At first glance, the stately, million-dollar, 5,000-plus-square-foot mini-mansions that skirt the golf greens at Harrods Ridge subdivision in Jessamine County might make you think this is a place where the stuffy and reserved set go to live.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The neighborhood, just 3 years old, prides itself on being a close-knit community that knows how to have fun.
"We get together for Christmas parties, birthdays, pool parties, graduations, luncheons, just any way we can to keep neighbors connected," said Karen Guarnieri, who was one of the first to move into the subdivision in 2005.
Guarnieri lives in a home built by her longtime friends Danny and Gilda Adkins, who developed many of the houses in Harrods Ridge. The three were childhood friends growing up together in Gardenside, and they're enjoying getting to be neighbors again in Harrods Ridge.
"Danny and I have built all over Lexington and Jessamine County," Gilda Adkins said. Harrods Ridge is "probably the favorite place I've ever been. It's a really unique blend of people. Out here, it's like being on vacation when you get home."
Nearly all of the neighborhood's 62 one-acre lots sit alongside a green of one of the two neighboring golf courses. Many of the homes have pools, and everyone knows that when it's pool season, the door's always open to whoever wants to take a dip.
"We just go in and out of each other's houses," said resident Donna Covington. At Thanksgiving, one of Covington's neighbors called her to ask for some brown sugar. "I hadn't seen that in a long time," she said.
Not just a bedroom community
In many ways the genial community spirit of Harrods Ridge does seem like a throwback to the 1950s or 1960s, when neighbors were more likely to know one another well.
This is a place where it's not uncommon for the men to pull over and have two-hour chats in one another's driveways. Where, if your printer's on the fritz, you can feel comfortable sending your 11-year-old over to the neighbors' unsupervised to use theirs. Where, if it's 3 a.m. and you're 11 states away on vacation and you get a notice that your home alarm is going off, you don't hesitate to call your neighbor to go check on it for you.
It's a place where after a little while you're no longer surprised at the all-too-rare-today outpouring of neighbors' love and support when something good or bad happens to your family. If there's a death or a birth or even a family member getting deployed oversees, the neighbors — organized into a well-oiled response machine by Gilda Adkins and Karen Guarnieri — are on it, quick to the scene with a comforting dish of food, perhaps some flowers and, always, fellowship.
When Denise Smith moved into the neighborhood from Connecticut this spring, Adkins and Guarnieri organized a women's luncheon in her honor, so she could get to know her new neighbors.
"It was almost overwhelming," Smith said. "It was really nice."
Many of the women get together every Monday for Bible study and then afterward, even if a bit incongruously, enjoy Dancing with the Stars. Another Bible study meets on Wednesday afternoons.
It's common for neighbors to go to University of Kentucky football and basketball or even Cincinnati Reds games together. They've made treks together to the Ryder Cup and the Derby and Keeneland.
At Halloween, they "boo" one another, leaving a surprise gift of cookies or candy on one another's doorsteps.
Eventually, Guarnieri said she and Adkins may work to establish a formal neighborhood association. But for now, the community is small enough there's still no need.
Bridging generation gaps
Harrods Ridge is a diverse mix in terms of ages and ethnicities, from families with young children to retirees, and many residents are transplants from Michigan or Connecticut or California. Yet everyone has gelled so well.
"We're always crossing the generations with our get-togethers," Karen Guarnieri said. "It's so heartwarming."
There's no doubt they are a tight-knit bunch.
They recently got together to watch Donna Covington's son Daniel, a junior whose University of Louisville football team was taking on Rutgers. Amid all the food and drink there was good-natured ribbing about how hard it was for so many UK graduates and fans to pull for U of L — even this one time.
"Everyone has a good sense of humor here," Gino Guarnieri said. "There's a connection, a closeness between everyone even though we all come from different walks of life."
"There's really just two streets here," Gilda Adkins explained. "Everyone knows each other. If you don't you stop and ask."
The breathtaking homes and large lots, yet close proximity to Lexington are what draw most people to the neighborhood. It's what attracted Mary and Rich Ord and their three daughters.
But once there, it's the community atmosphere that impresses neighbors most.
"The people here are just really nice," Mary Ord said.