and has grown to consistently draw over 125 UK fans annually from across the Buckeye State and beyond. James Porter, whose business card below shows his identity as Ohio’s #1 UK fan, is now the Director of the Event.
Because this year’s event was hosting the championship trophy, Mr. Porter made sure that the trophy would be safe in the Buckeye State, according to the Dayton Daily News:
He’s even considering hiring an off-duty police officer to protect the trophy because, as he said with a smile, two Ohio teams–University of Cincinnati and Ohio State–haven’t won a men’s basketball championship in 50 years. “People may want to steal the trophy,” Porter said. “We want to make sure it gets back to UK.”
As it turns out, Jennifer Palumbo protected the trophy just fine.
Anyone is welcome to attend the convention each year for a $25 fee to cover the expenses of the event. Many convention attendees also are a part of a group called the “Cat Trackers”, the exact same Cat Trackers who were interviewed by Dom Papa during the broadcast of the Canadian exhibition games two summers ago. The Cat Trackers load more than 50 UK fans onto a charter bus that departs from Southwest Ohio for several UK away games each year. My Dad and I actually went on a few of these trips to Indianapolis when the IU game was held there every other year. I had lost contact with the group, but I actually ran into some of the Cat Tracker ladies in Atlanta two years ago at the SEC Tournament, and am very glad to see that the group is still going strong.
Honorable Mention UK Fan Group: the girls of Camp Currie, which happens to be one of Joe B. Hall’s favorite fishing spots. This picture was sent in several weeks ago by a camp staff member and avid reader of KSR. The campers are also avid KSR readers and it is their last week of camp. Here they are pictured with a look-alike Wildcat mascot.