State yanks Web site touting 'roadkill bingo' as reason to visit Kentucky

jcheves@herald-leader.comFebruary 28, 2012 

Kentucky officials yanked an error-riddled, stereotype-filled Web site promoting the Bluegrass state to British tourists after the Herald-Leader mentioned it Tuesday in a news story.

Kentuckytourism.co.uk was part of a $179,900-a-year contract that the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet has with British marketing firm Gosh P.R. to draw visitors from the United Kingdom to Kentucky to see horse farms, bourbon distilleries and other sights.

But it also included less savory fare, suggesting that visitors to Kentucky play "roadkill bingo" as they track the number of dead animals they see along the highways.

The cabinet is considering whether to scrap the company's contract, cabinet spokesman Gil Lawson said.

"We asked Gosh P.R. to take the site down while we review the material on the site," Lawson said.

He said the state was offended by the content and had "made that clear to the contractor."

"This type of material will not be used or tolerated. We are looking at all options, including canceling the contract," Lawson said.

The state spends about $20,000 on the Web site in an average year, as part of the overall Gosh P.R. contract, he said.

Among its problems, the Web site referred to the 19th-century "Louis and Clark" expedition (it's Lewis and Clark) and encouraged Brits to tour "Hazzard County — yep, inspirational home of Boss Hogg and the Duke boys" from the CBS television series The Dukes of Hazzard.

Kentucky has no Hazzard County. The Kentucky city of Hazard is in Perry County, and the TV show was set in a fictional Georgia county.

"It's really a shame because if anybody had done any research, they would have gotten their facts right," Corbin city manager Mike Phillips said. "Just checking Wikipedia would have helped you get at least half of this fixed."

After reading about the Web site in the newspaper Tuesday, Phillips wrote to cabinet officials to complain that the site placed the Harland Sanders Museum and Café in London. The museum has a Corbin address, Phillips said, although it's technically just across the Laurel County line from Corbin.

"Still, London is 15 miles north of here," Phillips said in an interview.

Tuesday's Herald-Leader story was about Kentucky Tourism Commissioner Mike Cooper, who allowed Gosh P.R. to pay for $735 in meals and other expenses during an unauthorized trip he took to London, England, in June. That was a violation of state ethics law, and the cabinet instructed Cooper to repay the money.

The story mentioned the Web site that Gosh P.R. maintains in cooperation with cabinet officials.

"Drives can drag a bit, even with the jingle jangle of the banjo on the bluegrass-playing radio stations, so it's good to spice them up with fun car games," Gosh P.R. wrote on the site.

"One popular game for long-distance trips is 'roadkill bingo,'" Gosh P.R. wrote. "OK, it seems a bit sick, spotting dead animals, but you will never see so much roadkill in your life, and so varied. Sadly, roadkill is a fact of life in Kentucky. The locals are used to it, and as they say, when in Rome. ... So if you can get over the sadness, and the blood, give it a whirl."

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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