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Monday, December 9, 2019

Council debates, tweaks ordinances to crack down on blighted property; first reading scheduled Dec. 16

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift displayed metal objects that he said had fallen from the building at 116 E. Main St.
The Midway City Council seems ready to pass two ordinances to enforce ordinances requiring property owners to maintain their property, following a final work session Monday night.

Following the half-hour discussion, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, who has been trying to crack down on blighted property since he took office almost five years ago, said he would schedule the ordinances for first reading next Monday, Dec. 16, and hope to pass them Jan. 6.

116 E. Main was once the Odd Fellows Hall.
To demonstrate the need for the ordinance, Vandegrift showed the council pieces of metal, some of them heavy and some of them sharp, that he said had fallen from the old Odd Fellows Lodge Hall at 116 E. Main St., which has been owned by Ness Almadari of Lexington since early 2016.

He said someone could have been killed by the heavy object, and Council Member John Holloway said likewise of the sharp ones. "I knew somebody who was killed in an accident like this," he said.

"This is the reason for the rush," Vandegrift said, adding later, "That's sort of the crux of the issue to me."

The only issue that prompted disagreement at the meeting was Council Member Bruce Southworth's concern that one of the proposed definitions of "blighted or deteriorated real property" is too broad.

The proposed definition, taken from state law, applies to vacant structures, or vacant or unimproved lots or parcels "in a predominantly built-up neighborhood" and includes seven alternative criteria. One covers property that "has not been rehabilitated and brought into compliance with the housing, plumbing, electrical, fire or nuisance code of the local government . . . within the time constraints placed upon the owner by the appropriate permitting or code-enforcement agency."

Southworth said half the houses in Midway don't meet the current electrical code. Holloway said the code "grandfathers" such houses and doesn't require them to be upgraded to code.

Vandegrift said action against any property requires a complaint and action by the code inspector, and "you would think it would have already been a problem statewide or it wouldn't be in the current KRS," the Kentucky Revised Statutes. He said the ordinance would be enforced by "a reasonable board, which we're going to appoint."

In response to a question from the Messenger, Vandegrift and Council Member Logan Nance said the provision is intended to apply only in cases where a permitting or code-enforcement agency has ordered the property owner to comply and the owner has failed to do so in the time period established by the agency.

Nance said the provision needed to stay to discourage "slumlords." Council Member Stacy Thurman said it would make enforcement stronger, and Council Member Sara Hicks said "It makes people want to do the right things . . . and it makes the town safer." The other council member, Kaye Nita Gallagher, did not attend the meeting.

Holloway, Nance and Thurman were elected last year, making the council more amenable to action on the issue, but the process has required three special meetings and who knows how many private conversations between members. Vandegrift told the council, "I think you all have made good steps to preclude some things that can be done just out of spite."

The council did ask for one last change, a clarification of the time a property owner would be given to comply after receiving a citation. The proposed code-enforcement ordinance says it would be up to the enforcement officer, but "not less than seven days," while the proposed blighted-property ordinance calls for 10 days' written notice. The council agreed both should say 10 days.

If the owner didn't comply, the case would go to a new Code Enforcement Board of at least three members and two alternates, who must have been residents of the city for a year upon appointment. After initially staggered appointments, they would serve three-year terms, be limited to two terms and could be removed by the mayor or a council majority plus one for "misconduct, inefficiency or willful neglect of duty." They could not hold any office with the city or any agency that enforces housing, plumbing, fire, maintenance or related codes.

Vandegrift has said the Code Enforcement Board is the key to enforcement that would stand up in court. The ordinances follow state laws that were passed in 2016 to give cities more power to crack down on blighted property.

In addition to safety concerns, the mayor said dilapidated properties bring down property values and discourage investment by adjoining property owners. He said the sport of the proposed laws is "not to burden those who don't have the means" to improve their property, "but to make people who have the inventory do something with it."

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Model train displays draw children and adults downtown

Christy Reaves's "Holiday" layout (For a larger version of any photo, click on it.)
Closeup shows ice-skating detail on the top of the layout.
Story and photos by Grant Wheeler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Train enthusiast Christy Reaves put her “Holiday” model train layout on display for the citizens of Midway and visitors to the town Saturday, marking the second year she has hosted an exhibit in the old bank building on East Main Street.

The Midway Business Association sponsors the exhibit, which Reaves said makes use of salvage parts from her past projects in Ashland. “There was so much stuff that was just going to be thrown away,” she said. “It’s great to take it and make it interesting.”

Another view of the layout shows the list of items in the Midway Business Association scavenger hunt.
Reaves said the layout made use of one she did for Halloween, in particular the upper level addition: “I liked it for Halloween so it stayed for Christmas.”

The event aims to bring joy to families and children of the community while attracting shoppers and diners to Midway, the first town in Kentucky created by a railroad (Kentucky's first railroad).

“I’m so glad that all these kids can come see it,” Reaves said as she observed her one-year-old grandson Jaiden, right, fix a fallen sign on the massive layout. She will host classes from Northside Elementary School on Monday to view her layout.

The event drew many families to view the exhibit in the building, owned by Amy and Mike Stinnett.

“It’s a wonderful exhibit,” one viewer said. “Midway being a train town is a significant part of our history. I’m glad that history can be celebrated, that and holiday season really makes this event something special for my children.”

In addition to Reaves’ exhibit, a scale model of Midway was on display in City Hall. The display featured a miniature recreation of Midway, brought to life by parts and other contributions made by citizens of the town and others.

The layout was done in the early 1980s by Laurine and William Grant, who donated it to the city in 2001. A few months ago, Midway Renaissance and several community volunteers joined forces to put it back in shape. It was first displayed at Midway Heritage Day in July.

The restoration added background representations of Midway Christian Church and Midway University.
This view, looking west, shows two RJ Corman trains; when the model was built, two parallel tracks ran through town.

The trains in the layout are miniature RJ Corman Railroad Co. trains, to acknowledge the company that runs trains through Midway on their journeys hauling aluminum between Berea and Louisville.

Other trains were on display. Dave Kacmarcik, below, of Kaz Woodcraft in Lexington was at City Hall to showcase and sell his handmade wooden toy trucks and trains. “Woodworking has always been a hobby of mine,” he said, “and it eventually became a hobby with an income.”

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Council to hold special meeting Mon. to discuss draft ordinances on blighted property and code enforcement

City officials say this house at the northwest corner of Higgins
and Turner Streets has been abandoned for about 60 years.
The Midway City Council will have a special meeting Monday night for what seems likely to be a final workshop on the ordinances that Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has been trying to get passed since he was first elected in 2014, to crack down on owners of blighted property.

The meeting at City Hall is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. All council meetings are open to the public, but the agenda for this meeting does not specifically include citizens' comments, as the agendas for regular council meetings do. The council has already held two workshops on the ordinance.

Vandegrift said in his annual report to the council Monday night, "I’ve been very encouraged by the discussion and progress surrounding the proposed Blighted Property and code enforcement ordinances, and this week I will be sending members of the city council the latest draft we’ve been working on together, with the intention of holding a first reading at our meeting on Dec.16 and a second reading and vote on Jan. 6. I understand that this may require a final special meeting on the topic if it appears one is necessary to move forward. I firmly believe this is the only way to truly tackle the problem of blight and abandonment, and the current version is a great example of cooperation and compromise."

Midway woman writes about her 'total lifestyle change'

Wilda Willis Caudle (Facebook photos)
By Wilda Willis Caudle

     A year ago, at 58 years old, I felt like hell and looked about the same. My Type 2 diabetes was managed only by medication and reminded me that I could be the next Willis to die from diabetes-related illness. My primary-care physician was honest and frank with me. The choice was mine to make. Approaching 60 and my family medical history quite honestly scared me to make a total lifestyle change.

Before her lifestyle change
     So, I challenged myself to get in shape and to establish and maintain a healthy weight. No excuses. Well, a year later and thanks to a total lifestyle change I am 70 pounds lighter, off all diabetes and cholesterol medications, at a healthy weight and becoming physically fit. My journey to wellness isn't over it is continually evolving.
     I owe a large part of the lifestyle change to Fit-Time Gym in Frankfort, owned by Diana Geddes, formerly of Midway (the daughter of Patricia and Charles Wilson); my personal trainer, Rebecca Everman; and Rebe Conley's weekly yoga sessions. The encouragement, challenging workouts, and, truthful positive feedback keeps me on track.
     I consider my gym time as therapy; yep, therapy. I have made friendships with women who share my struggles and who are walking the path to wellness. Some have been a member of Fit-Time for at least 20 years.
     Hey, this gym membership is more cost effective than shopping or other forms of conventional therapy. Y'all know how I love making money when shopping for a good deal.
     This year the annual open house is Friday, Dec. 6. Ladies, you can join any other gym in town but you won't have the one-on-one client attention like at Fit-Time for Women. At Fit-Time you get everything all the other gyms have, plus child care, various fitness classes, sauna, the services of a full-service nail salon and massage therapist.The services of the nail salon and massage therapist are in addition to a gym membership. But, you don't have to drive all over town for those services.
     Fit-Time also offers various community projects so its members can give back to others in need like the Backpack Program, the Christmas Angel Tree, recycling plastic bottle tops to be made into benches, and, more.
     Fit-Time for Women is just that -- for women only. A non-judgmental gym for women where everyone is working to be the best they can be. Every journey to wellness is different and nobody is worried about your journey because they are all concentrating on theirs.
     Everyone there is ready to help you be the healthiest and best "you". I might even see you there. What are you waiting for?
The original, longer version of this essay was posted on Facebook on Dec. 4.    

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mayor looks back at a year of improvements in Midway, suggests others to be made with booming tax revenue

By Garrett Burton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Monday’s City Council meeting was almost entirely dedicated to Mayor Grayson Vandegrift’s annual report, looking back at what had been accomplished in Midway the past year. 

This was “the year we truly put our money where our mouth is in making large investments in our infrastructure . . . but we can’t rest on our laurels,” Vandegrift told the council, suggesting ways the council can use its booming payroll-tax revenue to make more improvements.

“Tax revenue created from new jobs is growing, and that it’s steadily improving our city’s fortune and future as it grows,” the mayor said, announcing that “We are 29 percent ahead of our occupational-tax revenue for the fiscal year, putting us on track to generate $838,000 this cycle.”  The city budgeted $650,000 in occupational-tax income for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The tax revenue from wages and profits has boomed mainly because of the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center, and further job growth will be led by expansion of the center, with 100 new jobs, announced in September. Vandegrift said this puts Lakeshore’s total investment the Midway at around $75 million.

In the only major action at the meeting, the council passed an ordinance authorizing $35 million in industrial revenue bonds for the expansion. The bonds will be paid off solely by Lakeshore’s lease payments to the city, which owns the property. That makes it tax-exempt, but Lakeshore will pay the county schools an amount equal to what it would pay in taxes.

“They will eventually employ at least 362 full time workers in Midway, far and away the largest job provider the city has ever had, and one of the largest in the county,” Vandegrift noted.

The mayor said “2019 saw us create over 225 more jobs in Midway,” and with other jobs expected from businesses that have bought lots in Midway Station, ”It won’t be long until our annual occupational tax revenue is exceeding 1 million dollars. For reference, back in 2015, we were bringing in $300,000.  That is the effect of bringing in 500 new jobs in five years.”

The city used the new revenue to make improvements, including a sidewalk-repair cost-sharing program.  “Of every project we’ve implemented in the last five years,” Vandegrift said, “none generated the number of compliments we received from citizens than this one.”

He said the city “should look seriously” at building new sidewalks “where they are needed and where they are possible,” such as East Stephens Street near the Homeplace at Midway, Leestown Road (US 421) and “the US 62 bypass,” officially Midway Road. He noted that sidewalks on the latter two would “require state input and/or participation.”

When East Stephens Street was repaved, it also got new lines in the center and on its edges.
Other infrastructure improvements this year have included the wastewater treatment plant and improvement this fall of East Stephens Street, including “edge lines which early eyewitness reports indicate are slowing traffic,” Vandegrift said. “It is time we create a five year road plan for a priority list of which roadways should be resurfaced soon,” he said, such as Higgins, Bruen and Gratz streets.

"Money is budgeted this fiscal year for a sewer repair project “that will mark a turning point for us in our efforts to combat aging infrastructure,” the mayor noted.

He said a “decades-long grievance about Midway,” its high water rates, could be ended by switching to a new water wholesaler in 2015, when the city’s contract with Kentucky American Water Co. is up. “Frankfort Plant Board is an obvious and strong candidate for our business because they can sell us equally clean water at a rate 40% cheaper,” he said, but “as other players come to the table, we should hear them out as well.” He said “wholesalers within our own county” are interested.

After the meeting, he said the interest is from the City of Versailles, which already supplies water to the Northeast Woodford Water District, but it’s unclear whether the water would come directly from Versailles or through the district’s lines.

The mayor ended his annual report by thanking city employees, whom he called “then unsung heroes of Midway.” Earlier, he thanked the council members, the Midway Business Association, Midway Renaissance and the city Parks Board for their work.

“I look forward to continuing to work together with you to maintain Midway’s status as a city that defies all expectations,” he said.

Earlier, noting that Versailles and Georgetown have followed Midway’s lead in banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, he said, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that because a city is small that it somehow matters less.”

All council members applauded at the conclusion of the report, which can be read in full here.

Other business: Vandegrift said the long-debated ordinance to crack down on blighted property, which he has been trying to get passed since his election in 2015, should be ready for first reading at the Dec. 16 meeting.  He said he plans to have the second reading and final vote on Jan 6, but a special meeting if there are further questions.

 “I firmly believe this is the only way to tackle the problem of blight and abandonment,” he said, “and the current version is a great example of cooperation and compromise.”

Council Member Logan Nance asked that the council discuss the policy of shutting off water users for nonpayment, policy he said in September should be abolished. Vandegrift said the issue is “next on the agenda.”

Monday, December 2, 2019

Chef Ouita Michel of Midway recognized at UK football game for championing Kentucky's local-food movement


News release and video by University of Kentucky Public Relations and Marketing

The accolades for Kentucky’s food scene have been rolling in the last several years, and few leaders are as responsible for growing the state’s culinary landscape as University of Kentucky alumna Ouita Michel.

Before UK's home football game against the University of Louisville on Saturday, the celebrated chef and restaurateur was recognized on Kroger Field for her work as one of the original champions of Kentucky’s local food movement.

Saturday's rain didn't keep Ouita Michel off the football field.
A James Beard Foundation Award nominee as Outstanding Restaurateur and Best Chef in the Southeast, Michel has built a regional restaurant empire that now includes such popular establishments as Zim’s Cafe, Honeywood, Holly Hill Inn, The Midway Bakery, Smithtown Seafood, Wallace Station, Windy Corner Market and Restaurant and Glenn’s Creek CafĂ©.

Michel majored in political science at the UK College of Arts and Sciences and was a member of the debate team, the honors program (now Lewis Honors College) and the first class of Gaines Fellows. In 1986, she became only the second woman to win a national debate championship.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Michel moved to New York where she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and met her husband, Chris. The two returned to Kentucky in 1993 for their wedding, and opened their first restaurant, Holly Hill Inn in Midway, in 2000 where she became one of the state’s pioneers of using local-sourced products.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Midway Makers Market, open five months on Main, sells goods from about 50 Kentucky artists and crafters

Co-owner Amy Bowman with her embroidery machine
Story and photos by Kennedy Sabharwal
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

In July, the Midway Makers Market opened and began selling handmade products from local vendors at 130 East Main St., the former home of Midway Sweet Tooth.

“We have local makers with us from Kentucky as far away as Ashland and Maysville,” says co-owner Amy Bowman, who decided to open the store after months of selling her own handmade embroidery through Local Kentucky 68 in Maysville and the Carlisle Country Market.

Bowman said that before opening, “I posted in two Facebook groups filled with artists from across the state saying I’m thinking of doing this store in Midway; you know, just kind of interested in how many of you would be interested in participating with me.”

The shop opened in July at 130 E. Main St.
She wanted to have 30 or 40 makers respond but within days over 100 sent in applications, Bowman said. She knew that she couldn’t do the task on her own, so she asked Ann Parks to join her.

“I knew Ann,” she recalled. “We had met just by doing shows and then we would bump into each other in different places, and I knew that she had taken time off from her regular 9-to-5 job to work full-time on her craft.”

Parks, who does crochet and woodwork, grew up in Midway and still lives in Woodford County. “Ann immediately said yes when I asked her to please be my business partner,” Bowman said. “It’s just such a blessing and it has made it to much more fun for me to have her by my side.”

Pieces by Croc o' Mud pottery are popular.
Bowman is a Lexington native who moved to Midway about five years ago after, she said, “falling in love with the community.”

Bowman said she keeps about 50 different vendors in her store at a time and will rotate out products when necessary: “We ask people to give us at least three months when they sign on to sell their products through us. . . . We always have new stuff, though, even our regulars will come in and say, ‘Wow you guys moved everything around,’ because you just have to!”

She said some of the most popular things in their store right now are Croc o’ Mud Pottery pieces from Versailles and Classy Collections by MO, from Melissa Owens in Somerset. A few makers from Midway are Whither Wander Jewelry, Honey Bee Bangles and Candles, and Janet Cushing Howard original painted pillows and canvases.

The store has several Midway products.
Bowman said there are always new and fun things in the store, though, so it is hard for her to say which items are the best sellers.

Bowman and Parks said they open their store at 11 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and strive to keep it open later in the evening, usually until 8 p.m., so people who may work during the day can make a trip over and see the merchandise.

The two owners said they love having the store, and Parks said, “We are really tickled with it!”

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Steady rain didn't keep dozens of children and parents from turning out to greet Santa Claus as he arrived in Midway via RJ Corman Railroad right on time at 11 this morning.

Santa waved to the crowd, which had waited in and around Railroad Drug for his arrival.

Mrs. Claus led the way off the train as the crowd awaited eagerly, took pictures and tried to stay dry.

Amarion Reed, 7, of Versailles, was the first in line to meet Santa inside the old bank building. Santa's visit was sponsored by the Midway Business Association. Next week the building will house a model-train display. For a larger version of any photo on the Midway Messenger, click on it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Message from the Mayor: Thankful for many things

By Grayson Vandegrift
Mayor, City of Midway

As we come to another Thanksgiving I find I’m more thankful than ever. As always, I’m thankful for my friends and family and this wonderful community, but this year I’m also thankful for a few things specific to 2019:

I’m thankful, for example, that the sidewalk cost-sharing program was a smooth success (pun intended), that the street project came in under budget, and that we’re now a debt-free city. I’m also thankful that the council was agreeable to funding these initiatives, although they were not without their tough questions and discerning eyes, as they should be.

I’m thankful we were able to cut property taxes a little bit more, as we restructure our tax revenue stream for the future. I’m also thankful the blighted property and code enforcement ordinances are moving along smoothly and are hopefully headed for passage. And while I’m thankful for much more, I also know I’ve only got your attention for so long, but I’m very thankful we have a plan to give our city what it deserves – options – when its current 40-year contract with Kentucky American Water expires in 2025 and we’re free to go to the Frankfort Plant Board or another competing wholesaler so we can pay lower rates – much lower rates.

I’m also very thankful for our incredible city employees who keep the town running like a finely tuned machine. They deserve the long weekend they have coming up – and then some.

I hope you’re feeling as thankful as I am this Thanksgiving, and I hope you can keep those divisive topics off the table where the food belongs, topics like: “Are we Midwegians or Midwayans?” Some topics are just better left at the front door.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope to see you at the Tree Lighting this Friday night at 6:30.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bridge placed at Weisenberger Mill; long-delayed project is on target for expected completion in May

Just as a crane lifted the old, dilapidated Weisenberger Mill bridge off its moorings on Aug. 30, one lifted a new one from a stretch truck and placed it on the recently strengthened abutments. Phil Weisenberger shot a video from his family's mill and sped it up for easier viewing. This is one frame.

For long-debated reasons of historic preservation and safety, the new bridge is a one-lane, pony truss, much like the old one. The project is expected to be completed in May, just in time for the summer tourist season. The bridge over South Elkhorn Creek, where a mill and scenic dam have stood since 1865, is a favorite stop in the Bluegrass.

The state's contract with Louisville Paving Co. gives the firm until July 26 to complete the project, but highway officials said after meeting with the contractor that they expected it to be open by May. Natasha Lacy, spokeswoman for the district office of the state Transportation Cabinet, said Tuesday that the project is on schedule and Louisville Paving would like to complete the bridge itself by Jan. 1. She said that is possible with favorable weather, but approaches to the bridge are also part of the contract, and "They take time to pave, and compact fill correctly. Sidewalk and signs have to be installed as well."

Sunday, November 24, 2019

‘Sip and Shop’ tests new open-carry policy and promotes holiday shopping, eating and drinking

Donna Ishmael, George Ishmael, Randy Cederquist and Emily Cederquist
said they went into all 20 businesses that offered clues in a scavenger hunt.
Story and photos by Megan Parsons
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

On a rainy Saturday, Nov. 23, downtown Midway held a “Sip and Shop” event, the first big test of the cty’s open-carry policy, which allows drinkers to take alcoholic beverages in and out of licensed premises within the center’s boundaries downtown.

George Ishmael, Donna Ishmael, Randy Cederquist and Emily Cederquist of Bourbon and Nicholas counties said they heard about the event on Facebook. “We enjoyed the scavenger hunt, we went in every shop,” Randy Cederquist said.

The scavenger hunt encouraged people to visit downtown stores and restaurants; 20 had clues that participants could find if they visited. If they figured out the clue they took a picture with it and showed them at the Midway Makers Market, where they were entered to win a gift basket.

A sign at City Hall marked one corner of
the new "entertainment destination center."
Sam Fisher, owner of Fisher Antiques, estimated he had 50 to 60 people come to his store because of the promotion. He said, “everyone had good behavior.” Many who visited his shop were tourists, “There was a couple were staying at a bed-and-breakfast in Midway,” he said. “Although, most were from the surrounded area of Georgetown, Versailles or Lexington.”

Sarah Hurlburst and Blake Nickell of Morehead were celebrating their anniversary at Wallace Station on Saturday when they saw the flier for the Sip and Shop, and decided to take advantage of the open-carry policy for their anniversary weekend. “It was a pleasant surprise,” said Nickell.

Jan Ramos, a designer at The Milam House, said “The open-carry policy is good for the whole town. I think it’s fairer for the restaurants too, during the summer when West Sixth [Brewing] and places have their big trucks here for events; now it evens the playing field, because people can buy their drinks from restaurants too.”

Ramos said only 10 to 15 people who had come in to the store before 3:30 p.m. had drinks. “Of course the weather has something to do with it,” she said.

The event’s Facebook page said 121 people were going and 4,400 were interested. Many store owners and managers said the rainy weather kept people away.

Mezzo noted "new open container regulations" on its door.
Cortney Neikirk, bar manager at the Mezzo restaurant, said she wasn’t sure that the open-carry policy will increase sales, but “If a couple comes in and the woman wants to shop and the man wants a beer, well, now they can have both, and that’s a beer you wouldn’t have sold.”

Crittenden Rawlings of Crittenden Clothing said he wasn’t sure how it will help shops downtown. “It’ll help in the summer for the local restaurants, but during those summer concerts downtown when the bands are here, the stores aren’t open.” Some hope the policy will encourage more to stay open.

Kenny Swift of Kennydid Gallery of Gifts and Fine Arts, has long said Midway stores need to keep longer hours. He said the Sip and Shop didn’t really affect his business, besides those coming in for a photo with his big dog Ansel for the scavenger hunt. He said the rainy weather affected the turnout, but he wasn’t sure how well it was advertised.

The open-carry policy is in effect from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. if beverages have a cup with the logo of the name of the restaurant that served it.

Other Midway holiday events include: Community Christmas Tree Lighting, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 29; Santa arrives by train, late morning Nov. 30; model train exhibit, Dec. 7; and the Candy Cane Cruise, Dec. 14.

Local magazine proposes 3-month trial partnership with county Tourist Commission, which says it will discuss it

By Dalton Stokes
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Emily Downey gave her first report on her progress this past month as the first executive director of the Woodford County Tourist Commission at Thursday’s meeting.

The commission also planned for the Dec. 7 opening of the new visitor center and heard a proposal from the Woodford Charm magazine for a partnership, which could produce an annual magazine, a mobile app for events, and an online show filmed at rotating Woodford County destinations.

Downey was appointed at the October meeting. “She’s done a lot already,” Commission Chair Maria Bohanan said. “She’s probably earned her keep.”

Downey said, “In about 15 business days we’ve met with over 25 folks.” She said she met with some “tourism colleges” in many of the surrounding counties, the National Tourist Association, Midway University, the commission’s digital marketing contractor, Brainbox; and has talked with the mayors of both Woodford County towns, and that she and Bohanan are prepared to present an update at the fiscal court meeting Tuesday, Nov. 26.

In the midst of Downey’s report, Bohanan suggested an annual Woodford County “stakeholders’ meeting.” She said, “We want to bring all the stakeholders in … We want to hear their needs … Some of the small businesses need to be heard, also.” She said the meeting would most likely be after Jan. 1 but before spring, when Keenland “ramps up.”

Downey also brought up the possibility of doing a restaurant week, but this was only briefly mentioned, and no motions were made.

The magazine's second and latest issue
Woodford Charm proposal: Cory Cooley of the magazine enthusiastically delivered his partnership idea at the end of the meeting. He laid out the proposal in three parts. The centerpiece would be The Woodford Trail, an annual magazine that his written proposal describes as “Woodford County’s first ‘Trade Almanac’” with advertising limited to full pages or two pages.

From that idea, he said, sprang the idea of an "online show" called "Woodford Trail," of about five minutes per episode. He proposed a show similar to Netflix’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” in which comedian Jerry Seinfeld interviews celebrities in cars and coffee shops, but in Woodford County locations.

Cooley said he would be a constant host and have a “revolving cohost” or guest that would change each episode and accompany him to a destination. Woodford County businesses could be destinations or become a guest by buying an ad in the annual magazine. “The options are endless,” Cooley said. “We can do a Midway-centric show, a Versailles-centric show … a horse farm-centric show and tour a horse farm all day.”

The pilot episode, already in the works, will feature Chef Ouita Michel at Holly Hill Inn in Midway, breakfast with her at Wallace Station, then somewhere to shop in Versailles, Cooley said. The Woodford Trail magazine would follow in January or February.

The third prong of Cooley’s proposal is a smartphone application, with what he called a “simple one-stop shop of all things to do in Woodford County,” and an interactive map. Buying one ad would get a business in the show and on the app.

Cooley proposed a three-month trial partnership in which Cooltucky Creative, one of the organizations behind The Woodford Charm, would produce and film three monthly episodes of the show and develop the first issue of the magazine. Cooley said one of the episodes could focus on Woodford County tourism. The partnership would cost the commission an estimated $6,150. Cooley stressed that a lot of the details are not set in stone.

The commission discussed the idea with Cooley for 12½ minutes. Member Ken Kerkhoff said "You might be able to rationalize it" by saying the $6,000 would provide content that could be used for tourism promotion, and he said Cooley could have access "to use any of our B-roll," or supplemental video, from the commission's previous video efforts.

The commission made no decision on the proposal, and Bohanan said the members would discuss it. The members set their next meeting for 10 a.m. Dec. 11 at the Versailles Municipal Building. Bohanon said afterward that there would be no special meetings before then.

Visitor center: Bohanan talked about the things needed to put the finishing touches on the new Woodford County Visitor Center and said, “Give us another week and the visitor center will look very nice.” The open house for the center and the unveiling of the new horse farm mural will be Dec. 7 starting at 3:30 p.m. right before the Christmas parade at 5 p.m., said Downey.

The event will include a mural signing by artist Stephen Sawyer at Corner Drug and move over to visitors center in the Amsden building. Light refreshments will be provided at the open house.

The commission has $650 leftover from its budget for murals. It unanimously approved up to $650 to be used to create a postcard featuring the new mural, with Woodford County tourism-related QR codes on the back.

The commission’s contract with Brainbox ends in January and Bohanan said the commission will be discussing revisions for the contract.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Leaf pickup resumes after machine is repaired; put leaves between sidewalk and street, without branches

Leaf pickup in Midway has been delayed because the necessary equipment has been out of commission, but it has resumed, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email today.

“We’ve received quite a few calls at city hall about leaf pickup,” he wrote, “so I want to let everyone know that the leaf machine has been under repair but is now back up and our employees are going to work on getting caught up all day today. I’ve also approved for them to work Saturday on leaf pickup as well.”

Vandegrift said in an interview that leaves need to be placed between the sidewalk and the street, not in the street, where they may be washed into the sewer system. He also warned against putting branches in with leaves, because branches can tear up the leaf machine.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

City Council votes to make Midway debt-free

Midway, call Dave Ramsey. You're about to be debt-free, just like those happy callers to his financial-advice radio show.

The City Council voted Monday night to pay off the city's remaining debts, totaling about $184,000. "Anytime you can be debt-free, it's good," said Council Member Bruce Southworth, who made the motion for the payments.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said City Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Foster suggested that the city pay off its remaining two debts, $176,311 for a sewer project and about $8,400 on a fire truck. He said the city's "number are good, and they're going to get better," with jobs to be added at Midway Station. "We've got more than enough rainy-day funds."

Nationally, local-government "rainy day funds" average about one-third of spending, according to a 2013 article in Governing magazine. The City of Midway's bank balances total $1,182,490, according to a list Vandegrift provided. Its budget for the fiscal year that will end June 30 calls for General Fund appropriations of $1.9 million and a projected surplus of $488,601. That surplus is expected to be larger.

The city's finances have been boosted by its occupational tax on wages and net profits, mainly through the approximately 250 jobs created at Midway Station by the Lakeshore Learning Materials distribution center, which is starting an expansion that is to add 100 more jobs.

Vandegrift said the city collected about $300,000 in occupational taxes in 2015, the first year he was mayor, and "It's only a matter of time before our occupational-tax revenue is $1 million a year." In response to a question from Council Member Stacy Thurman, he said he didn't see any downside to paying off the debts and eliminating the city's interest payments.

In other business, the council heard first reading of an ordinance for an industrial revenue bond to finance the Lakeshore expansion. In an arrangement typical for local governments, the city will take title to the property, thus exempting it from property taxes, and lease it back to Lakeshore. (The company makes payments to the county schools equal to the amount it would pay in taxes.) The lease payments will be the sole source of revenue to pay off the bonds, and "The city's not pledging its taxing authority," Tim Eifler, a Louisville lawyer representing Lakeshore, told the council.

"Lakeshore's already turning dirt," Vandegrift noted earlier.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Amanda Glass wins Midway Charity Chili Cook-Off

Cathy Elam gets some of Amanda Glass's winning chili.
Armed with spoons and cups, residents and visitors prowled the sidewalks of East Main Street today in search of the best chili among 14 entries in this year's Midway Charity Chili Cook-Off. The winner was Amanda Glass, who said one of the key ingredients in her spicy chili was pulled pork. She won $50 and a trophy.
Chip Guillot stirred with a paddle.

Second place went to Chip Guillot, manager of Southern Equine Farm, who won the cook-off last year. He said his new touch was beef grilled over black walnut logs. He received $30 and a medal.

Placing third was Karissa Arnold of Elkhorn Oaks Farm, who had two entries, one of them vegetarian. "I chopped vegetables until I thought my hand was bruised," she said. She received $20 and a medal.

The winners were chosen by eaters who paid $5 for a spoon, cups, napkins and three tickets to put in voting bowls.

Attendance was up over last year, said Zachary Rankin of Midway Renaissance, which assisted with the event, part of the Midway Business Association's series of holiday promotions. He said it raised more than $800 for the Midway Ministerial Association.
Third prize winner Karissa Arnold used sweet potatoes in her two chilis.

Life celebration for Midway couple tomorrow; memorial gifts suggested to fund for grandson battling cancer

A celebration planned for one life tomorrow will instead be a celebration of two.

Madge Savage, 83, of Midway, died Friday, 20 days after her husband Curt, who was 85. A celebration of their lives will be held at Clark Legacy Center, 3000 Versailles Rd., Frankfort, Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the fund for Jack Curtis Savage, their grandson, who has been battling a rare form of cancer and is due for a bone-marrow transplant. Donations may be made to: gofundme.com/f/JackSavage.


Curt and Madge were married in his native Maryland in 1957. After two years in the Army, he became a salesman for Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. They moved to Versailles in 1972, and Curt became general manager of Commonwealth Tire/Multi-Mile, then part-owner and president. They moved to Lexington, and, in 2005, to Midway, which Curt called "the greatest little town anywhere." He was a stout Republican who loved to talk politics with anyone, and ran for Fiscal Court magistrate in 2010, losing to Democratic incumbent Larry Craig.

Their four children graduated from Woodford County High School: Michael Savage (deceased, wife Elizabeth), Jeff Savage (wife Melissa), Carol Savage Yankey (husband Scott), and John Savage (wife Lisa). Their nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren also survive. For Curt's full obituary, click here. For Madge's, click here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Holly Hill Inn marked its 40th anniversary Sunday

Sunday, Nov. 10, marked 40 years since the Holly Hill Inn hosted its first public reception. It began in 1979 as a modern country inn and fine dining establishment owned by Honeywood Parrish Rouse and her son, Isaac Parrish Rouse, and operated by Rex and Rose Lyon. In 2000, Ouita and Chris Michel bought it, and in 2001 opened their restaurant. It has been a Midway landmark much longer.

According to the history on the restaurant website, the first building on the site, around 1800, was Stevenson's Tavern, a stone-and-brick building overlooking the crossroads of the Georgetown and Leestown roads. It was home to the area's first post office, established as Stevenson's in 1832, just before the Lexington and Ohio Railroad began buying land for Kentucky's first railroad.

A fire in the early 1840s destroyed the tavern, which had been bought by Hancock W. Davis in 1839. He built the Greek Revival structure that stands today, "incorporating some doors, walls, windows and fireplaces from the earlier building into the new home," the history says. "Davis lived in the house until 1854, when it was sold to Squire William A. Moore, a local magistrate and president of the Midway Paper Mill Company. Moore and his wife added some Victorian touches to the house, and they lived there for several decades."

Isaac Parish bought the home in 1903 and did major renovations, including a large Colonial-style veranda. "Its design was intended to provide Mr. Parrish's children with ample room to play, and a concrete deck was poured so the children would have a place to roller-skate," the history says. "The house was named Hermosa after an English rose found growing on the grounds. The house and grounds were a well-run, self-sufficient community with orchards, chicken yards, servants' quarters, stables, and even a mushroom growing operation housed in an old ice house. The Parrishes were well known for their hospitality, and the home was the center for many festive gatherings."

Monday, November 11, 2019

Water company tells us how to keep pipes from freezing

Press release from Kentucky American Water Co., Midway's wholesale water supplier
     With colder weather arriving here in the Bluegrass, Kentucky American Water reminds customers of ways to help prevent their water pipes from freezing this winter.
     “We want our customers to understand the importance of protecting the pipes in and around their homes before extreme weather or below freezing temperatures set in,” said Kentucky American Water Vice President of Operations David Farrar. “By taking a few simple steps, customers can prevent serious and costly damage to their homes this winter.”
     Frozen water lines typically occur in areas such as crawl spaces or along the outside walls where unprotected plumbing tends to be more vulnerable to the elements. Following these tips now can help avoid headaches later:
• Make sure you have disconnected garden hoses from your home. If you have an irrigation system or sprinklers, make sure it is turned off and drained.
• Search your house for un-insulated water pipes, especially in unheated areas. Check attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls. Consider wrapping pipes with insulation sleeves. Another option is electric heating tape but follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully to avoid a fire hazard.
• Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations with caulking to keep cold air away from pipes. ow to Prevent Frozen Pipes
• Drain and shut off entirely the water to any unoccupied residence such as a summer or vacation home. A loss of power during a winter storm could cause pipes to freeze.
• Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees if you’re going out of town. Although you may be able to get away with a lower temperature, this setting is safe for pipes.
• When below-freezing temperatures occur, keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets supplied by pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces. This will help prevent the water in them from freezing. Also, keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
• Make sure you know where your main water shut-off valve is located inside your home so that you can shut off your water quickly in the event of a water pipe leak. This valve is often located in a utility room or closet or in the basement.

Message from the mayor: Be careful as we go through the winter’s first snowfall

Hello everyone,
     This is just a friendly reminder that the first snow of the year tends to lead to a lot of accidents, likely because we haven’t been driving in those conditions for some time.
     While this weather event may turn out to be little, the conditions are right for potential ice overnight and in the morning on your commute. Wright Farm Services is prepared to respond if conditions necessitate, but don’t count on roads outside of Midway having been treated thoroughly.
     Please take extra caution; we’ve been driving on mostly dry roads lately.
Stay safe,
Grayson Vandegrift, Mayor
City of Midway

Friday, November 8, 2019

Monday is deadline to enter Nov. 16 chili cook-off

Last year's winner: Chip Guillot (Photo  by Ana Neal)
The 2019 Midway Charity Chili Cook-Off is still seeking contestants, and the deadline is Monday.

The cook-off will be held from noon until 3 p.m. (or until supplies last) on Saturday, Nov. 16, as part of the Midway Business Association's series of holiday promotions. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Midway Ministerial Association and Midway Renaissance.

Samplers of chili will pay $5 for the privilege, and will have the opportunity to vote for their top three contestants. The MBA will provide each taster a spoon, cup and napkins.

Votes will be counted and prizes awarded at 3:30 p.m. First place will receive $50 cash and a trophy; second place will get $30 cash and a medal; and third place will receive $20 and a medal.

Contestant Information
  • Register online at http://bit.ly/MidwayChili2019.
  • Prepare and bring six to 10 quarts of chili in your own crockpot(s); you are welcome to make more.
  • Enter no more than two chili recipes.
  • Check in at City Hall, 101 E. Main St. You will have assigned outdoor spaces in which to set up along the sidewalks. In case of inclement weather, an indoor location will be determined.
  • Set up by 11:45 a.m. and be ready to serve at noon sharp.
  • Access to an electric outlet will be provided, but you must provide your own table, which must be draped, as well as chairs, a serving spoon or ladle, and an extension cord.
  • You may also bring toppings such as cheese, crackers, hot sauce, etc. These are optional.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Midway voters offer widely varying reasons for their choices Tuesday, many contrary to party registration

By Kennedy Sabharwal and Grant Wheeler
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

As voters left the polls at Northside Elementary School before lingering clouds finally dispersed Tuesday, many were wrapped up in their winter coats ready to brave the cold weather. Asked how they voted, they had widely varying reasons for their votes in the race between Attorney General Andy Beshear, who carried Midway, and Gov. Matt Bevin.

Beshear and Bevin at their final debate, in Northern Kentucky Oct. 29
The election turned out to be a referendum on the governor and his personality, and even his supporters acknowledged his problems. “I don’t always agree with what he says but I agree with enough,” said Candace Barnes, 60.

Ben Patton, 22, said he “voted for Beshear because I want to be a teacher, and also want to have a pension.” His friend Isaac Hamilton, 21, said likewise: “I also plan on being an educator.”

Some voters spoke only with the guarantee of anonymity, A 72-year-old registered nurse said she voted for Bevin in 2015, but today “I voted for Beshear because I am a retired teacher.” Beshear credited teachers' activism for his victory.

Though she is a registered Democrat, the woman said she voted for Republican Daniel Cameron over Greg Stumbo for attorney general because “My husband knows Stumbo, because he was a lobbyist, and we know he is not very honest, and I just would like to see a young black man in office.”

She said she voted for Heather French Henry for secretary of state “because I have met her personally and she is a woman of dignity and honesty.” Henry won Midway but lost the county and state; Stumbo carried the city precinct but lost the rural one, the county and the state.

A registered independent who is a marketer said, “I voted for Beshear because I don’t like Bevin and what he has done and how he has treated teachers.”

The woman said that her vote for attorney general was somewhat influenced by President Trump, but to the contrary; she said she voted for Stumbo because Trump supported Cameron.

Several said they voted contrary to their party registration. A 68-year-old retired City of Frankfort employee said he is a registered Democrat, but “believe it or not, I voted Republican all the way. … They fuss about Bevin causin’ so much trouble, but sometimes you gotta stir it up.”

His wife, a 69-year-old retired state worker, said she also voted to re-elect Bevin “because he is trying to straighten things out.”

On the other hand, a 25-year-old man who manages a restaurant in Woodford County said he used to be a registered Republican but became a Democrat because his thoughts aligned more with the Democratic Party and “I voted straight Democrat.”

A man in his 30s said he voted for Democrat Jack Conway against Bevin in 2015, but was for Bevin this time. “I’m in the horse industry,” he explained. “Bevin has hired people that he knows that know the business.” The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has allowed "instant racing," a form of betting that closely resembles slot machines.

Beshear wants to raise revenue by expanding gambling further, which worries the voter. “The sitting governor has the ability to do away with instant racing,” he said. “Once you do free-standing casinos, the horsemen and the farm stuff get none of that funding” from the state.

The man said he likes Bevin's frankness, likening it to the approach of President Trump, but for some other voters, Trump was a negative.

A 74-year-old Democrat from Midway said she voted for Beshear, called Bevin “mean and thoughtless” and added, “Trump's been in the picture for him; we are Kentucky; it’s about us.”

A 51-year-old registered nurse Bevin's ties to Trump made her “far less likely to vote for him.” She and a University of Kentucky student said they voted for Beshear “He’s screwing over teachers, and I want to be a music teacher eventually,” the student said. “I don’t like his personality or his policies and I want him out.”

On the other hand, a 73-year-old man said he likes Bevin because he is “straightforward and has the guts to say somethin’ like how we shouldn’t have sanctuary cities.” Kentucky has no such cities, Beshear cited that in saying that he saw no need for a law banning them.

The man said voted straight Republican. “What the left says, which is primarily Democratic, is not feasible,” he said. “Everything they say is just an attempt to get votes.”

Information for this story was also gathered by UK journalism student Garrett Burton.

Midway area favors Beshear over Bevin, and Henry over Adams; city voters favor Stumbo over Cameron

By Al Cross and Garrett Burton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway voters favored Attorney General Andy Beshear for governor and all but one other Democrat for statewide office in Tuesday's election. Those in the rural Midway precinct, which includes some areas near Versailles, supported Beshear and one other Democrat but otherwise voted Republican.

Beshear precincts in blue, Bevin in red
Beshear won the city precinct with 494 votes, 54 percent of the total, to 252 for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and 15 for John Hicks, who ran a very limited campaign on the Libertarian ticket. In the rural precinct, Beshear won 283 to 226 to 15. He carried Woodford County with 6,235 votes, 53.1% of the total, to Bevin's 5,277 and Hicks' 227. Bevin carried the county by 100 votes in 2015.

Voters interviewed at the polls, who generally declined to give their names, had more to say about Bevin than about Beshear. A woman in her 30s said she voted against Bevin “mainly because he is so disrespectful to many people on many levels, and I don’t like that representing Kentucky.”

A Republican in his 30s said he voted for Beshear, and Democrat Jack Conway in 2015. “Mostly, I don’t care for Bevin,” he said. “There’s definitely a personality component to it, but I disagree with a lot of the policy decisions.”

On the other hand, a 72-year-old Democrat said he voted for Bevin because “I believe he is a better person” and things overall have been going well for the state.

Bevin was the only Republican to lose a partisan race in Kentucky on Tuesday. Woodford voters favored Democrat Heather French Henry for secretary of state, 6,067 (51.9%) to 5,622 for statewide winner Michael Adams. Henry carried the county by the same percentage, 6,067 to 5,622. She won the city precinct 485 to 273 and the rural precinct 282 to 239.

Republican candidates Daniel Cameron and Ryan Quarles
campaigned in the Foothills Festival parade in Albany Oct. 18.
In other races, Woodford voters favored Republicans. However, in the race for attorney general in the Midway city precinct, Democrat Greg Stumbo ran ahead of countywide and statewide winner Daniel Cameron, getting 434 votes to Cameron's 312. Cameron won the rural Midway precinct 270 to 248.

City voters also favored Sheri Donahue over state Auditor Mike Harmon, 416 to 302, and Michael Bowman over state Treasurer Allison Ball, 384 to 358. The Republican incumbents won the rural precinct, Harmon getting 52% and Ball 59%. Ball got the most votes of any statewide candidate.

The partisan allegiances of the two precincts were further indicated by the number of voters who cast straight-ticket ballots. In the city, straight-party voting was 232 Democratic, 159 Republican and 4 Libertarian. In the rural precinct, it was 129 Republican, 120 Democratic and 3 Libertarian.

Robert Haley Conway
The sole Republican winner in the city was Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who defeated fellow Georgetown resident Robert Haley Conway, who attends Midway Presbyterian Church. It was close; Quarles won the city precinct with 382 votes to 348 for Conway and 16 for Libertarian Josh Gilpin. Quarles won the county precinct 340 to 174 to 6. The countywide results were Quarles 7,158 (61.8%), Conway 4,106 (35.46%) and Gilpin 316 (2.7%). Statewide, Quarles won 58.2% to 38.6%.

Turnout in the election was much higher than expected: 42 percent statewide and 54.6 percent in Woodford. Asked why, Midway precinct officer Helen Rentch said, "Competiton." The governor's race was known to be close (Beshear won by fewer than 5,000 votes in unofficial returns) and both sides mounted major efforts to get out the vote. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said turnout in the city precinct was 56 percent.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Vandegrift tells council sewer project will have less video, more repairs; blight ordinance session Wed.

Midway's $200,000 sewer improvement project will have more repairs and less inspection, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the City Council Monday night.

Vandegrift said he had accepted the suggestions of Jack Blevins, the city employee who oversees the sewer system, for changes in the plan offered early this year by HMB Professional Engineers, a consulting firm based in Frankfort, for the sewers east of Winter Street.

The HMB plan calls for a truck-mounted camera to enter sewer mains through manholes, record video to show what the sewers look like and what repairs are necessary. A high-powered water nozzle spraying inside the lines would remove sludge, tree roots, and other obstructions.

Chris Stewart of HMB told the council in February that the project would “figure out what repairs need to be made, where they need to be made, when they need to be made and kind of prioritize the issues that we find.”

Vandegrift said the city doesn't need to video all the lines, because it knows where most of the problems are, and can use the savings to install "cured-in-place piping," using a heavy epoxy to repair breaks in the lines, including some along and west of Winter Street.

"I commend Jack for coming in and saying 'I've got another idea'," Vandegrift said.

Council Member John Holloway said "it makes a whole lot more sense to fix some things" when they can be fixed, but Member Sara Hicks asked, "Would we still get a comprehensive view?"

"You would see less," Vandegrift said, but more video work can be done later. He said Blevins knows the lines, and "a lot of them are working great, but there are serious problems with some of them."

Council Member Logan Nance said it would be good to get an overall look at the system, and asked if the proposed repairs would be "just putting a Band-Aid on it." Vandegrift said no, that the epoxy method is "a serious industrial process" that has become "fairly common."

Vandegrift said the project is likely to start in the spring. He can spend the project's $200,000 budget as he pleases, but he said a budget amendment will be needed to reflect the project's revised cost estimate of $186,000. HMB's rough estimate for its plan was $180,000, but the council budgeted $200,000 to be safe. Vandegrift said the revised project includes $18,000 for curb work.

The mayor said the repaving, sidewalk and other infrastructure work on Stephens Street has been "a great success," with double yellow center lines and white edge lines to subtly encourage motorists to slow down. He said the edge lines couldn't go to the city limits because the street narrows eastward.

Vandegrift announced that the council's second workshop on blighted-property ordinances would be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at City Hall.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Benefit for Katy McDaniel raises almost $3,000; GoFundMe page started for those who couldn't attend

The band Veljeeta was part of the entertainment at the benefit at Northside Elementary School. Dan Trisko is at left.
Story and photos by Megan Parsons
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway residents, friends and family of Katy McDaniel gathered Sunday for a benefit at Northside Elementary School. McDaniel was stabbed 26 times at her home on Oct. 6 and faces a challenging recovery.

Organizers estimated the attendance at about 150.
“This is another great example of what this community does,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an interview.

The event raised almost $3,000, according to the mayor’s wife, Katie Vandegrift. She estimated that around 150 people showed up in support of McDaniel.

The benefit included a blood drive by Kentucky Blood Center, concerts by Veljeeta featuring Sherri Dan and Jeff from Velvet Elvis, musician Maggie Lander and band Boogie G and the Titanics; a card creation station for Katy and her daughter Lily, set up by the Woodford County Library; and an ice cream cone station provided by Railroad Drug & Old Time Soda Fountain.

Dan Trisko, a member of the band Velvet Elvis, and friend and former bandmate of McDaniel’s father, Scott Stoess, was one of the organizers of the event, along with Katie Vandegrift.

Children and adults made about a dozen cards for Katy McDaniel
and her daughter, Lily, at a station set up by the Midway library.
“As soon as I heard about it, I immediately thought I’m going to call all my friends and let’s put on a show to raise some money for Katy and her family,” Trisko said. “I was just like everybody else, gob-smacked when this happened and knew I just wanted to do something to help.”

Stoess, McDaniel’s father, said in an interview that McDaniel is “improving every day” and he hopes she will be able to come home soon, but will need some outpatient procedures even after her release.

“Katy’s mother, Ilene, and I would like to thank Midway residents for their generous support,” Stoess said. ”It’s been overwhelming. We’d also like to thank the local fire and police departments, as well as the hospital staff for saving our daughter’s life.”

The Midway Branch of the Woodford County Library set up a station for adults and children to make cards for McDaniel and her daughter, Lily. A few dozen cards and crafts were made, organizers said.

“Katie Vandegrift asked if we wanted to set up a table to make cards,” said branch manager and City Council Member Stacy Thurman. She noted that Katy and Lily are patrons of the library: “We know them and would love to do that for them.”

Many conversations at the benefit included how great a person Katy is and how shocked the community was to hear about the attack.

Katy McDaniel (Photo from benefit concert poster)
“Katy is a great person, a loving mom and always would stop and chat. It was a big shock to us and the community that this happened,” said neighbors Nathan and Hope Craig. “It just proves that there are no warning signs for something like this and it’s made our community more aware, to always check on your neighbors.”

McDaniel’s husband, Doug McDaniel, has been charged with attempted murder.

Mick Barfield, who was a co-worker of McDaniel’s at the Origin Hotel Lexington, said she is a great manager of the restaurant 33 Staves in the hotel.

“She is a great leader, very efficient and great with the customers,” Barfield said. “When I first heard, it didn’t seem real I thought it was a rumor. I called Dan, one of the band members performing tonight, immediately to see if it was real.”

The Kentucky Blood Center also conducted a blood drive during the event. The drive had between 25 to 30 donors, which is maximum capacity, Katie Vandegrift said.

One donor was a friend of McDaniel’s, Mark Morrow. He said, “I can’t do much for Katy, but donating blood was a way I felt like I could help.”

GoFundMe account has been set up for McDaniel, for those who were unable to attend the benefit. As of 10:45 p.m. Sunday, it had raised more than $69,000 of its $75,000 goal.