Over the summer, we’re going to do what we set out to do so many years ago: shine the KSR spotlight on every county in the state of Kentucky. Well, probably not every county, but it’s a noble idea, right? Tonight, I’m kicking things off with my hometown, which is particularly appropriate since I’m headed back there this weekend. Therefore, I present you with “10 Awesome Things About Danville and Boyle County”:
Danville, Kentucky (Boyle County)
Distance to Lexington: 34.8 miles
Distance to Louisville: 83.2 miles
1. A small town that sticks with you
It’s only now that I can look back and realize just how lucky I was to grow up in a small town like Danville. Sure, there are the small town cliches–everyone knows everyone, you can ride your bike down the street safely, etc.–but Danville is special. There’s a reason it’s been voted one of the best small towns in America (Livability.com, USA Today, TIME Magazine). With its Norman Rockwellian downtown, scenic college campus, thriving arts scene, and plethora of events and festivals, it was an idyllic place to grow up. Plus, Lexington is little over a half hour away, which means you can get home from a UK game before the postgame show even starts.
Best place to talk Cats? Melton’s Deli on Main Street.
“There’s no place I would rather be than Danville. Can’t beat the beauty of the town and friendly people. Small-town atmosphere, but plenty to do and see at a pace you can enjoy. And, it’s always a ‘Go UK’ Day in Danville.”
-Larry Vaught, Sports Editor, The Advocate-Messenger
2. From Title Town to Lexington
Speaking of the Cats, several UK football players came from Danville and Boyle County, including Jacob Tamme, Neal Brown, Chase Harp, Josh Jaggers, Andrew Hopewell, Donnie Redd, Taylor Begley, Jordan Aumiller, and Don Phelps. Other players from the area that have gone on to play big time college and pro ball include Chester Ford, Jordan Gay, Lamar Dawson, and Travis Leffew. Danville earned the nickname “Title Town” for the success of Danville and Boyle County high school football, with both schools pulling in a combined 17 State Championships. (The Admiral alum in me would like to point out that Danville has more than Boyle, with 10.) Danville and Boyle are only separated by a few miles, making the rivalry white hot, and during my childhood, the teams swapped superiority and annual showdowns would draw up to 10,000 people. (Scoff if you want, St. X and Trinity folk, but that’s a big deal in a town of 16,000.) Nowadays, the rivalry isn’t quite what it used to be, but with Danville’s own Clay Clevenger rebuilding the Ads and Chuck Smith back at Boyle, hopefully brighter days are ahead.
“Danville is home, God’s country. We have great schools with strong academic and athletic traditions. We have Centre College’s beautiful campus and the best doughnuts in America at Burke’s Bakery. The best thing about Boyle County are the people! You won’t find any better. If you have time this weekend, head to Danville for the Brass Band Festival. Make a weekend of it. Head down on Friday evening for Bayou and Brass street party. Kids will love the parade on Saturday morning. Listen to great music, enjoy great food, in a fun atmosphere on Saturday night at the Great American Picnic. Finish your weekend with the community church’s service on Sunday morning.”
– Neal Brown, UK Offensive Coordinator
3. The Brass Band Festival
This weekend is the 25th annual Great American Brass Band Festival, a four-day event featuring some of the best brass bands in the world. I’ll write more about Brass Band in the night post, but it’s a really neat event. There’s a little something for everyone: traditional music, New Orleans jazz, games, funnel cake, food, drinks, etc. By the end of the Great American Picnic Saturday night, the spirits and vibes are flowing to the point that everyone’s dancing like it’s Mardi Gras. Trust me, there have been some embarrassing pictures come out of Saturday night at Brass Band over the years.
4. There is nightlife now
Like most Kentucky counties/towns, Danville was dry until 2003, when restaurants of a certain size were allowed to start selling liquor by the drink. In 2010, the gates were opened and Danville went from “moist” (ugh) to “wet,” with package stores popping up all around town. (I could hear the cheers all the way from Nashville that day.) Now, there are several great bars and restaurants around town like The Beer Engine, Danville’s first microbrewery; Jane Barleycorn’s Market and Bar, the best place to try a bourbon flight; LuLu’s Tavern; Bluegrass Pizza and Pub; Cue…those are just the ones downtown. In early fall, there’s also the Kentucky State BBQ Festival, which draws over 40,000 people from across the nation. My childhood friends and I often joke about the absurdity of being able to go out and have a drink when we’re in town, but it’s true. Danville now has nightlife, and it’s worth checking out.
5. We were a lot of people’s “first”
Danville’s nickname is the “City of Firsts,” even if they painted over it on the water tower on 4th street. Danville had the first courthouse in Kentucky, the first US Post Office west of the Allegheny Mountains, first state-sponsored school of the deaf, and is the site of Ephraim McDowell’s groundbreaking removal of an ovarian tumor. You can learn all about that at the Ephraim McDowell House and Constitution Square. If all of that history is putting you to sleep, head across the street to Burke’s Bakery for some sugar. For you Civil War buffs, there’s Perryville Battlefield (about a ten minute drive), the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War that marked a turning point in the fight for Kentucky. After you’re done with that, go back to Burke’s.
6. Burke’s Bakery Bakers Bake Better
Ah, Burke’s. A Danville landmark. You’ll never have a better doughnut, butterflake roll, pie, cookie, or cake. I love Burke’s so much that I made it the Danville stop on the KSR Scavenger Hunt last summer, and the pic of Mullet Cat in front the beloved bakery is one of my favorites. No stop in Danville is complete without a trip to Burke’s, so do yourself a favor and go now. And get me a jelly doughnut.
7. Centre College isn’t just for the Colonels
As the daughter of two Centre alums, I am very familiar with the beautiful liberal arts school, and although I didn’t go there, I have a special spot in my heart for it. Not only is the campus gorgeous, it brings a lot of great events to Danville, including two Vice Presidential Debates, a rare concert by the Vienna Philharmonic, and countless shows featuring stars like Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, LeAnn Rimes, the Boston Pops, and Henry Mancini. The Broadway production of “Rent” I saw in high school changed me forever.
Sadly, there’s still no word on what happened to Geek the Missing Centre Python. RIP.
8. Art worth looking at
Growing up, we frequently took field trips to Stephen Powell’s glass blowing studio at Centre, and to this day, I remember how mesmerizing it was to watch the artists roll, mold, and breathe life into the molten glass. Stephen Powell is a world-renowned artist whose work can be seen in museums across the globe, which I didn’t fully realize until I was old enough to travel to France and see one of his pieces in a gallery. Stephen has an awesome new 23,000 square feet studio at Centre, and although I don’t think he offers demonstrations to the public, you can see his art all over town, including an enormous 365-globe display at the Boyle County Public Library.
9. John Travolta and Elizabeth Taylor slept here (not together)
Back in 1969, a 15-year-old John Travolta appeared in “The Ephraim McDowell Story,” an original play about the 19th century Kentucky surgeon at Pioneer Playhouse in Danville. Pioneer Playhouse is the oldest outdoor theater in the state of Kentucky, started in 1950, and still holds plays today during the summer. Other notable alumni include Lee Majors and Jim Varney. Although she never appeared at Pioneer Playhouse, Elizabeth Taylor filmed “Raintree County” in and around Danville in 1956. We’re pretty proud of that one.
Everyone has one: that favorite restaurant in their hometown they grew up going to, and in turn return to every time they come back. For me, it’s Guadalajara, or rather, one of it’s three locations across Danville. Seriously, what other Mexican restaurant would have three locations in a town of 16,000? There’s Guadala Hill (near Wal-Mart), Guadala Hut (the old Pizza Hut), and the original, which was kept dry after Danville went wet to please the church crowd (that may have changed now). While other Mexican restaurants may come and go, there’s always Guadalajaras. If you look closely in the lobby of Guadala Hill, you might even spot a picture of yours truly wearing a sombrero.
Coming soon? Adair County. Adair you not to like it…
[Thanks to Larry Vaught and Neal Brown for their contributions, and Clay Albright and Logan Young for some of the football research.]