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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Betty Bright, a Midway fixture and the city's first female council member, died Tuesday at 93; mass Friday

Betty Bright
Betty W. Bright, a lifetime fixture in Midway for most of its residents and the first woman on the City Council, died Tuesday afternoon at her home at The Homeplace in Midway. She was 93.

Elizabeth Weisenberger Bright was the daughter of the late Augustus Joseph Weisenberger and Louise Egalite Weisenberger and the widow of William “Billy” Morrison Bright IV. She was preceded in death by a brother, Philip Joseph Weisenberger II, who was the owner and operator of Weisenberger Mills, and three sisters, Edith Woeber, Mary Louise Martin and Ann Bozarth, who was the mother of former mayor Tom Bozarth.

She is survived by two chosen daughters, Elizabeth “Missy” Louise (Mike) Bradley and Patricia “Pattie” Bright (Chuck) Wilson; four grandsons, Charles Schade (Saree) Wilson III, William Mathney (Kimberly) Wilson, Robert Hammond (Melissa) Wilson, and Thomas Joseph (Morgan) Wilson; four great-grandchildren, Lacie, Ellie, Cameron, and Tripp; her sister-in-law, Betty McWilliams Weisenberger; and many nieces and nephews.

She was born in Lexington but was otherwise a lifelong resident of Midway, except during her husband's Air Force career. She was a graduate of Cardome Academy in Georgetown and attended the University of Kentucky. She was a devoted member of St. Leo Catholic Church in Versailles for more than 50 years and served on the Parish Council. She was active with the Woodford County Homemakers and the Midway Woman’s Club.

During her 22 years on the City Council, her passions were the restoration and preservation of the 1917 Model T Ford Fire Truck and the maintenance of the Midway Cemetery. She was known for her love of animals. Her family thanked her care givers who helped her at Daisy Hill and The Homeplace.

Visitation was held Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Leo, followed by a rosary service. The funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the church, with committal and inurnment at 1 p.m. in the Midway Cemetery. Memorial donations are suggested to the St. Leo Building Fund, 295 Huntertown Road, Versailles KY 40383.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cemetery committee to meet at 4 p.m. Thursday; Events, Outreach and Tourism panel at 9 a.m. Friday

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will hold a meeting on  at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss "general cemetery issues," says the meeting notice, which says "No action will be taken."

The council's Events, Outreach and Tourism Committee will meet at 9 a.m. Friday, April 28, at City Hall to have a general discussion on tourism and outreach, and no action will be taken, the meeting notice says.

Message from the mayor: Join inspired citizens to take park to another level; help plant trees Saturday, 10-1

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway
Our society is built from the bottom up, not the top down. This means that cities and communities like ours are the foundation of our civilization. I see no better example of a true community effort than what is happening at Walter Bradley Park. Citizens who want nothing more than to improve their city and its natural beauty so it can be enjoyed by generations to come are working wonders, and this Saturday is a chance to lend your hand.
On April 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Midway Parks Board and the Friends of Walter Bradley Park will be planting 150 pink dogwoods and 150 native shrubs and bushes, weather permitting. You can check walterbradleypark.org for updates if the weather looks questionable.
My budget proposal for fiscal year 2017-2018 includes $17,000 for park improvements because I believe we need to strike while the iron is hot, and while so many citizens are inspired to take our park to another level. I also believe it’s important to give our volunteer labor the funding they need to build and transform a jewel of Midway that improves the quality of life for us now and for those still to come.
Also this Saturday, the Midway Woman’s Club will be having their annual Spring Home and Garden Sale from 8 a.m. to noon at the club’s house at 230 S. Gratz St. Proceeds will benefit the Betty Ann Voigt Memorial Scholarship.
Our next city council meeting will be this Monday, May 1, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. As always, all are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UK study for local groups finds almost 30% of jobs in county are directly or indirectly related to agriculture

Agriculture and businesses that support it account for almost 30 percent of the jobs in Woodford County, according to a study the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and Environment released Monday.

Cover of study report
Alison Davis of the college's Community & Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky did the study for Woodford Forward, the Pisgah Community Historic Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Performance Products of Versailles, which sells horse supplements.

The study found that Woodford County has 9,478 jobs, 1,881 of which (19.8 percent) are directly attributable to agriculture and 2,783 of which (29.4 percent) are directly or indirectly related to agriculture.

"This is a very large number," Davis said at a press conference at the UK farm near Versailles. "It is a small county, but it is a very significant number."

Davis said the figures do not include jobs from industries that serve agriculture but may serve primarily other industries, such as fencing and painting. "We try to be as conservative as possible," she said. Later, she said the study cost about $15,000.

In addition to collecting data from proprietary sources, the researchers interviewed people at 15 varied Woodford County businesses, including the Holly Hill Inn and Heirloom restaurants in Midway, asking them what makes the city or county an attractive place to do business, how the horse industry and other agriculture-related activities influence their business, and how their views of it as a place to do business would change "if the rural landscape declined significantly."

Davis summarized the answers to the last question as: "Woodford County would lose its appeal as a place to do business and a place to live; recruitment and retention of employees would become more difficult; and Woodford County would lose its distinctive identity and brand." The study adds, "While some development is wanted, careful consideration of available labor and the impact of infrastructure is needed in the planning process."

Map from study showing commuters into and out of county
Davis said a significant issue for the county's economic development is a shortage of local labor. She said the study found that 4,400 people come into the county for work. That is outweighed by the 7,070 Woodford residents who work in other counties, but the relatively large inflow helps dispel the notion that the county is just "a bedroom community," state Rep. James Kay said.

Kay was among those who offered comments and questions after Davis's presentation. Another was Hampton "Hoppy" Henton, who said "what's missing in this audience" are people from the towns and the planning office, because there needs to be discussion about development, roads and so forth.

Davis replied, alluding to the study's sponsors, "There's a pretty significant divide between the two groups, and it's hard to get them in the same room together." She said one person from CEDIK is trying to get such conversations going.

Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Greg Kocher, who recently wrote a profile of Woodford County Economic Development Authority Chair John Soper, asked why Soper wasn't intervewed. (Soper told the Midway Messenger that he wasn't invited to the event.)

Davis said the interviews were limited to businesses, but "That would be the next step. . . . I think that's a conversation that needs to occur." Earlier, she noted that interviewees called for “stronger communication between the ag and non-ag sectors.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

City council to meet on budget at 10 a.m. Wednesday

The Midway City Council will continue its deliberations on the budget at a special workshop meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The meeting notice says no action will be taken. However, preliminary decisions may be made. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

The council held its first budget workshop last Wednesday and must pass a budget before the next fiscal year begins July 1. For a copy of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's proposed budget, click here

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Midway commencement May 13 will include first day-college men to receive bachelor's degrees; Legends owner will speak

Susan Martinelli Shea
Lexington Legends owner Susan Martinelli Shea will be the keynote speaker at Midway University's May 13 commencement ceremony, which will be the first to award bachelor's degrees to male students in the day college.

Shea, a teacher by trade, left the profession in 2004 after a family tragedy and "devoted the last thirteen years of her life to working within the inner city of Philadelphia, specifically reorganizing the learning-support program in The Gesu School, where she is chair of the Faculty Support Committee and board member," the university said in a press release. "She also founded Dancing with the Students, a non-profit organization continuing to teach ballroom dancing to students, grades four through high school, in 17 under-served schools within the Philadelphia system. In 2017, she introduced this successful program to the students of the Crawford Middle School in Lexington."

Shea owns, and her son Andy operates, the Lexington Legends, a minor league baseball club affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 13, in the Graves Amphitheater. Receiving degrees will be 257 graduates, including 12 who transferred from recently closed St. Catharine College near Springfield and completed their degree at Midway. Among them are the first male undergrads to earn their degree since Midway became fully co-educational last fall.

"It's an honor for us to welcome Susan Martinelli Shea to campus for what will be an historic commencement ceremony," Midway President John P. Marsden said. "She has dedicated her entire professional life to working with under-served students as a teacher and nonprofit leader. I have no doubt that Susan will inspire Midway's graduates as they prepare for the next chapter in their lives."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Council hears about brewery or distillery recruitment, hotel/motel prospects, cemetery regulation enforcement

Economic development was the main theme of the Midway City Council meeting Monday evening.

Brewery-distillery task force chair Steve Morgan gave a report.
The council heard a detailed report from a task force trying to recruit a brewery or distillery, heard the executive of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce say he was surprised Midway doesn't have a motel or hotel yet, and approved the temporary appointment of Katie Vandegrift, wife of Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, to the county Economic Development Authority.

Steve Morgan of Kentucky Honey Farms, chair of the task force, told the council it has focused on existing breweries or distilleries that might be interested in placing a satellite location in Midway. He said it would be a riskier proposition for a new, stand-alone operation.

Morgan mentioned two prospective locations: the area at the north end of Gratz Street, which was home to distilleries during Midway's distilling era (1852-1959), and the Leslie Mitchell farm on the northwest quadrant of the I-64 interchange.

Morgan said being visible from the interstate would be an advantage, but he and the mayor said there is more potential in the downtown location. "Our main goal is there," Morgan said, "because Midway needs something that brings traffic into Midway every day." He added, "The whole dynamic . . . would change, of the businesses in Midway," with new shops.

Vandegrift said, "It's all about diversifying your economy." He said the state economic-development employee who helps with brewery and distillery projects was the state's officer on the Lakeshore Learning Materials project, and "She's very excited to work on this."

For now, Midway's economy is becoming more industrial, with opening of the American Howa Kentucky auto-parts plant and construction of the huge Lakeshore distribution center next to it in Midway Station.
The Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center is under roof and apparently still set to open in the fall.
Those developments should lead to a hotel or motel in Midway Station or the Green Gables development across the interstate, said Don Vizi, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce, who asked the council for financial support of the chamber.

Vizi spoke about lodging prospects when Council Member Sara Hicks asked him how Midway could have lodging beyond bed-and-breakfasts and noted that the Board of Zoning Adjustments recently denied a permit for a new one in the residential area of South Winter Street.

Vizi said several hotel operators have contacted the chamber. "You have the ideal location for it," he said. "I don't know why that has not happened." He said he had thought Midway would get a hotel or motel before Versailles, which is getting a Holiday Inn Express.

Midway interests have sometimes been concerned that the chamber and the county tourism commission, which the chamber staffs, have not done right by the smaller town near the county's northern edge. But the city gave the chamber $1,000 last year and $1,500 the year before, and Vizi asked for $1,500. The council indicated that it would decide during the budget process that is just beginning.

Vizi said chamber staff always ask people who stop at the visitor center in Versailles if they have been to Midway. "Three of four that come in there don't know Midway exists," he said. "I think we've helped that quite a bit."

Replying to a question from Hicks, Vizi said 22 of the 68 businesses in Midway are members of the chamber, a greater percentage than the chamber has among Versailles businesses.

Vizi said he attends monthly meetings of the Midway Business Association and works with merchants to promote the town. He noted that the chamber board will meet at Midway University on the morning of April 27.

Chamber Chair Bob Gibson said the chamber board has been pushing for Midway and better connections between the two towns, and will have a Midway update on every monthly agenda.

Appointments: Vandegrift said he had searched for some time to someone to fill the city's vacancy on the Economic Development Authority who is "willing and able, and who understands the balance we're trying to strike." Until he can find that person, he said, he wants his wife to hold the position.

Katie Vandegrift works in risk management for United Bank, which does not want her to hold the unpaid position on a permanent basis, her husband said. "She can hit the ground running," he said, because they have discussed EDA matters since he became mayor more than two years ago.

Council Member John McDaniel moved to appoint the mayor's wife on an interim basis. Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded and all other members approved the appointment.

The council also unanimously approved the mayor's nomination of Julie Morgan, wife of Steve Morgan, to a vacancy on the park board.

Cemetery issues: Council Member Libby Warfield said 55 letters will go out soon, notifying owners of lots in the Midway Cemetery that items on their lots are in violation of cemetery regulations. The council and Vandegrift decided recently to enforce all regulations, negating special exemptions that had been granted before he became mayor.

Warfield, chair of the Cemetery and City Property committee, said she has been removing names from the letter list as she sees cemetery lots brought into compliance with the regulations.

Garbage pickup: Hicks offered a recommendation from the Ordinance and Policy Committee, which she chairs, that all nonprofit organizations, not just churches, be allowed to have once-a-week pickup at residential rates rather than twice a week at the commercial rate. Vandegrift said he would have an ordinance drafted for the council to make the change.

Pool-filling adjustments: Hicks reported that she had received two calls Monday from people who want the city to return to its old policy of one-time discounts of sewer charges for people who fill their swimming pools with city water. The sewer charge is based on water usage; the exemption was based on the fact that pool water doesn't enter the sewer system.

The council abolished the exemption on a 3-1 vote in 2012, after it couldn’t agree on an adjustment plan that would include things like turning on sprinklers and watering gardens. Vandegrift said Hicks's committee should discuss the issue and make a recommendation to the full council, which has none of the members it had in 2012.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Proposed 2017-18 city budget has big increase in payroll-tax collections, more appropriations for park

Vandegrift
Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift's proposed city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 shows a big increase in payroll taxes, mainly reflecting increased and anticipated employment in Midway Station, and increased expenses for parks and recreation.

The proposed budget includes $500,000 in occupational taxes. The current year's budget anticipated $400,000, but that estimate was low; through December, $331,000 had been collected. Vandegrift said last month that the council had been conservative in its budgeting, construction work on plants in Midway Station was bringing in unexpected revenue, local restaurants were doing better, and Midway University had increased its payroll.

Under the mayor's proposal, the main beneficiary of the extra money would be Walter Bradley Park. It would get $17,000 for improvements, up from $10,000 this year, plus $8,000 to replace the roof of the park's pavilion. Another $20,000 would be allocated for a softball field.

The budget would raise street maintenance expenses to $38,000 from the current $33,000, but would provide much less than this year for paving: $32,000. This year's paving budget is $80,000, reflecting the repaving of Northside Drive last fall.

Similarly, $10,000 would be allocated for sidewalks, down from $27,000 in the current budget, which includes the city's first subsidies to property owners to repair dangerous sidewalks.

Vandegrift's budget includes $12,546 for the city's contribution to the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, up from $5,000, as agreed with EDA, Versailles and the county government earlier this year.

The council is to discuss the budget at a workshop meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Vandegrift distributed his budget proposal to the City Council at its meeting Monday evening. A story on the meeting will appear later. For a copy of the budget click here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ray Papka, mixed-media artist at Wallace Station, has a long and varied life of inspiration for his work

Ray Papka's "Tree of Life" is in Honeywood, the new restaurant of his daughter, chef Ouita Michel, in Lexington.
Story and photographs by Austyn Gaffney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Ray Papka, a Midway resident for the past seven years, claims most people know him as the father of one of his three kids: Ouita Michel, Perry Papka, or Paige Walker. When I met Papka at a community dinner at Midway Christian Church he told me he was famous for nothing.

“Most people call me OF or PF,” Papka joked, “Ouita’s Father or Paige or Perry’s Father.”

But in fact, Papka has a long legacy of accomplishments, including more than 30 years as a Ph.D. and educator in the field of brain and nerve sciences, and his current work as a mixed-media artist.

Papka in his studio on Old Frankfort Pike at Wallace Station
Unless he’s traveling, Papka can be found laboring in his two basement studios at his house on Old Frankfort Pike at Wallace Station. When I visited, the first piece he showed me was created for his daughter Ouita Michel’s new restaurant, Honeywood, at the Fritz Farm shopping center at the corner of Nicholasville Road and Man O’ War Boulevard.

“Ouita was very attached to her mother and her mother’s favorite birds were cardinals, which is also the Kentucky state bird. So I added some cardinals for that reason and to add some color to the background,” said Papka. “It represents the family coming together, and then reaping the benefits of the family’s hard work.”

The restaurant is named after the late Honeywood Parrish, a neighbor of the Holly Hill Inn, Ouita Michel’s first restaurant. Keeping to the theme of family, Papka incorporated photographs of letters from her family on the border of the wood panels. In the middle, separated from the letters by a thin line of red metal, a large tree branches out across a yellow background, the cardinals resting on its limbs.

“It’s the tree of life,” Michel explained. “My father’s creativity really knows no bounds. He is a woodworker. He’s made bedroom furniture, lamps, candlesticks, and ashtrays. He’s re-roofed our home, paneled our kitchen out of scavenged barnwood, and hand-painted Native American symbols on the walls. He’s made shutters, picture frames, and sandwich boards and utensil caddies for my other restaurants. He grew up in a time when people had to be more self-reliant.”

Papka’s upbringing strongly influences his art. He grew up in Thermopolis, the largest town (population 3,000) and seat of Hot Springs County in Wyoming. His family, originally from South Dakota, earned their living as sod farmers and then carpenters as oil towns boomed in the early 20th century. His father continued that legacy by moving his family around the country for the first few years of Papka’s life. 

“Basically, my family was a mess,” said Papka, laughing. “My dad had the wanderlust. He did not want to sit down and do a job. He wanted us to live in a trailer house and be pulled all over the country and my mother finally had to put her foot down and say, no way, Thermopolis is the last stop.”

His father ended up doing ironwork on railroad bridges and building missile silos in South Dakota. But eventually, he abandoned the family, following construction work to Los Angeles. His mother supported Papka and his three siblings as a motel maid, and the kids had paper routes, lawn-mowing jobs in the summer and snow-shoveling jobs in the winter to help support the family.

“We became very independent and survivalist,” Papka said. “My childhood was as close as I can possibly imagine to a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn life. We built rafts to float down the river, and we ran through the hills and sagebrush to shoot rabbits for dinner. Mom would kick us out of the house early in the morning, and we had this laundry whistle they would ring at noon and five o’clock. My mom would say come home when the whistle blows for dinner, and in the meantime get out of here.”

Papka with his "Semper Femina," or "always women"
Papka’s upbringing shows in his work.

“I like old things like rustic maps. I mean, when I was a kid I probably spent more time reading maps then I did books because they were like stories to me, and in a sense, I wanted to know how everything was connected.”

Much of his artwork features embellishments of old, dusty objects he finds at flea markets and digging through scraps. When I visited his studio, Papka showed me rusty pieces of an old radio he was using to create jewelry that he found in a burn pile in Santorini, Greece.  The jewelry is for a series of female characters called "Semper Femina," a name he borrowed from the title of musician Laura Marling’s album. "Semper Femina" is taken from the Marines motto, Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful, and repurposed into always women. The series is a tribute to the strong women in Papka’s life.

The collection, consisting of 11 unique pieces, was created with one of Papka’s favorite mediums, old books. A corner of his large studio is dedicated to floor-to-ceiling bookshelves towering with old encyclopedias and hundreds of salvaged books once fated to be thrown into landfills or fires. The Woodford County Public Library has learned to call Papka before it disposes of any literature. Along with books and found objects, Papka uses an ancient form of painting called encaustic to create the restored feeling of his mixed media work. Encaustic painting takes hot wax and sometimes adds pigment to create protective layers of coating over paper, photographs, found media, and other objects of Papka’s work.

Papka's bookshelves also hold "found objects" for his work.
Michel calls her father’s studio the work of a “scientifically organized hoarder,” and like many artists, Papka is heavily influenced by his life as a scientist. Leaving Thermopolis to attend the University of Wyoming, he  wanted to become a forest ranger.

“You’d never know it from the way I talk now,” said Papka, “but growing up I was extremely shy and introverted, and becoming a game warden all by myself would have been just perfect.”

Pretty soon though, his intellect outpaced his plans. His advisor in the zoology department convinced him to go to graduate school for anatomy at Tulane University. The program came with a full tuition reimbursement, money for travel and research, and a living stipend. These scholarships reflected Papka’s work ethic and were also the only way he could support his growing family. He had married his first wife, Pam, right out of high school after she became pregnant with Ouita. He was 19, she was 18.

Michel, who was between three and five at the time, has a vague memory of their car catching on fire in Louisiana on the way to New Orleans.

“Sharecroppers along the side of the road came up and helped us empty our trailer,” Michel recalled. “But I never felt afraid. My father was always confident. When I decided to buy the Holly Hill Inn, my mother’s reaction was fear-based. She thought the prices were too high and I would go out of business. But my dad said, ‘You got this,’ and came down to help put padding on the tables. He’s always been super pragmatic. His response to stress is to work hard, and when our car was burning, he was a blur of activity emptying that trailer.”

Papka’s hard work led to a long and successful career as a neuroscientist. His first job was at the University of Kentucky, where he spent more than a decade teaching and growing his family to three children. It also led to the splintering of his family when Pam Papka became involved with a close friend and co-worker, Robert Sexton, a history professor at UK.

“I had a sabbatical coming up in Australia,” Papka recalled, “so I told my former spouse, we can go down there and work things out together away from all the trappings of home, or you can stay here and figure it out for yourself, but when I come back you need to know what you want to do.”

Pam decided to stay in Kentucky, and Papka took Michel, then 16, to Adelaide, South Australia, for a year instead.

“It was really upsetting at first, because we were so homesick,” Michel recalled. “But it was a fantastic experience. Australia brought us closer and it was a real confidence builder. He just dropped me off at school in a foreign country half-way around the world and expected me to figure it out.”

"Time Piece," one of several Papka works dealing with the topic
Papka’s life continued to be a series of moves. He left UK for the University of Oklahoma, where he spent a decade. His last teaching position was at the Northeast Ohio University College of Medicine, where he was chairman of neurobiology and ended up as vice president of research. He also traveled extensively, and held positions in Europe, including Hungary and Denmark. One of his pieces features a subway map of London in the background, and much of his work revolves around time, travel, and navigation. When I visited his studio, he was working on creating compasses out of discarded objects.

“Doing artwork is kind of like doing lab work to me because in my scientific career I’d set up a hypothesis and go into the lab and do the research and test it,” he said. “Now in my artwork, I set up a title first, and I go into the studio and working on that piece becomes an experiment because the story is coming out of me as I’m working on it. So I’m doing the same thing,” Papka reasoned, “using the same neurological pathways in my brain.”

People who see Papka’s work at New Editions Gallery in Lexington are always intrigued by his process, said owner Frankie York.

Papka had several works in progress during our visit.
“I think his [scientific] background and his intellectual process really influence how he composes things,” York said. “There’s so much involved in each piece, and we asked him to turn in a short paragraph, that he actually turned into two paragraphs, so we could tell people what’s going on in each piece. It’s actually fairly complex and not random at all.”

The complexity of Papka’s life may be what comes through most in his art. He is a deep thinker, and works through his own thoughts, memories, hopes and fears when he creates his pieces. For now, this life is centered in Kentucky. He moved to Midway in 2010 to be near his family. He has considered moving back to the mountain west, a place he misses from his childhood. During his academic career he applied for jobs there, but ultimately chose not to return, even when his second wife returned to Wyoming in 2011. He said the divorce was amicable, and he helped her pack up her things and drove the U-Haul to set up her new life. Three years later, Pam Sexton’s obituary included him among the survivors, as the father of her children.

Ray Papka’s life has been full of changes, but it seems he has found what he wants in his basement studio, his prolific artwork, and his family. Spending time with his kids and his grandkids in between his travels keeps him rooted in the Bluegrass. But he is always looking for where to go next, and says he will soon start research to visit C√≥rdoba, Spain, a major Islamic center during the Middle Ages, or take a road trip down historic U.S. Route 66 through America’s arid southwest. With a full life and a full schedule, it doesn’t seem like his art will run out of inspiration anytime soon.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fawn Leap-connected Classic Empire wins Ark. Derby, scratching doubts; may be favorite for Kentucky Derby


By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Classic Empire eliminated doubts and re-established himself as a logical favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby by winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park this evening. He won by half a length over Conquest Mo Money after a bumpy trip and a long, strong stretch drive.

The champion of last year's 2-year-olds won $600,000 for John C. "Jack" Oxley, who owns Fawn Leap Farm just south of Midway. The son of Pioneer of the Nile has given Oxley and trainer Mark Casse impressive victories and $2.1 million in winnings, but has also been a problem child.

Last year, he threw a rider before coming back to win the Breeders Cup Juvenile and the 2-year-old championship. His third-place finish in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull Stakes was blamed on a foot abscess, but as Casse resumed his training, the colt refused to work. Casse and Oxley moved him to another farm, where Casse said he worked well, but did not race him until today, passing up the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Classic Empire went off as the 9-5 favorite, but Malagacy, a Todd Pletcher-trained colt, found favor with the Hot Springs crowd and had shorter odds until shortly before post time. Classic Empire broke from the No. 2 post position and Malagacy on the far outside at No. 13, in the only hole used in the auxiliary gate.

The field was tightly bunched until the turn for home, and jockey Julien Leparoux had to steer through tight, bumpy traffic. At the head of the stretch he turned six wide, and Classic Empire gained steadily on Malagacy and the other leaders, edging ahead shortly before the finish of the Grade I mile-and-an-eighth race. The time was 1:48.93.

Being lightly raced lately, Classic Empire went into the race with only 32 qualifying points for the Derby, but picked up 100 with the win. He paid bettors $5.80, $4.40 and $3.80. Conquest Mo Money paid $12 and $7.80. Lookin at Lee paid $5.40 for third.

Malagacy, winner of the 50-point Rebel Stakes, placed fourth a close fifth and added 10 points to his Derby total. He is trying to become the only horse since 1882 to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.

With 132 points, Classic Empire has more points than any horse but Girvin, who has 150 after winning two Grade II races, the Louisiana Derby on April 1 and the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25. Now both head to Churchill Downs.

"We knew we had to finish in the top four" to reach the Kentucky Derby, Classic Empire jockey Julien Leparoux told TVG after the race. "He was not really 100 percent ready."

Casse told TVG that the horse was ready, but "He had to overcome a few things today, and he learned a lot. . . . I was questioning his fitness down the lane."

Earlier in the interview, Casse said, "I've always believed in him. I know he has a tremendous amount of ability," and is smart and kind. He added later, "He's like a teenage child. You love him sometimes, and sometimes you know you want to strangle him."

Oxley said after the race, "We ran into a few issues, and thanks to the genius of Mark Casse — brilliant trainer — we found the solution. We had Julien aboard; he stayed with us, of course. We found a rider named Martin [Rivera]. I think he was the wild card. The horse respected him, he trained so well with him and here we are."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Francisco's Farm Arts Festival to be held May 20-21

The 2017 Francisco's Farm Art Festival will be held at Midway University Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The www.franciscosfarm.org website has updated information including lists of the more than 80 artists, food vendors and musical acts. Entrance to the festival is free; parking on campus is $5 per vehicle.

Thoroughbred broom  by Justin Burton
"The festival organizers are excited about this year's festival and have been working hard on plans to provide visitors with another great experience of shopping for unique art, enjoying great food and relaxing on Midway's beautiful university campus while listening to local musicians," the university and Midway Renaissance said in a press release.

"There are many wonderful artists attending this year's festival," said Helen Rentch, who is Renaissance's main liaison with artists. "We have acrylic and watercolor artists, photography, mixed media, pottery, woodworking, broom makers, paper and other textiles as well as jewelry. This year's festival will include artists from 15 states and Canada and many new artists." Some will do demonstrations, and there will be a display by popular folk artist Jo Ann Butts.

Folk art by Jo Ann Butts
Butts will also demonstrate wood carving. Artist Lou Hii will demonstrate the art of Chinese paper cutting. Berea artist Justin Burton will demonstrate the art of broom making, as illustrated by his "Thoroughbred broom" pictured above.

"We will have music throughout the Festival, some delicious food and activities for children sponsored by the Woodford County Library, in addition to the wonderful art for customers to purchase," said Debra Shockley, the festival co-chair.

Chinese paper art by Lou Hii
Francisco's Farm is a fully volunteer-driven event. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to complete the volunteer form on the website at www.franciscosfarm.org.

The festival is named for Col. John Francisco, on whose farm Midway was founded in the 1830s.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Midway Business Association discusses problem of some stores not staying open later or on some days

The Midway Business Association has new leadership, more members and better turnout at its meetings, but the chronic issue of limited store hours won't go away.

Former association president Kenny Smith made sure of that at Wednesday's monthly meeting, as he revived his longstanding concern that downtown stores aren't open late enough or often enough. That disappoints visitors to Midway, so "It hurts the whole town," said Smith, owner of Kennydid Gallery. "We are just a part-time retail place."

MBA Treasurer Leslie Penn of the Historic Midway Museum Store retorted, "We are not a mall." She said later that the merchants who cause the problem don't attend meetings of the association.

Peggy Angel
Recently installed MBA President Peggy Angel said personal conviction keeps her from opening her Steppin' Out Boutique on Sundays, but said longer store hours downtown "would be helpful. But everybody, we've got to work together. . . . We have to be careful. We just can't push it. We have to make them think it's their idea."

City Council Member Steve Simoff, who operates the Horse Country Cottage bed-and-breakfast, said "I don't think you're going to get cooperation." Later, he said, "I think you should just close at 5 and let the restaurants support the city."

Simoff echoed another concern Smith voiced, that some store owners and employees park in front of other businesses, taking spaces that should be left open for customers. "I think we've blown the parking thing," Simoff said, noting what he said was a missed opportunity to establish a parking lot behind Damselfly Gallery.

Steve Morgan of Kentucky Honey Farms, chair of the MBA membership committee, noted that a task force is trying to recruit a brewery or distillery to town, which would increase tourism and encourage longer store hours.

The merchants agreed that stores should be encouraged to stay open late during this year's Midsummer Nights in Midway events, scheduled by Midway Renaissance for June 30, July 28 and August 25. Angel suggested that the merchants have sidewalk sales on those three Fridays.

One of the Sawhorse Derby entries is in front of City Hall.
The MBA's current event is the Sawhorse Derby, in which shoppers vote for their favorite sawhorse among those decorated as racing horses. The promotion will conclude with an event on the afternoon of April 29. Morgan said four of the 17 sawhorses are displayed by non-members of the association.

In other business, Adele Dickerson of the Woodford County Farmers' Market announced that it will open for the season in Midway on Monday, May 1.

Don Vizi, executive director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, invited all Midway businesses to attend a meeting of the chamber's board of directors at 8 a.m. April 27 at Midway University.

The association meets at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, upstairs at City Hall.

The Midway Messenger is a non-voting member of the Midway Business Association.

Weisenberger Mill Bridge project delayed again, and will probably be delayed yet again for federal historic review

The bridge has been closed since July 1 for safety reasons.
The planned replacement of the bridge across South Elkhorn Creek at Weisenberger Mill has been delayed, and will probably be delayed again, until next year.

The State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council wanted a more detailed study of the bridge and the nearby area, and the federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation will have to review what the state reports say, said Ananias Calvin, project engineer for the state Transportation Cabinet.

"That's going to add some time," Calvin told the Midway Messenger. "We're looking at some different properties we hadn't looked at before," to include the bridge's viewshed, the area that can be seen from it.

The project plan requires purchase of small amounts of property, and the cabinet can't do that until the historical reports have been reviewed.

Calvin said the cabinet had already delayed the bid-letting date for the project to June, and then moved it to October, and will probably have to delay it again. "We won't know how far until we get the environmental documents," he said.

The cabinet wants to build a two-lane bridge to replace the one-lane span built in 1932. In addition to the historical objections, some neighbors of the bridge say a two-lane span will only attract more traffic and speeders, a dangerous prospect since the Woodford County end of the bridge has a sharp curve.

The bridge was closed July 1 after state inspectors found it was in danger of collapse. The weight limit had been lowered to three tons, but it continued to attract heavy trucks looking for a shortcut to Interstate 64.

"I think there's more people not happy about that [the lack of a span at the site] than are not happy with the design we're incorporating," Calvin said.

The bridge is on a county road, but the state took responsibility for its replacement several years ago as part of a trade in which Woodford County did some work on a state road. Under a prior agreement with Scott County, Woodford has underlying responsibility for the bridge.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Council OKs removable speed bumps for East Stephens, $500 donation to new youth ministry

Lee Busick listened as Sara spoke.
The Midway City Council voted Monday evening to spend up to $5,500 for removable speed bumps for East Stephens Street and pay $500 to subsidize a local youth ministry's major fund-raising event.

The council also heard several updates from Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and a report from the new president of the Midway Business Association.

The stars of the evening were Sara and Lee Busick, local graphic designers who operate Locally Grown, a ministry for teenagers that works with local churches.

Sara Busick said the group meets twice a week and has engaged with 43 teens since it started this summer. She said its Wednesday meetings are aimed at spiritual growth and community service, and Thursday meetings focus on wellness.

The group took a field trip to Lower Howard's Creek Preserve.
"On a weekly basis we are meeting new kids . . . with an need, an interest in being part of the community," Busick said. "When a lot of these kids show up, the're lonely. . . . We really view it as a chance to develop relationships with caring adults," including church pastors.

She said most of the churches can't afford their own youth programs, so "This was kind of a unifying force to help all the local churches."

Earlier, she said, "The one goal of this program is to love and serve other people," helping the teens become good neighbors, good citizens "and a good human being on this planet."

Lily Savage, Emily Fanning and Lily Rogers worked in the
Midway community garden. (Photos provided by Sara Busick)
Busick said the program seeks donations so the teens bear no financial burden. The group's major fund-raiser of the year will be a June 26 scramble at Moss Hill Golf Course.

Vandegrift said the city still has $1,100 available in its budget for donations, and suggested that it sponsor the refreshments for the event, priced at $500, which the council approved. "This is a really, really great cause," he said. "It's an incredible thing for the youth of our community."

The purchase of removable speed bumps was proposed by Council Member Bruce Southworth, who lives on Stephens Street. He noted that the city still has $11,000 in its snow-removal budget, and asked that the council approve the expenditure of not more than $5,500 for the devices.

Vandegrift asked about possible liability for the city, and Southworth cited a state law, a regulation and an attorney general's opinion saying that was not a risk. The council approved the expenditure unanimously.

Peggy Angel, new president of the Midway Business Association, told the council that it wants to work more closely with city officials "to drive more people to our city." She said it plans to hold four events plus the annual Fall Festival, and has added several more members. The group meets at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month upstairs at City Hall.

Vandegrift reported that:
  • The city will soon offer the ability to pay water bills online, with a service fee of $1 or $2;
  • The Lakeshore Learning Materials plant in Midway Station (below, in photo taken March 23) is under roof and he will start work on a master plan for the development next week;
  • Walter Bradley Park now has a website and needs volunteers for a tree planting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 22;
  • He expects homeowners in the city's sidewalk-repair program to have the work done by May 31; and
  • If the state ever replaces the Weisenberger Mill Bridge, it will give the old span to the city and haul it to the park at state expense. "They're not sure what they're going to do right now" with the long-stalled project, he said.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Zoning board rejects application for bed-and-breakfast in old residential area at 214 S. Winter St.

The home, left, is next to that of Betty Lehman Feagin, who objected.
Bed-and-breakfast accommodations aren't welcome in purely residential areas in Midway, neighbors of a proposed B-and-B and the Woodford County Board of Zoning Adjustment made clear Monday evening.

The board turned down an application by Steve and Joy Hadden to rent out three guest rooms in their home at 214 S. Winter St., in the heart of Midway's old residential district.

The board accepted the argument of several neighbors of the Haddens, and a lawyer for their next-door neighbor, that a bed-and-breakfast would be "the intrusion of a commercial property into a residential neighborhood," as neighbor Jo Blease put it.

Hank Graddy of Midway, attorney for next-door neighbor Betty Lehman Feagin, told the board, "People are investing in it as residential and they want to keep it residential." With a bed-and-breakfast, "One couple makes money, but everybody around them loses privacy and loses security."

Steve Hadden spoke to the board as wife Joy, right, listened.
Opponents included former city council member Sharon Turner,
left, attorney Hank Graddy and his client, Betty Lehman Feagin.
The Haddens said they, too, have made an investment in the property as a source of additional income after he retires as pastor of Midway Baptist Church. "We don't want to do anything to be detrimental to Midway or our neighborhood," he said.

The Haddens' neighbors said they didn't like the idea of "people we've never laid eyes on before" next door, as Loretta Wethington put it. Blease told them, "You're not vetting those people for who they are." She said Midway is more than the historic downtown, and "If you do this you are really going to deteriorate what makes Midway Midway."

Opponents also raised concerns about traffic, saying guests unfamiliar with Midway would have trouble entering and leaving the Hadden lot, and about drainage, saying more paving on the lot would worsen stormwater problems. The Haddens said they would not add more pavement.

Joy Hadden said they did not plan to not put a sign on the house, and would rent rooms mainly for special events and only nine months a year, but her backyard neighbor, Mike Hagan, suggested that bed-and-breakfasts would undermine Midway's authenticity.

Noting that there are already two B-and-Bs on Winter Street, he said, "I don't want us to turn into the Cracker Barrel motif. . . . If we change the basic character all over Midway, with that Cracker Barrel motif, we're not going to be a nice place to live."

Al Schooler, Midway's appointee to the board, said he didn't think the B-and-B would cause drainage or traffic problems, but "I do have an issue with the integrity of the neighborhood." He moved to deny the application, and his motion passed 4-1, with Frank Stark dissenting. Hadden and his neighbors talked courteously with each other after the meeting.

The Hadden property is at the center of this Google map, marked with an asterisk. (Google identifies South Winter Street as Versailles Road.)