Sunday, February 7, 2016

Merchants create Facebook page, plan to reshape advertising; second Chocolate Stroll is Saturday

By Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Valentine's Day is approaching, meaning the annual Chocolate Stroll is just around the corner, but the Midway Business Association has been working on several other ideas for the upcoming year, including new ways to promote and advertise.

The Chocolate Stroll will be held Saturday, Feb. 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Midway. The event is hosted by the business association and merchants are encouraged to participate.

Patrons will pick up a ticket in any of the participating stores, which will be labeled by a sign in the window. Those who have their ticket punched the stores with signs can drop their punched ticket off in the Kennydid Gallery for a drawing at the end of the event.

The drawing will be for a $250 Historic Midway basket that will have donations from each of the participating merchants. The event and tickets are free of charge.

"It is up to the individual merchant what they do as part of participation for this event," said Peggy Angel of Steppin' Out Boutique. "I am giving flowers away for the first 50 buyers, chocolate treats, which all merchants usually give and I'll be giving away door prizes."

The winner will be posted on the Meet Me In Midway Facebook page created by the business association. For more information on the Stroll and other events hosted by the merchants, visit Facebook.com/meetmeinmidway.

The Facebook page is the first public evidence of the business association’s plan to revamp and redirect its advertising and marketing.

"The goal of this Facebook page is to promote Midway to tourists," by promoting events and related webpages, said Elisha Riddle of Lexington, creator of the page and owner and operator of Charismatic Media.

The Midway Business Association pays Riddle $125 per month to keep the page updated. Riddle said she puts $25 of that monthly payment back into advertising and promoting the page to targeted audiences on Facebook.

The page was started three weeks ago and as of Feb. 7 had 80 likes. The page will share merchants’ postings and be an outlet for tourists to check out Midway. She said it will help merchants build their email lists to send out email blasts that  promote events and businesses.

The page is not yet affiliated with meetmeinmidway.com, the city’s website, and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift attended Wednesday’s association meeting partly to say the operators of the sites need to communicate and coordinate.

"If we spread ourselves out, we're not creating more traffic," said Vandegrift. "I'm afraid we're just diluting ourselves."

Along with Facebook promotions, the business association is having James Reed of the Kentucky Broadcasters Association develop a media and advertising campaign to market to tourists. Reed also works with Midway University.

"Hopefully, next month he will be ready to report to us with what he recommends as the general campaign for us as a small city," said Angel, speaking as secretary of the association and member of its advertising committee. "We are hoping to market our brand as our city."

The association will have a budget of $16,000 to $20,000 for the campaign, Angel said. Advertisements will cover a 70-mile radius and reach out to families with a decision maker 30 to 60 years old, she said.

"You've got to be consistent and I think that is something we haven't done so well in the past," said Angel. "You've got to limit what you do, but you have got to be effective with what you do."

Part of the advertising money will cover the Midway Fall Festival, which is the association's main money-maker.

The merchants do not yet have the membership they had last year. As of Wednesday’s meeting, only three merchants have paid their dues; last year there were 18 members. Dues are $100 per year.
"We really need to campaign for members for this association.," said Angel.

The members present agreed to sponsoring the Francisco’s Farm Art Festival, but without a quorum they could not officially vote on the sponsorship.

Applications for the festival have closed, with 112 artists seeking consideration by jurors who will select exhibitors, said business association President Kenny Smith, who also works with the festival.

The applications for vendors and non-profits at the festival are on the festival's website. Non-profits will be limited to those in Woodford County.

"We were getting people from Cynthiana selling dogs. ... I think it was a puppy mill," said Smith. "If you are selling windows or Tupperware, no. We are an arts and crafts festival."

Don Vizi, executive director of the Versailles-Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, told those at the meeting that there will be a ribbon cutting for the new factory in the next two weeks. The Woodford County Economic Development Authority wants to have Gov. Matt Bevin attend, he said.

"We can't get the governor to commit when and if he's coming or not," said Vizi.

The chamber is starting a drive for used cell phones, to be donated to abused women. More information will be available shortly, said Vizi.

Leslie Penn suggested that the chamber seek help from local churches, which “tend to have a big influence on collecting things for the needy.”  She volunteered to pick the donated phones up from the churches if the chamber goes that route.

Vizi said the chamber is working on the Hike Bike Waterways Horseback Riding Trail Committee, which will meet on March 12 at KCTCS in Versailles from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to display proposed trails to the public.

"We will lay out all the charts for the future trails and how they will tie together," said Vizi.

Merchants in attendance were Kenny Smith of Kennydid Gallery, Leslie Penn of Historic Midway Museum Store, Peggy Angel of Steppin' Out Boutique, Ellen Gregory of Midway University and Kaci Leatherwood and Connie Snyder of Cherokee & Co., a boutique that will open late this month.  The Midway Business Association meets the first Wednesday of each month at 9 a.m. upstairs in City Hall.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Versailles bypass not in new road plan; both mayors speculate that politics were in play

By Al Cross and Aayat Ali
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed road plan does not include the controversial Versailles bypass, pleasing interests in Midway that feared it would bring much more truck traffic to the town and Midway Road.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he didn't know why Bevin dropped the $40 million project, but speculated that it stems from its cost and Bevin's Republican politics, "the sort of tea-party aspect of it. He's sort of trying to cut anywhere he can cut."

Bevin has called for a 9 percent cut in most General Fund agencies. The Road Fund is separately funded, but its main source of revenue, motor-fuels taxes, has been declining along with gas prices, and the road plan has more projects than can be built in its six-year span, Vandegrift noted.

Also, he said, "They probably were aware it was a controversial project." Bill Marshall, a leading Republican in Midway who knows Bevin, said he had not spoken to the governor about the project. County Republican Chair Bobby Gaffney, who ran for county-executive judge in 2014, could not be reached for comment.

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, who works for Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and is a major promoter of the bypass, said he didn't know, either, but also said the move seemed political, aimed at a county that is represented in the General Assembly by Democrats.

"I can't imagine that the governor has any real public-policy opinion on that road one way or the other," Traugott said. "He obviously doesn't know the local politics. It's not a real party-line issue."

Asked if he thought his legislative job influenced the decision, he said, "I can't imagine that that would help, but I would expect more out of a governor. The speaker and I have never discussed the road. I believe it was purely political, but I don't think it was geared toward me or the speaker or my role there. He probably thinks we've elected the wrong people to represent us."

Transportation Cabinet map (click on it to view a larger version)
State Rep. James Kay, a Democrat from Versailles, told The Woodford Sun, "My priorities . . . never included the bypass. I obviously understand the traffic concerns, I understand the future when you look at ut, but there was never an effort on my part to get funds for the bypass, particularly considering everyone knew they wouldn't be there."

The road, officially known as the Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor, is designed to relieve traffic congestion in downtown Versailles. It would extend Falling Springs Boulevard, which begins at KY 33 near the Bluegrass Parkway, to Frankfort Road (US 60).

Vandegrift said Bevin's move doesn't necessarily kill the project, and Traugott said he considers it a delay, not a cancellation. He said he will try to get the legislature to add planning money for the project in the latter part of the plan "to keep the discussion alive." The plan had included $2 million for final design of the road.

The Transportation Cabinet has identified three possible routes, one of which would feed directly into Midway Road (US 62), which trucks could use to reach Interstate 64 eastbound and Interstate 75. The other possible routes would intersect Frankfort Road short distances either way from its intersection with Midway Road.

Robert Sprague, the Transportation Cabinet engineer supervising the project, was not able to provide a reason why the bypass was left out of the road plan. He did tell the Midway Messenger that the cabinet still plans to recommend a route for the bypass some time this month, as previously scheduled.

Told that, Traugott said, "I'm glad to see that they're moving forward with that due-diligence part of it."

Midway is about to become even more of a railroad town, as the permanent home of a steam engine

By Aayat Ali
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The R.J. Corman Railroad Group has received a grant to house the “Old Smokey” steam engine in the Midway Historic District where citizens and visitors can see it and the Corman caboose already in the city, the Midway City Council heard Monday night.

CSX Railroad owns the track that runs through Midway, so a building to house the engine and caboose would have to be built off CSX property to avoid issues with CSX, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

The plan is to put the engine on the United Bank lot where the caboose already resides.  “We still have to get approval from the bank,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift said the engine itself doesn’t qualify for the historic-oriented grant because it was built in 1987, but a building in the Midway Historic District does qualify.

Vandegrift revealed that the state Transportation Cabinet has approved a grant of $193,000 to help build the facility, with a total cost of about $241,000, all covered by Corman. 

Corman barn in Lexington, before large steeples were added to it
Vandegrift said the building would be a smaller version of the one in Lexington that has housed Corman’s dinner train to Versailles, which recently stopped running.

The main issues are how the engine will be placed in the 125-foot-long building and where it will be built.

Vandegrift said the project is a great opportunity for Midway, the first town in Kentucky to be established by a railroad, which was the state’s first rail line. That was in 1833; the city was incorporated in 1846.

Coolmore America buying Waterford Farm, getting city water

The council approved running a water line outside the city limits to Waterford Farm, which is being bought by Ashford Stud, a division of Coolmore America, whose Versailles Road farm is home to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

The 720-acre farm is just outside the city limits on Weisenberger Mill Road, next to The Homeplace at Midway, a new senior-living community.

The main concern among council members was howa break in the water line might affect the water pressure at The HomePlace, for which fire suppression is critical.

First-term Council Member Libby Warfield asked if the line would be “detrimental to The HomePlace” and whether other farms outside the city limits get city water.

Vandegrift said there are such farms, and Water Superintendent Mark Roberts said a pressure problem is unlikely. He said The Homeplace’s lines would be cleaner because it would no longer be at the end of a line.  In case of a major break, Roberts and Vandegrift said, the farm line could be turned off at the new meter or the town’s water tank could be filled.

They said the city would require a backflow preventer on the line to keep solids from flowing into the city’s water in case of a break in the city system, which could siphon non-potable water from the farm.

Waterford Farm would be responsible for paying all expenses and meeting the city’s specifications, Roberts said.

In other business, the council declared the old fire truck and the fire department’s old van to be surplus, allowing them to be put up for bid. Vandegrift said the equipment is “just taking up space.”

The council also discussed the city’s plan to use $16,384 remaining from a community development block grant funds to build a new Habitat for Humanity home at 209 E. Stephens St. The topic was tabled after Council Member Dan Roller found an apparent discrepancy in the documentation.

Vandegrift wrapped the meeting up by thanking Deputy Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler for his help in preparing Midway for the snowstorm a few weeks ago. 

“They sent me updates days ahead,” he said, adding later, ”They even put on snow boots and walked through eight inches of snow though my yard to let me sign the emergency declaration.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Renaissance is bouncing back; annual membership meeting brings encouraging reports, new ideas

By Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Renaissance has come through conflict and a two-year lull but the civic group “is alive and well,” President Jim Wombles said at its annual membership meeting Monday night.

The organization has money in the bank, regular committee meetings, ideas for 2016 and a new contract with Midway University for their Francisco’s Farm Art Festival to stay on campus through May 2019.

In 2011, the festival was relocated to Equus Run Vineyeards, which displeased merchants because it would reduce business during that weekend. This was a result of Midway University’s previous administration declining to sign a long-term contract in 2008. That came on top of conflict with the previous city administration.

The festival returned to the campus in 2014 and will be held on May 21 and 22 this year.  Under the new contract, Renaissance will pay the university $5,000 annually and keep the rest of the proceeds from the event.

Renaissance Treasurer Leslie Penn reported that the festival account has $13,971.72, the general account $5,934.69 and the GreenSpace account $3,255.14.

The top of the web page for the annual arts festival
Volunteers will be needed to make the festival a success, Wombles said. The festival committee meets the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the university’s Anne Hart Raymond Center. The Renaissance board meets there at 7 p.m. on second Wednesdays.

Wombles announced that Renaissance is now eligible for federal contracts and grants, and board members have $1 million in liability insurance.

He said that when the group met last year on March 30, it had not filed taxes in two years and risked losing its federal tax exemption. The members elected a board and formed committees that have been meeting regularly. Wombles thanked Penn for her help on the tax exemption, which he said “was not easy.”

The Renaissance board is looking to form other committees and ways of fundraising to continue to make the festival and its GreenSpace efforts successes.

Wombles said he board would like to add four members so not all members’ three-year terms expire at the same time. After three members declined nomination, Katie Vandegrift accepted and was elected. She is the wife of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.

Besides her, Penn and Wombles, the other board members are Kim Skeeter, Kenny Smith, John Holloway, John Maybriar, Jo Blease, Debra Shockley, Joy Arnold and Dee Dee Roach. The board is still looking for three more members.

Wombles said Renaissance needs to focus its efforts on the arts, even if it costs a little money. "Any success that we have had has to do with art," he said. "We have an opportunity to build on the arts."

Kenny Smith, owner of Kennydid Gallery, introduced an idea for public art. He displayed a poster-size photo of a mural in Wilmington, Ohio, that had been seen by Peggy Angel, owner of Steppin’ Out Boutique. Smith said it would be great to have something similar in Midway to help attract tourists. He said he has talked to building owners and has discussed a potential location of City Hall facing Winter Street.
Kenny Smith showed a photo of the Ohio mural as Jim Wombles and other Renaissance members watched.
Smith said the Board of Architectural Review for the Midway Historic District told him that a mural would be approved as long as it is not on the front of the building, has no advertising and has historic qualities.

"I spoke to the artist who did the mural in Wilmington and he charges $50 per square foot, so it will cost some money," said Smith. "We will have to plan for maintenance as well. We have to make sure 
we have enough money to maintain it after it is done."

The group also discussed old ideas, such as creating a trail across the creek leading to Northside Drive and finding money to pay a Main Street manager; and new ones, such as jam sessions that will be held on Sundays starting in May, as well as youth nights and a car show.

Chili cook-off, a much-anticipated local event, draws 17 entries; Burchells win first and third places

Children slurped chili as adults lined up to get their fill at the Christian Church's annual Chili Cook-Off.
There were plenty of "fixins" to go with chili.

Story and photos by Tiffany Broughton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Christian Church’s annual Chili Cook-Off was a hit Monday night, after the cold, wintry weekend.

This year’s cook-off, part of the church’s monthly free dinner for the community, brought out 17 of Midway’s best pots of chili and a crowd of about 70 people.

Not all were from Midway, such as Judy Jones of Lexington. “I haven’t been in a couple months because I went back to Chicago,” she said, “but I have been coming out to Midway for decades.”

The room was full of laughter and full bellies waiting for the decision of the judges: Mayor Grayson Vandergrift and City Council Members Bruce Southworth and Kaye Nita Gallagher. They sampled each of the recipes and tallied up the scores to pick their winner.

Winner Phil Burchell displays his chili label.
"We all tried them and then rated each one privately, 1 through 10, and whittled them down. Then we narrowed them down to the top three," said Vandergrift.

The winner was Phil Burchell with his “Old Lions Club” specialty. Second place went to Gloria Batts and third went to Sharon Burchell, wife of the winner. The judges gave an honorable mention to Bart Shockley for his super spicy recipe.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” said Vandergrift. “How often can you say you ate 17 different chilis in one night and lived to tell the tale.”

The community dinners are held on the last Monday of each month. Not only do these events bring out a crowd, they are backed by a community effort.

“A lot of the food is donated and some people make donations to the community dinner account,” said chef Ouita Michel. “Sometimes we have fresh vegetables from the community garden.”

The community dinner has become a tradition for those who can attend. For shut-ins, meal deliveries are available. If you or someone you know is in need of a warm meal delivered to their front door you can call the church at 846-4102.

“The Chili Cook-off is always the most fun dinner to come to,” Vandegrift said, “and everyone kind of looks forward to the cook-off in January.”

Roller not running for council seat; McDaniel, Simoff join other incumbents in race; former signed latter's papers

Seven people are running for the six seats on the Midway City Council, but the council will have at least one new face because Dan Roller did not join the other council members in filing for re-election.

The non-incumbents running are Steve Simoff, who filed last week, and John McDaniel, who entered on Tuesday, the filing deadline. Incumbents Steven Craig, Sarah Hicks, Bruce Southworth, Libby Warfield and Kaye Nita Gallagher filed last week.

Because fewer than 13 candidates filed for the six council seats, there will be no primary election. The non-partisan election will be held Nov. 8.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift is not up for re-election this year because mayors serve four-year terms. Council members serve two-year terms. Roller told the Messenger that he is not running because three terms is long enough for him.

McDaniel, who lives in the 100 block of West Stephens St., is well known in Midway as the local correspondent for The Woodford Sun and a former police officer. Simoff, who lives in the 400 block of Merrywood Drive, is a racing steward and judge. Both are 66 years old.

McDaniel, on Jan. 12, was the last of 12 people to sign Simoff's nominating petition. The first signer, on Jan. 9, was Helen Rentch, followed by Judy and Crittenden Rawlings on Jan. 11.

McDaniel said in an interview that he had already decided to run when he signed Simoff's petition, and didn't consider that a contradiction because "There's more than one seat."

He said he is running because "I've got ideas [of running] for some other office, not mayor," and wants to see how he can do. He declined to reveal his longer-range plan, but said, "I've probably been to more city council meetings than all of them put together. I started going when I was 10." His father, John William McDaniel Jr, was Midway's sole police officer for years.

McDaniel's brother, Jim, was the first to sign his petition, followed by Amanda and Ken Glass.

Simoff said he and McDaniel are friends, and "I knew that he was going to run," but that had nothing to do with asking him to sign the petition. "I think the people in the town respect him, and I respect him," he said.

Simoff said he moved to Midway in the 1980s and recently opened Horse Country Cottage, a vacation rental, at 424 S. Winter St. He said he has wanted to be on a city council since he was a child in Orient, Iowa, population 400, and his father took him to council meetings.

Asked why he is running, Simoff said, "I don't have any qualms with anybody who's on" the council. "I just want to take my time as a public servant if the public wants me to serve."

Zeb Weese gives advice on how to keep natural areas at church's first Environmental Action Forum

By Leah Sharp
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway resident Zeb Weese, coordinator of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, discussed how to manage Kentucky’s natural areas during the first Environmental Action Forum at the Midway Presbyterian Church on the night of Jan. 21.

Zeb Weese discussed Kentucky's natural areas during the first
Environmental Action Forum Jan. 21. (Photo by Leah Sharp)
Weese, a conservation biologist, told the group that about 727 species are endangered in Kentucky. That appeared to shock the crowd of 23, judging from their facial expressions.

As an example of how an endangered species can become extinct, he cited the American chestnut tree, only a few of which remain due to a blight imported from Asia.

“Chestnuts are gone forever,” Weese said. “No matter what kind of management we do they are not coming back.”

Weese discouraged his audience from using fallen trees for firewood, suggesting that a dead tree should stay put.  “It is meant to rot,” he said, adding that this would help keep natural areas natural without really having to do much.

Weese demonstrated how citizens could work together to manage the natural areas remaining in Kentucky, which is heavily privately owned. “Less than 7.5 percent of Kentucky is state or federally protected,” he said, noting the limited funding for the state to help owners manage woodlands, which cover more than 40 percent of the state.

That is much less than in the 1800s, when Kentucky looked much different than it does today, Weese said. He explained that while driving we see “tons of trees,” but the forests on the roadsides “only last a couple feet. Behind those trees are neighborhoods.”

Weese earnestly suggested that citizens work on small parts at a time. “If you focus on a small area it is easier to keep up rather than a big area to later on give up,” he said.

The church has scheduled four more environmental forums. The next one, on Feb. 18, will be conducted by Dr. Joshua Adkins, whose topic will be “Bugs and Weeds: Invasive Species and Aquatic Systems.”