15 Things You Might Not Know About Kentucky

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1. Kentucky Bend is an odd little geographic quirk of the state. At the far southwestern tip of Kentucky, the tiny exclave of Fulton County sits in a meander of the Mississippi River. As an exclave, it’s a portion of Kentucky that doesn’t touch any other part of the state. Kentucky Bend is bordered by Tennessee to the south and Missouri on all other sides. To make things even more confusing for the handful of residents of “Bubbleland,” their mailing addresses are all in Tiptonville, Tenn. Any official function—like voting—forces Bubbleland’s residents to drive 40 miles through Tennessee and back into the main body of Kentucky. 

2. Kentucky was originally a part of Virginia, but that arrangement didn’t work out too well for early Kentuckians. The enormous land area of the state made it tricky for Kentuckians to travel to the capital, and the interests of Kentucky’s residents didn’t always align with those of Virginians. On June 1, 1792, Virginia gave Kentucky the go-ahead to break off on its own to become the 15th state.

3. Technically, Kentucky isn’t a state at all. Like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, it’s officially a commonwealth. What’s the difference? In practice, there isn’t a meaningful one. The designation is a relic of colonial relations with England, and since Virginia was a commonwealth, Kentucky billed itself as a commonwealth when it struck out on its own.

4. Kentucky’s state tree is a surprisingly hot political issue. In 1956, the state legislature named the tulip poplar the state tree, but a clerical error kept the bill giving the tulip poplar the honors from ever being officially added to the books. When this blunder came to light in 1973, the legislature decided to reconsider the issue—it was suddenly open season for fans of other trees to make their case for the state’s highest arboreal honor. Despite hard charges by sycamore and tulip poplar advocates, in 1976, the legislature settled on the Kentucky coffee tree, a relatively rare species whose seeds provided pioneers with a coffee substitute. 

The tulip poplar faction didn’t just roll over and accept this defeat. They kept agitating for the legislature to once again reopen the issue and return the tulip poplar to its rightful throne. After years of campaigning, their efforts finally paid off. In January 1994, the tulip poplar was once again named Kentucky’s state tree. Fans of the Kentucky coffee tree have no doubt spent the last two decades plotting their countermove.

5. Kentucky’s chicken and bourbon get all the publicity, but it’s also a great barbecue state. Owensboro bills itself as “The BBQ Capital of the World,” and while there are plenty of other cities with a reasonable claim to the honor, Owensboro can make a pretty strong case. Unlike the pork of North Carolina or the beef of Texas, Kentucky’s main event BBQ meat is mutton. This mutton is often served with another Kentucky favorite: the thick, spicy vegetable and meat stew known as burgoo.

6. If mutton’s not your thing, Kentucky has plenty of other culinary delights. The state’s signature sandwich, the hot brown, isn’t the healthiest choice, but it’s undeniably delicious. This open-faced delicacy consists of bread piled with turkey, ham, bacon, and sliced tomato, drowned in a rich cheddar sauce and then broiled. The sandwich originated at Louisville’s Brown Hotel in 1923.

7. Rainbows are incredible, but Kentucky is home to an even rarer and more breathtaking sight. In Cumberland Falls on the Cumberland River near Corbin, you might spy a moonbow—a rainbow made from light reflected off of the moon. On clear nights when the moon is full or nearly full, you can see a moonbow in the falls' spray.

8. One more fun stop for foodies. Trigg County is known for its delectably salty country hams, and for 38 years the second weekend in October has seen Cadiz host the Trigg County Ham Festival, a celebration of all things hammy. It’s worth a trip to get a taste of the enormous country ham biscuit that's made for the event every year—it was certified by Guinness as the largest of its kind.

9. Enjoy the Kentucky Derby? Tip your cap to Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Clark watched England’s famed Epsom Derby during an 1872 visit to Europe and wanted to create something equally impressive back home in Kentucky to showcase the local horse breeding industry. Upon his return, he got to work. Clark first founded Churchill Downs on land he leased from his uncles, John and Henry Churchill, and when the track was finally ready to open on May 17, 1875, the featured event on the first day of racing was known as the Kentucky Derby.

10. Kentucky makes a cameo appearance at most birthday parties. “Happy Birthday to You” was originally written by Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters who taught kindergarten in Louisville. Their original song had different lyrics and was called “Good Morning to All,” but it eventually transformed into the birthday favorite.

11. Thomas Edison made the first major public display of his newly created incandescent light bulb at Louisville’s Southern Exposition in 1883. The visit was something of a triumphant return for Edison—he had lived in Louisville in the mid-1860s while he was working as a Western Union telegraph operator. He was supposedly sacked from that gig after spilling a jar of acid while doing an experiment on company time.

12. Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave lives up to its name. The caverns, which became a national park in 1941, constitute the longest cave system in the world. Over 400 miles of the limestone caves have been explored. The caves are home to a variety of subterranean oddities, including the endangered Kentucky cave shrimp, a blind, albino crustacean.

13. Contrary to popular belief, Kentucky’s state flag does not depict local heavyweights Daniel Boone and Henry Clay embracing. Rather, the two men are supposedly representative of any old statesman and frontiersman. What’s not up for debate: It’s not the world’s most popular flag. When the North American Vexillological Association polled the public on the best state and province flags in North America in 2001, Kentucky’s design finished 66th out of 72 entries.

14. In the mid-20th century, Lexington had a “town dog” named Smiley Pete. The stray dog, who was named for his human-like grin, was a fixture in downtown Lexington. Locals collectively looked after Smiley Pete, and the pooch supposedly had a daily routine that included begging for a hamburger and waffle at a diner and a bowl of draft beer at a tavern. When Smiley Pete passed away in 1957, he was memorialized with a brass plate on the sidewalk in his old sniffing grounds.

15. Don’t be fooled by the booming distilling industry. Kentucky’s official state beverage is milk.

11 Masks That Will Keep You Safe and Stylish

Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

Face masks are going to be the norm for the foreseeable future, and with that in mind, designers and manufacturers have answered the call by providing options that are tailored for different lifestyles and fashion tastes. Almost every mask below is on sale, so you can find one that fits your needs without overspending.

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Home Essentials

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2. 3D Comfort Masks 5-Pack; $20 (25 percent off)

Brio

The breathable, stretchy fabric in these 3D masks makes them a comfortable option for daily use.

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This cotton mask pack is washable and comfortable. Use the two as a matching set with your best friend or significant other, or keep the spare for laundry day.

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RipleyRader

Don’t let masks get in the way of staying active. These double-layer cotton masks are breathable but still protect against those airborne particles.

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Its All Good

Avoid the accidental nose-out look with this cotton mask that stays snug to your face.

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Elicto

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Triple Grade

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Designer Face Covers

Channel some tropical energy with this flamingo fabric neck gaiter. The style of this covering resembles a bandana, which could save your ears and head from soreness from elastic loops. Other designs include a Bauhaus-inspired mask and this retro look.

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9. Seamless Bandana Mask; $8 (52 percent off)

Eargasm Earplugs

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Design Safe

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Prices subject to change.

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15 Facts About Babe On Its 25th Anniversary

James Cromwell in Babe (1995).
James Cromwell in Babe (1995).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years since a tiny pink piglet named Babe stole the heart of audiences around the world, and turned many of them into lifelong vegetarians (more on that later). What’s almost even harder to believe is that the heartwarming story of a pig who wants to be a sheepdog was partially ushered into existence by George Miller, the same man who brought us the Mad Max franchise. Here are 15 things you might not know about the little piggy that could.

1. James Cromwell thought the original idea for Babe was silly.

When actor James Cromwell first heard about Babe, which is based on Dick King-Smith's novel, “I thought it sounded silly,” he told Vegetarian Times. “I was mostly counting the lines to see how much of a role the farmer had.”

2. Farmer Hoggett has just 16 lines in Babe.

But by that point, Cromwell was already sold on the script, intrigued by what he called the “sophisticated yet pure-of-heart piglet.” And he clearly made the right call: The part earned Cromwell an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

3. It took 48 different pigs to play the role of Babe.

Because pigs grow quickly, the crew utilized four dozen Large White Yorkshire piglets throughout the course of filming, shooting six at a time over a three-week period. A total of 48 pigs were filmed, though only 46 of them made it to the screen.

4. Babe also featured one animatronic pig.

Animal trainer Karl Lewis Miller seemed almost embarrassed to admit that they did have one animatronic pig play Babe, too. This is the pig they used for wide shots—when there was at least 15 feet surrounding Babe all the way around, and no place for Miller to hide.

5. Babe is a girl.

While this is never explicitly stated in the movie, because a male pig’s private parts would have been visible on film, all of the pigs used for filming were females.

6. In all, there were 970 animals on the set of Babe.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Karl Lewis Miller—who had 59 people assisting him—said that, all told, there were 970 animals used for the film, though only 500 of them actually made it into the movie. This included pigs and dogs, of course, plus cats, cows, horses, ducks, goats, mice, pigeons, and sheep, too. Baa-ram-ewe indeed!

7. Babe is also Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory.

In addition to voicing Babe, voice actor Christine Cavanaugh—who passed away in December 2014—lent her vocal chords to more than 75 projects over the years, including the title role in Dexter’s Laboratory, Chuckie Finster on Rugrats, and Gosalyn Mallard on Darkwing Duck.

8. Babe was banned in Malaysia.

Not wanting to upset its Muslim community, to whom pigs are haram, Malaysia banned the family flick from screening in its theaters. But its proscription didn’t stick; the film was released on VHS about a year later.

9. Pork product sales dropped in 1995.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In December 1995, just four months after Babe hit theaters, Vegetarian Times ran a story about the problems facing the pork industry. Among the factors contributing to the industry’s slump, according to writer Amy O’Connor, was “the motion picture Babe, featuring an adorable porcine protagonist and a strong vegetarian message.” She went on to note that, “This year, the U.S. Department Agriculture showed stagnant demand for pork, while retail sales of canned meats such as Spam hit a five-year low.”

10. Sales of pet pigs increased following the release of Babe.

In The Apocalyptic Animal of Late Capitalism, author Laura Elaine Hudson is unable to substantiate claims that pork sales dropped a full 25 percent in the U.S. following the release of Babe, as some sources claimed, but she did find that sales of pet pigs increased—as did, eventually, the number of abandoned pigs.

11. Babe turned many viewers into vegetarians.

Babe’s popularity—and its main character’s adorableness—led to many fans of the movie (particularly young viewers) adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. The practice became so widespread that it was dubbed “The Babe Effect,” and fans of the film who went meatless became known as “Babe vegetarians.”

12. James Cromwell is a "Babe vegan."

Among those individuals whose eating habits were altered by Babe was the movie’s human star. Though he had been a vegetarian decades before, Cromwell “decided that to be able to speak about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian again.”

13. Mrs. Hoggett was aged up for Babe.

Magda Szubanski stars in Babe (1995).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Magda Szubanski, who plays the farmer’s wife Esme, was only 34 years old at the time of the film’s release. She logged lots of time in the makeup chair in order to pass as the wife of her then-55-year-old co-star.

14. Jerry Goldsmith was hired to score Babe, but was replaced.

Jerry Goldsmith wrote a good deal of the music for Babe, but he and George Miller’s ideas for what it should sound like did not mesh. So Goldsmith was replaced by Nigel Westlake.

15. Babe earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Among Babe's seven Academy Award nominations (yes, seven) was a nod for Best Picture, which pit the pig film against an impressive lineup that included Sense and Sensibility, Il Postino, Apollo 13, and Braveheart (which took home the award). The film did win one Oscar: it beat out Apollo 13 for Best Visual Effects.

This story has been updated for 2020.