By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A 30-minute journey just a few miles north opened up an experience that solidified the true season of Christmas as well as showcasing yet another hidden treasure of southeastern Kentucky.
Our fair Commonwealth is laden with hidden treasures that depict the beauty, history and resources of the state known during the Civil War as a ‘border’ state. Between Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Loretta Lynn and Mohammed Ali, Kentucky offers a wide range of talent stemming from all areas while the Kentucky Derby, Corvette Museum, Cumberland Falls and wineries and distilleries culminate the geographic and economic contributions.
Renfro Valley is one of those treasures -- a place you’ve always heard about and always meant to go.
Last Thursday night, I took advantage of an opportunity to pay my first visit to this Rockcastle County site and culminating my intention to someday actually visit this place that I’ve heard of all my life.
The combination of hometown hospitality and country cooking was the first step of an enchanted evening in this city of its own.
Just a “hop, skip and a jump” off Interstate 75’s Exit 62, Renfro Valley is a city within itself. The numerous buildings outlined in white lights highlight the setting while the Historic Lodge Restaurant and small motel sit adjacent across the roadway that offers dinner guests a breezeway under the highway to direct access to the numerous shops and log cabins that host artifacts of Kentucky’s pioneers.
The gift shop opens into a section of rustic replicas of some of Kentucky’s most prolific contributors that include a candle shop, shoe making shop and tinsmith--all of which highlight the talents and abilities of Kentuckians and their way of life.
Other shops include a music store, church, candy store, and a barbecue restaurant nestled within the village that also offers live shows throughout the year with some of country music’s stars.
The “Christmas in the Valley” show is a story within itself. Written by one of the Renfro Valley staff, this year’s show brings out the true meaning of Christmas--of giving unselfishly, while sprinkled with Christmas carols, old and new. The show highlights every aspect of the performing arts, from the band to singers to dancers, all set in a beautifully decorated setting in the New Barn theater.
Dubbed the “Kentucky Country Music Capital,” Renfro Valley earns the title by showcasing local artisans and performers mingled with a huge batch of country courtesy and down-home hospitality not often found in today’s society.
If performing arts, music, sincerity and just plain ole entertainment is your thing, or if you need a shot of Christmas spirit, the Renfro Valley Christmas show is a must-see. And if getting a few miles north poses a problem during the holiday season, the new performance season kicks off in March with country stars appearing nearly every weekend and shows nightly during the week.
This is one treasure that should be recognized for its face value and should be put on the “have to go there” list. I just hope folks who have heard of it all their lives don’t put off this pleasure as long as I have.