Coming home to Kentucky stirs vivid memories for Wynonna Judd, taking her back to days when she was a teenager in Richmond, living on welfare while her mother put herself through nursing school at Eastern Kentucky University.
"I go back in time to that place where I was 18 years old, sitting on the back porch, flailing away at the guitar singing as loud as I could with stars in my eyes," Judd says. "All my dreams were huge. That's the great thing about being poor: I had to dream big."
Judd has a pretty big weekend coming up in her home state.
Friday night, she headlines a concert at Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, her hometown, for the Alltech Fortnight Festival. Saturday night, she'll be in Lexington singing My Old Kentucky Home at the opening ceremony of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"It's like when you hear Amazing Grace," Judd says of the state song. "It connects me with such a deep root I go into a trance. It's an everybody-stand-up-with-your-hand-over-your-heart thing. It's like hearing God Bless America or something."
With a ready "Miss America wave," Judd says, she is frequently asked to be part of events such as parades and opening ceremonies. And though she will perform a total of four minutes at WEG's kick-off, she says she's conscious of how big the event is.
"I'm aware of what goes into these things, so I always appreciate being part of something that's historically been going on forever, and they've called me and asked for me," Judd says. "I'm always really grateful."
Saturday will be reverent, but Friday is going to be party time for Judd, 46, who says she'll probably spend the day figuring out what old haunts she wants to drop by while she's home. The concert itself will be "past, present and future," she says, drawing on her current work and classics from The Judds, Wynonna's duo with her mother, Naomi, which is getting back together for a reunion tour later this year.
Concerts, Judd says, are when she can have fun.
"I'm at home raising teenagers, and they're at home saying, 'Hey, Mom, I need to buy a new baseball mitt' and 'I need you to take me to practice' and 'Hey, Mom, can you make me a snack?'" Judd says. "So this time on stage is my party time. It's all about me, and don't think I don't take full advantage of it.'"