The Women of Tourism


Ask anyone who has lived in Graves County over the last 40 years anything about Tourism and they’ll bring up Martha Babb.  Martha was the original director of Mayfield Tourism Commission and she took her job very seriously.  She was instrumental in developing the Commission along with the Mayfield City Council at that time.  She was the driving force behind taking the old ice house in town and turning it into the Ice House which houses the Art Guild.  It was nothing but a shell of a building and now it is one of the jewels of Mayfield Tourism.

Through the years there have been many women on the Board of Directors of Tourism as well as head up the organization.  Today, there are both young and old, who are a part of Tourism because they truly love their community.  These women are not interested in attending a meeting once a month and calling it a day.  These women actively look for ways that Tourism can make an impact on our community.

The Mayfield Graves Tourism Commission was put in place to promote tourism in Graves County.  It is funded by transient room taxes that each person pays who spends the night in area hotels, beds and breakfast, and lodges.  It’s not a lot of money for those individuals but if you add it all up each day it can bring some nice revenue into our community.  It’s up to the Tourism Board to determine how the money is spent.

Since we only have three hotels in Graves County, and two lodges, we are not rolling in revenue.  But if we watch the money, we have we can do a lot.  Since our job is to promote Mayfield and Graves County, we like to partner with others who are having events and festivals.  Since our Board of seven is strictly volunteer, we don’t have a lot of Human Resources to develop our own events.  It just makes sense to work with the City of Mayfield, Graves County Fiscal Court, and other organizations to promote the good things about our community.

I’d really like to introduce you to the women of Tourism.


Jodie Hansen has been on the Tourism Board since 2014.  Jodie serves as the President of the Board.  She is the Project Manager at Graves County Economic Development and has been interested in Tourism way before she took that job.  But she is truly an asset to our Board as she knows the ins and outs and whys of how Tourism affects our economy.  Jodie is married to Wayne Hansen and they have two sons.


Tara Straub has been on the Tourism Board since 2014.  She and Jodie came on the Board together.  Tara serves as Vice-President.  Tara is the Physician Recruiter/Marketing Manager for Jackson Purchase Medical Center.  She is such an asset in explaining to the rest of the Board what doctors are looking for when they consider relocating to Mayfield.  This gives us an insight that we don’t take for granted.  Tara is married to John Straub and they have two sons.


Alex Goodman has been on the Tourism Board since 2014.  When we had an opening on the Board the Mayor recommended Alex because of her love of the community and her spirit in getting things done.  By day, she’s a drug pusher.  Seriously, that’s what she tells us.  In all honesty she is a Pharmacy Technician at Stone’s Drugs.  She loves that job and loves the town of Mayfield.  Alex is currently the Treasurer of the Board.  Alex is married to Tyler Goodman and they have two dogs.


Dana Heath has tenure on the Tourism Board.  As the Executive Director of the Art Guild for years.  Dana has a firm seat on the Board, even serving as President for many years.  She watches Tourism interact with other organizations in the community and is always looking for ways that we can improve our organization which in turn improves our community.  Dana is one of the big-picture members of our Board and by default the Tourism historian.  We are glad that she decided to come back to our Board, and we have no intention of letting her leave again.  Dana is married to Ric Watson and they have 3 cats.


Cynthia Elder is the Executive Director of the Tourism Board.  She hesitates calling herself that, simply because she is the only paid member.  Cynthia started as a volunteer Board Member but when Tourism couldn’t really afford even a part time director, she took the ob on as a contract director.  This enabled Tourism to save money for office space and expenses, as well as any employee costs.  Under this plan Tourism has been able to become fiscally solvent and able to invest those Transient Tax funds back into promoting the community.  Cynthia is married to Jimmy Elder and they have 4 children and 5 grandchildren.

To date, these are some of the things that the Tourism Board has been able to do:

  • Conducted a Feasibility Study and developed a Hotel Incentive Program to encourage a new hotel in the area
  • Helped the City of Mayfield with Glory Days
  • Helped the Fancy Farm Vineyard and Winery with Fancy Fest
  • Sponsored a Purchase Players production
  • Helped with the West Kentucky Ink Festival
  • Coordinated the Wooldridge Monument Repairs
  • Developed and Promoted the Barn Quilt Trails
  • Worked with Graves County High School Tourism Class and the Youth Leadership Tourism Day
  • Helped with the Gourd Patch Festival
  • Developed a Tourism Blog
  • Redid the Tourism Website
  • Developed a Community Calendar
  • Offered Mayfield and Graves County Souvenirs to the Community
  • Coordinated the Wayfinding Sign Program
  • Helped with Hoop Fest
  • Helped with Winterfest; sponsored the Ice Skating Rink
  • Sponsored the Community Ornaments
  • Coordinated Advertising
  • Offered $1500 in Scholarships to area high school graduates

We would be amiss to fail to mention that we do have a couple of gentlemen on our Board that are true assets.  Mike Perkins and Rupert Holmes even out our Board at this time and bring a completely different vision than just a Board of women.  We pride ourselves in attempting to be as diverse as possible and to be good stewards of our responsibilities.

You can follow us on Facebook and through our website at


Best, Mary Jo

“The best meals do not come from someone else’s kitchen, they come from your own.”

A wise restauranteur once made this statement to me as I sat and enjoyed biscuits and gravy at Wilma’s here in town.

Wilma’s Kountry Kitchen Mayfield, KY

This individual had owned and operated the local favorite for years, and left me with this comment after asking him if he missed it. Food not only brings us together with one another, but brings us together as a community.

Carr's Steakhouse
Carr’s Steakhouse Mayfield, KY

So much of the daily business in town is discussed and solved around the counter at Carrs Barn for breakfast or waiting inside the picture windows at Midtown.

Mid-Town Drive-In Mayfield, KY

From Los Pinos cheese dip to Catfish Corner hush puppies, food drives us to conversation and ideas.

Los Pinos Mayfield, KY

I hope that you will follow me on this journey through Graves County and Western Kentucky as we cover food, drinks, and the people behind them.

best, Mary Jo

Catfish Corner Mayfield, KY

17 Pieces of Advice for Anyone Visiting Graves County, Kentucky

  1.  If someone is veering off the road, they’re not drunk.  They’re looking at crops.
  2. There are other places to get coffee; you don’t have to block traffic trying to get into McDonald’s.  Now sweet tea or Diet Coke may be worth the wait.
  3. If you don’t like the weather, wait a half hour, it will change.
  4. If someone asks you to “pack” something, they really want you to carry it for them.  But don’t worry, most places will pack your purchases to the car for you.
  5. It’s a vehicle; not a car, or a truck, or a tractor, or a bus.
  6. We like our BBQ.  Don’t give us that crap with sauce on it.  Sauce is made to cover up sorry BBQ.
  7. If you hear a siren it is customary to go to the window to see what color the lights are and which direction they’re moving.  If you hear it stop, go find out what’s going on.
  8. If you come to slow-moving, oversized farm equipment, wait until you can see around them to pass them.  They will wave you around.
  9. If someone honks at you, they’re being friendly.  Wave.  Around here, everybody waves.
  10. Under no circumstances can you make fun of the Wooldridge Monuments.
  11. Be prepared to say a prayer before every public meeting.  Be ready, you might be asked to lead it.
  12. We are part of Kentucky, even if we sometimes are not included on the map.
  13. When we say western Kentucky, we mean far western Kentucky.
  14. George Clooney is not from Mayfield.  He’s from Maysville.  Maysville is up near Cincinnati.  You can’t get there from here.
  15. Our traffic jams always involve either farm machinery or Amish buggies.
  16. No, our barns are not on fire.
  17. Yes, we know our food is really good.  That’s because it’s all fixed in bacon grease.

The Quest for Barn Quilts


In the summer of 2018, I was tasked with cataloging the barn quilts in Graves County, Kentucky.  In case you are unfamiliar with the term, a barn quilt is  large painting, usually on plywood, that looks like a quilt block.  The paintings are installed on barns or other outbuildings, usually in rural areas.  The designs are all as unique as the people who display them, and as the barns on which they’re displayed – I have never seen two that are alike.


The purpose of my mission was to produce a map for the Tourism Commission so that anyone who might want to see the local barn quilts would know where to look.  Thinking space might be limited for photographs on the map, I asked how many I should find.  The answer I got back was:  “All of them.”

“All of them?”  I asked.  “Do you know where they’re all located?”

“No”, my boss replied.  “That’s your ob.  You have to go find them.”

At first, it sounded like a simple little thing – a couple of days out driving around taking pictures – but the more I thought about it, I realized it might take more than a couple of days.

“Graves County is a big place,” I said.  “And there are a lot of barns.”


She handed me a sheet of paper which listed a handful of addresses.  “Here are a few quilts we know about, but you’ll need to find all the rest.  I want photos, addresses, and GPS coordinates for every quilt you find.”

I’m not going to lie, there was part of me that saw it as sort of an adventure, like a treasure hunt.  It sounded like a fun job, so I gladly agreed.


For three weeks, I spent a few hours each day in my truck searching Graves County for barn quilts.  I travelled on every road in the county at least once (with the exception of private roads or roads which happened to be closed due to construction).  Many times, I had to double back to see a barn from a different angle if I was unable to catch its opposite side in my mirror, as there are some quilts which are only visible from one direction.  I don’t recall the total number of hours or miles I logged, but it was even more than I initially thought it would be.  As I said before, Graves County is a big place, and it has a lot of barns.


My method for searching was to divide the county map into quadrants.  I then printed each quadrant on a separate sheet of paper and used a yellow highlighter to mark off the roads as I travelled them.  I soon realized that not every road was on my map.  I started in the northwest corner that first day near Melber and worked my way south, going counterclockwise finally ending three weeks later in the northeast near Symsonia.  I didn’t go out every single day, and I only spent three to five hours out at a time.


My results for the first day out were dismal – only one new quilt documented.  When I came home that evening, I sent a message to my employer stating there might not be as many quilts as she thought.  I had driven around for four hours that day, and I didn’t have much to show for it.

“Keep looking; they’re out there,” was her reply.

On the second day, my search was the same as the first.  Day three, however, was much more fruitful.  I photographed seven quilts that day.


I noticed that one community would have an abundance of barn quilts, while another would have none at all.  I had a couple of solid theories as to why this was, but I finally settled on neighborly influence – when you see how pretty your neighbor’s barn quilt is, it’ll make you want one too!

The quilts themselves are all different – different designs, different colors, different sizes.   Some are simple, others intricate.  Some of the blocks are even personalized with the owner’s initials.  It’s a great way to make your barn stand out, a great form of artistic expression.


Not every quilt is on a barn.  I found a few displayed on garages, but those count too.

One of the best things about this quest for me personally was touring the county.  I have lived in Graves County for more than forty years and this was the first time I have visited some of the communities, and I certainly had never driven down every road in the county before.  It’s humorous to me that despite all my travels, both in the US and overseas, I had not yet visited some places within thirty miles of my home.  I suppose many of us are similar in that respect – we have certain places we go and certain routes to get there, and we usually don’t deviate from those routes without reason.  Seeing our local barn quilts is a perfect excuse to take the road less traveled.


As I mentioned earlier, not every community in Graves County has barn quilts, so if you follow the barn quilt map exclusively, you will not experience the whole county as I did, but a barn quilt scavenger hunt is still a great day trip (or multiple day trips) to make with friends.

As thorough as I tried to be, I might have missed some.  I hope that all the missed quilts will be reported so we can add them to the map in the future – we don’t want to leave any out!

The Barn Quilts of Graves County map is ready now so you can see them all for yourself, and see our beautiful county while you are at it!

To request a Barn Quilts of Graves County map, contact the Mayfield-Graves County Tourism Commission at 270-247-6106.