Joe Bowen has carried the Olympic torch, walked 3,000 miles on stilts, and bicycled cross-country twice, and he calls Powell County home; mammoth bones from northern Kentucky found their way to Thomas Jefferson and made a new mark on history; and this Fulton County festival is bananas, celebrating the time when Fulton was known as The Banana Capital of the World.
“We’re given so many hours. So many days and months,” says Kentuckian Joe Bowen. “We can choose to sit in front of the television, or we can choose to partly live it, or we can choose to live it to the hilt.”
Bowen has chosen the latter option over and over again throughout his remarkable life. After serving time in the Air Force in hopes of seeing the world—but instead seeing an isolated vessel base in Southern California for four years—he was inspired to tour the country on his own. His vehicle of choice was a bicycle.
In the late 18th and early 19th century, Northern Kentucky was a hotbed of fossil discovery. Big Bone Lick State Historic Site is now located where many of those fossils were found, and is named for the salt springs and mineral deposits that attracted ancient animals to the area.
“Big Bone Lick Historic Site is known as being the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology as this area is where the first organized digging of fossils with a backbone was initiated,” says park interpreter Amelia Hulth. “That was initiated at the direction of Thomas Jefferson and executed by William Clark and George Rogers Clark.”
Fulton Banana Festival
Bananas grow in tropical climates, and no part of Kentucky fits that description. So why is Fulton, a small town on the border with Tennessee, home to an annual banana festival?
“Fulton was called the banana capital of the world because about 70 percent, sometimes as high as 90 percent of all the bananas coming out of South America came through Fulton and South Fulton,” says Fred Fahl, a lifelong resident of Fulton.