County Connections: Marion County hopes to have distillery visitors explore the rest of the county

10/25/2017 10:30 AM

LEBANON – Every year, thousands of tourists embark on the tiny Marion County town of Loretto to tour the Maker’s Mark Distillery.

County officials are hopeful that when visitors tour the facility, they decide to spend more time and money exploring the many other things to see in the central Kentucky County.

Marion County was established in 1834 and named after Francis Marion, a military officer in the American Revolutionary War.

The county is within an hour’s drive of Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort and is located in the geographical center of the state.

The county seat is Lebanon home of the Country Ham Days Festival, which is held on the last full weekend in September and draws 40,000 visitors who come to sample over 4,000 pounds of country ham which is served at the event.

Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission Executive Director Nena Olivier says a healthy job market has kept the county’s population on steady ground at a time when many rural counties are seeing a decline in residents.

“We’re anywhere from 25 to 30 industries strong, our population is around 18,000 in the county and the city is around 6,000,” Olivier said. “We have a lot of people come into the county to work because we have so many industries here in the county.”

The counties most famous business is the Maker’s Mark Distillery.

Olivier says one of the challenges over the years for her county is to get visitors who come to the distillery to stay and explore other areas of the county.

“We have really worked hard on getting people to come from Maker’s to Lebanon,” Olivier said. “Years ago, we struggled with it as they would associate Makers with Bardstown, so we have like changed their way of thinking. Maker’s has helped us a lot with that, they’ve let us put signage up there and do different things where we can draw the people in because we’re the closest city.”

Visitors who take the time to explore the county will find everything from a smaller distillery to a national cemetery.

“We also have another local distillery that’s run by part of the Beam family called Limestone Branch, and they have a unique tour and it’s free right now,” Olivier said. “We also have a national cemetery here which is unique for a town of our size. It’s very well kept up, the way they (the tombstones) are all lined in a row and you can look at some of the historical things there at the national cemetery.”

Marion County was the birthplace of 2 former major league baseball players, George Elder and John Grim.

It was also home to western fiction writer Walter Noble Burns.


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