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 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.