Kentuckians will not only be celebrating the birth of America’s independence this 4th of July, but also the birth of America’s first great songwriter, Stephen Foster. Born on July 4, 1826, Foster was a frequent visitor to Federal Hill, the Rowan family’s Georgian-style mansion in Bardstown, a charming community located in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region. He immortalized Federal Hill in his hauntingly beautiful song, “My Old Kentucky Home”, which later became Kentucky’s official state song.
The celebration will take place on Saturday, July 2nd, at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, home to historic Federal Hill. The centerpiece of the celebration will be the acclaimed Broadway-styled musical, “The Stephen Foster Story”, the longest-running outdoor show in the state of Kentucky. It will be performed at the park’s spectacular amphitheater, which is nestled into a natural hillside surrounded by majestic oak trees. I’ve seen the show and I highly recommend it. The actors were great, the costumes gorgeous, and the music was fantastic. I hate to admit that I never knew Stephen Foster had written so many classic American songs, including such gems as “Oh, Susanna”, “Camptown Races”, “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair”, and “Beautiful Dreamer”. But he did, all dynamically sung by the talented cast! There are many fun activities and games before the show, cupcakes served at intermission, and the festivities will conclude with a dazzling fireworks display.
While at the park, try to budget in some time to take a tour of Federal Hill. I really enjoyed it the last time I was here. My guide, dressed in a lovely period dress, was quite knowledgeable and full of southern charm. I was really impressed that the furniture, art and accessories were authentic; it really made me feel as if I had stepped back in time to another era. The gift shop is very nice, and the grounds are magnificent (especially this time of year) and worth a stroll.
There’s also a beautiful campground in the park, so why not pack up the RV or bring a tent and come spend the 4th of July weekend at My Old Kentucky Home State Park. What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth our great nation, and “the father of American music”, Stephen Foster!