Planting a Tree to Remember Those Gone

IMG_3328In the world of work, the focus always seems narrowed to profits, strategic plans, productivity, but rarely to the lifelong relationships established within companies and organizations. For most of us who spend nearly as much time on the job as we do awake at home, our colleagues often become our second family. From the sharing of baby pictures, wedding shower gift exchanges, and Girl Scout cookie purchases, to weekend hunting/fishing trips, sporting events, etc… it’s easy to see how many co-workers share a bond similar to that of families.

So it comes as no surprise to us when a group of Louisville Parks and Recreation employees, on their own time and with their own resources, decided to memorialized fellow coworkers who passed away. Befittingly, they decided the best way to do that was by planting trees in our parks and on our golf courses; places where bonds of friendships were formed. Trees are too the lifeblood of our planet. Their leaves and bark suck up harmful pollutants and release clean oxygen allowing ALL of us to breathe.
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According to Joshua Wysor, a former Parks Union Steward, the idea of planting trees to memorialize colleagues who passed away surfaced last year following the death of Ronnie Hardin, Sr., a longtime parks employee who had recently died. Wysor said he was approach by fellow parks employee Todd Board asking if they could do something like plant a tree to honor Ronnie’s life and service.

Wysor liked the idea, and after asking around, quickly received full support from several current and former employees. After consultation with Hardin’s son (Ronnie Jr.), many current and former employees decided to plant Hardin’s favorite tree (Flowering Dogwood) in Hardin’s favorite park (Cherokee Park). In addition, Wysor and other also planted a tree in memory of another colleague – Roger “Bay” Ellington who died in 2015. Afterwards, during a picnic, the group decided to continue the tradition following the death of a co-worker.
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This year, Wysor and the team got together to honor three more colleagues who passed away. Tom “Elvis” Jordan passed away last winter, Michael Clayton and Chris Badgette died earlier this year. Wysor and the team planted an Umbrella Magnolia for Jordan (Magnolia was his favorite tree) along Beargrass Creek in Cherokee Park, a Carolina Silverbell in Clayton’s favorite park Chickasaw Park, and another Carolina Silverbell for Badgett (who worked in Golf Maintenance) at Seneca Golf Course.

“What an appropriate way to pay tribute to fellow co-workers,” said Seve Ghose, Director of Parks and Recreation. “Trees not only stand as a symbol of remembrance for those gone on, but as a vibrant living species to be enjoyed by those living and future generations.”

March Madness Continues into April with a Local Team Competing in the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament

Louisville Spokes and Spires
Louisville Spokes and Spires wheelchair team

By Walter Munday
Outreach Supervisor
e-mail Walter

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend my first wheelchair basketball
game. I was on assignment taking pictures during a weekend tournament, and my
son tagged along with me. Just as we strolled along between courts, two
competing players crashed with one player/chair toppling over to the floor.

As the whistle blew indicating a foul, an arm extending from a nearby teammate uprighting the player/wheelchair, and the game played on. It was at that moment
when I realized that this was simply basketball where players/teams who loved the
game, regardless of their circumstances, were competing playing a game they
loved. As we were leaving, I asked my son what he thought about wheelchair
basketball, and his simple teenager response was, “they can ball.”

Next month, the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament will once again be
here in Louisville. The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and
Louisville Sports Commission are excited to host to the 70th anniversary of the
tournament, which is presented by ABC Medical. The tournament will run April 12-
15 in Louisville, Kentucky. The NWBT has been held in Louisville since 2013, and
overall will be making its 11th trip to Kentucky.

Wheelchair basketball first emerged around 1946 in the USA, developed by injured
servicemen from World War II. Most were former able-bodied players who wanted
to continue playing the game. The simple adaptations and slight rule variations for
people in wheelchairs allowed the sport to spread across the US, and eventually
worldwide.

This year, we are excited that the Louisville Spokes and Spires, a local
wheelchair basketball team, qualified for the tournament. Louisville Spokes and
Spires practices at Berrytown Recreation Center in eastern Jefferson County.

Berrytown Recreation Center is one of 14 Louisville Parks & Recreation Community
Centers. Louisville Spokes and Spires is a 14-member team playing in the NWBA’s
Division III. The players on the team range in age from 17 – 50(+). Herb Henry
and Jeremy Randall are two of the players. They were instrumental in forming the
new team three years ago.

They along with many of the current players were former members of Kentucky Hill on Wheels team, which won the Nationals in their Division in 2008. Members of Louisville Spokes and Spires team include: Herb Henry, BJ Bonmon, Charlie Coon, John Cirstofoli, Dustin Dove, Genc Hyseni, Micah Jackson, Jeremy Randall, Amy Verst, Luanne Thompson, Jimmy Green, Justin Harris, Andrew McCaffrey, and Beth Bryant. This will be their first time competing in the national tournament.

One of those competing is Genc Hyseni, a war survivor from Kosovo. Hyseni and
his family immigrated here when he was only two years old. Henry, a veteran
wheelchair basketball player, was a former University of Louisville football player.
His story has been well documented. In 1992, Henry was a victim of a shooting
when a fight broke out at University of Louisville’s Red Barn, a former industrial
building that beginning in 1969 was used as student event space. Henry was shot
twice paralyzing him.

Neither of these gentlemen let their circumstances dictate
their desire to compete, and are honored to be playing in this year’s tournament.

“I am very excited to have Louisville Spokes and Spires represent our City as we
host the NWBA National Championships. I’m looking forward to a great run with
lots of support from our local family and friends,” said Henry.

The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) is comprised of over 200
wheelchair basketball teams across twenty-two conferences.

The NWBA was founded in 1948, and today consists of eight divisions including: Division I, Division II, Division III, Women’s Division, Intercollegiate Men’s Division and Intercollegiate Women’s Division, as well as Junior 10’ (Varsity) and Junior Prep Divisions. This year, there are a total of 98 teams coming to the tournament. That includes four different divisions for adults and also three divisions for juniors. There will be about 16 teams in our division.

Locally, our eyes will be on the Louisville Spokes and Spires. A member of the team,
Jeremy Randall, said, “The team has worked hard to get to this point. It is certainly validation of our efforts but we also know the toughest road lays ahead.”

Beechmont Community Center Hires New Supervisor

Tonya Cowden

By Walter Munday
Parks Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

A familiar face is the new Supervisor at Beechmont Community Center. Tonya Cowden, a former Recreation Assistant at the center since 2010, was recently hired to replace Kevin Kinney who was promoted to Recreation Manager.

Cowden joined Louisville Parks and Recreation in 2008 following a nine year stint with the Community Action Partnership. A native of Glasgow, Kentucky, Cowden is a graduate of Louisville Central High School and Kentucky State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Cowden is a mother of three with one grandchild. When asked what her goals where for Beechmont Community Center, her response was simple,

“Elevate the work that’s been done at the center, which has a strong focus on partnerships and community involvement.”

Beechmont Community Center is located at 205 West Wellington Avenue in the Beechmont Neighborhood. It’s housed in the former Beechmont School which opened in 1912, and closed in 1975. The former school building became the Beechmont Community Center thanks to efforts of the Beechmont Women’s Club (now Beechmont Neighborhood Association) after the school closed. The center is one of 13 Community Centers managed by Louisville Parks & Recreation, and offers a wide array of programs, services and activities including: Arts & Crafts, Drama, Fitness, hot meals through the Kid’s Café and the Senior Nutrition Program, Pottery, Table Tennis, and so much more for kids and seniors. The center also has a weight room, and is a safe place for those looking for something to do.

Stop by and meet Tonya and her wonderful staff. And while you’re there, check out all of the center’s amenities.

Zach Newman – an “Extreme” star gets his start at local stake park

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Zach (left) is pictured Louisville Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith, his wife Rachel, and his parents Kevin and Debi Newman.

By Walter Munday
Parks Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

Last July, Frankfort native Zach Newman finished 4th in the BMX Vert Competition at the World X Games in Minneapolis, MN.  Zach, the top USA finisher, placed behind Australian Vince Byron, nine-time winner Jamie Bestwick from the United Kingdom, and Chile native Coco Zurita.  Unlike his competition, Zach was underrated and unsponsored.  As an underdog, and he put himself on the world map at this year’s X Games.

Zach, 28, was born in Frankfort, KY, but fell in love with extreme sports at the age of eight.  This was during the 90s and early 2000s when “Extreme Sports” were gaining popularity.  In fact, the X Games and the Extreme Sports Channel had just launched.  Following the opening of the Louisville Extreme Park (now David Armstrong Extreme Park) on April 5, 2002, and the Tony Hawk‘s Secret Skatepark Tour at the park that year, Zach (approximately 12 yrs. old by this time) was totally hooked.

A few weeks ago, Louisville Parks & Recreation invited some professionals to the David Armstrong Extreme Park to test themselves on a new metal vert ramp that’s considered to be among the finest skatepark elements in the world.  The ramp was designed and built by G. Ramps AG, a German firm specializing in skate park elements construction, and the pieces were transported to the United States by a ship.  Zach, and few others traveled to Louisville to check it out.

Zach, along with his parents Kevin & Debi and wife Rachel came down.   I had an opportunity to catch-up with Zach and his parents, and learn a little more about his love for extreme sports.

“We would spend our weekends in Louisville,” said Debi.  “I was like the mother to all of the kids who skated at the park back then.”

Both Kevin & Debi like skating.   “I would skate the flat surfaces while my husband Kevin would venture into some of the smaller bowls.”

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Zach, now 28, graduated from Frankfort High School in 2007.  He attended and graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a degree in photography.  Zach and his wife Rachel reside in Bellevue, KY, and he works full-time at a local skate shop.

According to an article published in his hometown paper (The State Journal), Zach indicated that he’s even more excited about his future now that he has one X Games competition under his belt.

“You always want to strive to be the top and the best, set the bar high, and that’s what I did,” Newman said. “Almost 20 years later, I’m still striving for that same goal, but now it’s within grasp. I feel like I solidified myself a spot in next year’s games and I’ll come swinging.

From New Mexico to Louisville – meet Tim Fulton, new Operations Administrator

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Tim Fulton, who last served as parks administrator in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is now serving in a similar capacity for Louisville Parks and Recreation.

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter 

After more than 30 years on the job, Jackie Gardner retired earlier this year.  In search for her replacement, Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation cast the nets far and wide as part of a national search, and Tim Fulton, from New Mexico was hired as the new Operations Administrator.

Prior to arriving in Louisville, Tim was the Parks Administrator for the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Las Cruces is approximately 46 miles north of the Mexican border, 225 miles south of Albuquerque, and 48 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces’ estimated population is approximately 101,643, making it the second largest city in New Mexico after Albuquerque.   Las Cruces is the home of New Mexico State University.

As the Parks Administrator, Tim oversaw the maintenance and management of over 100 parks, all city trees, about a dozen of sports fields, the city’s trail system, parkways and specialty parks that included a skate park, archery range, model airplane airport and a 640-acre natural area.

“During my tenure in Las Cruces, I introduced the concept of zone management, which provides the park workers with more autonomy which resulted in better maintained parks.  In addition, I developed an Integrated Pest Management Program, supervised the development of a tree inventory and forestry management plan.  I used my knowledge as a Certified Playground Safety Inspector to improve the maintenance the city’s playgrounds,” Fulton said.

While in Las Cruces, Tim was selected by the city manager to lead a team of city staff in the creation of a city-wide succession plan.  In addition, he was chosen to serve on the staff committee to explore and select projects for the city’s general obligation bonds.  Under Tim’s leadership, the Las Cruces Park & Recreation partnered with the New Mexico Department of Health through their Healthy Kids Healthy Communities program.

“Our role in this program was to lead the design and installation of way-finding signage and promotional materials to encourage youth and their families to use the city’s trail system,” he said.

Tim also served on the Las Cruces Bicycle Friendly Task Force and promoted cycling among city staff and elected officials through a program called Back on the Bike; a program which teaches participants the basics of safe bicycle commuting.

A native of central Texas, Tim is a big outdoor enthusiast.  He graduated from Texas A&M University, and received a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science.

“I enjoy spent my free time outside hiking, swimming and enjoying nature,” said Tim.  “That’s simply why I chose a career working parks & recreation. Originally, I wanted to a research biologist, but one of my professors was a wonderful teacher and I realized I had a passion for teaching others about my love of nature.  Parks and Recreation provided me with the opportunity to work with communities and develop programs and facilities that connect people and nature.”

Tim’s interest in Louisville Parks and Recreation began about 20 years ago when learned about our Olmsted Parks system.

“I heard great things about Louisville – a city moving in the right direction,” he said.  “Everyone I spoke with shared how much they loved this wonderful city, and its parks.”

Tim indicated that he’d been looking for an exciting and challenging new job, and felt confident he’d find that hear.

“All of this, plus the fact that Louisville’s Parks and Recreation department is an accredited agency made me want to be part of this team.”

Back to school kids! We had a great summer!

IMG_1470By Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation staff
e-mail us

We’ve had a great summer at Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation! Summer camps, outdoor programs, evening movie nights and events at our two historic homes … it’s been jampacked with lots of fun. We hope you enjoy the photo document below that we put together to chronicle all the awesome activities we’ve shared with you and your families.

We look forward to a great fall and are planning for Summer 2018 – we know it’s sure to be another great one!

Photo document:
Summer Fun @ Parks & Rec Photo Document.wmv

South Louisville sewing club opens hearts to support cancer patients

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The sewing club at the South Louisville Community Center meets to knit caps for women who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. 

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

Recently, I had the opportunity to read an article by Caring.com Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, which focused on how to support a cancer treatment patient battling hair loss.

Haiken writes, “In the face of a life-threatening illness and treatment that’s sometimes as painful as the illness itself, hair loss might seem like a small worry. But it’s just the opposite: For many cancer patients, losing their hair is one of their biggest fears, and one of the most emotionally upsetting experiences of the whole cancer journey. However, there are ways to help someone cope with the emotional side of hair loss.”

Last winter, South Louisville Community Center’s Sewing Club led by Carolyn Anthony, provided more than 50 hand-knitted hats to women in the Louisville area battling the loss of their hair due to cancer treatment.

Laneisha Beasley is the supervisor of the center, and indicates that eight ladies participate in the club, which has been meeting at the center for about a year.

It’s free, but participants must bring all of their equipment and supplies.  The club meets on Mondays at 11:30 am, and anyone interested in joining can stop by South Louisville Community Center to register.

South Louisville Community Center is located at 2911 Taylor Blvd.

Golf: it’s never too late to learn

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Terry Hawkins and Alice Edwards

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

As baby boomers move from careers to retirement, many find themselves searching for new interests; new passions to idle their time. After spending forty or fifty years punching a clock – or more – many retirees haven’t taken the time over the previous decade or two to nurture hobbies.

Often couples, whose lives/careers may have traveled completely entirely different paths, struggle to find mutual interests. But that’s not the case for Terry Hawkins and Alice Edwards.

This couple enjoys dual residency both here in Louisville part of the year and in Florida the other part. While in Florida, Terry and Alice noticed that many of their new friends all were avid golfers.

Since neither one of them played, they thought it might be fun to learn. So, they signed-up with Barry Bonifield for lessons last year. Barry is the Golf Pro at Crescent Hill Golf Course.

When I asked Alice, who is an avid tennis player, which one was harder, Alice replied,
“Golf is the most challenging sport I’ve ever tried to play by far, but it’s definitely the most fun.”

Over the last year Alice and Terry have been hitting the links several days a week perfecting their game. They’re really enjoying the game of golf, and more importantly, they’ve developed a hobby they can enjoy together.

Happy Mother’s Day from Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation!

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Ginny Reichard Park, located at 1001 Franklin Street in the Butchertown area, is one of several Metro Parks named after prominent citizens – and mothers – from the area.

By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

This Sunday is Mother’s Day; a special holiday honoring motherhood. Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and later became an official U.S. holiday six years later in 1914. On Mother’s Day, husbands and children often present their mothers, wives, grandmothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and/or family dinners honoring mom.

In recognition of Mother’s Day, Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation would like to recognize all of the contributions women have made to our parks and recreational amenities. We’d like to pay homage to five of our parks which dedicated in honor of contributions from women in our city. Those parks include Eva Bandman, Carrie Gaulbert Cox, Hays Kennedy, Georgia Gean (G.G.) Moore and Ginny Reichard.

Eva Bandman

Three of the five parks named after women are located along the Ohio River. The first is Eva Bandman Park which is 59.28 acres located at 1701 River Road. Eva Bandman Park was acquired in 1937.

Eva Bandman loved the city. In 1953, following a gift of 17 acres of land along the river at River Road and Barbour Avenue to the city for parks, she told a reporter that she loved “parks and picnics”. She didn’t like much publicity, so there few other details. What we do know is she was an avid supporter of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association and the Jewish Community Center. She was an officer of the Council of Jewish Women. She died in 1964 at the age of 76, and left a portion of her nearly $1 million estate to civic and charitable organizations.

Bandman’s uncle was Ben Washer, a teacher and later dean of the old Jefferson Law School. Bandman’s charitable giving must have followed in her uncle’s footsteps. Washer donated several parcels of land to the city along with being an author and philanthropist. The Jefferson County Law School merged with University School of Law around 1950. Washer was the dean from 1930 until the merger. Ben Washer Park is located at 519 W. Kentucky Street.

Carrie Gaulbert Cox

Another park named after a woman is Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park located at 3730 River Road. Cox’s Park is 51.2 acres acquired in 1952; 44 acres of which came from a $50,000 gift from Ms. Harriet (Cox) Collis, Carrie Gaulbert Cox’s daughter. At the request of Ms. Colls, the park was named in memory of her mother – Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park. Carrie was the only daughter of George and Hattie Gaulbert, the founders of the Peaslee-Gaulbert Corporation, one of the largest paint manufacturers in the country, and the inventors of ready-mix paint. Peaslee-Gaulbert Corp. is credited with helping to rebuild the South after reconstruction by enabling homeowners to paint their own homes and businesses.

The Gaulbert family owned the a three-mile stretch of land from the river up to Brownsboro Road. Carrie later married Attilla Cox, Jr., and they build the Malvern House, a historic home which overlooks the Ohio River. They hired Frederick Law Olmsted to design the landscaping. Carrie (Gaulbert) and Attilla Cox also had one daughter named Harriet.

In an interesting bit of history, the life of Attilla, Carrie and Harriet almost came to an abrupt early demise. In 1911, Harriet Cox (an only child) traveled with her parents Carrie and Attilla Cox to Europe by ship. While there, she contracted scarlet fever, her sickness so severe that the family had to cancel their return trip back to the United States. That return trip was scheduled for April 1912, on the maiden — and only — Titanic voyage. The entire family lineage could have ended had Harriet not been so sick to travel.

Hays Kennedy Park

Ms. Kennedy was born Hays Robinson to Henry and Louise Robinson on March 1, 1893, in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the sixth of nine children. She was a longtime member of Lampton Baptist Church, and started attending Harrods Creek Baptist Church when she married Calvin Kennedy on November 23, 1923. Mr. Kennedy was the brother of Rev. Harrison Kennedy who was a founding member and pastor of Harrods Creek Baptist Church on River Road. He died in October of 1966.

One of the most faithful volunteers in Harrods Creek neighborhood was Ms. Hays Robinson Kennedy. Ms. Kennedy was a “nurturing sole” who loved children. Not having any biological children of her own, she adopted all of the kids in the neighborhood – black and white. She coordinated activities for the young people in the neighborhood. Ms. Edith Edmondson, a lifelong resident of the Harrods Creek, was one of those neighborhood kids, and vividly remembers Ms. Kennedy and the cross-town softball games between the J-town and Newburg centers.

“Ms. Kennedy loved kids. She was definitely committed to volunteer service. She worked hard to coordinate activities for the kids and raise money for programs and playground equipment,” Ms. Edmonson said.

On November 15, 1972, the Prospect-Harrods Creek Optimist Club was formed. Their first big project was to develop the newly identified park. Several local churches Green Castle Baptist Church, Harrods Creek Baptist Church, and St. Francis in the Fields in the Field Episcopal Church, joined the Prospect-Harrods Creek Optimist Club, the then Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Department to name the park.

On Saturday, July 27, 1974, their dreams were realized with the dedication of the Hays Robinson Kennedy Park. A memorial now stands at the park with the following biblical passage printed on it which reads “suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for such is the Kingdom of God.

After more than a half-century of service to the Harrods Creek neighborhood Ms. Kennedy passed away on January 15, 1985, at the age of 91. A Courier-Journal article (date/author unknown) I found in our files here at Metro Parks highlights Ms. Kennedy’s volunteer service. The short article is titled “Fund-raiser for Children”. It calls attention to Ms. Kennedy’s simple fundraising techniques, which often included regular collecting of bottles along the side of the road, organizing fish fries and ice cream socials all to raise money for playground equipment and youth programs.

Her love and commitment to helping others resounds loudly through the many voices and memories of those I spoke with who remembered Ms. Kennedy. While many of our parks carry the name of Indian tribes, former politicians, explorers, philanthropists, Hays Kennedy Park bears the name of a “good shepherd” whose unyielding sacrifice and perseverance are an everlasting testament to her legacy.

G.G. Moore Park

G.G. Moore Park is a small pocket park located near Churchill Downs at 626 M Street. The park is just under one acre, and was a Georgia Moore was a leader in establishing high school classes for African-Americans in Louisville. The South Louisville Colored School was renamed in her memory in 1918. It closed in 1956 and the students were transferred to Heywood School. The property was sold to the city of Louisville and the location is now the G. G. Moore Park.

Ginny Reichard Park

On the corner of Wenzel and Franklin streets, a small park went unnamed for a numbers of years. It’s address is 1001 Franklin Street, and is the smallest of the five parks listed in this article at just .22 acres. The park was acquired in 1949, but it wasn’t until 1981 that it was named after Virginia Anne “Ginny” Reichard, who was a neighborhood activist in Butchertown. Reichard originally grew up in Oldham and Eastern Jefferson County but moved to Butchertown in the late 1960s. She began working for the hearing and speech center at Kentucky Easter Seal Society around the same time.

Barbara Banaszynski, a fellow activist described Reichard’s character.

“It seemed like she was always concerned with others. Always working for others,” she said. ”

Reichard was also involved with a number of neighborhood projects such as Oktoberfest. She even helped purchase the Butchertown house that Thomas Edison once lived in.

“It seemed to me that whenever something needed to be done in Butchertown, Ginny was always on the spot,” Sam Dorsey, the neighborhood Representative at the city’s Neighborhood Development Office explained.

A brief history of ‘Forest Fest,” Louisville’s celebration of bluegrass and Jefferson Memorial Forest

Print
This year’s Forest Fest advertisement

By Autumn Costelle
Americorps VISTA Worker, Jefferson Memorial Forest
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Jefferson Memorial Forest used to be known as “Jefferson County’s Best Kept Secret,” but not anymore. With the help of Forest Fest, an annual bluegrass festival that promotes local businesses and artists, the Forest is gaining attention as the most treasured natural playground in Louisville’s backyard.

Forest Fest began 13 years ago, when Tonya Swan, the program manager at the time, decided to try something new to bring Jefferson Memorial Forest into the public eye. The beautiful 6,600 acres of sloping, tree-covered hills right in the middle of Fairdale needed an event to draw in visitors who might not normally come to the forest.

“I wanted it to be something that introduced the rest of Louisville to this great Forest and this very traditional community that held onto its small-town feel right in the middle of the largest city in Kentucky” Swan said, explaining her motivation for starting the event.

Despite Kentucky’s rich Bluegrass roots, Swan felt that Louisville had failed to showcase the genre and the talented artists from the area.

It would take a lot of effort, but she believed Forest Fest would be an excellent opportunity to bring Bluegrass fans out to the forest and put both the music and the location on the map. The first Forest Fest was in 2005, and there were just two bands, 100 people, an oversized stage, and one speaker.

In recent years, however, Bluegrass has made a comeback in Louisville due to regular jams, the work of Bluegrass Anonymous, and local bands becoming more popular in the area.

By 2008, Forest Fest’s headliners were Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, and the event attracted over 5,000 attendees.

The event is growing every year with six musical acts and more local food and drink vendors and family activities. The event could not happen without all of the amazing volunteers, forest and parks staff, and sponsors such as Metro Council, LG&E, and WFPK.

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Berk Bryant, the “Country Gentleman’ from WFPK Radio, has been a familiar site throughout the history of Forest Fest. 

Forest Fest includes both traditional and progressive/Americana bluegrass. The Forest has recently added music and band workshops as well as an expanded camping area for the festival.

Rebecca Minnick, current Program Manager at the Forest, took over the festival in 2013. She starts planning the next year’s festival when summer camps end and works tirelessly to gather all the required resources needed to hold such a huge event in the middle of a forest.

An outdoor event always comes with hiccups and difficulties. But even on a rainy day like they had for Forest Fest 2016, people were dancing in the rain and having a blast.

One of Minnick’s favorite parts about Forest Fest is the kid’s nature play activities. The kids can make mud pies and fairy villages, get up close with native wildlife, and dance around the trees. Minnick wants kids to say to their parents “I had so much fun playing in the forest, can we go back there?”

The goal of Forest Fest is to promote Jefferson Memorial Forest and raise awareness of all the infinite opportunities for free, fun learning right in your backyard.

Jefferson Memorial Forest is a place for Louisvillians to hike and picnic under the leafy canopy and a chorus of songbirds.

A place to go fishing with your children. A place to discover all the wildflowers of spring. A place to camp under more stars than you can count. A place for your children to look back on and remember those magical days of summer camp where they got to catch bugs, go canoeing, and build forts in the woods.

And lastly, a place to enjoy a beautiful spring day surrounded by the best Bluegrass and Americana music in Louisville!

This year’s Forest Fest is happening May 20th from 10:30am to 7:00pm. Admission is free. Parking is $10 per vehicle.

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