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Monday, January 18, 2021

Tourism board wants to rebrand, but for now calls 2021 'Year of Fantastic Fare,' which fits Midway, mayor says

Top of Woodford County Tourist Commission's home page
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Woodford County Tourism Commission says it will promote 2021 as the “Year of Fantastic Fare,” but it wants to rebrand the county’s long-term tourism campaign.

The commission announced its 2021 theme in a Facebook livestream on Friday that included Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and Holly Hill Inn co-owner Ouita Michel.

Vandegrift said this is a “perfect year to focus on Fantastic Fare.”

He said of Midway, “We are a dining destination” with “world-class-like” restaurants, called Equus Run Vineyards “a wonderful world-class winery just down the road,” and noted that Bluegrass Distillers is relocating from Lexington to the northwest side of the Interstate 64 interchange: “We’re proud to get back into the distilling game soon.”

The mayor also called Michel the “most influential person in Midway.”

County Judge-Executive James Kay called Michel, owner of eight restaurants, including Midway Bakery and Wallace Station Deli and Bakery, a “true treasure and asset to Central Kentucky.”

Michel said she was “proud to be a part of Woodford County.”

The livestream ended with a video that featured some of the restaurateurs, winemakers and bourbon distillers of Woodford County, presented by Emily Downey, the commission’s executive director. Due to technical difficulties, the video was later reposted separately on the commission’s Facebook page.

The commission's current promotion includes Heirloom.
(For a larger version of the image, click on it.)
In 2019, $34.3 million was spent on tourism in Woodford County, according to state estimates, and the industry employs 272 people in the county, Commission Chair Maria Bohanan said during the livestream.

The day before, in a five-hour retreat meeting, the commission discussed rebranding the county’s tourism promotion and ideas for a new campaign.

The seven-year-old “Uniquely Woodford” campaign was driven by Ken Kerkhoff, then a city council member in Versailles, at a time when the commission had little money and no staff of its own.

Before the current logo, which is a horse with a barrel with ‘Uniquely Woodford’ in letters next to it, the Commission had a “horseshoe with bourbon,” Bohanan said. “I want to say it was the horseshoe, bourbon and something else.” The current slogan is “Bourbon, wine and bloodlines,” a reference to the county’s horse breeding industry.

Commission member Cortney Neikirk of Midway said the current logo is “not flashy.” Bohanan called it “stale” and said she was “tired of ‘uniquely’.” Several other members agreed and felt that the wording needed to be “more actionable” by potential visitors.

“I look at it as a nice jumping-off point,” said Aaron Smither, owner of the Jimmy John’s in Versailles. “When we didn’t have anything, this just served us well.” The commission’s budget increased by thousands of dollars a month almost two years ago when Versailles got a Holiday Inn Express, the county’s first hotel in decades.

Bohanan said she wants the logo to have “that Pottery Barn feel,” and Neikirk said she would like something that is “classically timeless.” 

In reply to a question from the Messenger, Neikirk said that there wasn’t “anything specific to Midway” that came out of the meeting and “Anything we do is gonna help the county, which in return will help Midway.”

Meanwhile, Vandegrift has tourism-promotion plans of his own.

In an annual report sent to the City Council and the Messenger Monday afternoon, which he will present at Tuesday night's council meeting, he said he would propose in the 2021-22 budget unspecified funding for “signage along [US] 421 at the interstate exchange that better welcomes visitors who may not be aware that beyond that overpass is a bustling little city with many shops and restaurants.”

Friday, January 15, 2021

City accepting applications for cost-sharing for sidewalk repairs; mayor wants council to make it more generous

By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The City of Midway is taking applications for this year’s sidewalk replacement program, which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wants to make more generous.

For the last three years, the city has shared in the cost of repairing sidewalks around town, first up to $1,000, then $2,000. Now Vandegrift wants the City Council to raise it to $2,500.

“More than half of the projects that year cost less than $4,000, and therefore did not meet the cap,” Vandegrift said in an email to the council and the Messenger.

“Because of the increase in the price of concrete, I am proposing we offer to pay for half of approved repairs up to $2,500,” Vandegrift wrote.

The mayor said he plans to put a put a cost-sharing resolution before the council at its regular meeting Feb. 1. (The council’s next meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 19, a day later than usual due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.)

In April, when the council started to shape the budget for the 2021 fiscal year, it drafted a “bare bones budget” due to the effects of the pandemic, and one cut was the sidewalk program, which the mayor had budgeted at $20,000. In May, after revenue prospects improved, he and the council put together a “middle ground” budget that restored the program.

To apply for the program, property owners fill out a form and return it to City Hall. City employees will inspect the sidewalk to make sure it meets city specifications.

When applications are approved, ”The city will solicit bids from contractors for all projects, with the quality and cost as highest priorities,” the city’s project guide says. The city will notify property owners of the expected time frame for the work and send them invoices, which will state the total projected amount of the project, the city’s cost-sharing amount and the remainder due the city at or before the beginning of the work.

“We plan to leave this application open through February,” Vandegrift said. “If enough applications are submitted that qualify, we will begin the RFP process in March to solicit a contractor to perform the work, just like the last program, which was conducted in summer of 2019.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Midway Renaissance's food drive in lieu of annual membership dues approaching volume triple last year's

Bags of donated food at Midway Christian Church
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

For the second year in a row, Midway Renaissance is conducting a food drive that doubles as a membership drive, and this year’s is much bigger.

Last year, the campaign brought in about 300 food items. So far this year, it has gleaned about 850 with four weeks still to go, President Christy Reaves said: “We are really excited to see the end numbers.”

She said when she initially came up with the idea, “We believe that caring for our community in this way is so much more important than membership dues revenue to Renaissance.”

Members of Renaissance encouraged people to donate 10 non-perishable food items instead of the customary $10 membership dues, by delivering a flyer to every door in town last January. Reaves said 10 food items “seemed so much more important than 10 dollars” and some people “contributed to the food drive anonymously” even if they didn’t join.

Brown bags are provided at each door for filling with food, along with a form to fill out for anyone interested in joining Midway Renaissance. The food is being organized and distributed by Renaissance volunteers to the blessing boxes at Midway Christian Church and Midway Methodist Church, and the food bank at Midway Baptist Church

“I had always attributed the word Renaissance to evolving to something better,” Reaves said. “By changing our membership campaign to a food drive, a new way was created to let Midway Renaissance visibly impact our community in a different way.”

Reaves and Vice President Marcie Christensen said they would like to thank all of those who helped them distribute the bags throughout the community on what were “some pretty chilly days”: Joy Arnold, Rachel and Harvey Couch and sons, Todd Graddy, Sally Gregg, Blythe Jamieson, Sally Kinnaird, Tiffany Marsh, Hank Pinkerton, Myra Prewitt, Helen Rentch, Dee Dee Roach, Pam Thomas and Stacy Thurman. For anyone who didn’t get a bag, or would like to donate more, there are extras in the post office.

“We missed a few homes,” Reaves said, “so we decided to put extra bags in the post office for people to pick up.”

She said they would “deliver the bag to anyone” who may need one, and to let her or Christensen know if they do. She also added that she thought City Hall might “even get us the message.”

Midway Renaissance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization created in 2003 to promote the historic preservation of Midway as well as provide and support activities related to the community.

Renaissance has several other events and projects throughout the year, primarily the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, which will be held in smaller fashion, due to the pandemic, on the Midway University campus in downtown Midway in May.

The group’s Greenspace Committee plans to look at the Street Tree Inventory of 2012 and check on trees involved in that report with help from volunteers. Greenspace also plans on working with the City Council’s Cemetery & Property Committee to look into the possibility of “dedicating a section of Midway Cemetery for ‘green’ burials,” which use do not involve embalming or vaults.

“We want Midway Renaissance to be a responsive community organization,” Christensen said in an email, “and count on the participation of our neighbors to make that happen.”

Christy Reaves
Reaves moved to Midway from Ashland in 2017 and is a model railroad buff who has done several displays for community events.

She is on the board of the rejuvenated Midway Museum and will be president of Renaissance for one more year. she calls herself a “hopeless volunteer.” 

“I have no idea how to say no to an ask for help,” Reaves said in an email. She also added that she has “no plans to ever leave this sweet little town.”

Monday, January 11, 2021

Brenda Rollins dies; graveside service 1 p.m. Wed.

Brenda Rollins
Brenda Renick Rollins of Midway, a former teacher and Realtor, died after a long illness. She was 71. 

She was the wife of Carl Rollins, former Midway mayor, magistrate and state representative; a Realtor for Show Place Realty; and an active member of Midway Christian Church. 

Born May 7, 1949, to Sam and Grace Strode Renick in Barren County, she earned a master's degree at Morehead State University. She taught at Caverna High School, her alma mater; and at Woodford County High School.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Heather Dragan of Indiana; a brother, Tom Renick of Bowling Green; and her grandchildren, Hannah Dragan and Ryan Dragan.

A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Midway Cemetery in Midway, with the Rev. Heather McColl officiating. Ken Rollins, Jim Rollins, Mike Lawson, Brad Lawson, Greg Gresham, and Aubrey Wells will serve as pallbearers. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Woodford County Humane Society.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Midway University and UK announce dean's lists for fall

By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

One student from Midway landed a spot on Midway University’s dean’s list for the fall semester.

Alex Vorhaus
(Photo provided)
Alex Vorhaus met the two requirements of obtaining a semester grade-point average of a 3.6 or above and maintaining a full-time status at the university. He told the Messenger that he moved to Midway after high school in Brentwood, Tennessee, to enter the university’s equestrian program.

The dean's list included 309 students, including six from Versailles: Raegan Gilbert, Amy Hoard, Ava Pitts, Alexandra Todd, Hannah Urbina and Amanda Watts.

Scott County had one from Stamping Ground, Neal Hearn, and 15 from Georgetown: Amber Basham, Laurel Brandenburg, Sydney Coffey, Rachel Cooper, Brittany Davis, Rebecca Galloway, Reagan Golden, Elizabeth Hazlett, Jordan Hopkins, Nyckoletta Martin, Jessica McClain, Elizabeth Morgan, Cheyenne Privett, Madeline Wasson, and Natasha Williams.

Also on the list were 35 students from Lexington and 19 from Frankfort. The list also included many students from out of state: 11 from Tennessee, eight from Indiana, five from Texas, four each from Georgia and North Carolina, three each from Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri, two each from California, Pennsylvania, and Utah, one each from Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

On an international scale, the list included one each from South Africa, Puerto Rico, Germany, France, Peru and Mexico.

10 from Woodford on UK list: On the same day, the University of Kentucky announced its dean’s list for the fall, which included 10 students from Woodford County: Olivia Danielle Arnold, Sarah Elizabeth Arnold, Heidi M. Asher, Jeffrey Michel Bonci, Hayden Kurt Bouren, Walter T. Horn, Noah B. Jones, Olivia La’Trish Morris-Bush, Daryn LaTara Seals, and Trevor Craig South.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Cemetery panel to discuss idea for pedestrian gates

The Cemetery & City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meet via Zoom at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11. It can be viewed on the Midway Government Streaming Meetings Facebook page.

"The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a proposal for two pedestrian gates at the Midway Cemetery and the St. Rose Tabernacle Cemetery. No action will be taken," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email. "The potential project would need to be budgeted for in the upcoming fiscal year that will begin on July 1, and therefore may be including in upcoming budget workshops for more discussion as well."

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Former Messenger reporter is MADD national president

Alex Otte
Alex Otte of Lexington, who was a Midway Messenger reporter just over two years ago, became the new national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on Jan. 1. 

"As president, Otte will serve as a national spokesperson and chief advocate for MADD, which grew from a grassroots movement begun by a grieving mother in 1980," the group said in a news release.

Otte is a graduate of the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky. In her work for the Community Journalism course, she covered Midway in fall 2018, writing stories about the City Council and its election.

"Her family joined MADD in 2010 after she had been severely injured by an intoxicated boater when she was just 13 years old," the release said. "Otte was on a jet ski on a Kentucky lake near her home when a drunk boater crashed into her at nearly 70 mph. The accident caused a severe brain injury, a broken neck and collarbone, a shattered jaw, a lacerated liver, two shattered femurs, and the loss of her right leg below the knee."

Otte started with MADD as a volunteer, and served as a National Teen Influencer for the group in 2014 and won its National Youth Activist of the Year award in 2015 for her efforts to pass ignition interlock legislation in Kentucky.