Department of Tourism
Harlan County Will Be Hoppin' in May-June
HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. – The months of May and June will be an exciting time in the heart of Southeastern Kentucky’s coal country, Harlan County.
A series of festivals will feature everything from off-road vehicle competitions to cooking competitions centered on the native vegetable called poke sallet.
The festivities kick off with the Black Bear Festival May 12-13. Held in the city of Cumberland and nearby Kingdom Come State Park, the festival will include archery, fishing, baking contests, bluegrass music and education about the re-emerging bear population in remote areas of the mountainous county.
On Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-28, hundreds of large-tire trucks will assemble in the county’s new off-road park. This event, the Southern Shine Crawl, will include various off-road contests in the Black Mountain Outdoor Recreational Park near Evarts.
The 51st annual Poke Sallet Festival will be held June 2-4 in Harlan. Music will be an important component of the event, as Bone Pony and Red Hot Poker Dots perform Friday evening and Scarekrow provides the beat for a street dance Saturday evening. Other highlights of the festival include rides, games, a pet show and, of course, food, particularly dishes made with poke sallet.
The Tri-Cities Grand Reunion, June 9-11, will attract many present and past residents of Cumberland and the historic coal company towns of Benham and Lynch, as well as visitors from other areas. Benham and Lynch, known in their heyday as the “Cadillacs of Coal Camps,” are the site of the Kentucky Coal Museum, the Portal 31 underground mine tour and the Benham Schoolhouse Inn. The inn is a former elementary and high school for coal town children that has been renovated and converted into an inviting hotel with a dining room featuring down-home cooking.
The Kentucky Department of Parks is in the process of assuming management of the coal museum, mine tour, inn and the historic Lynch railroad depot.
The Harlan County Air Show will take flight June 17-18. Held last year during the Poke Sallet Festival, the show was such a success that officials decided to stage it on a separate weekend so that more people could attend, said Dan Mosley, special programs coordinator for Harlan County Fiscal Court. The air show will be held at the Harlan Tucker Guthrie Airport.
The first Goin’ Back to Harlan Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for June 22-24. Sponsors hope the event will attract as many as 3,000 bluegrass fans. The same weekend, the group known as ATV Nation will conduct its annual ride at the off-road park. “We expect 2,000 to 5,000 ATV enthusiasts from across the country to come to Harlan to enjoy outdoor recreation,” Mosley said.
Besides traditional advertising, event organizers are planning to use billboards on US Hwy. 25E to promote the festivals and the area’s permanent attractions. The roadway is the main connecting route to Harlan County from Interstate 75.
“The billboards are actually at no cost to the county,” Mosley said. The county has a barter arrangement with an outdoor advertising company that owns billboards on county property, he said.
More details on the festivities can be obtained at the website www.harlanfestivals.com or by contacting the Harlan County Judge Executive’s Office at 606-573-2600. Mosley said inclement weather could affect some events, so checking forecasts would be advisable before traveling.