Friday, December 12, 2008

Old Friends is a home for retired Thoroughbreds

Story and photos by Ashley Camblin
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Horse racing is a multi-million dollar industry that continues to grow and attract fans both nationally and internationally. Once thoroughbreds have finished their racing careers what happens to them? Where do these beautiful, retired horses end up?

Southwest of Georgetown on Paynes Depot Road, six miles from Midway, is a farm for retired race horses called Old Friends. It was started by Michael Blowen in 2003 as a retirement and rescue facility for pensioned thoroughbreds. After news broke in 2002 of the presumed slaughter of 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand, Blowen wanted to save at-risk horses.

“We knew such a death must never happen again,” Blowen says on the Web site for Old Friends. “And so the plan became to bring 'at risk' racehorses, those whose racing and breeding careers had come to an end, to Old Friends, provide them with the dignified retirement they deserve.”

Old Friends has 30 horses at the Dream Chase Farm. Old Friends is the only retirement and rescue facility that houses stallions, and there are 15 on the farm. Some stallions include Ferdinand son Bullintheheather, and Williamstown (left, with tour guide Charlie Brown), a son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

The farm is also home to four mares and five geldings. The mare with a star-studded pedigree is Bonnie’s Poker, the dam of 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm. The most popular gelding is Popcorn Deelites (photo at top), who was one of the many horses used as Seabiscuit, in the movie "Seabiscuit." The scenes with Popcorn Deelites are all the starting gate scenes and the race with War Admiral.

Amanda Bennett came from Lexington to go on a tour of Old Friends. “I love horses and had a horse when I was growing up,” she said. “I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful horses and learning about each of them and their racing careers. My favorite horse was Popcorn Deelites, or Seabiscuit.”

The connection with the movie was a draw for Jonathan Clark, a visitor from Indiana. “Seabiscuit is a great movie and one of my favorites,” he said. “My fiancĂ© told me that Old Friends was home to one of the stars of Seabiscuit, so I had to come see it for myself.”

The mission of Old Friends is to provide a safe harbor and dignified retirement for Thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have ended. Visitors are encouraged to come see the retirees. Tours are free and open to the public, but donations are always gladly accepted.
Old Friends, at 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., offers daily tours at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. year round. Tours take about an hour to an hour and a half. The mantra of Old Friends “Guests come out to see a few old racehorses, but they leave touched by the heart of a Thoroughbred hero.”

Council endorses Sunday liquor sales, wants more information and support regarding airport ads

Story and photo by Sarah Rayan
UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council again put off restaurateur Bill Van Den Dool’s request to fund advertising of the city at the Lexington airport, but endorsed his plea for a letter asking Woodford County Fiscal Court to legalize alcohol sales on Sundays.

Council members unanimously decided at the Dec. 1 meeting that Mayor Tom Bozarth would send a letter to the county, after some uncertainty about what authority they had in the matter.

Van Den Dool (in photo at council meeting) owns The Black Tulip, a restaurant he opened last September. The main reason he gave for his question to serve alcohol on Sundays was competition from nearby towns with Sunday sales. Van Den Dool said he “went to the fiscal court and they were favorable about the idea.”

The members heard a request, again, from Van Den Dool to support funding to advertise the city at the Bluegrass Airport. The council indicated that it would agree after seeing a more detailed plan for the ads and commitment from more members of the merchants’ association.

The council voted unanimously to issue bonds for St. Leo’s Catholic Church to build a school and related facilities just outside Versailles, nine miles from Midway. The council issued the bonds because Versailles and Woodford County did not have enough revenue-bond authority to cover the costs.

Up to $8 million in bonds will be issued to build the facility on Huntertown Road. According to Becky Mayton, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, it is constitutional for a city to issue bonds for a church, and in another locality as long as the two have “significant ties.” She said 135 residents of Midway are parishioners of St. Leo’s, and several were in the audience. Mayton represents Central Bank, which she said will buy the bonds, and the Lexington Diocese.

Council members also heard first reading of an ordinance setting policies for extending water and sewer services to formerly unserved customers, and passed an ordinance that formally assigned the role of city alcoholic beverage control administrator to the mayor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas in Midway: Quieter than the malls

Story and photos by Kelly Wiley
UK School of Journalism

With fresh snow on the ground and McGee, the community cat, scurrying around looking for a place to get warm, shop owners stayed inside the warm confines of their stores Saturday. However, even with the cold weather, shop owner still had a reason to be cheerful ­– it’s Christmas time.

Christmas in Midway means many things, but for most store owners it means an increase in customers. “A lot of people like the come here to get away from the mall. It’s not real crowded and it’s a relaxing atmosphere with old Victorian buildings, especially when there is a little snow it kind of reminds you of a Victorian Christmas,” said Bill Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store.

Penn said he sells a lot of handmade jewelry and crafts, along with a bookstore upstairs full mostly of books by Kentucky authors focusing on Kentucky history, with some children’s books packed in there as well. He has owned the Historic Midway Museum Store for 12 years. He and his wife moved to Midway from Indiana because of their love for museum stores, he said.

“We always liked museum stores. When you go into a museum there will always be a museum shop and they always sell educational things related to history,” Penn said.

Being a museum store, it is only fitting to have a museum, which they do. In a room to the left of the entrance there is a smaller than normal museum containing a timeline of Midway history with pictures and artifacts to go with it.

Penn said they have tried to persuade the City Council to purchase one of the vacant buildings along Main Street and turn it into a museum, but they have been turned down. So, for the time being, the history of Midway can be found in the extra room of Penn’s Historic Midway Museum Store.

At the end of the road is Celtic Trends, which sells mostly items imported from Ireland and Great Britain that are Irish or Celtic themed. Clare McCarthy, owner of Celtic Trends and an Ireland native, said Christmas in Midway is better than bigger cities like Lexington because stores are not overly crowded and most times there is always a parking spot that doesn’t require you to walk a mile to your destination.

“We have quite a few Midway residents (who shop here), but the majority are outside from Lexington, Cincinnati and Louisville,” McCarthy said. “They come here with the intention to shop or for the restaurants.”

On Midway Street, commonly called Railroad Street, there are a few restaurants on both sides of the tracks that cut through town. Out-of-towners can enjoy a variety of restaurants like Bistro La Belle, Quirk CafĂ© and Coffee and Darlin Jean’s Apple Cobbler, but McCarthy said the restaurant that attracts the most customers is the Black Tulip, known for its fine wine and Kentucky food.

In the same row as Celtic Trends and the Historic Midway Museum Store is SaopWerks. Just as unique as the rest of the stores, SoapWerks sales soap, candles and jewelry all made by family members and friends of owner Kathy Werking.

“My mother makes the soap, which is all natural. I do soy wax candles. My sister makes the pillows out of old linens, then my brother in law makes salt and pepper shakers … those are out of old chair and table parts,” Werking said. “What we really try to do is do natural products and recycling and repurposing.”

In the past, Werking used her store as way to raise the money necessary to adopt her daughter Leah from a Beijing orphanage. Less than a year ago, Werking said she added to the family with her “recent addition,” Yulan. “Chinese adoptions, well any international adoption is pretty expensive, and, so, I did a lot of fundraising from selling my products,” Werking said. “And people responded really, really nicely.”

As Werking gets ready to close shop and her girls sit making jewelry, outside the snow is still falling and McGee has found some form of shelter near a Christmas tree outside one the many specialty shops on Railroad Street.

Midway Station project awaits technical review

By Matt Jordan
UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Redevelopment of the Midway Station industrial park into a residential and commercial community is moving according to the expected timeline, Mayor Tom Bozarth said this week.

Bozarth said now that the city council has voted to rezone the property to allow for the construction of 600 new homes, the only thing city officials are waiting on is the technical review by the Woodford County planning staff.

Anderson Communities has purchased the right to develop the industrial park for the sum of $6 million. The contract was signed earlier this year, contingent upon passage of the rezoning. Now the only barrier to be overcome is the technical review, which Bozarth anticipates should happen on or around Jan. 1.

Dennis Anderson of Anderson Communities declined to be interviewed on when he expected to turn in the papers for technical review or begin redevelopment.

The council approved the rezoning Sept. 29 by a vote of 5-1, after months of deliberation. The county Planning and Zoning Commission recommended rezoning on the condition that the development be limited to the construction of no more than 50 homes per year.

Ed Lane, a Lexington real estate agent and publisher of The Lane Report, a publication on real estate and other business in Kentucky, said he feels optimistic about developer Anderson's plan and considers him a "very good builder" to tackle this project. And though the real estate market in America is currently on the rocks, Lane said that might actually help this project.

"With the development in Midway, that's going to be a 10- to 15-year deal," Lane said. "Actually it may be a good time to start when the market is at its lowest and you start out slowly. They're not going to go in and build all those houses; they're going to build them in chunks."

Lane also pointed to a few indicators that make him think the project will succeed. He cited Midway's high number of commuters, quality of life and close proximity to Lexington as factors that will likely fill up some of the newly constructed homes. An average home in Fayette County costs about $140,000, he says, and low property values in Midway could play a factor in selling some homes. And though he says home construction is at about 50 percent of what it was a year ago, he expects that the market will likely improve one year from now. Also, the small size of Midway has led to stability and room for expansion.

"Woodford County has got the lowest unemployment rate in Kentucky and they've got a real shortage of houses there," Lane said. "I would be optimistic that they could do well."