Last week, Pulaski County paid host to around 50 up-and-coming Kentucky leaders, known as the Leadership Kentucky Class of 2019.
Class members come from near and far - from Pulaski, as in John Adams (Somerset city attorney), to dozens of counties like Fayette, Pike, Boyd and Jefferson.
The program, which is in it's 35th year, takes these leaders on seven three-day sessions throughout the year and throughout the state, exposing them to regional areas of business, economic, tourist and natural impacts.
And as the new Leadership Kentucky board chair is from Somerset, it's only fitting that one of this year's destinations was the heart of Pulaski County.
Teresa Hail was named Leadership Kentucky's chair in March after serving on the Board of Directors for nearly 10 years. She said she extended the invitation on behalf of Somerset, and was pleased by the result.
"This is where I'm from. Obviously I want to showcase it to the best of my ability. I'm glad that the leaders here joined with us and embraced them, and showed them some southern hospitality," Hail said.
She thanked local leaders, which includes Somerset Mayor and Leadership Kentucky alum Alan Keck, County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobby Clue, Somerset Community College President Carey Castle and the numerous others who "rolled out the red carpet" for the class.
"It's been a very coordinated effort. It's been a year in the planning to make sure everything ran smoothly," she said.
Programs included visits to the Mill Springs Battlefield and Museum, Haney's Appledale Farm, Lee's Ford Marina and a houseboat cruise. The experience culminated with a tour of SCC's campus and a focus on the college's culinary arts, physical therapy, aviation and 3-D metal printing programs along with learning about the new University Center of Southern Kentucky.
The campus tour was especially important for some class members, including Kelly Wolf, a Lexington native who works for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
She said that being able to talk with students in the programs, including the aviation and 3-D printing programs, as well as seeing the college working so closely with the KyFAME program, interested her because it showed that SCC was helping to alleviate the workforce shortage that is being seen all over the state.
As far as the rest of Pulaski, Wolf said that while she has been through the area before, she had never seen some of the areas in depth.
"Before today, I knew Somerset as a lake community," she said. "It's so much more."
Another attendee was Mitchel Denham, a Louisville-area attorney who said he is familiar with the area due to having stayed with friends at Woodson Bend.
"I love this area," he said, but this tour of the area helped him learn more.
He didn't know how many programs SCC offered, he said, and wasn't familiar with the newly created SPEDA organization.
"The mayor, his staff, and the SPEDA group were all very gracious and promoted Somerset and Pulaski County well."
He also said he had seen "great hospitality the whole time we were here. … This town looks like it could boom - hopefully it will, hopefully all of Kentucky does - but they've done a lot of good work down here."
The non-profit program Leadership Kentucky takes applications from all over the state, with details on how to apply available on its website, leadershipky.org.
Wolf said she would recommend Leadership Kentucky to anyone because her experience in traveling around the state has taught her more about where she lives.
The class takes seven months to complete all seven stops, and Wolf admitted that she had waited several years before applying to the class because of the time commitment in completing it.
"Now I wish I had done it sooner, because of the relationships I've built," she said.
"It's good for any businessperson in a leadership position in Kentucky.