A fresh idea for a state slogan: Kentucky Kicks Ass

I was up in Kentucky for a few days around Christmas.

It’s a stunningly beautiful approach into Lexington’s Bluegrass Field, with horse farms spread across the gently rolling hills. After I landed on Sunday, my father and I drove to the Whole Foods Market in Lexington to buy some things for Christmas dinner, including parsnips, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and various kinds of dried fruit. But no luck with the fresh duck — the store was out.

Fortunately, Nancye and Erich were able to find a duck at the Whole Foods in Birmingham on their way north from New Orleans.

Kentucky’s a funny place — I guess all states are. Kentucky is among the most easily stereotyped, however, and it’s certainly true that the state’s major economic drivers include horse farms and distilleries.

But Kentucky’s current marketing tagline — Kentucky Unbridled Spirit — has always struck me as a little too lofty, while at the same time overemphasizing the importance of horses to the state as a whole. Kentucky Unbridled Spirit was chosen in 2004, with this “definition”:

“Kentucky is a place where spirits are free to soar and big dreams can be fulfilled. We relish competition and cherish our champions for their willingness to push beyond conventional boundaries to reach new heights of success.”


So now there’s a movement, of sorts, afoot for a different tagline.

How about Kentucky Kicks Ass? Check out this really witty video (thanks to fellow Kentucky native Mary Prokop for sending this my way):

I actually went to the same elementary school that Johnny Depp briefly attended in Frankfort. I was a year behind him, but had the same first grade teacher that he had. And look where that has gotten us.

Kentucky Kicks Ass comes courtesy of Kentucky for Kentucky, which has the following mission statement:

Our mission is to engage and inform the world by promoting Kentucky people, places, and products. And to Kick Ass for the Commonwealth!

Kentuckians have been influencing and creating American and world culture for a long time. We were the first to sing Happy Birthday, fry chicken, and slap high-fives. We invented bourbon, bluegrass music, and the mother-freaking Kentucky Derby. We made cool cooler by birthing Clooney, Depp, and Hunter S. Thompson. We pushed the What-Are-Ladies-For-And-Good-At envelope with Loretta Lynn, all the Judds, and Diane Sawyer. We redefined sport with Ali, Sea Biscuit, and Rondo. We invented the gas mask, people.

We are the real deal. We are Kentucky.

From USA Today, today, Does Kentucky need a kick-ass makeover?:

The proposed slogan has a certain redneck swagger, unlike the considerably more demure “Kentucky — Unbridled Spirit,” which has been the state’s tagline since 2005. A group of advertising guys who dub themselves Kentucky for Kentucky coined the slogan — along with ad prototypes, a video and T-shirts — declaring it “unexpected and bold … coming from a state that’s considered to be fairly conservative.”

State officials have a different view.

“We certainly would not sanction or endorse that phraseology,” says state tourism department spokesman Pat Sipes. “These guys are Kentucky natives and they love the state. But they have a different constituency. Which is no one.”

With all due respect to Pat Sipes, in these days of public irony and of social media, Kentucky Kicks Ass has considerable cachet.

Here’s some of what we had for Christmas dinner:

Roasted root vegetables and a Danish duck

Roasted root vegetables and a Danish duck

Brussels sprouts with bacon

Brussels sprouts with bacon