Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Community Thanksgiving dinner at Christian Church starts the holiday season in Midway

Story by Amanda Colvin, video report by Brittany Forte'
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Food, community, and fellowship set the scene of Thursday night’s Thanksgiving dinner at Midway Christian Church. Toddlers, kids, adults, and elders participated in the annual event. Around 100 people from Midway and surrounding areas attended the dinner to get their first taste of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Pastor Heather McColl said the event originally started out as a charity but has evolved into an annual dinner that provides the community with a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, an event that shows off the kind, welcoming spirit of Midway.

“It originally started out with some people in our community that might not have had a chance for a Thanksgiving dinner, so that was sort of the thought behind it,” said McColl. “This really is a chance for a community to come together, have a meal, and really get to know each other.”

Whether adults or children, young or old, the people in attendance were eager to grab a plate and catch up with old friends. Music played by live musicians filled the room to aid in the sense of community and excitement. Upon walking into the church’s fellowship hall, you were instantly greeting by smiling faces and welcomes.

The kitchen was full of volunteers who had prepared enough food for the entire room to eat and take home leftovers. Food of all kinds lined the counters waiting to be sampled. The roar of people catching up with old friends and meeting new acquaintances competed with the volume of the music.

“We just hope that everyone can come enjoy a good meal and the music and have a good time tonight,” said the church’s care-team leader, Etta Manor.

The smiling faces and warm embraces meant that Midway Christian Church had met the goal of its Thanksgiving dinner, but also showed the sense of community in Midway, making the first event of the holidays a good one.

Monday, November 23, 2015

County fire department getting another foam device through grant from Kentucky-American Water Co.

Click on map to view larger version
The Woodford County Fire Department is getting a foam eductor through a grant from Kentucky-American Water Co., which serves most of the county's population, including Midway.

The $800 piece of equipment is used to apply firefighting foam to liquid combustibles that can float on top of water. County Fire Chief John Varner said the equipment would be housed at the department's main station in Versailles but would be available for use countywide, including mutual aid to the Midway Fire Department. Varner said the county department has an eductor, but it is housed at the Millville station because distilleries are in the area.

The grant was one of 18, totaling $9,000, made this year through the water company's program to support fire departments in its service area. "We appreciate what these dedicated men and women do every day for our communities," company spokeswoman Susan Lancho said.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sidewalk Committee to meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday

The Sidewalk Committee of the Midway City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, at City Hall to discuss a sidewalk plan. The notice from City Hall says no action will be taken. All city council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

3 council members will develop plan for sidewalks; grants committee formed; pop-up store coming

The sidewalk at 122 W. Main St. is in bad shape.
Story and photos by Casey Parker-Bell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Soon you might not have to look down when walking the streets of Midway.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, Mayor Grayson Vandergrift appointed a committee to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the sidewalks of Midway. “We have an issue with sidewalks of disrepair downtown,” Vandergrift said.

City law makes landowners responsible for the upkeep of sidewalks on their property. “Obviously, I think we all agree waiting for owners of these sidewalks is probably going to be a futile effort,” Vandergrift said. But the mayor said he wants to work with homeowners and not force them to fix broken sidewalks.

“Instead of approaching this as ‘We’re coming to get you, you’re going to fix your sidewalks,’ we need to approach this as ‘You have a sidewalk that is in disrepair; it is in the city’s best interest to get it fixed’,” Vandegrift said.

This sidewalk is at 105 S. Winter St.
Part of the city’s concern with bad sidewalks is the city’s liability if someone is injured., Vandergrift said, calling it “a public safety issue.” Even though landowners are responsible for the upkeep of sidewalks, the city is liable if anyone is hurt because of problems with the pathways.

Vandegrift said in an interview that he knows of two cases of people tripping and hurting themselves on cracked sidewalks. “Luckily no one has sued or anything yet,” he said. “The big one was about two years ago; a lady tripped and fell, and busted her face open pretty good.”

After that incident, the city painted yellow stripes on all of the trip hazards around town. “But all that does is make it more discernable to the eye,” Vandergrift said. “It’s not a long-term solution.”

Vandergrift said he has heard complaints from citizens about the condition of the sidewalks, from parents with small children to the members of a local Girl Scout troop who wrote him a letter about the sidewalks on Winter Srteet near the post office.

A comprehensive sidewalk plan is needed because of the city is limited in the ways it can improve sidewalk conditions, Vandegrift said. “Currently our only recourse is to put a lean on the property, and it’s just not effective,” Vandergrift said. “There are a lot of people who would never sell their properties,” which a lien would prevent.

The mayor said has heard of ideas like cost sharing between property owners and the city to fix sidewalks. “I do suspect we will have to offer something like that to engage people to go ahead and fix them.”

Council Member Bruce Southworth, chair of the sidewalk committee,  said he believes there are multiple options for Midway to improve sidewalk conditions. He said he wants an approach where homeowners and the city can share burden. “Maybe we can come up with something that can work to both of our benefit.”

Southworth said he thinks the committee will have a plan together by the first of the year, but set no specific timetable.

A tree has heaved this sidewalk at 129 W. Main St. about two inches.
Sidewalks in need of repair are not hard to find in the downtown area. Many if not most have been painted yellow to alert pedestrians of danger, but the damaged sidewalks dip or bulge more than an inch in some places, creating a tripping hazard. Some sidewalks on Winter Street near the post office on have the worst damage.

Kenny Smith, president of the Midway Merchants Association, said he hopes that the city is successful improving the sidewalks. “If it makes the town more likeable, then it helps the whole town,” he said. Smith said he didn’t believe that the quality of sidewalks in residential neighborhoods necessarily affects shoppers from out of town, but he wants to make the city better as a whole.

Vandegrift also appointed Council Members Kaye Nita Gallagher and Steven Craig to the sidewalk committee. He said the issue should have been addressed "yesterday."

Council Member Sara Hicks suggested that sidewalk repairs be coordinated with sewer repairs that the city plans to do when it has the money. "If we’re gonna tear up sidewalks it seems to me, in terms of efficiency, if we needed to do anything on the sewers that would be the time, because we’d be torn up already.”

The mayor also announced the creation of a citizens advisory committee to help the city with grant writing. “We’re behind the eight-ball on this,” he said. Vandergrift said some grants could help pay for improving sidewalks around town. The committee members he appointed are Jo Blease, Diana Ratliff, Debra Shockley and Mark Pitzer.

Vandergrift announced a new citizens advisory committee that will help with city grants.

Vandergrift said he is looking to get grants for “anything and everything”  and a grant committee is needed to be competitive and give Midway a chance at great opportunities. “There’s a lot of money out there, but we lack man power,” he said in an interview. “We need to know where to look and how to write.”

Vandegrift said the last major grant the city of Midway received was back in 2004 for roadwork in downtown Midway on Main Street. “This committee could end up developing into a part-time position or even a part of the city council,” he said.

The council heard that Bob Mickler’s lifestyle and performance-riding apparel store, in Lexington, plans to open a holiday pop-up shop in Midway from Nov. 25 to Dec. 25 at 119 E. Main St. The store will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Situated in the same location as Bourbon Lane Stable and McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, the pop-up shop seeks to supply local residents and holiday tourists alike with riding and casual apparel, said Chief Executive Officer Michael S. Michalisin. “We are going to do our very best to make it representative of the classy look that is prevalent on East Main Street,” Michalisin said as he asked the council for advice and ideas regarding the best way to do business in Midway and answered questions the council had about the new store.

Vandergrift welcomed the pop-up shop, saying, “I think that it’s a great fit for Midway.” Likewise, he expressed a desire for the company to consider opening a permanent location in the town.

The mayor announced that the city Christmas tree lighting will take place Friday, Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the common area across from Steppin’ Out Boutique and the Christmas Open House will be that Saturday with Santa Claus arriving via train provided by R.J. Corman Railroad at 11 a.m.

Information for this story was also gathered by UK students Kelly Brightmore, Mackenzie Clark and Dimitri Silva.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wreaths at cemetery remind us today is Veterans Day

The Midway City Council recently voted to buy two wreaths for the veterans monument in the Midway Cemetery
on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. This photo, taken today, shows the wreaths in place. (Photo by Al Cross)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Midway University gets higher marks in national ratings

Several publications have recognized Midway University recently for academic excellence.  Most notably, the state’s only women’s college was ranked as the tenth best women’s college in the nation by BestColleges.com. 

The university boasts an 83 percent freshman retention rate and a 15:1 student-faculty ratio.  Such numbers helped Midway move from 65th to 45th in U.S. News & World Report’s list of top colleges in the South. 

Midway’s president, Dr. John Marsden, said he was honored that the institution received high marks from a variety of organizations.  “Although these rankings are not a comprehensive measure of our entire institution, each of them is a snapshot and high level measure of key indicators for our prospective students and their families,” he said in a news release.

Since Marsden became president in 2012, it has grown.  Known as Midway University since July 1, the institution expanded its mission statement to be more open to international students.  These recognitions highlight the school’s progress. 

The university’s nursing, sport management and health-care administration programs were also recognized by BestColleges.com.  The website rated Midway’s online curriculum as the fifth best in Kentucky. Midway was ranked 10th out of 26 universities in Kentucky by USA Today’s College Factual.

Midway also received commendations for it affordability after three consecutive years without raising tuition or room and board.  Washington Monthly magazine ranked Midway 16th in its list of “Best Bang for Buck Colleges in the South.” --Nicholas Roush


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Weisenberger family marks 150 years in the milling business on the bank of South Elkhorn Creek

Phil Weisenberger is the sixth-generation manager of his family's mill on South Elkhorn Creek near Midway.

Weisenberger displays cornmeal immediately after grinding.
Story and photos by Jamilyn Hall
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

On the bank of South Elkhorn Creek near Midway stands Weisenberger Mill, where the family is celebrating 150 years in business at the same location. The mill has passed through six generations and continues to create a local product with wide reach.

Above bottles of the mill's grains and their basic grinds are
portraits of Gus Weisenberger, Phil's great-grandfather, and
Phil Weisenberger, his grandfather, who died in 2008.
Founder August Weisenberger, an immigrant from Germany, bought an earlier mill at the site and began milling corn and wheat into flour in 1865, by using the water from the creek to power the mill.

“We have been open for 150 years, since 1865. We still grind things the same way that we did in 1913,” when the current mill was built, said Philip Weisenberger, manager and son of owner Mac Weisenberger.

Weisenberger is a small company with a large reach, making about 85 percent of its sales wholesale, Weisenberger said.

Sacks of flour boldly labeled "WEISENBERGER" are prepared for shipping at the mill's loading dock.
The mill sells to companies like Miguel's Pizzeria in Slade, Ky., and companies in Lexington. “We sell to these distributors that go to restaurants,” Weisenberger said. “We haven’t sold to Keeneland, but I would say our products are sold to a food service company that services Keeneland.”

When the Breeders’ Cup came to Lexington, the family company saw increase in business. “I have noticed an increase in people stopping by here in the last week,” Weisenberger said that week.  “There’s a lot more people in town looking for culture and things to see.”

About 15 percent of the mill's business is retail.
The mill is a way to consume local products. The grains are Kentucky grown, and the mill has a wide variety of products, such as muffin mix, pizza crust mix and seasoning flour.

“I have seen an increase in the awareness and the desire to buy local, and local foods, in the last five years,” Weisenberger said. “That has really helped us in some ways to increase awareness of local foods. All of our grain here is grown in Kentucky, it’s non-GMO [genetically modified organisms]. So it really is local food in every sense of the way.”

The Weisenbergers and their three employees look to extend their reach, at trade shows.

“The Incredible Food Show was this past weekend, this was our seventh year,” said Phil. “It’s a local food event in downtown Lexington. It caters to a lot of foodies and other people that like to cook at home.”

Boxes of products are ready for shipping.
Weisenberger said the company donates to various local charities throughout the year giving to schools for charity auctions, the Lions Club, Shriners, Goodwill, churches and other ways to give back to Woodford and Scott counties. The mill is in Scott, but the creek is the county line and the Weisenbergers are more identified with Woodford – and with Midway.

The mill’s power source has been one of its few changes since 1865. “You can’t rely on the water,” because the creek level varies, Weisenberger said. “In the 1930s they put in diesel power to run the mill and then after that they put in electricity.”

The mill continues to use creek water, but “to turn turbines, and then it turns an electric generator and makes electricity,” Weisenberger said loudly over the roar of the machines. “We use electricity to run the mill, but we use the generator to generate electricity to offset the costs.”

Another thing that has changed is the technology for dealing with customers. “We interact with customers with email and Internet sales, that has changed,” said Weisenberger.

But in 150 years of business the Weisenbergers haven’t seen much change. “We still grind the corn and we still grind the wheat essentially the same way,” Weisenberger said.

“One thing that used to drive me crazy as a kid was, nothing changed out here; it was always the same. There’s something to be said about finding something you do good and sticking to it, that's what we do.”
The mill's interior has the original wood floors but lots of modern equipment. It's a manufacturing plant.