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Photo credit: Kentucky Department of Travel

It can’t be that difficult to get people in England to visit Kentucky.

There’s the horseback riding, of which British types are known to be fond. The state’s official nickname, the Bluegrass State, though derived from its native flora, also describes music descended in part from England and Scotland. And of course, Kentucky is the birthplace, and epicenter, of bourbon.

“I hope to have God on my side,” Lincoln wrote early on during the Civil War, but I must have Kentucky.”

But a British PR firm looks like it’s losing its grasp on Kentucky after choosing to promote the state as a great place to play “roadkill bingo.”

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the following comments about sightseeing in Kentucky came from the UK site “Drives can drag a bit, even with the jingle jangle of the banjo on the bluegrass-playing radio stations, so it’s good to spice them up with fun car games.”

Just what kind of car games can kill the boredom of driving around the Commonwealth of Kentucky?

“One popular game for long-distance trips is ‘roadkill bingo,'” the marketers said. “OK, it seems a bit sick, spotting dead animals, but you will never see so much roadkill in your life, and so varied.”

Orbitz must have been overwhelmed by the rush of Britons booking trips to what appears to be the road kill capital of the world, but the website didn’t stop there.

“Sadly, roadkill is a fact of life in Kentucky. The locals are used to it, and as they say, when in Rome…”

Or when in Louisville…

“So if you can get over the sadness, and the blood, give it a whirl.”

Nothing says hot travel destination like sadness and blood.

Kentucky officials were not amused. They ordered the UK-based Gosh P.R. to take down the campaign, which was also chock-full of errors.

For example, the website misspelled Lewis (as “Louis”) of Lewis and Clark and suggested that folks from the British Isles would really enjoy “Hazzard County — yep, inspirational home of Boss Hogg and the Duke boys” from the television series The Dukes of Hazzard.

But there was a problem.

“Kentucky has no Hazzard County,” wrote the Herald-Leader. “The Kentucky city of Hazard is in Perry County, and the TV show was set in a fictional Georgia county.”


They even got the address wrong of the museum and café named after Harland Sanders – that’s “Colonel” Sanders, to you – the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. (FYI, the KFC colonel’s title was purely honorary.)

Such errors are of course inexcuseable inexcusable, but the road kill part of the publicity campaign got us thinking. What made those marketers think that bloody bits of animals killed in car accidents might possibly attract English travelers to Kentucky?

One obvious answer would be too much promotional Kentucky bourbon.

But then we remembered a story we heard last year, about a guy in England named Jonathan McGowan who has actually lived on a diet of road kill for the last thirty years.

“His owl curries are often popular,” reported the Daily Mail, “as are his rat stir fries.”

McGowan isn’t some reclusive hermit, though; he’s an environmentalist, who argues that eating road kill meat means that it doesn’t go to waste and that most of it is actually healthier than anything you’d buy in a store.

So perhaps the PR folks were on to something. Maybe they just need to ramp up the road kill angle a little more (“Kentucky ♥ mangled varmints”) Who knows, it could be exactly the thing to convince fence-sitting Brits about where to go on their next vacation.

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By Paul Hechinger