“It seems no matter where a Kentuckian moves, the proud heritage of his state goes with him and is passed from generation to generation.” –Louie B. Nunn, Governor, State of Kentucky, to Red Ravens Color Guard, December 1970.
Tomorrow, July 24, 2021, marks an important day in Crandon history. It is the 50th anniversary of the celebration we call Kentuck Days.
Crandon Homemakers Club sets the bar high
The first Kentucky Day celebrated in Crandon would not have happened if not for the community minded women of the Crandon Homemakers Club. The intention of the original event was to “meet old friends and make new ones!” and was organized as a mid-winter event on March 11, 1971 at the V.F.W. Hall in Crandon.
The Crandon Homemakers Club, part of a larger organization of Homemakers clubs in the region, were organized by the Area Extension Home Economist program of Cooperative Extension of the University of Wisconsin. Homemaker clubs were meant to help improve the lives of women and families living in rural areas by fostering relationships, building community and offering creative educational opportunities.
By all accounts this first Kentucky Day celebration was a complete success. Recently uncovered scrapbooks discovered in a filing cabinet in the Forest County courthouse tell the story of a well-organized, well attended event. An undated article from the Forest Republican reported that “Kentucky Day at Crandon is the kind of event that should be continued as an annual observance”. Photos from the event focus on the crowds and the organizers of the event, as well as the biscuits, corn bread and beans served “Kentucky style”.
Celebrating Kentucky Heritage
The short-term and long-term results of this community event are many. Shortly after the first official Kentucky Day, Representative Joseph Jones of Milwaukee and a son of a Kentucky emigrant himself, adopted a resolution in the state legislature honoring Kentuckians and the cause of celebrating their heritage.
The Younger Generation of Kentucks
While the ladies of the Crandon Homemakers Club were successfully planning Kentucky Day, another group of younger residents were also celebrating their heritage as members of the Red Ravens Color Guard.
Thanks to a donation to the Crandon Area Historical Society by former Red Raven Christine Abney Kincaid, we know that in January of 1970 a group of young women and girls from the Crandon area joined together to form the Red Ravens Color Guard that traveled together and marched in various parades througout the area flying flags and their own Red Ravens banner. The Red Ravens were not affiliated with the Crandon school but rather were formed as an independent organization that raised funds for their own use. According to literature accompanying Kincaid’s donation, “the response to the organization was so great, the unit had to be split into two units.”
Red Ravens 1 called themselves the “Kentucks” due to many of the girls having Kentucky ancestry that included great-grandparents who were from or still were in Kentucky. To honor this heritage, members of the Red Ravens 1 chose to include the Kentucky state flag as part of their performances. In 1970, Tom Pieper, Director of the Red Ravens Color Guard wrote to the Kentucky Governor’s office asking permission to carry the state flag and to use the word “Kentucks” as their official nickname. Governor Louie B. Nunn replied in a letter dated December 1, 1970 that he would “consider it an honor for the girls in your color guard to carry the Kentucky State flag” and “It seems no matter where a Kentuckian moves, the proud heritage of his state goes with him and is passed from generation to generation.”
Kentucky Heritage Today
Fifty years later the celebration of Crandon’s Kentuck heritage continues. Many Crandon people can still trace their ancestry back to Kentucky with some still sharing their treasured recipes of biscuits, corn bread and beans with their own grandchildren. Dedicated members of the Crandon Area Historical Society will be front and center in the Courthouse square tomorrow celebrating this unique celebration of both heritage and history. We encourage all to stop by our booth to share your own Kentuck heritage story or to learn more about this place we call home.
Were you a member of the Red Ravens Color Guard or have pictures and/or memorabilia of the organization? The Crandon Area Historical society would love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com or better yet join us in celebrating our history by becoming a member of our organization.