I live in Louisville, and while my city has many problems (bad air quality, not-so-great public schools, a weird mayor) it also has lots of cool stuff, too.
I'm grateful to live in Louisville because, despite claiming a population of a million people in the Metro area, it has a small town feel sometimes. There are so many little distinct neighborhoods, but they're all interconnected and have their own unique and special histories.
St James Court, Old Louisville
I'm grateful to live in a city that has a really amazing library history- we have like, 18 branches, three Carnegie libraries, a library that was created to serve the African American community in the segregated south (PS we are no longer segregated, but it's really neat that this resource was available at the time- and they have lots of special historical collections there now.) A library that focuses on our huge international community (more on that later) and provides thousands of books in dozens of languages for our international friends. A library that works so hard to encourage young readers with multiple "incentive" programs, storytimes, special events, and other things designed to engage children and their parents.
My new library. Isn't it gorgeous? There's a lot more to it, too! : )
I'm grateful to live in a city that welcomes people from all over the world with open arms. Citizenship ceremonies are frequently held at a number of our libraries. Conversation clubs take place at churches, schools, and libraries all around the city. Festivals celebrating different cultures and heritages take place down at the Waterfront. Restaurants owned by people from all over the world can be found in every corner of the city. You wouldn't expect such a large international community in the American South, but we have one!
Parade during Worldfest, a celebration of cultures represented in Louisville!
I'm grateful that my city has a reputation for being fun, quirky, unique and hospitable. This time of year, we really shine. We are finishing up the Derby Festival- the Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, taking place at Churchill Downs, right here in my city. It's known as "the most exciting three minutes in sports." A month before the race, we kick off the festival with Thunder Over Louisville, the country's largest fireworks show. The day of the show, there's a hot air balloon race and an airshow featuring the Blue Angels. Almost a million people gather at Waterfront Park, or stake out prime rooms at hotels downtown. The actual show opens with a patriotic poem and the flying of the American Flag, and closes with a display designed to make it look like we blew up one of the bridges crossing the Ohio River.
Thunder Over Louisville
After Thunder, there are a dozen other events building up to the big race. The balloon glow is an opportunity for families to come see all the hot air balloons lit up- it looks so cool! There's a marathon and a mini-marathon, a parade, and a host of other fun things going on. A few nights before the most important weekend around these parts, local Kroger stores put together the garland of lilies and the garland of roses that will be awarded to the winners of the Oaks and the Derby. They are so beautiful! The day before the Derby (that would be today) we have the Oaks. The Oaks is a race featuring three year old fillies (those would be lady horses, for the uninitiated.) I think that the locals like the Oaks more than the Derby. Everybody gets dressed up, fancy hats are very popular, and a lot of people wear pink! The lilies used in Oaks decorations are pink, and Churchill Downs partners with a couple of organizations that support breast cancer prevention and research. My dad, aunt, and cousin are there today. Last year, my cousin's hat was featured on a local news station's facebook page, which was pretty neat. It was beautiful- and my dad made it! This year I think she's wearing a fascinator. I prefer hats, but I think that's because they're bigger and more dramatic. :)
Pink at the Oaks!
And then there's Derby Day! The library is closed. We won't close for a blizzard or ice storm, but we will close for the Derby. A lot of people have Derby parties. There are tons of celebrities in town, and it's kind of fun to try to spot them on TV. My family gets together for dinner at my grandparents'. My grandma grills burgers and hot dogs, and we have my birthday celebration at the same time. This year I asked for a coke cake, which is amazing and if you've never had any, I'm so sad for you. It's chocolate cake made with coke (actually mammaw uses RC Cola, but where I live, all sodas are called Coke. And then you have to find out what kind it actually is.) If you HAVE had coke cake, I'm still sad for you because mammaw's is way better than any other coke cake made by any human being. Cracker Barrel restaurants carry it, and I tried it one time and threw my piece away, because I knew what I was missing out on. But I digress. There is so much pageantry involved with the Derby. The University of Louisville marching band performs "My Old Kentucky Home." Some celebrity sings the National Anthem (this year it's Josh Groban. Boo.) Everybody looks so fancy and a lot of them are smoking cigars and drinking mint juleps out of little silver glasses (I've never had either and I'm under the impression that both are nasty.)
The Derby is called the "run for the roses." I love seeing all the roses each year!
So my city is a pretty great place to live, in a lot of ways. A lot of people think the south is boring and Kentucky is filled with nothing but shoeless hillbillies, but Louisville is pretty special. It's full of museums and great zoo and parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (he did Central Park in New York City, you know) and gorgeous scenery and hot restaurants and all these other neat things. Is there stuff I want to change about it? Definitely. But I kind of love it. We manage to have some of the stuff that bigger, more cosmopolitan cities have while maintaining our small town charm. We may not have any "professional" sports teams, but you'd be hard pressed to find a group of more dedicated fans than those of our local schools, the University of Kentucky and that other one that's not as cool. We're the northernmost southern city and the southernmost northern city, and we're pretty special, if I do say so myself.