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Program 1215

1. the Vent Haven ventriloquism museum
2. Trooper Island
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Kenton County

For more information:
Vent Haven Museum, 33 W. Maple Ave., Fort Mitchell, KY, (859) 341-0461

Producer, editor: Joy Flynn
Videographers: Prentice Walker, Dave Shuffett
Audio: Chuck Burgess

A Place To Vent

The Vent Haven ventriloquism museum

If you want to learn about the “vent community”—the world of ventriloquists and their figures—the place to go is the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell. It’s the only museum in the world dedicated to this particular branch of the performing arts.

Vent Haven is the legacy of one man with a passion. William Shakespeare Berger was a businessman who worked for the Cambridge Tile Company in Cincinnati for 52 years, taking the classic route from the mailroom (where he started at age 16 in 1894) all the way up to the president’s office. In his free time, he dabbled in ventriloquism. On a business trip to New York in 1910, he was inspired to buy a ventriloquist figure named Tommy Baloney. It was the beginning of a collection that would eventually outgrow both his house and his garage and require the construction of a special building to hold it.

W.S. also put his organizational skills to use in the service of his avocation. After retiring from the tile company in 1947, he became president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. During his tenure of a little more than a decade, the membership grew from about 300 to more than 1,000. W.S. kept them all up to date on happenings in the vent world with a monthly magazine called the Oracle and through voluminous personal correspondence.

Eventually, Berger grew concerned about what would happen to his collection after his death. He had outlived his wife, son, and grandson, leaving him with no direct heirs. So he set up a charitable foundation to ensure that his one-of-a-kind collection of figures, photos, and other memorabilia would remain intact. The Vent Haven Museum today consists of the two original buildings in which W.S. stored his treasures, plus a third building dedicated in 1973. Together, they house more than 700 figures, thousands of photographs and playbills, and a library of books dating back to the 1700s.

Vent Haven is located on a quiet dead-end street in Fort Mitchell, and hours are by appointment only, so the atmosphere in the place is generally pretty calm. But the museum also sponsors a much more raucous affair: the annual ConVENTion, which draws hundreds of ventriloquists to Fort Mitchell’s Drawbridge Inn. There they entertain legions of fans, compare notes on technique, and toast the legacy and farsightedness of William Shakespeare Berger.

Clinton County

For more information:
Trooper Island Camp, c/o Kentucky State Police, P.O. Box 473, Albany, KY 42602, (270) 433-5422

Producer, videographer: Ernie Lee Martin
Editor: Joy Flynn

Camping with the Cops

Trooper Island

Young people growing up in impoverished areas and troubled neighborhoods often don’t get the chance at the summer camp experience. And they may also get a skewed view of law enforcement officers as people to avoid. Trooper Island, a camp operated by the Kentucky State Police, addresses both of those issues by giving underprivileged kids a week of fresh air and activity where they can get to know the troopers in a much more relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

The camp is located on an island on Dale Hollow Lake, near Albany and the Clinton/Cumberland County border. Each year, the 16 Kentucky State Police posts select kids for the camp. There they spend a week getting lots of exercise—boating, swimming, archery, shooting on a rifle range, basketball and other sports—plus educational activities and non-denominational chapel services. Troopers and other adult instructors also offer lessons in everything from fire prevention and first aid to leadership skills and drug abuse prevention.

No camper is ever charged for his or her stay at Trooper Island; the camp is supported by private donations of money and time, plus proceeds from the sale of KSP logo items. The island itself is leased from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The camp was founded in the 1960s, with KSP Director Col. James Bassett spearheading the effort. Our visit includes a discussion about the goals of the program with current camp director Craig Sutton.

Nelson County

For more information:
My Old Kentucky Home State Park, 501 E. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown, KY 40004-0323, (502) 348-3502

On Location

Dave hosts this edition from My Old Kentucky Home State Park, site of the house said to have inspired Stephen Foster (who visited there in 1852) to write “My Old Kentucky Home.”

SEASON 12 PROGRAMS: 120112021203120412051206120712081209121012111212
1213121412151216121712181219122012211222: Dr. Clark’s Kentucky Treasures

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