With Second Sunday a little more than a month away, 100 of Kentucky's 120 counties have plans to participate.
Each county plans to close a street or highway for a few hours Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, and invite residents to come out to walk, bike, run or jog — and to think about how regular exercise could make them healthier and happier.
That was the basic idea used to launch Second Sunday last year, when 70 counties were involved. This year, though, many communities have more ambitious plans.
"It's becoming a platform for all kinds of health-related events," said Diana Doggett, a county extension agent in Lexington who is coordinating the statewide effort.
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Doggett said many counties are planning health fairs, "fastest kid in town" races and even arts events.
Lexington will close a mile-long loop downtown — Main to Mill to Short to Deweese streets — from 2 to 6 p.m. Related events include bike polo demonstrations, health screenings and martial arts and yoga classes. A bike valet service will be available for cyclists to check their bikes while participating in other activities.
Jessamine County plans similar events downtown, plus a 6K run between West Jessamine and East Jessamine high schools to memorialize a popular coach and student athlete who recently died, Doggett said.
Elliott County's events include speeches by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a cancer survivor, and a local man who lost 140 pounds without surgery. Festivities end with a concert by bluegrass star Don Rigsby.
Allen County citizens are building a two-mile bike and walking trail on property surrounding a Civil War site, Dumont Hill. Second Sunday activities there will include cannonball bowling.
Newport plans to close Monmouth Street between Fifth and 10th streets. Taylor County will include canoeing on the Green River. Franklin, Scott, Green and Adair counties all have big festivals planned around Second Sunday events.
UK's Cooperative Extension Service is coordinating Second Sunday plans across the state, and some counties haven't gotten involved because of vacancies in their extension offices, Doggett said. But anyone can step up and organize local events in those counties — and she hopes people will.
But the point of Second Sunday isn't to get people outside exercising one day each October; it is to inspire them to start a regular exercise habit.
"What we need to do is change people's lifestyles," said Jay McChord, a Lexington councilman who helped create Second Sunday.
McChord also wants Second Sunday to attract national attention — and money — to Kentucky's effort to shed its ranking as one of the nation's least-healthy states.
He hopes exposure will attract millions in grant and foundation money to build a trail system throughout Kentucky so communities large and small won't have to close streets for their citizens to have safe places to walk, run or bike.
Dr. Rick Lofgren, a physician at the University of Kentucky Hospital, appeared with McChord, Legacy Trail organizer Steve Austin and UK Agriculture Dean Scott Smith at the Lexington Forum's monthly meeting Thursday to talk about trails, better health and Second Sunday.
Lofgren said he practiced in academic hospitals in many parts of the country before coming to UK five years ago. He noted that Kentucky ranks high nationally in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer — all of the health problems nobody wants.
"This is the sickest group of patients I've ever taken care of," Lofgren said. "Much of what I see is preventable. It has to do with the lifestyles we have around here."
Lofgren said regular exercise would help a lot — on Second Sunday, and every other day of the year.