The 26th most populous state, with a population of over 4 million people, Kentucky is located in the east south-central region of the United States. It was the 15th state to join the Union in 1792, and it was a border state of significant strategic importance during the Civil War. Its cool, humid climate and rich, fertile soil allow the famous bluegrass to grow in abundance across its pastures. Despite the name, however, Kentucky bluegrass is actually green. Kentucky is also home to one of the largest portions of the United States’ official gold reserve at Fort Knox.
Kentucky bluegrass lends its name to a particular genre of music developed in the region from African-American jazz and blues as well as dance tunes and ballads originating from the traditions of the British Isles. Lexington, Kentucky, is home to the annual Festival of the Bluegrass that takes place each June.
Horse racing in Kentucky rose to prominence because of the significance of horse breeding in the area. The Kentucky Derby is the biggest day in American horse racing and takes place in Churchill Downs in Louisville every year on the first Saturday in May.
Another of Kentucky’s claims to fame is bourbon whiskey, and with good reason: 95 percent of the world’s supply of the beverage is produced in the state in more than 50 distilleries as of 2019.
Outdated industries in Kentucky, such as coal mining had tobacco farming, are gradually being replaced by newer, more relevant industries. In particular, Kentucky is a center for auto manufacturing. Famous car and truck brands, including Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota, are manufactured in Kentucky, ranking it fourth in the nation for automobile assembly. Other major industries include health care and energy fuel production.
Kentucky is still a major agricultural region, ranking high among U.S. states for corn and beef cattle production, as well as fifth in the nation for goat farming.
Approximately 85 percent of adults in Kentucky have at least a high school diploma, though only about 23 percent have gone on to attain a bachelor’s degree. Kentucky is home to Berea College, founded in 1855 as the first integrated coeducational institution of higher learning in the south.
Over the past 30 years, Kentucky has undergone significant educational reform, starting with the Kentucky Education Reform Act, which was prompted by a state Supreme Court ruling that the statewide education system was unconstitutional. Currently, there are approximately 650,000 public school students statewide attending 1,233 schools across 173 school districts.