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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Council grants permits for downtown events, including Francisco's Farm Art Fair (pandemic permitting)

This story has been updated.

By Warren Taylor
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

After nearly a year of relative quiet, the joyful noise of festival crowds might be returning to downtown Midway – pandemic permitting.

The Midway City Council voted Monday night to approve permits for three events on Main Street.

The Midway Business Association’s block party would take place on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 29. The Francisco’s Farm Art Fair, organized by Midway Renaissance, would be June 12-13. The Midway Fall Festival would occur Sept. 18-19.

“I think everyone is excited to see these kinds of things happen again,” said Mayor Grayson Vandergrift.

Council Member Logan Nance said he was excited about having the art fair downtown: “I really, really, really hope we can do this, because I think it will be a lot of fun.”

The mayor told organizers that the events will draw larger crowds than they expect because “people are going to be itching to get out and do things once it is considered safe to do so.”

The prospect of another wave of the virus remains, and event organizers are taking precautions.

The art fair would be the first event to draw large crowds downtown area in over a year, and its permit lays out the safety guidelines organizers would use: “Per CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and state of Kentucky Covid-19 guidelines, the artists’ booths will be spaced 10 feet or more apart. Artist booths will be 50 percent open to prevent people from being in close contact while viewing the art. Mask wearing and social distancing will be required, and signs posted. We do not plan on having outside food/drink vendors.”

Debra Shockley of Renaissance explained the "50 percent" policy to the Messenger: At a traditional art fair, the artist would have the art set up on two side walls and a back wall, "and you would walk into the booth and talk to them. Well, the way they like you to do them due to Covid is that basically, you’ve flipped your tent inside out; you’ve flipped your displays inside out.”

She said the art will be on the outside and the artist will stay inside, but be encouraged to set up a table on the backside for social and business interactions. Participating artists are not required to bring a Plexiglas barrier for the back table; Shockley said she thinks that will remain optional. 

The art fair is a juried show, meaning a panel must approve of an artist’s work before it can be exhibited and sold, and Shockley told the cpoouncil that it will be a “boutique fair” this year to keep the number of vendors at a safe threshold.

Elisha Holt, also representing Renaissance, said that so far “30 artists have paid their fee to come” and that only individuals who have been invited before are being offered a spot at this year’s fair.

The art fair is moving from the campus of Midway University, where it was held in recent years, due to pandemic concerns among its past volunteers.

Shockley said Renaissance polled them, asking “Would you be comfortable this year if we did it up at Midway University?” and many said they would prefer to sit out this year because having it at the university is such a hands-on process, using golf carts for transportation from parking areas.

Downtown, she said, “The number of volunteers that would be needed would be significantly less because the artists could drive to their booth and set up themselves like they do for Fall Festival.”

If another significant spike in infections happens this year, event organizers said, cancellations are a possibility.

“We will without a doubt cancel it if we need to if there is still a huge problem with the pandemic,” MBA President Cortney Neikirk said.

Neikirk said smaller events like the block party are easier to cancel, and a decision would come one or two weeks prior to it. The call to cancel a larger event like the Fall Festival will need to be made earlier in late July or early August, due to the large number of vendors it draws.

The art fair’s permit application says its cancellation cut-off date will be May 1.

The block party would have a small number of vendors and bands playing acoustic sets at the event, according to its application.

The art fair is named after Colonel John Francisco, the original owner of the land that Midway now occupies, and since its inception in 2004 has been honored as one of the area’s top festivals by organizations such as the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Tourism Council.

The Fall Festival has been a town tradition for close to 50 years and annually draws around 15,000 visitors from a wide area to sample local food, music, and crafts.

Other business: The council appointed Elder Chris Wright, the pastor of Midway Pilgrim Baptist Church, to the Woodford County Human Rights Commission. Wright will replace Mary Raglin, who vacated her seat on the commission after she was elected to the city council last November.

“He is a wise and fair man, and will do a great job on there,” Vandergrift said about Wright.

The council also approved an ordinance of intent to de-annex 33 acres along Georgetown Road, which Homer Freeny Jr. plans to sell for a whiskey warehouse. If built in the city, Vandegrift said, the warehouse would require sewer service, and the lay of the land would require a pumping station that would require maintenance. He said a septic tank would be adequate, since the only workers based at the site would be security employees.

The actual de-annexation can’t proceed until the Woodford County Fiscal Court approves it first. Then the city would pass the actual de-annexation ordinance.

Vandegrift reported that Freeny appears to have found a way to make a tax-deductible gift to the city of 16 acres of land along South Elkhorn Creek, so the city can create a public access point for the stream.

On the roll call to pass the ordinance of intent, which was unanimous, Council Member Steve Simoff said he was voting yes “as long as we obtain that land.”

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