For decades, Kentucky fan Jan Pfeffer organized trips taking UK supporters across the world.
The name of their group? The Cat Trackers.
No game seemed out of reach, and bad weather be damned. The Trackers would pile on to a bus and head out. New York. The SEC Tourney. Hawaii. No trip was out of the question.
“They would have games and trivia – it’s a lot of fun,” says Jim Porter, who once went on a trip with the Cat Trackers to see a UK/Tennessee matchup in Knoxville.
Sadly, in the fall of 2014, Pfeffer passed away of a heart attack at age 80.
Porter will honor Pfeffer and her group Saturday, July 18, at the 26th annual Ohio UK Convention, held in Franklin, Ohio.
“She was always young at heart,” says Porter, who organizes the Ohio convention. And her legacy will live on, because the co-founder of Cat Trackers, Rita Dunham, has pledged to continue the trips (interested? Email her at ldunham[email protected]). Family and friends will be there Saturday, Porter said.
It is just one example of how the Ohio UK Convention has won over Big Blue hearts from everywhere. But it started pretty small.
“In 1990, several friends of Dean Perkins of Vandalia, Ohio, a UK fan who was suffering an illness, wanted to cheer up their friend,” the Ohio UK Convention website reads. “Arvel Fugate of Middletown, Ohio, Jack McKay from Pennsylvania and Jim Porter of Franklin, Ohio, decided to have a picnic and invited other friends, who were also Kentucky fans, to discuss the happenings of UK basketball.”
And the UK Convention began. Among those in the first group was Shelby Linville, member of the UK 1951 NCAA championship team.
The first convention drew eight people. Last year, on the 25th anniversary, there were nearly 200.
Along with the Pfeffer tribute, scheduled guests include: Tom Leach, Mike Pratt, Larry Vaught and KSR’s own Ryan Lemond and Freddie Maggard.
“I’m so excited about the lineup,” Porter says. “Gosh, I couldn’t pick out just one favorite.”
Fans can still register for Saturday’s convention.
Cost is $25 and attendees can expect an auction and door prizes.
“I love going to the Ohio UK convention because these folks have an incredible thirst and hunger for anything UK,” Lemond says. “Most aren’t able to get to Rupp Arena or Commowealth Stadium for a game, so this convention brings the Cats to their front door. They soak it all in, and they love it.”
And there will also be a few surprises, Porter says.
“This is for all of us who can’t wait for UK sports to start again,” he says. “We’ll give a tribute to some old friends and make some new ones, too.”
Did you ever go on a Cat Trackers trip? Want to thank them for how awesome it was? I may have to go on one in the future. Are you going to the Ohio UK Convention? I plan on being there! Leave your comments below and let us know. Or email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter: @rhinoKSR or my website: ForRyanOutLoud.com and maybe I’ll share them.