By dawn, a steady stream of University of Kentucky students were headed down Vine Street to the LexTran Transit Center, where a $1 shuttle was on its way. Once at their destination, they helped pack the standing room only Kentucky Horse Park Shuttle and fill the waiting pavilions.
It might not have been a revival, but offering free admission to college students Sunday certainly livened up the morning traffic at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. UK seemed to lead the league in the number of students attending the Games on Sunday, perhaps in part because the downtown shuttle was only a few blocks from UK dormitories: Students wearing UK colors not only hit the packed early morning bus shuttles but were among the last back on board the similarly packed shuttles in the late afternoon.
Because Sunday was the first full day of competition, it meant it was also prime time for Alltech's grand village of pavilions.
One Alltech Experience exhibit was targeted at budding scientists — "I didn't know you did all this," a student said in awe to an Alltech employee explaining the role of algae in alternative energy production. Another set of tubes nearby held small tilapia, part of Alltech's aquaculture program.
The Nicholasville company had at least two employees at each station to explain to students and other visitors the various components of Alltech's world business. For many of the UK students it was a major stop, but some made time to take in the reining competition and demonstrations.
One of the demonstrations showed a group of female UK students, among them Mary Hall of Evansville, Ind., how to hit a polo ball courtesy of Wilbur O'Farrell of the United States Polo Association. The trick: Put some force behind it, but not enough to hurt the horse or have the mallet go wild.
Hall and her friends were having a blast putting a few whacks behind the tethered ball: "The weather is awesome," she said, and she had been inspired to see Molly the three-legged pony, a refugee from Hurricane Katrina that uses several prosthetic legs.
Katie Robertson, a UK student from St. Charles, Ill., said she came to Kentucky because she likes the state's culture, and Alltech's pavilion showcased that. "It's very different from anything we've seen," Robertson said "I didn't expect it."
Over at The Kentucky Experience, students and other visitors were invited to experience Kentucky tourist culture, from a hot red Kentucky-made Corvette where patrons could sit in the driver's seat and dream (estimated cost: $70,000) to a life-size white Fiberglas Colonel Sanders where pictures could be taken and special chicken herbs and spices revered.
UK student Jimmy Wilson of Shelbyville pointed to his friend, Kunal Sunthankar of Atlanta, and explained: "He needed to be Kentucky-fied. We needed to bring him out to see some horses."
The two were there with their friend Michael Bates of Louisville. The three are residents of Keeneland Hall.
The large pavilion staged by the University of Kentucky offered a chance at iPods for visitors at its various information stations, drawing numerous students. Transylvania University also offered a smaller booth, staged as a college office.
Katie Bird of Chicago, a freshman, organized a group of fellow students on the floor of her UK dormitory to make the early morning trek to the Horse Park. "I said, you have to see this. This is once in a lifetime," she said.
Her friend Nicole Sneed of Baltimore bought the $15 WEG program for her family.
"We're like a WEG posse now," she said.