Enchanting and Educational Dollhouse Museum
Gourmet Farmhouse Cheese
Enchanting and Educational Dollhouse Museum
"That was amazing."
As they leave the Great American Dollhouse Museum in Danville, visitors often choose that particular phrase to describe what they have just seen.
After you weave through the 200-plus antique and artisan dollhouses as well as the Fantasy Forest and Cave, you understand why. The name doesn't begin to convey what you see inside or how the exhibits plunge you into our nation's history and excite your imagination.
"The museum is a social history museum in miniature," says Lori Kagan-Moore, the museum's creator, who opened the Dollhouse Museum last October. "Social history looks at the day-to-day lives of ordinary people during various periods of history. While political history or military history may spotlight George Washington or the Battle of Gettysburg, social history focuses on how people worked, played, and related to one another in times gone by."
That's why Kagan-Moore decided to set the museum up in three parts: a timeline of the United States (from Native Americans to contemporary green houses), the village of Copper Hollow (a typical early 1900s village), and the Fantasy Forest and Cave.
Native Americans occupy the first display. Kagan-Moore has gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure the exhibits are authentic. For example, in this display you find numerous pieces of pottery such as the two-spouted wedding vase, a traditional wedding present in Native American culture. Each piece-no bigger than your thumbnail-was handmade by Native Americans and signed.
The Colonial period (1584-1776) is next. Here you find the first of many stories and fast facts. The stories are fictional, designed to get you thinking about what life was like then.
The largest exhibit area is a fictional village named Copper Hollow. A wedding is about to take place, so numerous households are involved in the event. At Ida Strambecker's School for Boys, the mischievous boys are being kept inside so as not to disrupt the festivities. One is even picking his nose.
"I wanted the figures to be realistic," says Kagan-Moore. "I wanted them to be active and not all look alike. I wanted ugly people and pretty ones. I wanted them to represent the way life really is."
Don't forget to visit the Fantasy Forest and Cave. There you will find a castle, cave, and woodsy area. Dragons lurk inside, sporting menacing looks. Around the corner, a quirky family of trolls is baking bread.
It's all part of the fun, and part of the reason boys enjoy the museum as much as the girls and adults. Kagan-Moore says nearly half the visitors are adults.
Allow several hours to tour the museum and the museum store, which sells miniatures as well as vintage jewelry. There are lots of surprises, such as peepholes where you can see in the back of exhibits. There is also a play area with dollhouses and children's books about various periods of history.
The Great American Dollhouse Museum
344 Swope Drive
Danville, KY 40422
(859) 583-8000 or (859) 236-1883
Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 2-12. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. They are closed Sunday and Monday.
The newest acquisition is an entire frontier town that is extensive, detailed, and highly dramatic. The Wild West settlement has been renovated to heighten historical realism and educational value.
Here are a few other places in Kentucky where you can purchase dollhouse furniture and accessories. Many pieces are quite elaborate, such as the light fixtures that actually work.
Mini Mansions Dollhouse & Miniature Shoppe
Hwy. 54, 1800 Triplett Street
Owensboro, KY 42303
Green Gables Dollhouse and Miniature Shop
108 North Main Street
Versailles, KY 40383
2632 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
Hobby Lobby Stores
There are six locations in Kentucky: two in Louisville, and one each in Nicholasville, Ashland, Bowling Green, and Florence.
Debra Gibson is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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Gourmet Farmhouse Cheese
A number of years ago, a couple of tourists from Bowling Green visited Kenny Mattingly's cheese store in Austin, a place some might refer to as the hinterlands of Barren County. The buzz word "agritourism" was just beginning to catch hold, and what Mattingly and his wife, Beverly, had going with their cheese-making operation seemed to fit the definition perfectly.
They had a 200-acre farm with more than 100 dairy cows, and recently had redirected the farm's mission from producing milk to turning out high-quality cheeses.
"They even measured the size of the parking lot to see if motor coaches could get in and out," recalls Kenny about the visit from the tourism folks.
While Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese may not be overrun with motor coaches, it is now routine to see several cars in the parking lot daily from throughout Kentucky and other states.
"We get people from all over," Kenny says. "Kentuckians are spreading the word. There's even a specialty cheese shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, that now carries our cheese. Someone passing through here told them about us. The same for a shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a few places in Florida."
What all this tells Kenny is that lots of people want his cheeses, and while they're at it they want to see how it's made.
"Giving tours is part of our business," he says. "We tell people our family history, why we got into the business, what we've learned, how it's made, what makes cheeses taste different, and then how we market it."
Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese must follow strict federal guidelines, and one of them is that it must be aged at least 60 days.
The end result is an assortment of 26 types that include cheddar, colby, jack, Asiago, Swiss, Havarti, and even a Barren County bleu.
In the beginning back in 1998, the family turned out 4,000 pounds of cheese, and today that number has grown to 70,000 pounds.
"We've grown an average of 40 percent a year since we started," Kenny offers. "We sell to gift shops, wineries, health food stores, and farmers' markets. People are searching us out. We're located near Barren River Lake and all of those with lake houses find us and then they tell others."
Kenny is quick to point out that his business includes several in his family.
"My mom and sister do a farmers' market in Louisville, and my son Jared, who attends Western Kentucky University, comes home when needed and helps with the milking and other farm chores. He's shown an interest in coming into the business when he completes his marketing and business management degree."
The Mattinglys also have a daughter, Sarah, who lives in Louisville and helps when needed with in-store demonstrations.
On a weekly basis, inquiries filter in asking the Mattinglys how they can sell their cheese. And now because of what Kenny has done through developing his business to be tourist-friendly, he can invite those potential customers in to see how he does it.
Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese
2033 Thomerson Park Road
Austin, KY 42123
Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
An agricultural trip to Europe, coordinated by the Community Farm Alliance, first opened Kenny Mattingly's eyes to what small farms could do to add value to what they were already doing. In his case, it was turning fresh milk into high-quality cheese.
His Barren County farm, once purely a tobacco and dairy farm, has evolved into one that is now 40 percent cheese-related.
Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese has seven full-time and part-time employees. The farm side of the business has another four.
The milking day begins at 4 a.m., so it's probably safe to say the tourist part of agritourism won't be around to see this activity.
Reid's Livery and Winery
430 Nealy Road
Alvaton, KY 42122
(800) 865-6017 or (270) 843-6330
Primarily a horse business with more than 30 horses, Rex and Diane Reid either board or own. They decided to add some value to their 35-acre farm by making wine.
A special precinct election back in December now allows them to sell it at their farm. The Reids grow their own raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and by purchasing some nearby grapes, they hope to be producing 1,000 gallons of wine within a year.
"We had a U-pick berry field that didn't go as well as we had hoped," offers Diane. "So my husband decided to use them in his wine."
The hope is to sell locally and add a separate building for the wine-tasting room and other agriculture items for sale.
"Right now we're just operating out of one room in our house," Diane says.
For more information about other agritourism places, go to the Kentucky Agritourism Web site at www.kentuckyfarmsarefun.com.
Gary P. West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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