Telling Kentucky's Story

Speakers Roster


Constance Alexander Constance Alexander
Kentucky Writer & Columnist
Murray, KY

Work Phone: 270.753.9279

History & Writing

Kilroy Was Here: Children on the Home Front, World War II

On December 7, 1941, the USA was plunged into World War II. Life changed for everyone on the home front, regardless of age. Kilroy Was Here uses oral histories conducted with people who grew up in that turbulent era to tell the story of one Kentucky family. Artifacts from that time—including soldiers’ letters, a recipe, radio advertisements, and quotes from one of FDR’s most famous speeches—make Kilroy Was Here a history lesson and a moving family saga. Alexander's presentation features excerpts from her book, Kilroy Was Here, and allows time for questions and discussion of oral history techniques as a way to capture family history and community stories that should not be forgotten.

Equipment needs: Microphone and podium

Betsy McCall, June Cleaver & Brenda Starr, Reporter

Constance Alexander has been writing an award-winning newspaper column called Main Street since 1989. Her work addresses a range of topics, from the light-hearted to the life-changing, each one part of a unique autobiography that reflects experience and insights associated with growing up in a small New Jersey town in the 1950s and '60s and moving to Kentucky in 1988. The presentation includes excerpts from her memoir Who Needs June Cleaver? and also invites discussion of the changing role of women and media in rural America.

Equipment needs: Microphone and podium

Valerie Askren Valerie Askren
Lexington, KY

Home Phone: 859.268.4146

Nature & Wildlife

Get Outside Kentucky! Hiking, Backpacking or Strolling Your Way Across the Bluegrass

Kentucky is endowed with a proliferation of natural bridges and sandstone arches, rhododendron thickets, towering hemlocks, spring-fed creeks, gorgeous wildflowers and hardwood forests. Whether you are an avid outdoor or relaxed armchair adventurer, every corner of Kentucky beckons you with wild and scenic trails, paved walkways, and urban gardens. This talk can be tailored for a variety of groups (from Boy Scouts to garden clubs) and geographic areas (any region of the state, from urban to backwoods). A slideshow of photographs accompanies colorful commentary to keep the presentation lively and engaging.

Equipment needs: Projector screen and access to power outlet

Fly Fishing Kentucky

Learn about a plethora of trout waters in the state, including information regarding the specific ecosystem and fishing recommendations. This presentation will provide suggestions for: fly, tackle and gear selection; basic casting skills; special fishing techniques; reading water to find trout; matching the hatch; and fly selection. This talk can be tailored for a variety of groups (from Boy Scouts to fishing clubs). A slideshow of photographs accompanies colorful commentary to keep the presentation lively and engaging.

Equipment needs: Projector screen and access to power outlet

Morgan Atkinson Morgan Atkinson
Documentary Writer & Producer
Louisville, KY

Home Phone: 502.553.5098

Kentucky History & Culture

Wonder: The Lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard

This presentation includes the viewing of Atkinson's documentary about Anna and Harlan Hubbard, an examination of the lives of these two remarkable Kentuckians who lived for 40 years on the banks of the Ohio. The Hubbards lived life as few people in modern times have and in doing so accomplished at least two things that are very rare: contentment and freedom. In a house they built by hand, sustained by food they raised or caught, aided by no electricity or modern "convenience," the Hubbards met the world on their own terms and found deep meaning. Wonder considers the Hubbard's astonishing life of freedom and what it says to Americans today. The documentary has appeared on KET and is narrated by Wendell Berry.

Equipment needs: Video projector

Thomas Merton: A Kentuckian Claimed by the World

Atkinson has developed two documentaries on Thomas Merton. These documentaries bring to life the inspiring thought of the Trappist monk who was considered one of the 20th century's most important spiritual writers. This presentation features highlights of the two documentaries and illustrates Merton's growth as a spiritual thinker. Among the featured interviews is one with the Dalai Lama, who was a personal friend of Merton's.

Equipment needs: Video projector

Michael Austin Michael Austin
Profesor of Philosophy, Eastern Kentucky University
Richmond, KY

Work Phone: 859.622.1022
Home Phone: 859.979.1355 (cell)


Social Media and the Pursuit of Happiness

A central part of a happy life is having deep relationships with others. One reason for the success of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is that they provide new avenues of communication with others in our own community and around the world. In many ways, the value of these technologies depends on us. We can choose how to use them to foster deep relationships. However, they can also undermine our ability to connect with others. In this talk, Austin will discuss the pros and cons of social media, from a moral and psychological point of view. Austin will also offer some practical advice for using social media in a way that supports, rather than undermines, our pursuit of happiness.

Equipment needs: Projector for PowerPoint is preferred, but not required

Becoming Good

In recent years, there has been a renewal of interest concerning character. Character matters. Companies and colleges are not just concerned with the credentials of prospective employees and students, but with their character. For all of the concern about character, we focus less on how to develop it. In this presentation, Professor Austin will share what psychology, philosophy, and many of the world's great wisdom traditions have to say about building character.

Keen Babbage Keen Babbage
Teacher & Administrator
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 859.272.2502

History & Education

Life Lessons from My Grandparents: Kentucky Governor Keen Johnson and Kentucky First Lady Eunice Johnson

Keen Babbage's grandparents — Keen Johnson who was Kentucky's Governor from 1939-1943 and Eunice Johnson who was Kentucky's First Lady during those same years — were wise, honorable, polite, kind, caring, and exemplary people from whom he learned some of life's most important lessons. One of the great blessings of Babbage's life is that he knew his grandparents well. He learned much from them during the years he shared with them. Babbage has continued to learn from them as he recalls and thinks about the times he shared with his grandparents, the examples they set, and the life lessons they taught. All of us can learn from the wisdom of Keen Johnson and Eunice Johnson.

Lessons Learned About Education from My 34 Years of Working in Six Kentucky Schools

When it comes to education, we know what works. There are no mysteries and there are no secrets. In this presentation, Dr. Keen Babbage takes the audience on a journey through his experiences as a middle school and high school teacher and school administrator. The talk is filled with meaningful stories, some of which are also amusing, and with many profound insights. This presentation is interactive — Babbage will ask the audience some questions and the answers from the audience will help create a classroom atmosphere. What else would you expect from someone who has worked in schools for 34 years?

Travel: Region 6

Geoff Baggett Geoff Baggett
Kentucky Writer & Revolutionary War Historian
Cadiz, KY

Work Phone: 270.350.8816 (cell)
Home Phone: 270.522.6996


Revolutionary War in a Trunk

This hands-on, interactive program is fun for all ages! Mr. Baggett brings an old wooden trunk full of daily necessities and military items from the Revolutionary War period. These items include camp tools and equipment, clothing, and other everyday necessities. This trunk full of 18th century "treasures" helps bring to life the reality of living on the Virginia and Kentucky frontier in the 1770s. 

Equipment needs: Table for display items and books

The Siege of Fort Jefferson — Western Kentucky's Forgotten Battle of the Revolution

Most Kentuckians associate the raids and combat of the Revolutionary War in their home state with the central and eastern sections of the Commonwealth. Precious few people know that there was actually a Revolutionary War battle and siege in the far western end of Kentucky. Baggett tells the story of Fort Jefferson, a short-lived frontier outpost along the Mississippi River in what is now Ballard County. The fort was established in 1780 but abandoned in 1781 after a siege by the British and their Chickasaw Nation allies. The engagement involved the only major combat between American and Chickasaw forces in the American Revolution.

Equipment needs: Video projector/screen and table for books

Wes Berry Wes Berry
Kentucky Writer
Bowling Green, KY

Work Phone: 270.745.5770
Home Phone: 270.202.0228 (cell)

Cuisine & Culture

Burgoo, Black-Dipped Mutton, BBQ Eggs, & Lard-Basted Pork Steaks: Exploring Uniquely Kentucky Barbecue Ways

Kentucky isn't famous for barbecue, although it deserves to be. Bucking the trend of modern "gas-assist" meat cookery prominent in some well-known barbecue restaurants, Kentucky still boasts a high percentage of barbecue places cooking meats with heat from hardwoods only. Moreover, we've got some atypical regional barbecue traditions that you can't find much outside a few Kentucky counties. In this talk, the author of The Kentucky Barbecue Book explains methods and recipes for some of Kentucky's barbecue oddities and discusses our "outlier" status in the national barbecue scene. 

Equipment needs: Projector with computer attachment is preferred, but not required

(Mis)adventures on a Kentucky Homestead

When country-raised Kentuckian Wes marries animal-loving Elisa (a town-raised Floridian), the fun begins. Like when Elisa digs a bathing pool for new piglets who turn it into a toilet; or their rescue of a homeless donkey and the frustrating months following as donkey Clyde molests the sheep; or several cases of animal death that oddly occur when friends visit. The learning process has brought successes and a series of humorous and unfortunate events. In this presentation, Wes and Elisa share their philosophy of eating animals raised in healthy conditions along with a slide show of their homesteading (mis)adventures. 

 Equipment needs: Projector with computer attachment is preferred, but not required


David J. Bettez David J. Bettez
Kentucky Writer
Georgetown, KY

Work Phone: 859.227.8136 (cell)
Home Phone: 502.868.0099


Kentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front

Based on Bettez's book, Kentucky and the Great War, this presentation looks at the domestic side of World War I: how Kentuckians rallied to support the war effort. Bettez covers initial reactions to the war, especially as they affected the many Kentuckians of German heritage, and describes how the Kentucky Council of Defense and local county councils created and led Red Cross and Liberty Loan campaigns, and food and conservation efforts. Other topics include resistance to the war, the draft, and the impact of the new Camp Zachary Taylor south of Louisville. Everyone was expected to support the war. Bettez discusses the support roles of women, children, African Americans, religions, and educational institutions. He also talks about some of the Kentucky men and women who served during the war.

Equipment needs: Computer, projector and screen for PowerPoint presentation

Kentucky Marine: Major General Logan Feland and the Making of the Modern USMC

This discussion is based on Bettez’s book, Kentucky Marine: Major General Logan Feland and the Making of the Modern USMC. In the early 20th century, Logan Feland was a nationally-known hero and leader in the Marine Corps. A Hopkinsville native, Feland was an MIT graduate in architecture who served in the Kentucky State Guard, then entered the United States Marine Corps. Bettez traces Feland's contributions to the Marine Corps and his career development on Marine Corps expeditions. The talk covers Feland's service during World War I, when he earned the nation's second highest military award — the Distinguished Service Cross — for his bravery under fire during the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Equipment needs: Computer, projector and screen for PowerPoint presentation

Diane Calhoun-French Diane Calhoun-French
Professor & Vice President for Academic Affairs
Jefferson Community & Technical College
Louisville, KY

Work Phone: 502.213.2621
Home Phone: 502.500.2176 (cell)

Kentucky History & Culture

Mysterious Women

Women writers have always excelled in popular mystery fiction—from the "golden age" of Agatha Christie to modern-day heroines created by authors like Kentuckian Sue Grafton. Come explore with Calhoun-French why this genre has always been dominated by women writers and who some of the best of them—both old and new—are. Be prepared to discuss favorites of your own.

Equipment needs: Video projector/screen

Margaret Mitchell's Tara: Myth and Reality

Perhaps no home in popular American literature is more famous than Margaret Mitchell's Tara, the home of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. This presentation will examine Mitchell's Tara, David O. Selznick's interpretation of Tara in the 1939 film, and Tara as an icon that continues to wield its power even today.

Equipment needs: Video projector/screen

Gerald Chafin Gerald L. Chafin
Conductor of Choral Ensembles at Lindsey Wilson College
Columbia, KY

Work Phone: 270.384.8084
Home Phone: 270.378.0578 (cell)

Music & Culture

Stephen Foster: Secrets In Songs

The songs of Stephen Foster (1826-1864) paint a vivid portrait of the history, culture, and struggles of his time. Yet through careful investigation, we discover clues from Foster's story to interpret our own generation. The composer of Kentucky's state song reveals everyone's longing for home as well as the hope for a doo-dah day!

Equipment needs: Podium, projection equipment, internet connection, and piano, if available

Travel: Regions 3, 4, 6

Gary Cieradkowski Gary Cieradkowski
Kentucky Writer, Publisher/Editor
Fort Thomas, KY

Home Phone: 714.872.0289

Sports & Culture

Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's Forgotten Heroes

This presentation mixes the illustrations from Cieradkowski's book The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's Forgotten Heroes with a discussion about the game's interesting characters: from Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax, of whom Cieradkowski tells the story of what they did before they were famous, to little known characters like Kitty Burke, a Kentucky night club singer who is the only female to have batted in a major league game. Cieradkowski discusses the Negro Leagues and the part they  played in bringing players to the game. As the author and illustrator of a future book on Kentucky baseball history, Cieradkowski will also include stories about players with regional connections.

Equipment needs: Screen, projector and computer for PowerPoint

James Claypool James C. Claypool
Professor Emeritus of History
Northern Kentucky University
Park Hills, KY

Work Phone: 859.620.8846 (cell)

Kentucky History & Culture

The Kentucky Derby: A Celebration of Kentucky and its Heritage

Claypool traces the origins and development of the Kentucky Derby, the world's most famous horse race and a powerful influence on Kentucky society and culture. He will use memorabilia collected during his 40-year passion for the race.

Equipment needs: Microphone and a small table

Rascals, Heroes, and Just Plain Uncommon Folks from Kentucky

In this talk, Claypool will profile a choice selection of the many colorful Kentuckians, male and female, noted and notorious, whose stories make our history so interesting and entertaining. The format of the program contains an exciting and stimulating surprise for the audience to wield its power even today.

Equipment needs: Microphone and a small table

Song's of Kentucky's Civil War

This program offers a lively presentation with recordings of some of the most popular songs from the North and South during the American Civil War. Claypool discusses the origins, importance, and placement in historical context of each song.

Equipment needs: Microphone and a small table

Tasha Cotter Tasha Cotter
Kentucky Writer
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 719.357.1189

Writing & Poetry

My Journey as a Writer

This talk is a discussion of how Tasha Cotter's journey as a writer began, from growing up in Smiths Grove, Kentucky, to attending college and eventually earning an MFA in creative writing at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. Take a look at how a first generation college student found her voice as a poet, and went on to publish books.

Equipment needs: Computer, AV equipment (overhead projector), audio capability

Rewilding Poetry: A Discussion of Video Poetry, e-Literature, and the Rise of New Media

This talk looks at the influence of new media on an ancient art. Special attention will be given to video poetry by writers like Billy Collins, Kathryn Regina, Sandra Beasley, and A.E. Stallings. A discussion of what is lost and gained with the increasing emergence of genre blur and the blending of genres. This talk will also take a look at how new technologies are informing and expanding poetry's presence in society.

Equipment needs: Computer, AV equipment (overhead projector), audio capability

Berry Craig Berry Craig
Professor Emeritus of History
West Kentucky Community & Technical College
Mayfield, KY

Work Phone: 270.992.2727 (cell)
Home Phone: 270.247.8960


The First GI into Germany?

First Lt. Frank Kolb of Paducah, was said to be the first GI into Germany in World War II. He didn't care if he was or not. His story was splashed on the front page of the Stars and Stripes. The reporter got his name wrong. The scribe made a rookie mistake, but he was a veteran war correspondent. He was a famous TV commentator after the war, too. The reporter was Andy Rooney. Kolb was captured by the Germans in North Africa but escaped to join Allied landings in Sicily and Normandy, where he went ashore on Omaha Beach. He came home with four Silver Stars, a bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. He was evidently the youngest company commander in the First Infantry Division, the storied "Big Red One."

Equipment needs: Podium

The Death Diary

Penciled inside the front cover of Pvt. Robert McCune's World War I diary is a request: "... If I am shot will the person who finds this book please send it to the address on the next page. Thank you." The addresses his grandmother's house in Paducah. The diary made it home from World War I, but the young soldier didn't. He was killed near Vierzy, France, in June 1918. The fatal bullet pierced the diary, which is stained with his blood. An American lieutenant found the diary and passed it to a French general, who sent it to Sarah McCune on Trimble Street in Paducah.

Equipment needs: Podium

Jennifer Cramer Jennifer Cramer
Associate Professor of Linguistics
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 859.257.6983
Home Phone: 502.594.6428 (cell)


Speaking Our Piece: Language Variation in Kentucky

Kentucky is located at a particularly interesting crossroads in the linguistic landscape of the United States. This talk introduces the specific linguistic situation in Kentucky by examining several linguistic, sociolinguistic, and educational aspects of language in the many diverse regions of the Commonwealth. We will explore not only how language is variously produced but also how people's impressions of the language of their fellow Kentuckians changes from place to place.

Equipment needs: Projector (with connection) and ability to play sound preferred

The Myths and Realities of Appalachian Englishes

Have you ever heard someone say that people from the Appalachian Mountains sound like Shakespeare? Or maybe you've been told that the language spoken there is frozen in time. These and other misconceptions about the linguistic varieties employed by Appalachians have hidden the vibrant and dynamic nature of their language and helped to perpetuate the idea that speakers of these dialects are old-fashioned and backwards. This talk examines the myths and realities surrounding Appalachian Englishes by providing evidence that these varieties, like all others, are constantly changing.

Equipment needs: Projector (with connection) and ability to play sound preferred

Travel: Regions 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Jonathan Cullick Jonathan S. Cullick
Kentucky Writer & Professor of English at Northern Kentucky University
Highland Heights, KY

Work Phone: 859.468.1155


Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men

Dr. Jonathan S. Cullick will present and lead discussions about any topics related to the novel All the King's Men, including the topic of political rhetoric and other topics from his book, Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men: A Reader's Companion. Cullick particularly likes to have interactive discussions with the audience.

Travel: Region 5

Jerry Deaton Jerry Deaton
Kentucky Writer & Filmmaker
Frankfort, KY

Home Phone: 502.229.1249

Kentucky History & Culture

Appalachian Culture, Yesterday and Today

This program includes story telling techniques that are used to describe the cultural and historical aspects of life in the Appalachian America of yesterday and today. The discussion includes readings from Deaton's books on eastern Kentucky, Appalachian Ghost Stories and Kentucky Boy, as well as clips from his two films on the area, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt and Harry Caudill, A Man of Courage. The program concludes with a Q & A on Appalachian culture and the telling of an old time mountain ghost story.

Harry Caudill, Man of Courage Deaton's interest in the issues facing eastern Kentucky moved him to write and produce a film on the author and activist Harry Caudill of Whitesburg, Kentucky. This talk focuses on Mr. Caudill's life and on his provocative best-selling book Night Comes to the Cumberlands. Deaton offers his perspectives on the social and environmental messages Mr. Caudill presented more than 50 years ago, messages perhaps as relevant today as then. 
Mountain Ghost Stories

Deaton grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky yearlong old-time ghost stories as told by his father and grandmother. In this talk, he reads from his book, Appalachian Ghost Stories, and talks about the odd and often eerie folk traditions that he experienced and often heard about as he grew up in Breathitt County. 

Anglea Dodge Anglea Kay Dodge
American History Scholar
Ekron, KY

Home Phone: 270.312.4755

History & Culture

Children's Toys and Games of the Victorian Era

This talk is a hands-on learning experience for children ages 6-12. Topics covered include various toys and games that were commonly played during the 19th century; the targeted marketing of mass produced toys to children during the industrial revolution; how toys became affordable for all classes; theories of play the many adults ascribed to such as toys having a teachable element in education, science, morality and religion. Several toys will be demonstrated to show the lessons that they taught. The talk also involves play with several dozen toys and games of the era.

Equipment needs: Tables for toy display and game play, floor space for other games and toys

The United States Sanitary Commission: How Aide Societies Raised Millions

This talk focuses on the creation and organization of the United State Sanitary Commission (USSC) during the American Civil War. Topics include the founding members; USSC contributions to soldier well-being and health concerns in camp; recruitment of volunteers; soliciting donations through large scale fairs in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia; as well the contributions of small independent organizations and aide societies.

Equipment needs: Table for display items and easel

  David Dominé
Kentucky Writer
Louisville, KY

Work Phone: 502.718.2764


Legends and Lore from America's Most Haunted Neighborhood

The most haunted neighborhood in America? That's what many are calling Old Louisville, an extensive preservation district filled with old mansions and strikingly beautiful homes in Kentucky's largest city. Wherever you go in the eye-popping neighborhood, it seems that a haunted house is not far away — or a haunted church, a haunted street corner, or a haunted park. Over the last two decades, so many stories of supernatural activity have surfaced in the area that Old Louisville has gained the reputation as being the spookiest neighborhood in the entire country. Author David Dominé shares some of the most famous legends and alleged hauntings from this beautiful historic preservation district.

Equipment needs: Projector, screen, computer for PowerPoint presentation

America's Most Exuberant Neighborhood

Since it was declared an historic preservation district in the 1970s, many have considered Old Louisville one of the most architecturally exuberant neighborhoods in the country. Constructed primarily between 1880 and 1905, the residences in Old Louisville showcase a wide variety of building styles. If you like old homes and fabulous architecture, this is a neighborhood you will want to know about. Author David Dominé shares stories and architectural details while introducing the audience to the history and homemakers behind its most impressive structures.

Equipment needs: Projector, screen, computer for PowerPoint presentation

Cynthia Elder Cynthia Pierce Elder
Kentucky Writer
Fancy Farm, KY

Work Phone: 270.247.2955
Home Phone: 270.674.5665
Fax: 270.705.3460 (cell)

History & Culture

The Catholic Settlement

Throughout the history of the United States there were many communities, villages, and towns erected around a principal location, many times that location was a church. But through the years many of these same communities either dispersed or spread out, away from the church. Cynthia Pierce Elder will take you to a town that is still centrally located around a church, and could still be considered the Catholic settlement, the town of Fancy Farm in Graves County, in far western Kentucky.

Equipment needs: Projector

Fancy Farm Living is the Life for Me

Humorous and thoughtful reflections of life on the farm in a very rural community, as told by someone who was raised in the big city suburbs. Special anecdotes about life in Fancy Farm, Kentucky.

Equipment needs: Projector

Kathi Ellis Kathi E.B. Ellis
Theatre Director & Scholar
Louisville, KY



The First American Tragedienne

This talk reveals the story of the 19th century actress, France Ann Drake, who made her base in Kentucky and Cincinnati for more than 40 years. Mrs. Drake, in addition to being a "western star" touring Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Natchez, Mobile, and St. Louis, also had several successful New York seasons in the 1820s and 1830s, as well as in Boston and, later in her career, Washington D.C. Mrs. Drake was a frequent performer in Louisville; she died at the Drake family property in Oldham County in 1875. Much of the history of this period of American theatre is derived from the writings and records of theatre managers whose primary goal in writing their memoirs was claiming their role in the westward movement of theatre. As a result, Mrs. Drake is one of many actresses frequently reduced to a listing of "and other roles played by" when citing the western engagements of Junius Booth, Thomas Cooper, Edwin Forest, etc. In addition, Mrs. Drake does not appear to have kept a journal, but some of her letters survive, and European travelers wrote favorably of her performances. American critics delighted in a home-grown "star" and fellow actors spoke of her in positive terms. Kathi E.B. Ellis' Kentucky Foundation for Women supported research into Kentucky-based actress that unveils a forthright, humorous, hard-working, family-oriented professional woman at a time when women were not expected to have careers of any kind, and especially not in the supposedly-risqué environment of touring theatre.

Equipment needs: Projector and screen

William Ellis William E. Ellis
Kentucky Writer & Historian
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 859.625.4802 (cell)
Home Phone: 859.219.3471


Humor: Good and Bad

Humor is one of the most important aspects of a full and healthful life. It is mentioned in the Bible prominently. Health professionals value humor and good health. However, in the wrong hands humor can be destructive. Bullying of individuals and denigration of groups can, and, in the past, has led to destruction of ethnic groups. The purpose of this talk is to explore the "good" side of humor and expose those aspects of "harmful" humor that are destructive.

Equipment needs: Projector and computer to display images brought on a flash drive

Steve Flairty Steve Flairty
Retired Teacher
Versailles, KY

Work Phone: 859.494.0667 (cell)


Kentucky's Everyday Heroes

Sharing profiles of "everyday heroes" from around the state ... individuals who are overcomes and/or add to their communities in highly significant ways. Material comes from Steve Flairty's travels around Kentucky interviewing such inspiring people.

Equipment needs: Lectern

Kentucky's Everyday Heroes for Kids

Sharing profiles of "everyday heroes" from around the state ... individuals who are overcomes and/or add to their communities in highly significant ways. Material comes from Steve Flairty's travels around Kentucky interviewing such inspiring people — along with nearly three decades teaching experience in the state's public schools — and is presented on an elementary school level.

Terry Foody Terry Foody
Kentucky Writer
Lexngton, KY

Work Phone: 859.539.6325 (cell)
Home Phone: 859.277.5291

Kentucky History

The Gist Boys: Sequoyah & Gratz 

Here is the true story of Sequoyah (George Gist), inventor of the Cherokee written language and his half-nephew, Henry Howard Gratz, editor of the Kentucky Gazette. This program traces the lives of each: famous relatives, literary achievements, political proclivities and common characteristics. Spanning three centuries and four wars, the Gist Boys were on the forefront of American history from Jackson to Lincoln, in Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri and Oklahoma. Foody illuminates their accomplishments and escapades through articles, letters and interviews.

Equipment needs: Projector and screen for PowerPoint

Heroes in Disaster: The 1833 Lexington Cholera Epidemic in Lexington, Kentucky, with Lessons for Today

During the 19th century, cholera raged through the United States several times, and Kentucky had very high fatality rates. In 1833, cholera killed one-tenth of Lexington's population in just a few weeks. Foody examines the devastation in Lexington from many angles—environmental, commercial, social, and medical. She will discuss early altruistic efforts, the black woman behind the white hero, founding of orphan asylum, and societal trends revealed in death reports. Despite great medical advances, cholera is still a worldwide killer. Foody explains why and compares it to other threatening global diseases, such as SARS, Ebola and pandemic flu.

Equipment needs: Microphone, screen

Jacqueline Hamilton Jacqueline Hamilton
Professor of English
Eastern Kentucky University
Winchester, KY

Home Phone: 859.935.5153


Kentucky's History Told In Sticks Jacqueline Hamilton makes four wooden sticks walk, talk, and dance while retelling stories about Kentucky's historic moments. She always brings additional sets of sticks for kids of all ages to practice this unique form of storytelling.
Kentucky Curiosities
Think you know the Commonwealth? Wait until you hear these true tales and tidbits. Mary Todd Lincoln is not our only First Lady. A Louisville man saved the life of Albert Einstein. Due to a surveying error, a 17-square-mile patch of Kentucky is not physically attached to the rest of the state. The infamous family feud of the Hatfields and McCoys ended in 2003 on national television. And that's just the beginning!
From Barbed Wire to Bluegrass: Holocaust Survivors in Kentucky
Some Holocaust survivors made their homes in Kentucky. Their stories before moving here—and their stories after living and working here—have forever changed many of our Bluegrass communities. Learn how Kentucky eighth graders worked with a Holocaust survivor to challenge Frankfort and shape Holocaust education for all Kentucky students. This interactive presentation concludes with the lighting of six yellow candles, a tradition of some Holocaust remembrance ceremonies.
Mary Hamilton Mary Hamilton
Kentucky Writer
Franfort, KY

Work Phone: 502.223.4523


The Storytelling Art

Explore the heart of the art of storytelling with award-winning storyteller and writer Mary Hamilton, author of Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies. Using examples from her oral and written repertoire, Hamilton shines light on what storytelling is and how it functions both as a performing art and as an essential element of everyday life.

Liar, Liar, Storyteller

Kentuckians have long entertained each other by stretching the truth to impossibility. Using selections from her oral repertoire and her book, Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies, Hamilton examines the traditional and evolving contemporary uses of tall tale telling.

Feeding Nightmares

Dread, deception, death, and dismemberment—such are the ingredients of Kentucky tales that have fed nightmares for generations. In this talk, Hamilton shares sample stories and reveals who told them, who collected them, and how she came to add them to her repertoire and publish them in her book, Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies.

Equipment needs: Microphone on a pole stand

Daryl Harris Daryl L. Harris
Associate Professor Dept. of Theatre & Dance
Northern Kentucky University
Newport, KY

Work Phone: 859.572.1472
Home Phone: 859.250.1153 (cell)

African American History

Wanted Freedom--Dead or Alive!

This talk explores and honors the lives and legacies of Kentucky travelers on the Underground Railroad. Rare newspaper "wanted notices for runaways" that provide detailed insight into these courageous individuals inspired this talk. These and other archival newspaper clippings along with texts from "Slave Narratives," poems, and Negro spirituals give further texture to the lives, personalities, and plights of those who sought freedom by any means necessary, some via the Underground Railroad, others via the "Train to Glory."

Lift Evr'y Voice and Sing!

For African Americans throughout the country, spirituals were the soundtracks upon which the Underground Railroad movement rolled. Freedom songs helped pave the way toward true liberation. Because of its geographical and political positioning, Kentucky gave birth to its own unique musical expressions. Not all African Americans in Kentucky were enslaved; therefore the reservoir of folk culture from which they drew their characteristic forms of expression was rich and deep—often without fixed boundaries between the sacred and the secular. In this talk, Harris takes the audience on a musical history tour through hurt, healing, and happiness. 

Free at Last! Free at Last!

This presentation surveys the history of African Americans from Africa to today through the dramatic reading of poetry, archival slave narratives, news clippings, political speeches, and archival "runaway slave ads," interspersed with "Negro Spirituals" and other traditional songs. While the format of this talk is nontraditional, the content is both informative and engaging.

Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah

Inspired by John Fox Jr.'s account of Aunt Dinah, whose divine cooking could "shatter the fast of a pope," Harris explores the contributions of African American women to the traditions of Southern culinary excellence. He describes the legacy and subsequent empowerment of "those turbaned mistresses of the Southern kitchen."

George Herring George Herring
Professor Emeritus
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 859.492.0332 (cell)
Home Phone: 859.373.9001


An Ordinary Soldier in an Extraordinary War

The years 2017-2018 mark the centennial of America's involvement in the Great War. This talk tells the story of an ordinary soldier in that war, a young doughboy drafted out of college in 1918. After training in Texas, he was sent to Europe. As a runner, one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army, he took part in the battles of St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne, the latter the most costly action of any American foreign war. Following the armistice, he served in the occupation army in Germany for six months, a challenge in its own way as difficult as combat. This young man was Herring's father. His story is based on letters he wrote home and a pocket diary he kept while in Europe. It provides a fascinating soldier's eye look at the "war to end all wars."

Equipment needs: Laptop, projector, and screen for PowerPoint

1968: A Year Like No Other

From North Korea's seizure of the U.S. spy ship Pueblo in January to the election of Richard Nixon as president in November, 1968 was a year like no other. It witnessed the Set Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam War, a surge of antiwar protests in the United States and Europe culminating in the chaos during the Chicago Democratic convention, and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was the year in which Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and in which National Guard troops were called out in the nation's capital. It included a major economic crisis. It ended with Nixon's election, perhaps abetted by an act that Lyndon Johnson aptly called "treason." This talk recalls the extraordinary events of 1968, seeks to put them in historical perspective, and compares then to the fractiousness of politics today. 

Equipment needs: Laptop, projector, and screen for PowerPoint

Jessica  Hindman Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
Kentucky Writer & Creative Writing Professor at Northern Kentucky University
Newport, KY

Work Phone: 859.572.5484


Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman's first book, a memoir titled, Sounds Like Titanic, will be published by W.W. Norton in early 2019. As a music student from rural Appalachia desperate to pay her New York City college tuition, Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman was hired as a violinist for a professional orchestral ensemble that had sold millions of albums, appeared on national television and performed sold-out concerts across the country. But it was too good to be true: the microphones in front of her were never plugged in, and recordings of better violinists were blasted out to unsuspecting audiences. Set in the early 2000s, a time when fake news and reality television entered the mainstream, Sounds Like Titanic chronicles Hindman's journey fake-fiddling across the country for fans who, in the fearful years following 9/11, found solace in music suspiciously similar to the "Titanic" soundtrack. But as the ensemble's tour schedule grows more taxing, their eccentric composer more oppressive, and the implications of her deceptions harder to ignore, Hindman's foothold on reality crumbles. The book includes a chapter wherein she integrates excerpts from Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men into the narrative. In this talk, Hindman will read excerpts from the memoir, including the one that features the Penn Warren excerpts. Hindman is also available to focus her talk on how to begin writing a memoir and helpful strategies for those who want to write about their lives.

Kenneth Hines Kenneth B. Hines, Sr.
Bowling Green, KY

Work Phone: 270.779.7114 (cell)
Home Phone: 270.843.3216


History of the Green River Basin

This talk gives a look at the history of the development and growth of the Green River Basin from the 1800s to the present day. The discussion will look at the history of the basin, the construction of the locks and dams, the boats used on the rivers, as well as the growth and subsequent decline of the basin. In addition to the history of the Green River Basin, Kenneth B. Hines, Sr. will share some of his personal stories as well.

Equipment needs: Projector

Tommy Hines Tommy Hines
Executive Director South Union Shaker Village
Morgantown, KY

Work Phone: 270.542.4167
Home Phone: 270.791.4261 (cell)

History & Culture

The Southern Culture in Kentucky's Shaker Villages

Kentucky's Shaker villages, South Union and Pleasant Hill, drew converts from the South. Those converts brought their own well-established manners, customs, and cultural biases into environments and systems that had been designed by Shakers rooted in the Northeast. South Union, in particular, had a difficult time adapting and, consequently, created a material culture and maintained a folklife that was unique among Shaker villages. From the food they ate to the furniture they produced ... from the way they spoke to the methods in which they constructed buildings ... the Kentucky Shakers were set apart from their northern counterparts. Their story is colorful, humorous, heart-breaking, and fascinating.

Equipment needs: Screen, electricity, and table for projector

Rural Kentucky Through the Lens of George H. Dabbs

George H. Dabbs was a Morgantown, Kentucky, photographer who worked from 1904 until 1934. Not only was he successful as a portrait photographer, but he was also a preservationist, capturing a quickly fading past. He left behind an incredible array of images that documented homes and workplaces, community events, disasters, and celebrations. His masterful work also included photographs of the last days of the colorful steamboat era on the Green River. Insightful, creative, and nostalgic, Dabbs' art is a priceless look into the distant past of a typical small town in Kentucky.

Equipment needs: Screen, electricity, and table for projector

Steven Hoffman Steven A. Hoffman
Executive Director Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts
Danville, KY

Home Phone: 859.583.1390

Culture & Communications

Community Resources + Cultural Programs = A Deepened Community Dialogue

Every community is unique in its resources. While there may be deficiencies in one area, there are abundances in others. Artists and cultural programs have been used in towns large and small to positively change community dialogue and build relationships through relevancy. Hoffman provides examples of how one small rural community has made a difference in bringing people together and has deepened, broadened and diversified its community engagement audiences through strategic cultural programming for schools, targeted service organizations and groups, and the overall community.

Equipment needs: Laptop, projector, and screen

Celebrating Each Other's Cultures

In 2014, the Norton Center for the Arts presented a Japan Festival that featured a delegation of over one dozen community members from Yamaguchi, Japan, including the first appearance in the USA in over 100 years by their cherished, traditional Sagi-ryu Kyogen Theatre company. In 2016, a reciprocal cultural exchange was organized in Yamaguchi that featured a Kentucky bluegrass band and other Kentucky cultural treasures. This presentation provides insights as to how the activities were organized, the breadth and diversity of programming for each excursion, why these exchanges were relevant and significant, and the benefits from these cultural exchanges. 

Equipment needs: Laptop, projector, and screen 

Gaye Holman Gaye D. Holman
Kentucky Writer
Louisville, KY

Work Phone: 502.897.2257


Decades Behind Bars: A 20-Year Conversation with Men in America's Prisons

Join Gaye D. Holman for a socially meaningful and enlightening discussion with a refreshing interactive approach. An author and sociology professor, Holman discusses her decades-long conversations and correspondences with Kentucky's inmates. In her book, she delves into the lives, families, crimes, and thoughts of 50 incarcerated felons. Her conversations extend to officers, administrators, and parole board members. Holman's work shines light on the fascinating but troubling subject of crime and punishment that most know little about, but that we, as citizens in a democratic society, can influence in profound and beneficial ways.

James  Hood James Larry Hood
Adjunct History Professor
Midway University
Nicholasville, KY

Work Phone: 859.351.1030 (cell)
Home Phone: 859.223.9825

Kentucky Culture & Politics

What is a Kentuckian?

This is a humorous and informative look at the enduring images Kentuckians and others have of the state and its people - from that of barefoot, warring hillbillies to southern aristocrats. The presentation will touch on Kentucky's core values of family and home, individualism and community, basketball and horse racing, snake handlers and mega churches, tobacco and whiskey and wine, yellow dog Democrats and dastardly Republicans. Kentucky will be presented as the nation's true borderland and heart.

Equipment Needed: Podium

Kentucky in American Politics: the Building of a Nation

This presentation recounts Kentucky's participation in the wars that forged the American nation: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. It notes the Kentuckians who have led the national legislature and describes how Kentuckians' votes in national elections have been reflective of country-wide trends.

Michael Johnathon Michael Johnathon
Kentucky Writer & Musician
Lexington, KY


Music & History

Front Porches, Kentucky and Your Hometown

The emotional horizon over America has changed so much the past 10 years. Anger, guns, school violence, and stress seem to permeate everything. Once upon a time, the front porch was the great pulpit, the community stage for families and hometowns. These days, they don't even build front porches on homes anymore. How do we get the "front porch spirit" back into our communities?

Equipment needs: PA system with two microphones and two stands

Caney Creek: Alice Lloyd and Strong Women of Appalachia

The story of Alice Lloyd is being turned into a motion picture. It is one of the most amazing, inspirational, breathtaking ... and true ... stories of Appalachia. And she was saved on national television, NBC, in 1955. In this talk, Michael Johnathon uses the story of Alice Lloyd to encourage young men and women to reach out, pursue their dreams, and most importantly, trust the effort for the public good.


Equipment needs: PA system with two microphones and two stands

Fred Johnson Fred Johnson
Kentucky Writer
Louisville, KY

Home Phone: 803.741.4540

Military & Culture

Five Wars: A Soldiers Journey to Peace

Fred Johnson served in the Army for 29 years and deployed to war four times: twice to Iraq and once each to Afghanistan and Bosnia. However, his most dangerous war, and the one that nearly killed him, was his fifth war, the one at home. In this talk, Johnson will speak to his state of mind struggling with PTSD and contemplation of suicide. Johnson discusses the events and experiences that brought him to the point of self destruction and how he was healed with the help of mental health professionals, friends, the arts, and a renewed sense of purpose through community service. Johnson concludes the talk with how he will stay healthy and pass his lessons learned on to others.

Equipment needs: If audio visual is available there is a PowerPoint presentation, but it is not mandatory

Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare with Veterans

No one in the English language speaks more directly to the warrior's heart and spirit than William Shakespeare. Shakespeare with Veterans was founded in partnership with Kentucky Shakespeare with the intent of bringing former armed service members to gather as band of brothers and sisters to share their experiences and connect them with Shakespeare's words and plays. Fred Johnson's presentation discusses how the program was formed and how veterans whose service span from the Vietnam War to present-day conflicts have benefited from the process. Johnson concludes with the importance of art and how it heals internal wounds in a most profound way.

Equipment needs: If audio visual is available there is a PowerPoint presentation, but it is not mandatory

Dr. Pearlie  Johnson Dr. Pearlie M. Johnson
Independent Scholar
Louisville, KY

Home Phone: 502.298.9234 (cell)

African American Culture

Quilt Art: Examining the Narrative in Kentucky Quilts

Based on historical records, secondary sources, and oral history interviews with quilters across Kentucky, Johnson discusses 19th century quilts made by black women living and working on slave plantations, traditional quilts made by African American women of the 20th century, as well as contemporary art quilts made by women of all cultural groups of the 21st century. Her work explores women's history, storytelling, identity politics, social activism and empowerment. Her study of quilts in Kentucky is aimed at examining cross-cultural parallels in technique and assemblage, as well as revealing unique designs.

Roots and Branches: West African Aesthetics in African American Quilts

Knowledge is power! This presentation is designed to enrich, encourage, and engage elementary through high school students. It includes either a PowerPoint presentation or Exhibition Booth.

The PowerPoint presentation includes photographs and links to video footage of African cultural groups making textiles. These are part of Dr. Johnson's ethnographic fieldwork while studying in Ghana. This information is then compared with Johnson's footage of African Americans making quilts. An interpretation of signs and symbols and their meanings are discussed.

The Exhibition Booth includes one-on-one talks and display boards featuring photographs of African textile production and African American quiltmaking, along with handouts and sample textiles for students to see and touch.

Equipment needs: Screen and overhead projector

Robert Lawson Robert Lawson
Kentucky Writer & Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Kentucky
Lexington Work Phone: 859.257.1936
Home Phone: 859.266.5640


Who Killed Betty Gail Brown: Murder, Mistrial, and Mystery

This talk is about two related historical events: one is the murder of Betty Gail Brown (a 19-year-old student at Transylvania College) that occurred in 1961 and remains unsolved, the other is about the murder prosecution, in 1965, of a man named Alex Arnold, who confessed to the murder while in jail in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Equipment needs: Microphone

Travel: Regions 5, 6, 7, 8

Patrick Lewis Patrick A. Lewis
Director, Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 502.564.1792
Home Phone: 270.839.1691 (cell)

Kentucky History

Ben and Helen Buckner: A Kentucky House Divided

Clark County sweethearts Ben Buckner and Helen Martin fought to keep their relationship together while supporting opposite sides during the Civil War. While Buckner led troops in the Union army, Martin hosted rebels in her parlor. Abraham Lincoln spoke of the United States as a "house divided," but this Kentucky couple managed to stand united. The fascinating personal history of Ben and Helen's courtship and marriage helps us explore broader histories that ask new questions about slavery, secession, loyalty, family, and forgiveness in Civil War Kentucky. Together, Ben and Helen teach us what values and ideals Unionists and Confederates shared in Civil War Kentucky as well as those that pushed them apart.

Equipment needs: Computer and projector

Refugees: Searching for an Untold Civil War Kentucky

A southern belle on a diplomatic adventure to combat rebel spies in Europe; a woman fleeing slavery and falsely convicted of murder in Louisville; a war widow whose cow was shot by enemy soldiers as she was milking it; a man who insists on his right to vote and calls into question the meaning of United States citizenship. These stories remind us that Civil War battles did not just happen on rolling hillsides under flying flags. All Kentuckians lived the  Civil War in their everyday struggles to survive, overcome, and understand this most critical time in United States history. In a global age of conflict and civil war, what new insights can these individuals provide us about America's most studied historical event?

Equipment needs: Computer and projector

Sarah McCartt-Jackson Sarah McCartt-Jackson
Kentucky Writer
Louisville, KY

Home Phone: 502.851.7868

Poetry & Kentucky Folklore

My Old Kentucky Poem: Creating Our Myth through Folklore and Poetry

Much of Sarah McCartt-Jackson's poetry draws inspiration from Kentucky folklore, using poetry to explore the stories, beliefs, and people of our pasts that live with us and haunt us in our present. In this talk, McCartt-Jackson reads from her award-winning books and chapbooks, discussing her professional background as folklorist and poet, and how she weaves folk narratives, beliefs, and oral history of Kentucky and Appalachia into her poems. McCartt-Jackson also discuses how others can use their own family history in their creative expression.

Equipment needs: Microphone 

Write Where You Are: Poetry and Place

We often teach writers of all abilities to "write what you know." In Sarah McCartt-Jackson's case, she writes of the places she knows. In this talk, she reads from her newest books, highlighting how she uses poetry and place to explore deeper truths about people, history, wilderness, home, and cultural and physical landscapes in her poetry. McCartt-Jackson encourages audiences to experience place through sensory-based approaches, and discusses how to incorporate a rooted awareness of place into creative expression.

Equipment needs: Microphone 


William Mulligan William Mulligan
Professor of History
Murray State University
Murray, KY

Work Phone: 270.809.6571
Home Phone: 270.519.0038


George Washington, Businessman

We know George Washington as our first president and as the leader of the Army during the Revolution. He is a heroic figure, almost a demi-god. But he was also a younger son of a middling planter who did not receive much education or inheritance. Yet, by 1775 Washington was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies, if not the wealthiest. As a businessman, he was innovative and willing to make changes and take calculated risks. It also led him to wrestle with the morality of slavery. Mulligan looks at how Washington's character as a businessman prepared him for his role as the successful leader of the United States' revolution for independence from the most powerful nation on earth and to be founder of a democratic nation. 

Kentucky and the War of 1812

Nearly all U.S. history textbooks heavily stress the impressment of American sailors on the high seas and other maritime violations of U.S. sovereignty as the cause of the War of 1812. In this talk, Mulligan suggests, and demonstrates from contemporary evidence, that the real cause was western unhappiness over British-supported Indian raids on the frontier that devastated settlements. Nowhere was this sentiment stronger than in Kentucky. The senators and congressmen from "western" states voted overwhelmingly for war; those from the states most involved in maritime trade and commerce largely opposed war. Two of every three American casualties were Kentuckians. The case is clear. Plus, the overall success  of the Americans in the west, largely the work of Kentucky troops, guaranteed a successful outcome in the peace talks. 

Equipment needs: PowerPoint projector and screen

Jeremy Paden Jeremy Paden
Poet & Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature, Transylvania University
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 404.276.2722 (cell)
Home Phone: 859.309.3361


American Vistas: How Latin American Poetry Speakers of the United States

Poetry, whether lyric or narrative, is a way of knowing ourselves and the world around us. It is a way, also, of getting to know others. This talk will present how Latin Americans have explored the relationship between the United States and Latin America through poetry. Among the topics that can be addressed are: how Latin Americans have used Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," with its expansive understanding of democracy, as a literary and political model: the myths of Latin Americans perpetuate about the U.S. in their poetry; or, how Latin Americans who have visited the U.S. write about it. This talk aims to give listeners a better understanding of our neighbors to the south by means of looking at how they have understood us.

The Poems and Letters of Ernesto Cardenal and Thomas Merton

From 1957-1959, the preeminent Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal was a novice under the directorship of Thomas Merton. After two years, he left to finish his theological studies in Cuernavaca and the two began an almost decade-long correspondence. In 965, Cardenal published a collection of poems titled "Gesthemani, Ky." Merton both wrote the prologue to the collection and translated them into English. Likewise, Cardenal translated Merton into Spanish. In 1966, in Lake Nicaragua, Cardenal founded a contemplative lay community that he said was inspired by Merton. This talk will be a reading and discussion of the poems and letters of Ernesto Cardenal and Thomas Merton. Though this talk will look at the intersection of poetry, religion, and politics, these topics will be addressed within the confines of the oeuvre and the biographies of Merton and Cardenal.

Equipment needs: Microphone

Carol Peachee Carol Peachee
Kentucky Writer & Photographer
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 859.338.5757
Home Phone: 859.559.2453

Kentucky Culture

A Photographic Tour of the Bourbon Industry's Heritage

Photographer Carol Peachee has spent the last seven years exploring the cultural and industrial heritage of bourbon making. For The Birth of Bourbon she photographed early distilleries, abandoned or currently operating National Historic Landmark sites. In Straight Bourbon she went behind the scenes to explore the rich craft heritage of bourbon's supporting industries that operate today using methods and techniques little-changed from the early 1900s. In this talk, Peachee shares her experiences photographing the early distilleries and the crafts of copper still makers, cooperages, warehouse builds, and historic mills.

Equipment needs: Projector and laptop

Barns of Kentucky

For her third photography book, photographer Carol Peachee traveled Kentucky photographing historic barns of all types, ethnic cultures, building materials, and architectural designs. Join her as she shares her images of these iconic symbols of Kentucky's agricultural heritage (to be published in 2019). 

Equipment needs: Projector and laptop

Ron Pen Ron Pen
Director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music
Lexington, KY

Home Phone: 859.825.8780

Music & Culture

Echoes of the Hills: Kentucky's Traditional Music

Kentucky has been justly celebrated for its contributions to country and bluegrass styles, but a diverse and vibrant range of earlier musical traditions made the hills and hollers echo with song and dance long before these popular styles came into being following World War II. Ron Pen will explore Kentucky's musical past through a talk illustrated by a PowerPoint presentation. A live musical performance of ballads, old time fiddle and banjo dance tunes, dulcimer songs, and shape note hymnody will animate the history and context.

Equipment needs: Chair without arms, projector and speaker setup capable of PowerPoint projection with a laptop

Sweet Strains of the Dulcimer

In 2001, the Kentucky legislature recognized the Dulcimer as our Commonwealth's state instrument. The dulcimer's roots are firmly planted in the soil of east Kentucky with the earliest instruments crafted in 1838 by Ely Boggs and "Uncle" Ed Thomas in 1870. Dulcimers created by McKinley Craft, Will singleton, and Jethro Amburgey spread throughout the country from Hindman. Performers including Jean Ritchie and John Jacob Niles popularized the instrument during the folk revival. This history will come alive through a talk illustrated by a PowerPoint presentation, enhanced with a live performance.

Equipment needs: Chair without arms, projector and speaker setup capable of PowerPoint projection with a laptop

Garin Pirnia Garin Pirnia
Kentucky Writer
Covington, KY

Home Phone: 937.684.5901 (cell)

Kentucky Cuisine

Beer Cheese Adventures

Kentuckians love beer cheese, yet the spread is rarely seen outside the confines of Kentucky. In The Beer Cheese Book, author Garin Pirnia traveled the state -- and made some stops in New York City, Chicago, and Detroit -- to find the best beer cheese and discovered what makes beer cheese so special. Pirnia will discuss the history of beer cheese, her experiences as a judge at the annual Beer Cheese Festival and the day she spent on the Beer Cheese Trail.Her book also contains more than 20 different recipes, so she'll discuss what beers are best used in beer cheese and how people can make it at home. Part culinary exploration and part travelogue, The Beer Cheese Book  is fun for all ages.

Equipment needs: Laptop and screen to show photos

Travel: Regions 3, 5, 6, 7

Mary Popham Mary Popham
Kentucky Writer
Louisville, KY

Home Phone: 502.895.0044

Writing & Reading

Writing Your Life Story

This program is designed to encourage all, even those who don't consider themselves writers, to get family stories down on paper or a digital record. As we grow older, we suddenly realize that we have become the historical sources and recorders. Recollections are valuable to those who haven't had your experiences, and preserving them will story treasure to enjoy now and later. This talk will suggest ways to elicit memories of who we are and what influenced us. Our heritage begs to be recorded as complementary to names, dates, and places. Mary Popham will explore adding family tales, customs, a memorable Christmas, your biggest regret, foods your family most loved -- the stories that make up our lives.

Back Home in Landing Run

In March of 1910, beautiful 20-year-old Emmalene Hershall has married an elderly moonshiner who brings her from the Eastern Kentucky Mountains to Nelson County, an area of Catholics. Agreeing to keep house and care for his mentally retarded grandson, she is released from other marital obligations but must overcome the prejudiced community as she discovers new love.


Tammy Horn Potter Tammy Horn Potter
Kentucky State Apiarist, President Emeritus of Eastern Apiculture Society
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 502.229.2950
Home Phone: 859.200.2207

Environment & History

Angels of Agriculture: Apiculture in 21st Century Kentucky

In response to federal initiatives, Kentucky's new Pollinator Protection Plan outlines multi-stakeholder efforts to increase habitat, promote communication with landowners, beekeepers and applicators, and provide educational opportunities to all citizens. Although this presentation focuses on honey bees, it will also include other pollinators such as monarch butterflies and other types of bees. Apiculture is agriculture, and Kentucky's shift to provide more habitat for pollinators of the Commonwealth is multi-faceted and involves everyone. 

Equipment needs: Computer, projector and microphone

Women and Bees

The demographics on apiculture have always shifted with political winds of fortune, and more recently, women beekeepers have changed the U.S. industry in research, migratory beekeeping, and extension both domestic and international. This presentation focuses on the historical importance of women beekeepers as well as current and future trends such as the organic movement that make beekeeping more feasible and less arduous for all people because of the influx of women beekeepers. 

Equipment needs: Computer, projector and microphone

Eddie Price Eddie Price
Kentucky Writer, Educator
Hawesville, KY

Work Phone: 270.922.1326 (cell)
Home Phone: 270.927.0471

Kentucky History

Kentucky After the War of 1812

This program looks at Kentucky's rise to prominence in the five years after the War of 1812. With Henry Clay as Speaker of the House and an increasing presence on the national stage, Kentucky develops into one of the most influential states in the new Republic. Clay presses for his "American System" with a National Bank, protective tariffs, and a network of nationally funded roads and canals. Steamboat travel increases on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Hemp will mean new opportunities for some Kentuckians as the cotton trade and world markets expand. Learn about Kentucky in those "forgotten years" history books often bypass. 

Equipment needs: Laptop and projector for PowerPoint slideshow, but is not mandatory
Homemaking on the Kentucky Frontier

Think you have it hard? Imagine life without electricity, running water, gas heat, or air conditioning; a world without refrigeration, modern medicine, TV, motion pictures, automobiles, and computers. Using historic home utensils, furnishings and tools, Eddie Price takes you back to the Kentucky frontier to explain how pioneers made and maintained their homes. A slideshow illustrates just how hard pioneers had to work to do the simple, everyday things in life. 

Equipment needs: Laptop and projector, table for tools and home implements

The Cane Ridge Revival: The Great Revival that Transformed Kentucky

When people talk about the "Bible Belt" they might be interested to learn that its roots began in the great Cane Ridge Revival, held in today's Bourbon County. No one can deny that it changed lives and shaped Kentucky's (and the Deep South's) social and cultural development. Take a journey back to 1801. Find out what drew 25,000 people to Cane Ridge. Sing one of the old hymns that some folks claimed to "make the flesh tremble."

The Battle of Blue Licks

By 1782 the American Revolution was drawing to a close. Lord Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown and negotiators were hammering out the Peace of Paris. But war still raged for frontier settlers, American Indians, and Canadian rangers. On August 19, 1782, Kentuckians would suffer one of the worst military defeats of the war. Learn about the events leading up to the battle that some historians call "The Last Battle of the American Revolution." 

Nancy Richey Nancy Richey
Associate Professor, Reading Room Coordinator/Visual Resources Librarian
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, KY

Work Phone: 270.745.6092
Home Phone: 270.784.1443 (cell)

Kentucky Music

Mose Rager: Kentucky's Shy Guitar Master

There are many country guitar legends—Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, and Eddie Pennington, to name a few—who trace the root of their music to Mose Ranger. A Muhlenberg County, Kentucky native, Rager's tune, "Walkin' the Strings" said much about his ability. Known for developing a unique thumb-picking style, Merle worked as a barber and a coal miner when he wasn't playing gigs with Grandpa Jones, Curly Fox, and Texas Ruby. Although Mose died on May 14, 1986, his sound lives on when modern day pickers try to play "That Muhlenberg Sound." 

Equipment needs: Projector and microphone

Anne Shelby Anne Shelby
Kentucky Writer& Storyteller
Oneida, KY

Home Phone: 606.847.4792

Kentucky Art & Folktales

Henry Faulkner: Kentucky Artist

Henry Faulkner, one of Kentucky’s best and best-known artists, exhibited his paintings around the country and in Europe. Born on a Simpson County farm in 1924, he grew up in an orphanage in Louisville and a foster home in Eastern Kentucky. He lived for more than twenty years in Lexington, where he was at the center of a thriving gay community. A world traveler, prolific poet, and enthusiastic blues singer, Faulkner attracted famous friends (like playwright Tennessee Williams), and became famous himself, both for his artwork and for his unconventional behaviors (like taking his pet goat to gallery openings). He died in an automobile accident in Lexington in 1981. This look at Faulkner’s life and work includes a slide show of his colorful paintings and a short film about his just-as-colorful life. 

Equipment needs: Screen and projection system for Windows Live Moviemaker, PowerPoint, and DVD

Once There was a Writer ...

Anne Shelby has written and published poems, plays, stories, essays, newspaper columns, and books for children. In this pat-talk, part-reading, she shares three stories. First, the story of how she fell in love with folktales, read and studied them, and told them to audiences. Second, how – and why -- she searched hundreds of folktale collections, looking for stories with women or girls as their main characters. What she found, how she selected and adapted it, and what happened next. Third, Anne shares a story from the resulting book, an award-winning collection for children and adults, The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales

Equipment needs: Podium, table for displaying books

Melony Shemberger Melony Shemberger
Assistant Professor of Journalism, Murray State University
Murray, KY

Work Phone: 270.809.6874
Home Phone: 270.252.4874 (cell)

Reading & Culture

Dorothy Dix: Sob Sister, 13th Juror, Investigator

Early 20th century reporter Dorothy Dix is remembered best for her personal advice colum, "Dorothy Dix Talks," and is regarded as the predecessor to the columns of Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren. But she earned her national reputation as a "sob sister" during the 15 years she worked for Wililam Randolph Hearsts's New York Journal as its leading crime reporter, concentrating mostly on murders and trials. Moreover, Dix was the "thirteenth juror" because she covered the trials involving women during an era when women were not allowed to serve on juries. Other times, she was the interviewer, or investigator, who talked to suspects that wouldn't speak to the district attorney, or she was the detective in search of witnesses who could not be located by authorities. This talk by longtime Kentucky journalist Melony Shemberger profiles a southern woman who has not been recognized fully among the region's history of writers.

Equipment needs: Projector and screen

The Bookmobile: An American Icon

In the late 1930s in east Kentucky, the Works Progress Association helped to fund the Pack Horse Library Project, which employed women to deliver books and other reading material to remote mountain schools and residences. This effort helped launch a greater interest in the concepts of bookmobiles, one of the social changes that brought benefits of townspeople to rural folks. Melony Shemberger discusses how the early popularity of the bookmobile transformed the service into an icon of American culture.

Equipment needs: Projector and screen


Frederick Smock Frederick Smock
Kentucky Poet Laureate
2001 Newburg Road
Louisville, KY

Work Phone: 502.727.4715


The Nature of Poetry

In original poetry and prose, Kentucky Poet Laureate Frederick Smock explores how poetry works—our capacity to learn and be astonished; what allows us to feel as we do; and how do our feelings and knowing grow. Poetry is often mysterious and ambiguous—but pleasantly so; in this, it mirrors life. 

Equipment needs: Microphone

Sandy Staebell Sandy Staebell
Kentucky Museum Registrar/Collections Curator at the Kentucky Museum
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, KY

Work Phone: 270.745.6260


Kaleidoscope: Quiltmaking in Kentucky 

Mention Kentucky in conjunction with arts and crafts and for most people quilts immediately come to mind. This talk explores Kentucky's rich quilt making heritage and includes examples of both traditional and contemporary quiltmaking.

Equipment needs: Microphone and screen
Faces & Places in Kentucky Quilts & Textiles

Quilts and other textiles frequently use faces and places that are tied to memory and provide a sense of identity, family, or place. In some, these images were based on real life individuals such as President George Washington and Kentuckians Henry Clay, George Rogers Clark, and Robert Penn Warren, while in others they were inspired by fictional characters such as Don Quixote or children, real and or imagined. Examples of "places" found in textiles include state quilts, governmental buildings, churches, and honeymoon cottages.

Equipment needs: Microphone and screen
Georgia Green Stamper Georgia Green Stamper
Kentucky Writer, NPR Local Commentator
Lexington, KY

Work Phone: 859.619.5700 (cell)
Home Phone: 859.264.0465

Writing & Culture

"You Might as Well Laugh," Mother Always Said

"Laughter," Stamper wrote," was my mother's tonic and psychiatrist—and her gift to me." Sometimes called a Kentucky version of Bailey White, Georgia's stories are every man’s—told with a Bluegrass slant. In this entertaining presentation culled from her most popular public radio commentaries and newspaper columns, she discusses the unique role humor has played in shaping Kentuckians' culture and philosophy. The rural folk expression "you might as well laugh" became an intrinsic defense weapon in their battle to survive.

Butter in the Morning: Extraordinary Ordinary Kentuckians

The author of two books (Butter in the Morning and You Can Go Anywhere), Georgia Green Stamper grew up in Wendell Berry country on her family's tobacco farm. In this presentation her understanding and appreciation of the region's character is on display, celebrating the ordinary Kentuckians who called her rural crossroads home. From farmers in bathrobes who taught her the true meaning of the Christmas story, to the Widow Rogers who freed her slaves and gave them both her blessing and wherewithal to immigrate to Liberia, Stamper's people are extraordinary.

Our Stories: Yours and Mine

"Kentuckians are great storytellers," Stamper says. "It may even be an inherited trait." Every family, every community, seems to have a stash of unique and treasured memories passed from one generation to the next. However, in a technology driven society that does not stop to sleep, much less to linger on the front porch telling stories, she worries that our oral heritage will soon be lost. With humor and reflection, she shares tales of her place and kin, encouraging listeners to remember and preserve their own.

Richard Taylor Richard Taylor
Kenan Visiting Writer at Transylvania University
Frankfort, KY


Culture and Poetry

Elkhorn: A Journey in Time

The main stem of Elkhorn Creek, the second largest tributary of the Kentucky River, encapsulates the history of central Kentucky from pre-settlement, the frontier era, through the industrial era to the present where the creek is used primarily for recreational purposes. The landscape has been transformed and in some ways its environment degraded by human presence, yet retains an allure from those who love nature and want to immerse in a semi-wild place fishing, kayaking, or simply hiking portions of its length.

The Landscape of Current Kentucky Poetry

This journey into literature covers the range and diversity of current poetry in Kentucky, including such writers as Wendell Berry, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, George Ella Lyon, and many others. There will be a discussion of what characterizes poetry written in Kentucky and the sources of inspiration that give it a distinct flavor. There will be some discussion of the creative process, even a workshop for those interested in testing their creativity.


Bob Thompson Bob Thompson
Kentucky Writer & Professional Storyteller
Crestwood, KY

Home Phone: 502.553.3406


Preserving Our History and Culture, One Story at a Time

We seldom give thought to the uniqueness of our lives. We are overwhelmed by the enormity of the universe and tend to underestimate our value and place in it. We doubt our observations and experiences are worthy of preservation or representation. We wait for Andy Warhol's "15 minutes of fame" to find us, hoping someone else might take the responsibility, that somewhere in the future, a historian will be inclined to dig back through our graveyards, towns, and communities to provide at least peripheral perspective to our lives. This presentation features stories written and told by Bob Thompson on his long-running NPR radio show, "Kentucky Homefront" and in his book, Hitchhiker, Stories from the Kentucky Homefront. These personal narratives will be used to explain Thompson's process of mining memories, diaries, and family artifacts to explore, preserve, and share our common threads.

Storytelling in Business

This talk will address the long-standing business problem that content specialists don't often have the ability to convey their knowledge and insights to people outside of their discipline. Brilliant engineers, programmers, and accountants don't always communicate well. Bob Thompson made a 30-year career as a "sales engineer," a technical storyteller, bridging the gap between left and right brained business people and their customers. The skills of a storyteller are invaluable to any business presentation. This talk will provide examples and methods of making any subject or product into an entertaining and compelling story.


Juanita L. White Juanita L. White
Script Writer & Researcher
Louisville, KY

Work Phone: 502.681.6034 (cell)
Home Phone: 502.327.7885

African American History

Edith Goodall Wilson: Blues/Jazz Singer/Actress

Edith's professional career began at age 13. Later, she recorded with Columbia Records and performed in Europe both solo and with other notable African Americans (Harlem Renaissance era). She acted in a Bogart/Bacall movie and on radio on the Amos and Andy shows. She worked 18 years for Quaker Oats as Aunt Jemima doing public appearances and television commercials until they terminated her during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Actress Gloria Moorman performs as Edith and sings her signature song, "He May Be Your Man But He Comes to See Me Sometimes."

Equipment needs: One or two tables to display items related to the talk

The Big House Becomes a School House

The site of Simmons College of Kentucky (Louisville) was once owned by Samuel Churchill. The mansion house where he lived until death became the theological school house for African American students in 1879. The history is fascinating. One of Samuel's daughters was married to a physician who attempted to kill President Abraham Lincoln — yet years later became Kentucky 28th governor. A Louisville family formerly owned Samuel Churchill has descendants who currently provide scholarships to needy Louisville African American youth.

Equipment needs: One or two tables to display items related to the talk

Travel: Regions 2, 3, 4, 6
J.D. Wilkes J.D. Wilkes
Kentucky Writer
Paducah, KY


Kentucky Music & Culture

Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky

J.D. Wilkes discusses the history of the traditional "barn dance" and other musical get-togethers of Kentucky's past and present. Complete with a slideshow of his colorful photographs, this talk also features Wilkes' performance of Kentucky banjo tunes, harmonica playing, and a Q&A session.

The Music and Myth of Kentucky
J.D. Wilkes discusses his two books, The Vine That Ate The South (Two-Dollar Radio, 2017) and Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky (The History Press, 2014). The former is a novel about folklore, and the latter is a non-fiction travelogue/history book about traditional Kentucky music. Wilkes explains the importance of preserving both traditions as Kentucky's tunes and tales become increasingly threatened by modernization. This talk is accompanied by a slideshow of photographs & illustrations from both books and a musical performance by Wilkes on banjo and harmonica. A Q&A session follows, which often includes audiences sharing their favorite Kentucky folktales and ghost stories
Equipment needs: Slide projector, screen, and microphone
Jeff Worley Jeff Worley
Lexington, KY

Home Phone: 859.277.0257


Voices from Home: A Reading of Kentucky Poets

In this presentation, Worley will read poems by modern and contemporary poets from the state and will provide historical and personal background on those writers. The starting point for the reading will be the anthology What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets. Among the poets included are Wendell Berry, Kathleen Driskell, Jane Gentry, James Baker Hall, George Ella Lyon, Maurice Manning, Jeffrey Skinner, Richard Taylor, and Frank X Walker. These poets have had an active literary presence in the state for decades; several have served as Kentucky Poet Laureate. Worley will also feature the work of younger Kentucky poets who have gained recognition and acclaim for their work.

Equipment needs: Microphone (unless it is a small group)

A Poetry Presentation by Jeff Worley

Worley will read from his books and chapbooks, which have won national, regional, and state prizes, and some of the more Kentucky-based poems have merited three Al Smith Fellowships. Part of this presentation includes a discussion of how poems get written, the poetic process—a discussion focused not only on Worley's own poems but also the work of other poets. Where do poems come from? How is a writer inspired to write his or her poems? How real is "writer's block?" What techniques can overcome it? This part of the program will be interactive, involving the writing experiences of those attending the group.

Equipment needs: Microphone (unless it is a small group)