Reflections on #kyrux2017: Bowling Green

By Nicole Musgrave

This year I’ve had the joy of representing the Kentucky Folklife Program as the regional host coordinator for the 2017 Bowling Green Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange community intensive.  In this role I planned a variety of experiences with people and places around South Central Kentucky that represented the region’s history, culture, economy, and landscape.  It was fun to have the opportunity to host RUX members in Bowling Green and to share the things I find exciting about living in South Central Kentucky.

The experiences that I chose for the weekend reflected the stories about the region that I felt were important to highlight.

One thing I knew I wanted to showcase was Bowling Green’s immigrant and refugee communities.  Bowling Green is a refugee resettlement city, a designation which has helped enrich the city’s cultural and ethnic diversity.  As the graduate assistant at the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP), I had strong connections to Bowling Green’s Bosnian community.  For the past two years, KFP has been working on the Bowling Green Bosnia Oral History Project,learning about the traditions that are important to members of this community, like Bosnian coffee.  We planned a Bosnian coffee demonstration, hosted by Sanida Palavra and Dzenana Kadric at the Bosnian Islamic Center of Bowling Green to learn about the significance of coffee in Bosnian culture.  Through their demonstration, we learned how coffee expresses the importance of hospitality and slowing down to enjoy the simple pleasures of life (or čejfas one would say in Bosnian).

In talking with RUX co-founder Savannah Barrett about the vision for the Bowling Green community intensive, she noted how she always conceived of Bowling Green as a rural city — a place with many of the amenities of urban life, and a strong connection to rural culture and economies.  With this is mind, I wanted to show the way in which Bowing Green interacts with the rural areas that surround the city.  On Saturday evening we went to Need More Acres Farm in Scottsville, KY where we were hosted by Michelle Howell.  Howell shared about her work connecting people in Bowling Green with fresh, Kentucky-grown produce.  After taking a tour of her farm and getting a sense of how Howell’s work is a back-and-forth between rural and urban, we sat down to a farm fresh meal and some live music by Franklin, KY’s Dead Broke Barons.

I also planned for the group to spend Sunday in Horse Cave, KY about 40 miles northeast of Bowling Green.  I loved the thought of bringing RUX members to Horse Cave because the city is really emblematic of the landscape of the region.  South Central Kentucky is known as “Cave Country,” with a karst landscape defined by limestone, sinkholes, underground rivers, and caves.  Horse Cave is unique because there is a cave right in the middle of their downtown.  In fact, the city was built around the cave Hidden River Cave.  We toured the area above and below ground, hearing cultural, historical, and ecological stories about the community.

While serving as the Bowling Green regional host coordinator was an opportunity for me to connect RUX members with South Central Kentucky’s diversity, it also ended up being an opportunity for me to connect more deeply with my community.  It’s easy to take the place where you live for granted, to put off going to the places you’ve yet to visit, to put off talking to the people you’ve yet to strike up a conversation with.  This opportunity was the push I needed to take those leaps, and as a result I feel a much greater sense of rootedness in this place.

Click on the links below to see more:

BOSNIAN COFFEE DEMONSTRATION

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