The HerKentucky 60 Things Project: Paducah

In last Sunday's Herald-Leader,  Cheryl Truman, with the help of many readers, listed 50 things that define Lexington.  We thought it would be fun to make a similar HerKentucky list, with 10 things that define our respective hometowns.  Up next? Sarah's list of things that define Paducah.

1. Rivers. They don't call it River City for nothing. Paducah sits at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers - just upstream from where the Ohio joins with the Mississippi and just downstream from where the Cumberland meets up with the Ohio. There wouldn't really be a Paducah without them. It defines industry in Paducah, with the barge business being a major employer in town. It has shaped our history, with floods being the events that mark time. It has truly shaped our town.

2. Quilts. I've covered this before. Paducah is the Quilt Capitol OF THE WORLD.  The city's calendar revolves around the Quilt Show in May, when the entire town shuts down to welcome quilters from across the globe. We have a Quilt Museum, quilt shops, quilt societies. Quilts are our thing.

3. The Arts. Our official tagline is "Distinctively Creative" thanks to the strong and ever-growing artists community in Paducah. In the 1990s, the city government began offering artist real estate in our LowerTown for CHEAP (as in $1 cheap) if the artist pledged to fix up the real estate and make his or her home in Paducah. The Artist Relocation Program was a huge success (even got written up in the New York Times!) and now we have a town that truly values the arts ... not to mention a truly cool regional arts festival.

4. The Market House. The centerpiece of our downtown. The Market House originally housed the town's market. Now, it is home to the Market House Theater and Museum, as well as the Yeiser Art Center. Surrounded on both sides by cobblestone streets, it was recently named one of the Top Five Most Romantic Main Streets in the U.S.

5. Barbecue. Again, I've covered this before. We love barbecue in Western Kentucky and particularly in Paducah. I know other places have barbecue. It's just not as good as our's.

6. Maiden Alley Cinema. Our local non-profit art house cinema would be awesome enough on its own but it also hosts the state's second oldest film festival every fall, which gets better every year!

7. The Downtown Food Scene. We've got the only other family owned and operated Doe's (a Southern institution). We have one of the oldest and BEST bakeries in Kentucky. We also have the best seafood, Italian, and Mexican - all within a couple blocks of each other. Not to mention, every Saturday in the summers the streets are shut down to cars and fill with people, performers, and music. 

8. The Lake. Kentucky Lake with all its splendor is only a half an hour away, which means it is an indelible part of most Paducahan's lives (and history). 

9. Whitehaven. If you roll through Paducah on I-24 (as most people do), then you this historic mansion will welcome you from high atop a hill above one of the main exits. Built in the 1860's, it is now a welcome center and houses memorabilia from the life of one of Paducah's most famous citizens - Vice-President Alben Barkley.

10. Noble Park. 135 acres of playgrounds, ponds, and trails. I like to think of Noble Park as Paducah's own little Central Park. It is a popular place for picnics and play dates all year round but it really sparkles in December when the city lights up the entire park for the holidays.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland