Diane Strong, a recent newcomer to Frankfort, says that the city is full of change.
Strong, who is an active community volunteer, said that she and her family moved from Georgetown about a year and a half ago because it was hard to be involved with the town’s community. Frankfort is very different, she said. It is excited about the future.
“It’s unique to have a small town that has such a big mind,” Strong said.
The demolition of Capital Plaza Tower going down was a trigger that set things in motion and it made some ideas become possible, Strong said. Locals are also realizing that we need to take advantage of location, with a large distillery industry and real-estate investors being priced out of Lexington and Louisville.
Strong has spent the summer volunteering with Bourbon on the Banks, a new bourbon festival that will support Kentucky State University scholarships. Strong is the chair of Bourbon Street on Broadway, a free community event that will be held in downtown on Friday, Aug. 23, the day before Bourbon on the Banks festival. Strong’s event will be from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. around the Old Capitol lawn.
The goal of Bourbon Street on Broadway is to appeal to regulars that attend events like the Downtown Summer Concert Series while catering to a young millennial crowd. It will be an adult event that is still kid-friendly.
Strong envisions street performance artists on every corner, with Cincinnati Circus providing a stunt show and aerial acts every hour on the hour, and activities like axe-throwing, live art demonstrations a portable skate park and more. Urban Ninja will also have an obstacle course set up. Fifteen food trucks and six drink vendors are scheduled to be at the event. Music for the event will range from Bluegrass to Electronic Dance Music, Strong said. She hopes that the event will have something for everyone.
“I just want everyone to be happy,” Strong said.
Strong was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She then lived in Montana and Colorado before settling in Kentucky about 20 years ago. Since living in the commonwealth, she visited Frankfort often, she said.
On her first visit to Frankfort, she remembers coming to the Kentucky Coffeetree Café and then going to Poor Richard’s Books. She collects old medicine books because of her background in veterinary science and general interest in medicine. The attitude of Frankfort has changed a lot in that time, from Strong’s perspective from a “sleepy little town,” to a town that wants to progress.
“When we moved here, I think we were so fortunate we were introduced to so many people who are active and who were excited we were here and knew what we were about and introduced us to more amazing people,” Strong said. “The network of people that we’ve met since we’ve moved here is awesome.”
Strong and her family moved to Frankfort from Georgetown about a year and a half ago. It was close to her husband’s business in Lexington and she felt that the city was the best place to homeschool her two children, Emma 15 and Jack 13. Kentucky State University, local museums and the historic value of Frankfort drew her to the city, she said.
Homeschooling allows for “cool” educational opportunities during the regular school day, Strong said. As part of their education, both Emma and Jack are active in the community and regularly volunteer with local non-profit organizations like Paul Sawyier Public Library and Kentucky History Museum. Emma also leads a local teen photography club and interns with Joanna Hay Productions and KSU’s aquaponics department, which studies systems that combine aquaculture with hydroponics, or a method of growing plants without soil. Strong said that her kids are involved with extracurricular activities at Frankfort Independent Schools as well.
Strong and her two children regularly volunteer with L.I.F.E. House for Animals. One of the ways they currently help the animal shelter is transporting adoptable cats between the shelter and local pet stores, so the cats get more exposure and have a higher chance of being adopted. Emma said that the family volunteered with the shelter when they lived in Georgetown. She said that moving to Frankfort increased her involvement in the community around her.
Emma said she’s been a volunteer for most of her life, if not since “I was born.” She said that once she started, she was introduced to other organizations and began to discover her own interests. She’s not quite sure what she will do as a career when she is older, but hands-on experiences like the ones she is currently getting are preparing her for that decision. Jack said that he feels like he’s made a positive impact after doing community service.
In some ways, Frankfort feels like the home Strong didn’t know she had. She is a self-described “tree-hugger,” caring about the environment and animals, and said that in some places in Kentucky, she felt like she needed to protect her views.
“My Prius fits in really well here,” Strong said.
Strong used to professionally work in veterinary science. She began working in 2000 at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center in the parentage verification lab. After getting a graduate degree in veterinary science while doing biomedical research, she worked in the center’s immunology department. She left UK in 2006 and she’s mostly left the field since to raise her children, something that she feels very fortunate to do.
Now, Strong is an avid community volunteer. She can’t pinpoint it to an exact moment, but maybe the energy she has and the desire to make a positive impact is why. She said that she feels responsible to contribute to the world around her. Otherwise, she would not be doing her part, she said.
“I just like getting involved in my community because I want to make it a better place,” Strong said.
In the past, Strong has volunteered with the Kentucky River Jam, Canoe Kentucky’s concert series that supports local non-profit organizations. She said that she initially helped out with the events last year as a promoter and directing traffic during the event. This year, she is an emcee for it.
For people who are just moving to Frankfort, Strong advises them to get out in the community, either through supporting local businesses, like Kentucky Coffeetree Café or Capital Cellars or volunteering with a local organization and just talk to people. Follow the connections you’ll make and become part of something that you are passionate about, she said.
“There’s so many people fighting for Frankfort. We are in good company.”