Friday, January 20, 2017

Chef Ouita Michel does the dinner for 1,000 at the Kentucky Society of Washington's Bluegrass Ball

Ouita Michel at the Holly Hill Inn (WKYT-TV image)
The town of Midway didn't go for Donald Trump, but it was nicely represented at the presidential inauguration this week. Midway's best-known chef, Ouita Michel, was in charge of the menu for about 1,000 Kentuckians, expatriates and friends who gathered for the quadrennial Bluegrass Ball of the Kentucky Society of Washington.

Michel took cues from Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, making the Wednesday night dinner entree the president's favorite dish, chicken fricassee, and one of the three desserts the first lady's almond white cake. Another dessert was chocolate bourbon pecan squares from her Midway Bakery.

The menu included several other Kentucky ingredients, including her Wallace Station bourbon mustard (for the Kentucky beef hemp dawgs?) and Weisenberger Mill flours. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said in a news release about the menu, “We’re deeply grateful to Ouita Michel, one of Kentucky Proud’s earliest and most dedicated champions, for incorporating so many Kentucky foods into her menu.”

"I want everybody who eats something from me to know that I am a Kentucky chef. And I want to use Kentucky ingredients," Michel told Sam Dick of Lexington's WKYT-TV before the dinner.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Owner of early Derby favorite Classic Empire has home and breeds horses at Fawn Leap Farm in Midway

By Kaitlyn Taylor and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

John C. Oxley, a leading North American horseman who has a home at his Fawn Leap Farm just south of Midway, owns the early favorite for this year's Kentucky Derby, Classic Empire.

Trainer Mark Casse, left, posed with Debby and John Oxley after
winning the 2012 Sovereign Award as top trainer in Canada.
Oxley, a retired geologist who still has an oil and gas company and homes in Palm Beach, Aspen and San Antonio, says he enjoys Midway.

“I like the small town and the love of Thoroughbred race horses,” he said in an interview with the Midway Messenger.

Oxley and his wife Debby breed Thoroughbreds -- 35 last year, he said -- at the 253-acre farm.

He bought Classic Empire at the Keeneland sales for $475,000 after looking at the colt and saying, “That isn’t just an ordinary horse,” Oxley said. “He had the quality look, well balanced blood lines, he had all the credentials.”

The horse is by Pioneer of the Nile (also the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) out of Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief, and was bred by Steven and Brandi Nicholson at WinStar Farm.

Classic Empire won the 1-and-1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a neck over favorite Not This Time on Nov. 5, after winning the Breeders’ Cup Futurity Stakes, another Grade I race, at Keeneland on Oct. 8. In July, he won the Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Classic Empire wore blinkers for the
Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Wikipedia)
He threw his jockey and didn't finish in the Sept. 5 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, but returned to form after being equipped with blinkers, Oxley said. Classic Empire and Not This Time were co-favorites for the Derby after their close race, but when that horse was retired due to injury, Classic Empire became the favorite.

Oxley said of his horse's career, “It’s obviously going in a very favorable direction.” Its next race could be the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Feb. 4.

Classic Empire is trained by Mark Casse, who has won eight Sovereign Awards as the outstanding trainer in Canada and has been recognized as the leading trainer at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack 11 times.

“He is an honest, genuine guy, and he is in his prime,” Oxley said. “He devotes his entire life to horses.”

After the Holy Bull, Casse and Oxley plan to run Classic Empire in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream in late February. They had been shooting for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April, but that race and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct were recently downgraded to Grade II, and Oxley wants as many Grade I wins as possible.

"We like the Blue Grass; we like Keeneland," Oxley told Tim Sullivan of The Courier-Journal for a column published Jan. 2. "But ultimately, if your horse goes to stud, everyone wants to stand a Grade I winner." The alternative could be the Florida Derby, Casse told The Paulick Report.

Also, Oxley said Dec. 8 -- six days after the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association downgraded the Blue Grass -- that he would donate 1 percent of all Classic Empire's Grade I winnings through the Derby to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, where he is a board member.

Debby and John Oxley with Classic Empire after his Juvenile win
Oxley, whose 80th birthday will be Jan, 24, grew up in Tulsa, Okla., where he took care of his father’s Thoroughbred polo ponies and grew to love the breed. He said he was captivated listening to Assault’s victory in the 1946 Derby.

He founded Oxley Petroleum in 1962, the same year he bought his first horse. He sold the firm in 2003 and started Oxley Resources, a smaller-scale of oil and gas exploration and production venture.

Oxley is a polo champion. He won the U.S. Open Championships in 1983, The Rolex Gold Cup, the Cowdray Park Gold Cup, the Monty Waterbury Cup, the Pacific Coast Open and more as a five-goal player. He received the 1985 Hugo Dalmar Award for sportsmanship and longtime contributions to polo. He has been president of the U.S. Polo Association and was its chairman from 1988 to 1991. In 2005, he was inducted into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.

In Thoroughbred racing, Oxley's first Breeder’s Cup victory came in 1999 with Beautiful Pleasure's victory in the Distaff. A six-time winner of Grade I races, she retired as a broodmare to Fawn Leap Farm.

In 2012 and 2013, respectively, Oxley's Uncaptured was Canadian Horse of the Year and his Spring in the Air was the champion 2-year old filly.

Through the Mary K. Oxley Foundation, Oxley has donated approximately $1 million to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. The Oxley foundation made a $300,000 challenge grant toward construction of the Homeplace at Midway, an assisted-living and nursing facility that opened in 2015.
Fawn Leap Farm is at 5539 Midway Road, US 62, just south of Midway. The city's water towers are on the horizon at right.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Council OKs revised deal with EDA Chair Soper, backed by mayor, who calls city 'very strong' in annual report

State Rep. James Kay swore in Council Members, from left, Steve Simoff, Libby Warfield, Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel, Bruce Southworth and Sara Hicks.

By Al Cross and Dan Roller
Midway Messenger

The new Midway City Council approved an agreement Tuesday night that will make Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chairman John Soper an independent contractor paid by the city, the county and the City of Versailles.

The contract will cost Midway $858 per month, slightly more than double the $417 a month it had been paying, but much less than the $2,240 a month that Soper and Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott proposed in November that each of the three governments pay.

That proposal prompted an open clash Nov. 21 between Soper and Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, who asked for "some kind of open hiring process" and said he wouldn't consider the proposal without additional representation for Midway on the EDA and the county planning commission, agencies with one board member each from Midway.

The next day, Soper withdrew his proposal, and the following day, Traugott offered another one, to give Midway one more member on each board and have it pay $1,008 a month to fund EDA and 24 percent of planning and zoning expenses instead of the current 11 percent, an increase of about $14,000 a year over the current $10,000.

The agreement now being adopted says nothing about extra board members or funding of planning and zoning. Vandegrift said in an interview that he didn't think another board member "would be worth paying $24,000 and still be outvoted," and the agreement with Soper addresses issues the city had with EDA, which owns the Midway Station development, for which the city and county are still in debt.

Vandegrift said he recently reminded Soper that Midway, Versailles and Woodford County have different development goals, and they agreed that a master plan must be developed for Midway Station, including greenspace, attractive landscaping and an appropriate mix of businesses.

The agreement calls for Soper to promote the cities and the county to prospective employers, help retain current employers and work an average of 35 hours a week, performing the functions now handled by part-time EDA Executive Director Craig McAnelly, who works mainly for the Bluegrass Area Development District, is retiring.

Soper will remain chair of the EDA board. He is to be paid $5,720 per month or $68,640 a year, and abide by the Versailles ethics code. Versailles will pay half his fee, $2,860 per month; the county will pay $2,002 a month. Any of the four parties can cancel the agreement with 30 days' notice.

Council Member Sara Hicks asked how Soper would handle a prospective employer who was looking at both cities. Vandegrift said, "We have to assume that he's going to work in good favor for whatever's best. . . . I certainly wouldn't expect him to play favorites."

Vandegrift said about 10 prospective employers have visited Midway Station, and most wanted cheaper land or more land than the development has available. He said that if the city thinks it is "not being properly marketed, he would have to make those changes."

Mayor presents annual report

Vandegrift presented the proposal in conjunction with his required annual report, which said his disagreement with Soper "in a sense" personified "the great debate of the day in Woodford County. The dividing line of the discussion seems to be between those who feel Woodford County had been growing too slowly, with missed opportunities, and those that feel that it might be growing too quickly, and without proper planning."

The mayor's report cited Midway Station as the area of greatest improvement and future potential. The American Howa auto-parts plant is complete and hiring of 88 employees has begun; the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution facility is well underway, with construction continuing through the holidays. As Midway’s largest employer, with 262 permanent employees plus temporary jobs, its economic impact will be felt for years. The addition of a large gas line to serve Midway Station improves the prospects of future development.

The report said the condition of the city had improved in several areas over last year, including: finances, infrastructure improvements with the paving of Northside Drive, "the worst road in the city," and repair of other deteriorated street areas, and agreements in place for the spring to repair sidewalks the city deemed most in need of repair. "Further cost sharing with homeowners should be explored," Vandegrift said.

He noted the new Parks Board and improvements to Walter Bradley Park, especially the bridge crossing Lee’s Branch, completed with both volunteer labor and donations and city employees’ labor and resources, linking residential neighborhoods, the library, the school and business areas.

"All in all, our city is very strong," Vandegrift concluded. "With the momentum that the four returning council members have helped create – and the energy the two new voices are sure to bring – there is no reason why we can’t make Midway the model for small cities across Kentucky."

New members and committees

State Rep. James Kay swore in council members for the two-year terms they won in the Nov. 8 election. The new members are John W. McDaniel and Steven Simoff. Returning to the council are Kaye Nita Gallagher, Sarah Newell Hicks, Bruce Southworth and Libby Sharon Warfield. The council elected Sara Hicks, top vote getter in the election, as mayor pro tem, to serve in the absence of the mayor. After Hicks' election, she was presented a petite version of the brass-and-walnut gavel used by Vandegrift.

The mayor established and appointed council committees for 2017-18. The Public Works and Services Committee is chaired by Southworth, with Gallagher and McDaniel as other members. The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee is chaired by Hicks, with Southworth and Simoff as additional members. A new committee for Events, Outreach and Tourism was formed to recognize the economic importance of these activities to residents and visitors. The members are Gallagher, chair; McDaniel, and Simoff.

A newly combined committee for Cemetery, City Property and Blighted Property is chaired by Warfield, with Hicks and Simoff as other members. Vandegrift said he combined the city-property and blighted-property functions to assure that city properties are maintained as examples to citizens who are being ask to bring their own properties up to the building codes.

Other business

The council approved an amendment to the county zoning ordinance to allow signs and banners for “solely charitable events or activities” to on fences and poles. The council agreed with a comment: “As long as it does not apply to the post-office bulletin board, the source of all information in Midway, we can accept it!”

Vandegrift said the City of Midway will again sponsor a table for eight at the countywide Martin Luther King Day breakfast in Versailles Monday, Jan. 16.

Al Cross is director of the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes the Midway Messenger.  Dan Roller served six years on the city council and is the first participant in a citizen-journalism project that will eventually put the Messenger in the hands of citizens of Midway.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cora Emma Combs Washington, 85, died Wednesday; funeral to be at Midway Christian Church on Monday

A prominent Midway citizen and a leader of its African American community has passed. Cora Emma Combs Washington, 85, died Wednesday, Dec. 28.

She was an elder of historic Second Christian Church and the widow of Jerome E. Washington. Besides her husband, she was preceded in death by two children, Janice Collins and George Anna "Did" Campbell. Survivors include her daughter, Brenda Jackson; grandchildren Yolanda Collins, Juanita Collins, Jerome "J. W." Collins, Ayana Dixon and Jeremy Campbell; great-grandchildren Jasmine Collins, Maya Dixon, Alexa Dixon and Caramia Collins; and special friends, Mrs. William Clark and Dr. and Mrs. Norman Fisher.

"She was always so interested in the children in Midway," Dee Dee Roach said in a comment on the Midway Musings Facebook page. "She was a very special lady who told wonderful stories of Midway's past."

City Council Member Dan Roller wrote, "We went to a picnic at Historic Second Christian Church one time and Mrs. Washington was waiting in her car, near the tables with food. She said, 'If you are looking for my pies, I don't put them out until after people start eating, otherwise they skip the food and go straight for my pies.' We will miss that wonderful smile!"

Wilda Willis Caudle wrote, "The bakers in God's Heavenly bakery will get first hand instructions on making mouthwatering from scratch butterscotch pies. Rest in peace, Ms. Cora Emma. You have more than earned the golden rocking chair in your heavenly mansion."

Funeral services will be held at noon Monday, Jan. 2 at Midway Christian Church, 123 E. Bruen St., with visitation from 11 a.m. to noon. Burial will be in Sunset Memorial Gardens, with O.L. Hughes & Sons Mortuary of Lexington in charge of arrangements.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Organist for 78 years at New Union Christian Church dies at 97

Martha Jane Stone at her organ in 2009. (H-L photo by Tom Eblen)
By Tom Eblen
Lexington Herald-Leader

Martha Jane Stone became the organist at New Union Christian Church when she was a freshman at Transylvania University in 1938, and she stuck with it until shortly before her death Wednesday at age 97.

Stone, who also played cello for decades in several Lexington orchestras and taught music at Transylvania for 33 years, died at Baptist Health Lexington two days after major surgery, said the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of the church on Old Frankfort Pike at Browns Mill Road.

Kemper tried to get Stone listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-serving church organist, but she couldn’t find enough documents to prove her 78-year tenure. Many records were lost when the church’s former building was demolished in 1962.

Stone had been a member of the small, 182-year-old congregation longer than anyone else, Kemper said, having been there through two buildings, three organs and five ministers.

“Martha Jane lived a remarkable life filled with music and friendships,” Kemper said. “She was an excellent music educator, continuing to teach me — her one-time piano student at Transylvania — music theory nearly every Sunday as we went over the hymns together. We will miss her greatly.”

Stone grew up in Owensboro, Paducah and Pineville before moving with her family in 1933 to the Lexington house where she lived the rest of her life. She never married.

Stone graduated from Transylvania University with a degree in music and mathematics, which she said caused her to mistakenly get a draft notice after World War II began. Few women studied math in those days, she said, so the Army had put the names of all math majors into the Selective Service System.

Stone earned a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1949 and later studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She taught piano and organ at Transylvania from 1947 to 1980.
Stone played cello with several local orchestras, including the UK Radio Orchestra in the mid-1940s and the old Lexington Symphony, before spending 42 years with the Lexington Philharmonic, where she performed on both cello and keyboards.

Stone’s funeral will be Jan. 3 at 1 p.m., with visitation beginning at 11 a.m., at the church. Burial will be at Lexington Cemetery.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lighting restorer moves to Midway, where he had trade

A wide variety of lights hangs in Setzer's Chandelier and Restoration Shop. (Photos by Claire Johnson)
Alex Hein moved his shop from Lexington and renamed it.
By Claire Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Restoring antiques to their original form is nothing new for Alex Hein, owner of Setzer’s Chandelier and Restoration Shop, which opened Nov. 1 at 120 E. Main St.

In fact, reviving household antiques is more like a family tradition for Hein, since his family has been in the antique business for as long as he can remember.

Hein said most people might know him from his business, previously named Mirror and Brassworks and located in Lexington, where he is from. He lives in Cynthiana, but chose Midway as the best location for his shop.

A customer had pointed out an open space in Midway in the summer, and Hein took the opportunity to revive his shop with a new location and a new name.

“I have been in business for twenty years doing this. I’ve had a lot of customers in this town,” Hein said. “And honestly, I just really like the town.” His new location allows for people to get in and out of town easily to pickup and drop off items, he said.

The shop opened Nov. 1 and is decorated for Christmas.
A great location and love for the town were not the only reasons Hein made his move. “There’s a lot of older generations [in Midway] that deal with brass, copper, and silver and that have it to restore,” he said. “Some of the horse farms here I do a lot of work for, and generally because Midway is so historic.”

One of his most memorable restorations was on the historic 1850s John Graham House near Midway, featured in the May/June 2011 edition of Sophisticated Living Magazine. The owner of the house at the time, Kim Morris, said Hein is one of the few people who are passionate about what they do.

“His restoration knowledge and experience has found him in a niche that needed to be filled.” Morris said, “We are lucky to have a specialty business like his available to us in our community.”

Hein no longer does mirrors but still works with brass.
Hein said he has done work on many of the historic houses in Midway over the last 10 years.

Eric and Ellen Gregory of South Winter Street hired Hein for a large project on her great grandparents’ historic house in Metcalfe County, untouched since 1909.

“In the attic, we found all of the original gas lights.” Eric Gregory said. “We took one to him when he was over in Lexington and his eyes lit up.” He said they were so blown away that he could restore them, they decided to bring Hein dozens more. “He’s a true craftsman,” Gregory said. “With his level of excellence for a fair price, you just keep coming back.”

Hein said he can restore and fix chandeliers, as well as any type of lighting or rewiring a customer may need. The shop also sells restored, antique fixtures, lighting and antique fireplace accessories.

In conjunction with the move to Midway, Hein said he wanted to change the name of the company completely. “I don’t do anything with mirrors anymore and I haven’t in a long time,” he said, “so I wanted to change the name totally.” The new name, “Setzer,” is German for setting prices or a market inspector.

Since people in the community already know of his work, Hein said he has already seen a good response from the town. Some new clients have even brought items in for him to restore or fix.

“Midway is such a town of renaissance and craft and artists,” Gregory said. “I think he’ll be appreciated here.”

Hein’s reason for repairing antiques is simple according to him: He just enjoys it. “You can take stuff that looks like it should be thrown in the trash and make it look like a million bucks.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Woman's Club recognizes top Christmas decorations

The Midway Woman's Club has announced the winners of its 12th annual House Decorating Contest, judged on the night of Dec. 16. The judges were Debra Shockley, Amanda Glass, Katie Vandegrift and Sara Hicks. Pictures of the winners will be posted here as they become available. Several photos, especially the night views, are much better enlarged. To view a larger version of each photograph, click on the image.
Best Yard, 219 Cottage Grove
Most Fun, 103 Carriage Lane
Best Overall Design: 232 West Higgins Street

Best Daytime Display: 238 West Stephens Street
Best Christmas Spirit: 548 South Winter Street
Best Front Door: 412 Mill Road
Best Traditional Decorations: 251 West Cross Street
Most Whimsical Lights, 138 Cottage Grove
Special 2016 12th Anniversary MWC Holiday D├ęcor Judging Award, 102 Cottage Grove
Other winners were: Most Animated Lights, 222 E. Stephens St.; Best Wreath, 408 Merrywood Dr.; Most Creative Lights, 106 Cottage Grove; Best Indoor Tree, City Hall, 101 E. Main; Best Business, Mezzo, 131 E. Main; Best Outdoor Treet, 120 E. Higgins St.; Best Porch, 221 Johnson St.; Best for Spirit of Woodford County, 105 Circle Dr. (off West Stephens, past the cemetery).