Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Equestrian Games bring the world to Midway; impact may not be as much as some expected

By Rachel Bryant
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The world has come to Midway. The World Equestrian Games kicked off Saturday, bringing people from all across the globe to the Bluegrass.

The two week-long event looks to be a promising source of business for downtown Midway, as tourists filled the shops this past weekend, but it remains to be seen whether the impact of the games will be as large as some people had hoped or expected.

The Grey Goose restaurant and bar started serving people from other countries Wednesday night, but started seeing a noticeable increase in business on Saturday evening. The busiest time was after 9 p.m. when groups came in for late-night snacks. “The kitchen closes at 10 p.m. but we will keep it open as long as people are coming in,” said manager Jeff Wheeler. The Grey Goose is taking reservations only for groups of 10 people or larger during the games.

While most business people interviewed said they were happy with the games’ first weekend, restaurant owner Rob Vandegrift said it was slower than he had expected. He has extended his hours but says if business does not pick up during the week he will revert back to regular hours.

Vandegrift believes that the beer and food concession at the temporary recreational-vehicle campground at Midway Station are taking away potential customers from downtown. Mayor Tom Bozarth disagreed, saying many people at the park are workers or volunteers at the games, putting in 12-hour days and too tired to come downtown. Also, he said overall attendance at the games appears to have been less than expected. "No one knew how many people would be here," he said.

But by definition, people in an RV park keep and cook their own food. Margaret Hansen, a trainer from Poland, walked from the campground to downtown, about a mile and a half, Saturday afternoon to look around the shops. Asked if she came to town for food, she said, “No, we have our own food at the trailer. I stocked up for the week.”

Hansen brought three of her pupils with her to the U.S. She said that she always attends the World Equestrian Games to watch the dressage event. “It’s like ballet on horses,” she said.

Marcelo and Grace Decoud of Argentina found their way downtown Sunday evening for coffee The Grey Goose, thanks to Jill Ryder, editor of The Carriage Journal, because she thought it was a place they would enjoy seeing.

Marcelo Decoud owns The Carlos Hillner Decoud Carriage Museum in Quilmes, Argentina, near Buenos Aires. He said The Carriage Association of America brought him to the U.S. as a spectator but he also helped with the carriages in the opening ceremony Saturday night.

Mary May Sayre, owner of May & Co., was pleased with the turnout at her antiques-and-collectibles store over the weekend. “I felt like it was [Midway’s] Fall Festival again with so many people,” she said.

Saturday was filled with a consistent flow of visitors. Sayre described the shoppers as positive people who were really having a good time and enjoying Midway.

“There have been a lot of really interested people, people who are interested in horses and in the area," she said. "We are definitely selling the destination of Midway."

Like many other store owners, Sayre has decided to stay open seven days a week with extended hours, until the games are over.

Damselfly Gallery owner Mary Thoreson said more people visited her store last weekend than normal, but it was too early to tell if sales were up.

Knowing that the games were going to be close to Midway, she decided to put together the Damselfly Gallery Courtyard Art Fair with her husband Eric, to attract people to Midway and showcase Kentucky artists to the world during the games. In support of the games, they hung flags over the courtyard representing each country that is competing. (See next story.)

While the games have just started, it’s hard to say how busy Midway is going to be. But with the first weekend over, it looks to bring a promising group of consumers to the shops, while the restaurants contend with competition across the interstate.

“We’re trying to sell: Come to Midway, have a good time, eat, drink and enjoy,” Sayre said. “It makes Midway look even better when people are having a good time.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vacant lot becomes art fair for Equestrian Games

Story and photographs by Rachel Bryant
University of Ketucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

A new green, public space in downtown Midway was created with the World Equestrian Games in mind.

Mary and Eric Thoreson and Doug and Donna Farmer, couples who each own half the vacant lot next to the Thoresons’ Damselfly Gallery, spent all summer creating the courtyard to host an art fair during the games, as a way to attract tourists to Midway.

The Damselfly Gallery Courtyard Art Fair will be set up through October 10, showcasing 20 artists from Kentucky.

One of the painters in the show, Dick Weir, right, has already noticed people coming to the fair from the games. “You hear a lot of languages, especially the thick English accent, and they’ve all been very friendly,” he said.

Weir is a self-taught painter who started painting after he retired from Toyota six years ago. “I like to paint memories, all of art is impressionistic, and an artist paints what he sees,” Weir said. I’m painting memories of what I’ve seen.” He sells his pieces at Madelein’s – Photo Studio, Gallery, and Gifts in Midway.

Jim Jones, owner of Forge On Metalworks, is a blacksmith showcasing at the art fair. He hopes it will be a good opportunity for business but recognizes there is always a risk. “You might sell everything or nothing, but I do it because I enjoy it,” he said. Jones not only sells his pieces in the Damselfly Gallery but has an online store and does custom work. “Typically I try to make something that is useful. In the declining economy it’s great if it looks good but even better if it’s useful,” he said.

A watercolor and oil painter, Charlotte Ploetner, left, says she hasn’t seen many people from the games yet, but acknowledges that they have just begun and expects to see more people as the week goes on. Ploetner, another self-taught artist, likes to paint landscapes and floral designs.

In light of the games, 58 flags, representing every country competing have been hung above the courtyard.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City, railroad to share dinner-train siding cost

By Rachel Bryant
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Just a few years ago Main Street was beautifully reconstructed to give downtown Midway a modern but historic look. Now the RJ Corman Railroad Group wants to add a sidetrack to the railroad in the heart of downtown, meaning that some of the recent construction would be have to be taken apart and redone with the new addition.

The sidetrack would allow a dinner train to run from Lexington to Midway, with hope that it would create more business.

According to Diana Queen, a Midway City Council member, the council cannot approve or disapprove the project because the railroad owns the land along the tracks, giving Corman the right to do as it pleases with the land. However, Queen says that the council and railroad group are working together as a team on the project.

Midway and RJ Corman will share the cost, Council Member Sharon Turner said. Mayor Tom Bozarth said the cost has not been calculated. Turner said they hope to have the train running by the start of next spring’s meet at Keeneland Race Course.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Queen's withdrawal all but seals council race; Hayes runs as write-in against Mayor Bozarth

The makeup of Midway's City Council in 2011 is all but decided, because Council Member Diana Queen has withdrawn her candidacy, but the city still has two contested races: for mayor, between incumbent Tom Bozarth and write-in candidate Scott Hayes; and for magistrate of the First District, which includes Midway. That race is between Democratic Magistrate Larry Craig and Republican Curt Savage.

Queen formally withdrew her candidacy Aug. 16. That left six people running for six council seats, making the nonpartisan race largely a popularity contest. Voters may vote for six candidates, but can vote for fewer. The candidates are incumbents Sharon Turner, Aaron Hamilton and Doris Leigh; Becky Moore, who was mayor before Bozarth; and two candidates Moore calls "kindred spirits," Joye Arnold and Dan Roller.

Hayes, an emergency medical technician for Woodford County, said in an interview that he wanted to file a regular candidacy for mayor but was mistaken about the late-January deadline. Voters can write in the name of anyone for any office, but votes will be counted only for candidates who have filed a notice asking that they be counted, such as Hayes. For our item on the filings at deadline time, click here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Midway Fall Festival continues through Sunday

The 36th annual Midway Fall Festival began at 10 this morning and continues through tomorrow, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival has been named one of the top 20 festivals in Kentucky. It features crafts, food, demonstrators, entertainment and children's activities. For more information, go to the festival's website. The Old Smokey steam locomotive of RJ Corman Railroad Co., below, is on display today.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Council committee to meet in Frankfort Friday

The Finance and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Friday, Sept. 3, at 8 a.m. at 305 Ann Street, Suite 201, in Frankfort. That is the office of the Kentucky Malt Beverage Council, which "represents the family-owned Anheuser-Busch wholesale beer distributors in Kentucky," its website says.

The city's official announcement says "The purpose of the meeting is to discuss revenue streams and the collection policies and procedures of such revenues."

Regardless of the location, meetings of City Council committees are open to the public unless the committee votes in open session to close the meeting under one of the exceptions in KRS 61.810, part of the Kentucky Open Meetings Act. None of those exceptions appear to apply to the announced topic of the meeting. Any further action must be taken in open session.