Destination: Louisville

Destination: Louisville

Raise a glass of bourbon at NAEC’s 73rd Annual Convention & 2022 Exposition.

The charming and historic Southern city named for King Louis XVI of France (whose soldiers helped Americans in the Revolutionary War), Louisville, Kentucky, will host the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) 73rd Annual Convention & 2022 Exposition. The expo is set to take place on September 17-21 at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC), and the partner hotel is Galt House Hotel Trademark Collection by Wyndham, a 5-min walk from KICC in the center of Louisville’s bustling downtown, distinguished by a mix of preserved Victorian structures and high rises. What immediately comes to mind when one thinks of Louisville are the mint juleps, fanciful hats and seersucker suits of the Kentucky Derby, the annual thoroughbred horse race in early May that has, in years past, attracted VIPs including U.S. basketball star Michael Jordan, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, American football star Tom Brady and even Queen Elizabeth II of the U.K., to name a few. Churchill Downs (and the Churchill Downs Museum), where the race is held, is approximately 9 mi. south of downtown. But unless one really wants to go, downtown Louisville offers plenty to do — dozens of fine dining and casual restaurants, museums, gift shops and, naturally, bourbon distilleries that helped make the city famous, within walking distance. Adjacent to downtown is the Ohio River, featuring the 85-acre public Louisville Waterfront Park created on a former industrial site. 

The KICC, meanwhile, which recently underwent a US$207-million renovation and expansion, is at the heart of it all. The venue is LEED Silver certified, and was the first in Kentucky to receive accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council for its sanitation and operation. 

Besides the Kentucky Derby, Louisville is known for being the birthplace of boxing great Mohammad Ali (the city’s airport is Mohammad Ali International Airport, roughly 6.75 mi. south of downtown), Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) (although founder Colonel Harlan Sanders’ Café & Museum is about a 2-1/2-hour drive southeast of Louisville), the University of Louisville and its Cardinals, Louisville Slugger® baseball bats and three of Kentucky’s Fortune 500 companies: Humana, Kindred Healthcare and Yum! Brands (which include KFC).  

No discussion about Louisville would be complete without bourbon whiskey (with an “e,” distinguishing itself from its Canadian, Scottish and Japanese cousins). Bourbon is a barrel-aged distilled liquor made primarily from corn. The name derives from the French Bourbon dynasty, although the precise inspiration is uncertain; contenders include Bourbon County in Kentucky (northeast of Lexington). The first written reference to bourbon whiskey is in 1821, 40 years after the Louisville town charter was approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 1780. According to “An Oral History of Bourbon” on WFPL News 89.3: 

“Bourbon is America’s spirit. Federal law says so. But for people in Louisville, bourbon is even closer, sentimentally and literally. The city developed quickly through the growth of the bourbon industry, and the current downtown resurgence depends largely on the spirit’s continued popularity.” 

Destination: Louisville 1
Old Forester Distillery in downtown Louisville; photo courtesy of Brand USA
Destination: Louisville 2
KICC; image courtesy of HoK
Destination: Louisville 3
Waterfront Park; photo courtesy of ourwaterfront.org

New Orleans, home to famous Bourbon Street, is, in part, responsible for Kentucky’s signature bourbon, which began to be distilled in the early part of the 19th century in charred oak barrels to make it taste more like the French brandy that was preferred in the Big Easy. The invention of the column still in the 1840s and the impending end of the Civil War (and the North using whiskey taxes to help pay for said war) ushered in a transition from smaller distillers to larger companies, some of which are still going strong today. During Prohibition, from 1920-1933, distillers sold their wares to doctors for medicinal use. Post-prohibition, Whiskey Row along downtown Louisville’s Main Street, “pretty much disappeared,” according to the Oral History. But this was also due to changing American lifestyles that more-and-more involved good roads and automobiles. Considered an older person’s drink, whiskey went out of fashion in the 1970s, but now it’s back, with the craft cocktail movement and publications such as Garden & Gun® Magazine bringing about “a certain aesthetic…right now that’s extremely popular.” 

Within steps of KICC is Louisville’s Bourbon District, a walkable urban experience that includes yellow pole banners, directional signage and interactive kiosks to guide visitors to destinations that include the Old Forrester Distilling Co., Angel’s Envy Distillery and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Kevin Yates, co-founder of apparel and merchandise company Bourbon Built, says: “I don’t know what’s more Southern — or Kentucky for that matter — than drinking a bourbon, smoking a cigar or going to the Downs.” 


References

[1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisville,_Kentucky

[2] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourbon_whiskey

[3] wfpl.org/oral-history-bourbon-louisville

[4] kyconvention.com

Elevator World Associate Editor

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