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Much More than Bluegrass, Bourbon and Derby: Kentucky Celebrates Many Cultures

FRANKFORT, Ky. Ė Throughout the seasons, Kentucky loves to celebrate horses, bluegrass music and our esteemed beverageóbourbon. But our cultural roots and branches include many other cultures that also call the Bluegrass state home. Summer kicks off festivals and celebrations that span the warm weather months. Here are some highlights to jump start your travel plans.

Kicking off on July 18, the Festival of Nations pays tribute to the increasing diversity in the region at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park near Ashland. With presentations by the International Folklanders, join in an evening of dances from around the world with authentic music and costumes. Bring lawn chairs and blankets to the amphitheatre for a great evening of family fun. Admission is $3.00 per person and for more information, go to http://www.parks.ky.gov and click on Events.

On Aug.15, Owensboro celebrates diversity with dance, music, ethnic fashions, food and arts at the Multicultural Festival presented at the First Presbyterian Church. For more info on this educational and entertaining event, visit http://www.firstpresbyterianowensboro.com/view/339.

Donít bid summer farewell without heading to Paducah in early August to join in a commemoration which began in the 1920s. The 8th of August Emancipation Celebration 2009 marks the 1865 freeing of African American slaves after the Civil War.

A parade, gospel music and other hallmarks fill out the festivities Aug. 4-9. For more information call 270-444-6583 or call the convention and visitorís bureau at 1-800-Paducah.

Then on Sept. 4-5, WorldFest takes place on the riverfront at the Belvedere in downtown Louisville where 100,000 people are expected to celebrate the world. Revel in two days of foods from across the globe and some of the best local and international music on continuous stages of sound and melodies. Hear Flamenco, Middle Eastern, Bolivian and Caribbean bands; see exquisite dancing (join in!) and much more. Over 30 booths offer plenty of shopping for handmade styles and keepsakes from all across the globe. The free event culminates with a naturalization ceremony that welcomes about 300 new American citizens followed by a parade that represents more than 50 countries. For info, visit http://www.louisvilleky.gov/International or call 502-574-2573.

The weekend after Labor Day on Sept. 12-13 is the Trail of Tears PowWow in Hopkinsville, an annual intertribal Native American ceremony since 1988 that celebrates the cultures and traditions of many tribes. PowWow is many things, including a gathering of Native American people to celebrate their rich heritage and socialize with old friends and make new ones. The commission that sponsors the event invites non-Indians to experience the centuries old tradition of the various dances and Native American crafts, and to get swept up in story telling and see Indian lore demonstrations. PowWow takes place at the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park, which is one of only a handful of sites that mark the route the Cherokee followed during their forced relocation to western reservations. For admission, directions and more information check out http://www.trailoftears.org.

Also that weekend is Lexingtonís Roots and Heritage Festival, a popular celebration of the regionís African American heritage. This festival, in its 21st year and named one of the Kentucky Tourism Councilís top 10 for the summer, draws 50,000 celebrants from throughout Kentucky and beyond, who soak up the rhythms and flavors of this kaleidoscopic event. The centerpiece of the two-day street festival recaptures the powerful spirit of Lexingtonís African American cultural history. Set along historic Elm Tree Lane, the festival kicks off with a high-stepping parade and continues throughout the evening. With its fascinating African Marketplace, childrenís programs, and two stages of high quality entertainment, the street festival presents the best in African American cultural expression. Related events are held around Lexington throughout September. http://www.rootsandheritagefestival.com/.

Everybody is German as Northern Kentucky toasts its German heritage over two weekends in September and October with Oktoberfests in Covington and Newport. The grand daddy of Kentucky Oktoberfests going on 30 years will take place in the Mainstrasse Village just off I-75 on Sept. 11-12 with lederhosen, oom pah and polka music, potato pancakes and lots of beer (for those over 21). Find out more at http://www.mainstrasse.org.

A slightly more intimate event hosted by the Newport Yachting Center includes biergartens, bratwurst, and Bavarian music. The 17th Annual International Oktoberfest! celebrates the fall season with feisty fun and flavor with the best of German food, music, and culture. Sample the Oktoberfest flavors, try yodeling and enjoy family fun at an authentic festival. Itís all there October 10-12. For ticket information, go to http://www.newportwaterfrontevents.com.

Some other cultural festivals that will beckon you to join in the fun include:

-The Festival Latino in downtown Lexington Oct. 10. Check out http://www.lexingtonky.gov and click on Parks and Recreation and then Special Events (http://www.lexingtonky.gov/index.aspx?page=239) or call 859-288-2925.

-Chinese Moon Festivals in early September (http://www.kyacap.org/).

-Chinese New Year celebrations in early February. (http://www.kyacap.org).

-Italianfest in Newport each June (http://www.newportky.gov).

For many more festival travel ideas go to Kentucky Department of Travelís web site, http://www.KentuckyTourism.com, to scout out more prospects. Experience the rich tapestry that weaves Kentuckyís multicultural heritage. For information about festivals and events at Kentuckyís 52 state parks, visit http://www.parks.ky.gov.


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