A fond farewell of five years

Mar. 6—Her exuberance and enthusiasm to promote London and Laurel County has been the key component that Kelly Burton brought to the London Laurel Tourism Commission for the past 5 1/2 years.

But on Friday, Burton said her formal farewells as co-executive director, taking time off to spend with family and pursue some personal interests.

"It's personal and professional," she said. "I need some family time with less commitments. I love my job and I'll never quit promoting my community. But I need to spend time with my family and I'm blessed to have the opportunity to do that."

Her time with the tourism commission has involved continued projects with the city tourism commission and working with them to promote London and Laurel County. Burton and co-executive director Kim Collier work closely with City Tourism Executive Director Chris Robinson to ensure that volunteers are in place for the World Chicken Festival. They also team to represent the community with booths at the Kentucky State Fair, boat shows, trade shows and other events to bring tourists to the area.

Burton is a familiar face at nearly every public event, usually taking videos and pictures that she later posts to the visitlondonky.com website that includes events sponsored by both tourism commissions.

But even on her first day in October 2018, Burton was no stranger to the tourism field. Her father, Ken Harvey, was tourism director for over three decades before his retirement. That position was filled by Collier and Rodney Hendrickson. Hendrickson's retirement in 2018 brought Burton to the job.

Her statement of never stopping to promote her community held true, even after her formal exit on Friday. Burton and her husband Jason headed out that evening to Cincinnati to the CORA trade show to promote the Redbud Ride that brings in hundreds of cyclists each April.

Burton said her favorite part of her job was attending trade shows where she could tell visitors about her hometown and the many attractions available here. She carried that same enthusiasm to her everyday job.

"I had to apologize to the office staff a lot because visitors would come in and I'd hear them talking. I'd come out of my office and promote the things we have here," she said. "The people would say, 'I know you like your job.' That made me feel good — that complete strangers notice that. People remember me as 'Kelly from Kentucky' and I love that."

Burton always took her job seriously, but not seriously enough that she didn't take time to meet and greet and promote her hometown.

Part of that is the World Chicken Festival, which was begun by the county tourism commission.

"I have a strong board for the Chicken Festival," she said. "We have some volunteers but you can never have too much help. If someone is interested, call the office and volunteer."

Burton has also been involved with the use of ARPA funds to develop the Appalachian Triangle of Kentucky.

"That has multi-jurisdiction. Then there's Just Add Water and the Kentucky Capital Quest. Just recently we had two trails added to the Waterfalls Trails by Kentucky Wildlands," she said. "Those are all projects that will bring tourism to Kentucky."

Burton said the thoughts of taking some time off had been an idea she had been "tossing around" since November.

"I was just thinking about my personal and professional goals. Moving forward, I hope we continue to collaborate with city tourism. The good part is that now I can be a participant instead of an organizer!" she said, laughing.