Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 1, 2013

Tour to showcase hope and culture

GRAYSON — An upcoming motor coach tour through some of Kentucky’s “distressed counties” will offer glimpses of reasons to be hopeful and celebrate Appalachian culture, according to organizers of the Oct. 10 and 11 journey through Carter, Elliott, Menifee, Wolfe and Morgan counties.

“It’s a tour trying to show the world what Appalachia is all about, our lifestyles, products, foods — everything,” said Michelle Wallace of Carter County, who serves as treasurer for Foothills Eco-Agri Tourism and team leader for Elliott County. “What we see as common is not so common for a person from the outside. We want people to experience our beauty and nature. We always say we’ve got what Pigeon Forge started out with, mountains and trees and hillsides and beauty. They have, of course, become such a destination spot. We want to share Appalachia with the rest of the world.

“This is such an odd tour. Our FEAT members will be at some of the different stops where they will set up with Appalachian wares from baskets to custom knives to paintings and artwork pieces, just whatever it is in our five counties they make,” Wallace said, explaining the event was originally conceived as “a bus tour through our five ‘distressed’ counties: Elliott, Carter, Morgan, Menifee and Wolfe, with an emphasis on agritourism.

“It started as ag, but there were more who wanted things like the basket girl and others who were working with their hands. It’s still a handmade item,” Wallace said, noting FEAT now has 60 members, with members helping each other with business concerns such as sales taxes, social networking and eBay sales, “so they can focus on crafting. We help each other.”

Wallace said Classy Limousine is providing a pair of “party bus” vehicles, which are smaller than standard tour buses, to make the rural tour more comfortable.

“We originally had a big tour bus reserved and then we found some of those really have a hard time turning, especially on Wolfe and Menifee County roads. So, we downsized to two what we call party buses,” she said.

The Friday and Saturday tour has been divided into two parts so participants will have options, Wallace said.

“Some people just wanted a day trip, so they’ll spend the whole day in Carter County with us Friday,” Wallace said, noting the tour will begin at Quilt Haven in Grayson, proceed to Buck Farm, continue to Grayson Art Gallery for at, entertainment and storytelling before continuing with shopping at Antiques and Uniques, lunch at Melini Cucina, shopping at The Chicken Coop and Garden Gate Greenhouse and wrapping up with a hayride to Rock Springs Winery with a wine-tasting, dinner, stories and a showcase of local arts and crafts.

Two-day tourists will then travel to Sandy Hook and spend the evening at the Little Sandy Lodge, starting the second day the next morning with a country breakfast at the Laurel Gorge Heritage Center, where they can browse the museum of Appalachian History and see memorabilia from the late country musician Keith Whitley. The cultural heritage center also features a quilt expo and storytelling during the tour. With more storytelling set at a barn along the quilt trail, the tour continues to Caney Valley Antiques General Store, which was built in 1937 and features seven rooms of antiques. Lunch for day two of the tour will be at the Lemon Tree in West Liberty, followed by stops at the Fannin Farm and Red Rooster Antiques before offering a view of restoration efforts ongoing as a result of the 2012 tornado which nearly destroyed the mountain city. The day concludes with entertainment including a performance of “Mountain Memories” by the Menifee County Community Players, and a boxed dinner from Rains Confection.

Wallace said most who have signed up for the tour already live in the area but wanted to learn more about neighboring counties they aren’t familiar with.

“It started out with the hope of folks from the outside wanting to come in, but the longer we worked on the tour it seemed several from our area wanted to visit counties they don’t get to normally visit, like Menifee and Wolfe counties,” she said.

While many local counties are labeled by the government as “distressed,” Wallace said FEAT members have found an excellent business and working community throughout the region. “We buy and trade with each other. In Morgan, Wolfe and Menifee counties, I now network with some really nice business owners,” she said. “As one business owner, I can’t do much to promote tourism. But, if I work with 60 other business owners with same mindset, with those kind of numbers we can accomplish something.”

Wallace said some overnight accommodations remain available along with a few day-trip seats and full-package tickets. The cost is $175 for double occupancy for two days or $150 with no lodging (both days); or $85 for one-day only. For details or more information, visit ekfeat.com on the Internet or call Gayle Clevenger at (606) 738-5565.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.

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