Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Festival draws thousands to downtown Midway

Story and photos by Morgen Wells
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Vendors, shoppers, families and performers lined the streets of Midway Saturday and Sunday for Midway’s annual Fall Festival. Crowds gathered to browse what local and out-of-town artists and craftsmen had to offer, from handmade jewelry, scarves and handbags to fresh squeezed honey lemonade.

The family-friendly atmosphere included balloon animals and pony rides for the kids. For adults, Wildside Winery of Versailles had tastings for 25 cents each, or five for a dollar.

Midway’s small-town charm shone through as families pushed strollers, greeted friends and even brought the family dog along to enjoy the festival. Early forecasts showed rain for Saturday, but the skies cleared shortly after noon and remained bright and blue the remainder of the weekend.

Many unique booths enjoyed attention from festival goers, and many potential vendors were turned away due to the high level of interest.

Dru Perry of Lexington set up shop to sell her handcrafted wind sculptures. The sculptures, which hang from clear line and include twisted brass wire and cut glass elements, are one of a kind and have names such as "Surf’s Up" and "Into the Blue." Perry said she started making them in 2000, after her experience with making stained glass windows.

“The emphasis is on light and movement, not as much sound as with wind chimes. They’re very durable; some people leave them out all winter,” Perry said in between sales of her work.

Because she never repeats a design exactly, her work makes a great gift. “They’re guaranteed to not have anything like it!” Perry said.

Daniel Coles, representing Hudson River Inlay of New Windsor, N.Y., manned a booth selling American marquetry woodwork. The booth included intricate tables and mirrors featuring inlaid designs of Koi fish, autumn leaves and other nature designs.

“The studio goes back to ’79, and I’ve been there since the 80’s,” said Cole. “It’s the second year we’ve been here.”

Some booths were set up to raise awareness for local causes. Miss Woodford County Emily Varner, 16, hopes to compete for Miss Kentucky and share her story with others. “I want to do the best that I can in everything I do,” said Varner. “As Miss Woodford County I talk to different people in the community and share my story. I tell them that it’s okay to be in pageants, they’re not stereotypical.”

Varner has been to the Fall Festival before, both for fun and as Miss Teen Woodford County three years ago. “It’s a lot different now that I’m older,” said Varner. “I see more people I know and I can talk to them on a higher level.”

The Woodford County Humane Society had a booth promoting awareness of animals in need of forever homes. Because it is a no-kill shelter, some animals can wait years to find families. This is the organization’s eighth year at the Fall Festival, and their ninth year selling the annual Woodford Humane Society calendar.

“The calendar comes out the Friday before” the festival, said Katie Hoffman, community outreach director for the society. “It’s a limited edition comprised of pets adopted from us. We auction off the front and back pictures and also have owner-submitted pictures.”

The society no longer brings adoptable pets to the festival, but that doesn’t mean the shelter’s presence goes unnoticed. Hoffman said, “We’ll have people come out to adopt and say ‘Hey, we saw you out there!’”

There were lots of people to see and be seen at the festival. Restaurateur Grayson Vandegrift, the festival chairman and a city council member, was pleased with the turnout. “I’d say between 10 and 12 thousand people came out,” he said. “Last year was a record, and we didn’t quite get there this year, but there was a huge turnout today. Usually Sunday is slower, but Sunday was busier today.”

“This year was harder to put together with more challenging logistics,” Vandegrift said. “We had more vendors than ever.” More than 70 vendors were turned away this year because of lack of space, he said.

Vandegrift said the only complaint he heard was that the festival didn’t last longer. “A lot of people want the hours extended. That’s the main thing I heard from them.”

The festival, which was dedicated to the late railroad baron R.J. Corman, had the Old Smokey steam locomotive on display. The presence of the train was appropriate considering the impact the railroad had on Midway’s development. The town was founded as a place to lodge railroad workers, and expanded with industrialization.

The Midway Fall Festival showcased a variety of different vendors, food, organizations and artwork, proving that small-town charm doesn’t mean limited possibilities.

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