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Although it was here long before the cities and towns sprung up, local history enthusiasts say the Kentucky River and its role in creating Owen County, as we know it is often overlooked.
In hopes of spotlighting the river and its impact, the Owen County Historical Society is sponsoring the second-annual River Day Saturday at the Owen County Historical Society Museum.
Christina Rice, who is organizing the event for the society, said the importance of the river in the early days of Owen County should be appreciated.
“We have gotten together with city and county officials and with Kentucky American to promote the river’s history,” Rice said. “Few things have had such an important part in the history of Owen County.”
Although the river has given Owen countians a means of heavy transportation, plenty of fertile bottomland for farming and a link to other communities, its impact on history can’t be overestimated.
“Many people used the Kentucky River to settle Owen County and the rest of the state, “ Rice said. “It used to connect families in Owen and Henry counties. At one time, a lot of prominent people came up the river to this region for the health spa.”
Over time, the river’s importance may have waned in the eyes of the public, Rice said.
“The river seems hidden,” Rice said. “Except for fishermen or boaters, people don’t seem to notice the river even though it makes up the western border of the county.”
The event will feature several speakers with links to the Kentucky River:
At 11:15 a.m., William Grier will discuss the showboats on the Kentucky River.
At noon, William Ellis, the author of The Kentucky River and a retired professor at Eastern Kentucky University, will discuss the river’s influence on society and culture with humor.
At 2 p.m., Amalie Preston, who has an ancestor who served as a riverboat captain, will share stories about life on the river.
At 1 p.m., David Hamilton of the Kentucky River Authority will be on hand to discuss the system of locks on the river and their future usage.
Rice emphasized there will be plenty of fun and educational opportunities for families at the event.
There will be a cake cutting at 12:20 along with a book signing.
There will be riverboat calliope concerts at 12:30, 1:30 and 3 p.m. by Ann Bush and David Stowe.
For the fishermen, there will be an exhibit of antique fishing reels and there will be a display courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Kids and families can take part in the watermelon-seed spitting contest. There will be rubber-band steamboat races and a fishpond game with plenty of prizes for children.
The event kicks off at 11 a.m. and will feature comments from Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith, Owenton Mayor Doug West and William Wulfeck of Kentucky American Water.