Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On a bitter cold night, chili cookoff heats things up

By Darius Owens and Hayley Minogue
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The church fellowship hall was nearly full. (Photo by Darius Owens)
A bitter cold may be filling the January air, but people brought the heat for the Midway Christian Church’s annual chili cook-off Monday night.

The event, which drew a near-capacity crowd to the MCC Fellowship Hall, saw the people of Midway come together in competition and as a community.

“People come, have a good meal, have fun, and get to know your neighbors,” said the Rev. Heather McColl, the church’s pastor. The event is one of the monthly community dinners the church hosts.

With 14 contending recipes, it was a friendly but vigorous contest to be called No. 1. The pleasant aroma of different sauces, meats, and seasonings filled the hall as people took their seats and talked to their friends.

After McColl announced the number of contestants, assigned each an anonymous number, and retrieved samples for the judges, the crowd lined up to grab a bowl and savor the variety of chili prepared for the event.

McColl said the judging criteria varies by who’'s on the panel. “It’s up to them how they want to judge,” McColl said. “We just need a first place, a second place, and a third place. Whatever the judges decide … it’s all up to them.”

Bruce Southworth (Photo by Erin Grigson)
City Council Member Bruce Southworth, right, was a last-minute addition to the panel of judges this year. “I didn’t find out until 5 o’clock,” he said, from Mayor Tom Bozarth, who asked him to fill in for a judge who couldn’t attend. His method of choosing his winner was pretty simple: “I like it a little spicy . . . Not so hot you can’t taste it, but gives you that bite back.”

This spice factor was the exact characteristic that made the top three chilis the best. The third-place winner was Wilda Caudle. The second-place winner was Theresa Hop. The winner, Gloria Batts, said she was surprised that she won.

“I’ve entered one every year, but I usually make mild … because people don’t like spicy sometimes,” said Batts. She said her chili was made with ground turkey, black and pinto beans, and simple McCormick spices from the store. “My husband won’t believe this at all.”

Caudle said she has been in many chili competitions and “I will never go down without a fight.” Being in third place is a new title for her; she has won and received second place in past cook-offs.

Ouita Michel and eaters (Photo by Hayley Minogue)
Ouita Michel, chef and owner of several local businesses, including Holly Hill Inn, Windy Corner Market, Wallace Station and Smithtown Seafood, said she enjoys challenging her family in cooking chili. “My husband has a bowl and my daughter has a bowl,” said Michel, who coordinates the dinners. “Right now I’m one and one – won one, lost one.”

The church offered a small prize to the winners of the contest, but the most important aspect of the event was the people.

“My favorite part is the fellowship of these dinners,” said Phillip Burchell, a member of the church. “I’ve been making chili for these competitions for as long as they’ve been here … around seven years ago.” Burchell said the cook-offs are always fun because” the competitive atmosphere thickens as judges decide the winner.

McColl put it this way: “It’s just a good time on a cold winter’s night.”

No matter what your chili preference, community was the common ingredient into a successful chili cookoff, Hayley Minogue of the Midway Messenger reports in this video package:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

7 file for 6 seats on council; two members run for mayor; Sandy Jones of Midway in line to be county clerk

By Kayla Pickrell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Three incumbents and four non-incumbents filed for the six seats on the Midway City Council by the 4 p.m. filing deadline Tuesday.

The incumbents are Sara Hicks, Bruce Southworth and Daniel Roller. Non-incumbents are Peggy Sharon, 244 W. Bruen St.; Libby Warfield, 251 W. Cross St.; Kaye Nita Gallagher, 122 W. Main St.; and Steven Craig, 235 Brand St.

Five minutes after the deadline, Midway merchant Leslie Penn, right, ran into the Woodford County clerk’s office with a sheaf of papers ready to file. She was responding to talk in Midway that fewer than six people were filing for council. At first she was disappointed, but then was relieved to hear that seven had filed.

“I want people to get involved, because if they don’t, they can’t complain,” said Penn, who signed the nominating petitions for Roller and Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, who is running for mayor.

Three seats on the city council are opening up because Vandegrift and longtime Council Member Sharon Turner are running for mayor, and Aaron Hamilton, another longtime member and the council's only African American, is not seeking a fifth term.

Hamilton, 64, left, said in a brief interview, "I just ran my course and had a lot on my plate. It's time to change gears."

Mayor Tom Bozarth announced in November that he would not seek a third four-year term. Council members serve two-year terms.

The number of candidates for each office was not more than double the number of seats available, so no primary election is needed to narrow the lists of candidates.

Warfield and Sharon are sisters, and say they are running as such, focusing on the community and family.

“We . . . certainly feel like we need to give back,” Warfield said. She noted that her son, Matt Warfield, had been  a council member.

Sharon said she is running because there is more “dissention than direction” in the city government, and the city needs to “continue with growth.”

Warfield unsuccessfully sought appointment by the council to a vacancy in early 2012. Craig ran ninth out of 10 in the last council election.

Gallagher was among the 25 people who signed Vandegrift’s filing papers for mayor. Others incuded Penn and her husband, Bill.

Turner’s list of five signers was headed by former council member Doris Leigh and her husband, Charles Leigh.

Craig is the brother of Magistrate Larry Craig, who filed for re-election in the Midway district. Dale Benson and Linda Popp filed against him in the Democratic primary.

Democratic County Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle filed for another term. Republican Bobby Gaffney also filed.

County Clerk Judie Woolums is retiring; fiscal court clerk Sandy Jones of Midway is the only candidate for clerk. Gary Gillis is not seeking re-election as property valuation administrator; his chief deputy, Judy Bobbitt, is the only candidate for PVA. Sheriff Wayne "Tiny" Wright and County Attorney Alan George drew no opposition. Independent candidates have until August to file, but must give notice by April.

In the race for state representative for Woodford County and parts of Franklin and Fayette counties, Democrat James Kay filed for re-election and Republican Ryan Schwartz filed against him. Both are lawyers who live in Versailles; Schwartz practices in Lexington. Last summer, Kay won a special election to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Democrat Carl Rollins of Midway.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Midway Christian Church has 50 'ministers' and three speakers to celebrate Laity Sunday

Story and photos by Erin Grigson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Walking into Midway Christian Church on Laity Sunday, most people would have had trouble distinguishing the congregation from the preacher.

Since 2010, on the last Sunday of January, every person who walked through the doors, young and old, has been adorned with a stole, a strip of cloth worn around the neck, signifying him or her as a minister in the church.

“It’s a celebration of the fact that we’re all called ministers in the church, that God blessed us with gifts, each one different,” the Rev. Heather McColl said in an interview. “This is the time that we lift up our call to serve God’s church with the gift that God has given us.”

For the service, the pastor asks three members of the congregation to share their testimonies with the church.

“It’s very rare that church people get a chance to tell their side of the story or their faith journey,” McColl said. “You interact with these people every Sunday, but you really don’t know their background.”

One of the first Sundays Sheri Adkins, left, ever attended Midway Christian was for the laity service. As she spoke at the most recent one, she teared up, reminiscing about how much closer she feels to the lay people after they speak at the service.

“I see God in this church,” Adkins said.

She went on to say that she sees God shining through her children, Blake and Alex, and through every person in the congregation. She said that God’s light was like a flickering candle in each of them and as they came closer together, the brightness just increased in intensity.

Wanda Alford was raised in a Christian home. Her father’s family was Baptist, her mother’s family was Pentecostal and she first attended a Church of the Nazarene. At the age of 12, she was baptized alongside her father.

“I never had the crisis of faith that some had,” Alford told the congregation. “I went to college, was involved in the Baptist Student Union and heard a woman speak at a convention I attended. She said ‘Everyone owes one summer of their life to God.’ I couldn’t get this out of my mind.”

She then proceeded to serve as a summer missionary in Fort Worth, Tex.

“It was a frightening experience at times,” she recalled. “It made me appreciate what people give up for the ministry, how much of their life is actually occupied with others.”

Though she has had struggles in her life, Alford said, her faith never faltered.

“I have gone through trying times in my life,” she said, “but I have never doubted the existence of God.”

Like Alford, John Askew said he grew up surrounded by a supportive church family.

“I didn’t feel like I had a particularly interesting or important story,” he told the congregation. “If I had to sum it up into one word, it would probably be ‘family.’”

From left, Alford, Askew, Adkins and Rev. McColl wait at the
back of the church to greet members as they leave the service.
Alford, a member of the choir, said in an interview afterward that she was a bit nervous about speaking during the service.

“These are not things that we talk about a whole lot, and I don’t know some of the people here as well as others, and they don’t know those things about me,” she said. “You wonder how they’re going to accept what you’ve said.”

Askew agreed. Although he loves the tradition of having members of the congregation speak for this service, he would rather be listening to other people’s stories than telling his own.

“It was a little bit intimidating for me,” he said. “I’m not a real open person.”

Adkins, an elder of the church, spoke highly of the laity services of the past and of the day’s service.

“There’s a commonality, if you tell your story,” she said. “Part of faith is being around people interacting with each other and supporting each other.”

McColl said that after every laity service that they have done in this way, the members of the church comment on how much they appreciate the chance to learn about others.

“They like hearing the testimonials of people’s faith,” McColl said. “They say, ‘It’s always nice to hear another voice and it’s nice to hear someone who didn’t go to seminary, who didn’t get theologically trained, who may be having some of the same faith struggles that we’ve been having.’”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

King service shows his 'Dream' is realized in Midway

Story and photographs by Darius Owens
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” has become a reality.

There was a full chapel Monday night for the King birthday service at St. Matthew's AME Church in Midway. More than 50 people came ready for worship, and to celebrate the life and achievements of the late civil rights activist.

The African Methodist Episcopal church was filled with a very diverse crowd, as the pews filled with African-American and Caucasian attendees, all sharing hugs, laughs and smiles together as old friends and a community.

“I love the diversity,” LaRon Raglin, a St. Matthew's church member, said in an interview. “It’s what you want to see out here; it’s beautiful.”

Race relations in Midway have “always been pretty good,” said Rev. Dr. Shelia Harris, church leader and an organizers of the event. “When you have that cross-mix in the community and in the churches, you’ll find that the relationship is better.”

Organized by the Midway Ministerial Association, the annual event rotates among the African American churches in the Midway area. The eight churches have performed this service for about 10 years between .

This year’s service lasted just over an hour, and had powerful messages with scripture that King preached. Judy Stallons, pastor of Midway United Methodist Church, read from Matthew 5:43-48, in which Jesus says to love your enemies. The scripture from the Sermon on the Mount fit well after the prayer and opening song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The musical selection was done by the Johnsons, a family of singers who grew up in the church. “I’ve been preaching for 48 years, and I’ve been singing for 25 years with my family,” the Rev. Don Johnson said in an interview. He also enjoys the atmosphere that the church offers. “I come here because the spirit is here,” he said. “I’m able to exercise my gifts.”

A group of children and adults performed a skit about how different life was for African Americans during the days of Jim Crow laws and segregation, and the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. The play was placed in a school setting, which also used flashbacks to the 1960s as a visual theater piece.

“We wanted to do something different,” Harris said in an interview. “Everybody always has speeches, or sermons, or musicals … so what we wanted to do to get children involved was to do a reading play.” She said the play was fun, helped improve the children’s reading skills, and emphasized the educational value of the struggles faced by African Americans in the past.

“We’ve always had good race relations in Midway, even though the schools were segregated,” Midway City Council Member Aaron Hamilton, 64, said in an interview. “My playmates were white, but we never really paid any attention to it ... we all just played together.”

The service closed by the congregation singing “We Shall Overcome,” and after the benediction, the diverse crowd got even closer by eating food and enjoying each other’s company. The event exemplified the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., who envisioned the rights of all human beings, and for equality for people of all races and nationalities.

Tonight's City Council meeting has been canceled

Tonight's regular meeting of the Midway City Council, set for 5:30 p.m., has been canceled because of the snowy, cold weather and a very short agenda. The council normally meets on Mondays, but this week's meeting was moved for the Martin Luther King holiday. The next meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Special committee named to consider Southworth's idea about expenses will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday

The special City Council committee that Mayor Tom Bozarth named to consider Council Member Bruce Southworth’s request to have the mayor get council approval of purchases of $1,000 or more that are not in the budget will meet Monday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. The regular council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.