Why Is a Kentucky Town the ‘Banana Capital of the World’?
It wasn't that long ago that I posted a story about Kentucky's signature dishes. And while there was one that seemed like an outlier, it still makes more sense to me than BANANAS.
No, nothing related to bananas was on that list, but there is a town in Kentucky that lays claim to the nickname "Banana Capital of the World." And it can't be weird that I think THAT'S weird. Kentucky's sweltering summers notwithstanding, we're hardly in the tropics here.
But, yes, we have a "banana town" and it's in western Kentucky.
The reasoning behind the nickname has a lot to do with the railroad. And I've got railroad in my blood; my grandfather and HIS brothers were all railroad men.
According to TheBananaFestival.com, The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad was the first railroad to use refrigerated cars, way back in the late 1800s. And just like that, you didn't have to live in humid, tropical regions to enjoy the kinds of fruit that are grown there.
Fulton, Kentucky, down in the Purchase, was a big railroad hub at the time. When bananas would arrive from South America--to New Orleans--they would then be shipped northward to Canada for distribution. Fulton was kind of a halfway point.
Since Fulton had a big ice house, the bananas would be re-refrigerated before being loaded back on a train car and shipped up the line.
This is how Fulton became known as the "Banana Capital of the World" and, in fact, is why the southwestern Kentucky city has a banana festival every year.
This all so cool to me. I'd never heard this before, even among all those great railroad stories my grandfather would tell me. Maybe he didn't know; he didn't work for the Illinois Central line.
The festival, by the way, is still a thing and plans are in place for the 58th Annual Banana Festival to happen this September 10th through the 18th.
That really doesn't sound like a bad excursion at all for late summer. Seriously, who COULDN'T go for booth after booth of banana-type foods like warm banana pudding, banana bread, banana taffy, and who knows what else? Oh wait, I do.
Bananas Foster. Lord.
Yeah, this may sound bananas, but I'm gonna need to spend some time in Fulton, Kentucky this year.