Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.
~ Nido Qubein
Today was the much anticipated Kentucky Field Trip with our IFLA guests. We wanted to give them a good overview of how beautiful and awesome The Bluegrass State can be. What better way than Keeneland and Buffalo Trace Distillery? Bright and early we loaded up the UK bus (with our awesome driver, Sarah) and off to Keeneland we went. Becky Ryder, Director of the Keeneland Library and local committee member, met us there (as did Ruth Bryan, Kazuko Hioki, and Michael Lütgen who drove themselves). She treated our guests to a delicious Kentucky style breakfast. Judy Sackett even tried gravy and biscuits for the first time…and she liked it! Our guests were then treated to a tour of the track, the grounds, and the sales pavilion. It was a beautiful thing to see their eyes light up watching the horses train, and the excitement when one of the outriders stopped by for a chat was just so special. My heart swelled with pride. Except for the oppressive humidity, it was as close to perfect weather as we could ever hope for.
We could have spent a lot more time at Keeneland. The tour guides were incredibly engaging and the ladies especially loved the gift shop, but Buffalo Trace was waiting on us, so we loaded up the bus and off we went again. This is where the story gets good. My contacts up to this point were not the people who met me at the visitor center as expected. Instead, the Distillery Archivist (whose name I have sadly forgotten) and a man named Art met me at the door. When I asked for my contacts, Art simply said, “I’ll be doing your tour.” It was a bit odd, but I was okay with it because I could tell right away he was a cool dude. We soon found out how lucky we were that Art was our tour guide. He was the most entertaining tour guide I’ve ever had. We had a ton of laughs – and that was before the samples – but we learned a great deal, too, not just about bourbon but the general history of the area. I might also add that the now-forgotten-named archivist was great as well.
Art really showed off our Kentuckian sense of humor to our guests (a point of personal pride for me). Truly, he was a load of fun, and when it came time for the samples, he shared with us their White Dog brand. It’s essentially alcohol (something ridiculous like 170 proof) before it’s aged to become bourbon. He poured some in their hands mostly to smell, although a few did taste it. Their reactions ranged from “that’s not so bad,” to, “Oh my God, I tasted it!” followed by a contorted face. In any case, a gentle rubbing of the hands produced the smell of bread caused by a chemical reaction of the alcohol on skin and oxygen (I think). Everyone then had a chance to sample a couple of their more popular brands, as well as root beer and bourbon chocolate made by Ruth Hunt Candies, another Kentucky staple. By the time we left Buffalo Trace, everyone was tired but completely happy. We could not have planned a better representation of the Commonwealth. My heart was bursting with pride and joy.
That brings me back to where the story gets good. This is Art with IFLA participant and US Government Docs librarian Cynthia Etkin from Virginia. I had the pleasure of getting to know Cindy yesterday when we lunched with Reinette Jones. She’s a warm hearted, open soul who was so happy to be with us and learn about all the good – and troubling – things going on in the world of news media preservation. She had lived and worked in Kentucky for many years some time ago, both at WKU and EKU. It was at the latter where she met Art. Oh yes, they knew each other before today. On the way back to the hotel we learned that she not only knew him, but she dated him… for thirteen years! They never married (at least not each other), but you could tell they remained close after all this time. Cindy had told Art she was coming to Kentucky and would be on the tour. Art, in turn, insisted he be our tour guide. It all made sense why my contacts did not meet me when we arrived. Theirs was one of the sweetest stories I’ve heard, and learning their history together was the perfect way to wrap up our shared adventures. Every second of this week as been worth the sweat and sleeplessness. I made new friends, connected with old friends, shared time with mentors, and smart men and women from all over the world. We might solve this preservation dilemma yet. I continue to be the luckiest woman alive.