Monday, March 10, 2014

As winter breaks, Midway Merchants hear plans for new, revived and revised events for the rest of the year

By Brian Bouhl and Dylan Russell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The temperature is rising, the snow is melting, and as the Bluegrass began to break out of its winter hibernation, the Midway Merchants Association discussed some of the year’s many upcoming events at its monthly meeting last Wednesday.

The members discussed events in every season, near and far from this week’s awakening -- including summer’s Uniquely Woodford Weekend featuring the popular Francisco’s Farm art festival and Art in the Park; spring’s Beaten Biscuit Workshop; and a fall quilt show at Midway College.

May promises to be of one of the biggest weekends of the year in Midway and Woodford County, as the area’s two biggest art fairs will take place side-by-side May 17 and 18. Francisco’s Farm usually takes place in late June, but artists and patrons have said the weather is too hot then.

The schedule originally worried some who thought that the events might hurt each other’s attendance, but they agreed to co-promote under the county's new Uniquely Woodford brand, hoping to get visitors to attend and enjoy both events. The events will share a Uniquely Woodford Art Weekend promotional brochure, suggested by Midway City Council Member Sara Hicks, president of Midway Renaissance, the main sponsor of Francisco's Farm.

Hicks said in an email interview that Council Member Dan Roller, a member of the planning committee, searched online for schedule conflicts and had been unaware of Art in the Park's schedule. When the conflict became known, "I suggested creating a Uniquely Woodford Art Weekend event. I contacted Margie and Julie Buchanon of Art in the Park to suggest our joining as a single Woodford County promotion entity," she wrote. "We met and agreed to share with our boards and committees our idea to partner. They approved and we are now in the thick of creating posters, bookmarks and signage to promote ourselves under the Uniquely Woodford logo."

Francisco's Farm was last held at Midway College in 2010
Helen Rentch, head of the Midway Nursing Home Task Force, said at the merchants' meeting, “That was challenging, but it’s been turned into a positive. It should be a good time for people to be coming through Midway as well as the whole county.”

Merchants are looking forward to the return of Francisco’s Farm to the college campus after three years at Equus Run Vineyards, three and a half miles east of town.

Association member and Midway City Council Member Grayson Vandegrift was also pleased with the collaborative promotion effort. “I thought they did a good job with digging that out,” he said. “I think it could be a real positive in the long run.”

The merchants discussed how they can draw people to the festival, including using signage and having specials and samples at some of the Midway restaurants. The festival features many different artists and food vendors, who will be announced soon, according to the festival website. Admission woill be $10 per carload.

Spring will see the renaissance of an old treasure in Midway, with the Beaten Biscuit Workshop April 5 at Midway Christian Church. The workshop, put on by the Midway Nursing Home Task Force and sponsored by Holly Hill Inn and the Weisenberger Mill, will tell the unique story of beaten biscuits and feature demonstrations on how to make them.

“They are traditional Southern food, especially traditional to Kentucky,” Rentch said. “They’ve truly died out. This is an effort to have a resurgence. It is a tradition and there seemed to be an epicenter here in Midway; everyone here knew and made them.” Midway “master beaten biscuit maker” Charles Logan will show attendees how to make the biscuits with his collection of hand and electric machines.

The event will be free of charge, but donations will be accepted for The Homeplace at Midway, the senior-living community being built across from the college.

The biggest annual event in Midway is the Fall Festival, which is set for Sept. 20-21 this year, but this year’s fall calendar will have another one that organizers hope will be big.

Rentch announced that she is reviving, revising and moving her annual quilt show, which wasn't held last year. It will be held at Midway College Nov.14-15, instead of the Old Depot restaurant building at the start of the Christmas season, and will have two segments: a quilt registry where older quilts will be photographed, documented and archived, and the actual show.

In the past, the event was called Homeplace Day because it was a fund-raiser for The Homeplace at Midway, and it will continue to benefit the senior-living community being built across Stephens Street from the college. Rentch said organizers decided on an earlier date and a larger venue to increase participation, and got a rental discount from the college, "a wonderful venue."

They hope the show will become a regional attraction and bring business to downtown Midway, with restaurants providing traditional Kentucky menus and local businesses displaying quilts to unify the theme throughout the city.

The changes should “make it more of an event” and encourage participation, Rentch said but getting people involved is the key to success: “The main thing is to go find quilts and find people we can engage in the process. That’s the most fun.”

A couple of merchants volunteered to participate, including Peggy Angel, whose Steppin’ Out Boutique in the old Thoroughbred Theater on Main Street has an in-store balcony that offers a unique space to display quilts. Vandegrift also volunteered space to display quilts in the windows of his 815 Prime restaurant, also on East Main.

Don Vizi, executive director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, announced that Leadership of Central Kentucky will visit Midway as part of its Woodford County Day on March 19. The Lexington-based group visits a Central Kentucky county each month to check out local points of interest. It will be in Midway in the morning before moving on to the Castle Post and Versailles, finishing at Woodford Reserve in the afternoon.

Vizi also brought Chamber of Commerce membership applications and encouraged Midway businesses to join. He mentioned the chamber luncheon to be hosted by the Cooperative Extension Service on March 13.

Donna Hecker, general manager of the Holly Hill Inn, announced that the restaurant will be included in this year’s Lexington Restaurant Week, July 24 through Aug. 2. It is the first representative from Midway, and the only one this year, but the merchants discussed using it to their advantage. Vandegrift said other restaurants and Midway businesses should expect some overflow business from the crowds that week. “It’s a good way to draw people in,” said Merchants Association President Edwin Rye.

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