Boone Day 2015: The Stories That Make Up History

Ben Sollee talks with journalist Tom Eblen and the audience during his concert Friday.

For more than a century, KHS has commemorated the June 7 nearly 250 years ago when Daniel Boone first saw the land that would become the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Boone Day also has become a birthday party for Kentucky, which joined the Union on June 1, 1792. In the weeks surrounding June 7, we visit groups throughout Kentucky taking cake and a copy of the 1792 Kentucky Constitution. These trips allow us to share this significant date with others and to honor them for their work in keeping history alive and relevant in their communities.

While Boone Day commemorates the whole of Kentucky’s history, this year’s event reminded us that many personal stories make up that whole. At a concert Friday night, Lexington journalist Tom Eblen talked with Ben Sollee, a Kentucky composer and cellist who entertains worldwide, about his Eastern Kentucky roots and how they and other influences shaped his musical style and life.

Alumnae of Western High School in Paris dedicated two bricks in honor of the school’s first two principals, Mary E. Kellis and W.B. Reed.

Sollee said that traveling the world allows him to share Kentucky’s complex story with others and also to tell them a different story than what many people know.

On Saturday, individuals told stories of ancestors, loved ones and special friends as they honored them with commemorative bricks in the KHS Craille-Day Garden. Honorees ranged from Revolutionary War soldiers to special teachers and a first-grade friend who made a lasting impression.

Later, following a buffet lunch, Wes Cowan and Bob Edwards talked with journalist Alan Lytle about the power of history in our daily lives.

“My experience through ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and even more than that, ‘History Detectives,’ has taught me that contrary to what people believe, Americans love history,” said Cowan, an anthropologist, historian and antiques auction house owner who appears frequently on PBS. More specifically, people love history that “revolves around … individual stories that we have about our families that often relate to an object that then ties that family back into a bigger story about American history.”

Bob Edwards, Wes Cowan and Alan Lytle discuss history in our daily lives at a post-lunch program.

Radio host Bob Edwards agreed.

“My life is enriched by knowing where my family fits into Kentucky and U.S. history,” he said, describing how his Catholic ancestors migrated to Kentucky from an anti-Catholic Maryland, helped found Nelson County and contributed to the bourbon industry a label that still lives today. That one family provides a microcosm of Kentucky history.

We at the Kentucky Historical Society often see people experience the sense of enrichment that comes from connecting with their past—the “aha” moment of discovering their place in the whole of Kentucky and national history. We believe it is that understanding that helps people make more informed decisions going forward, and that it can take place on the personal level and in organizations, businesses and government.

As Edwards and Cowan agreed in their discussion:

“The more we know about the past and how it shapes our country, the better. You can’t go back too far.”


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