Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How Do You Like The Spotlight So Far?

Now that the Spotlight Festival has had a few days, I have some observations and some kudos.

I did notice that the food booths have put down some type of matting as flooring, especially the ones that use a cooking oil. Still, the Kettle Korn tent on the corner of Lime and Main will have a stain about three feet out on all sides from the customers spilling some of what they buy. The roving staff are very good about picking up the stray litter and cigarette butts and the recycle bins are being well used.

The traffic situation was expected to be much worse than it seems to have turned out. Limestone, from Vine to Main, has been closed most of the daytime hours but the crowd has been sparse along there even at noon when the tents do good business but the Games are between sessions. Most of us downtown workers were told to expect parking problems and delays, yet I have had no such problems.

The music this past weekend and evenings has been superb. The crowd has been orderly and the "homeless" have been very low key. I did hear one comment during an evening session which went like this, "Now, this is what a downtown should be. Why can't we have a festival like this every year?" These types of comments usually come from those who don't realize just how much work goes into a festival of this size.

This festival is ancillary to the WEG and, if made an annual event, would have to be conjoined with something. I doubt that it could be a 2 week festival if done annually. Spotlight is also taking advantage of situations that may never align the same way again; the streetscape, CentrePointe block and WEG. It may spur interest in more and larger down festivals, but let us just enjoy this one for the time being.

I am not a believer in coincidence so I was amused to see our city workers out ,with a pressure washer and soap, spraying down the block of Corral St. (where the Roots and Heritage cooking was done). If this was a scheduled cleaning, why was it done almost three weeks after the event?

Do you have any thoughts on Spotlight or the WEG?

Monday, September 27, 2010

A branch of our State Government is on the verge of a systematic harassment of local farmers. Specifically, the dairy farmers whose sole purpose it is to supply healthy dairy products to their friends. These farmers are ones who do NOT supply “dead” milk that has to be artificially supplemented with vitamins and nutrients which have been removed by pasteurization. The farmers I am speaking of supply raw milk, the REAL milk.

I am reminded of the commercials of Meijer and Hardee’s, wherein they have actors posing as competitors explaining how their products, either mass processed or frozen and shipped many miles, are better for the end consumer. Meijer says that their daily butchered meat is fresher than the packaged brands which have unpronounceable ingredients on the label, while Hardee’s claims that frozen is NOT “fresher than fresh”.

We can all see through these advertising ploys and realize that, yes, they are right, the freshness is lacking in mass processed foods but the convenience/price factor is just something that we have to live with. I and my family don’t feel that way. We desire to have the best available and the cost is justified. With the rise of “farmer’s markets” around the country and a growing “locavore” movement, we realize that we are not alone.

Just like Hardee’s customers, I wish to eat freshly made biscuits with my breakfast and, as well as the Meijer folks, the freshly cut beef and lamb out taste the “shipped in” products (although we get ours from Whole Foods). Our milk is even more important. We choose not to have the whole product stripped of all bacteria, just to have some “possible” strains of harmful bacteria “cleansed”, then replaced with (artificially created) “good” bacteria and vitamins/minerals. Our grandparents did not have this travesty thrust upon them when they were young and the pioneers did not suddenly keel over from bad farm food.

This form of food adulteration has come about by the rise in mass produced foods and the “factory farms” now being seen as a plague on America. >The massive recall of eggs that has recently been in the news did not come from the small farmers of Central Kentucky, nor did the spinach recalls of a few years ago, nor do the many meat recalls that happen several times a year. They all are centered on huge agri-processing plants which have touted their “economies of scale” for keeping prices low but have nothing to do with food safety. Factory farms and food adulteration may be killing America in the guise of saving it.

Real milk, the raw milk I spoke of earlier is not allowed to be sold in stores in Kentucky. It is not allowed to be sold in any way in Kentucky. These are the rules of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. You may get milk from your own cow for your personal use, and that is why we and some friends share the ownership of a cow. Now, I am a city boy and I don’t know how to deal with cows so we have a farmer take care of the animal (for a fee, of course). He has the land and the know-how, and particularly, the time. Once a week we have to go get our milk and some of the other things like eggs or produce that he may have available.

Our farmer is not the only one who operates this way. It is a also a growing movement, the idea of owning shares of an animal for the good of many (think of it as the original Stock Market shares. Lately, the Milk Safety Branch (a department within the Department of Health and Human Services) has started to feel the pressure from the factory dairies and will begin “on-farm inspections”, although they have no jurisdiction or authority to do so. These cowshare dairies are being harassed as a service of our government for doing more than the agri-business factory farm dairies care to. Product recalls at these cowshare places are unheard of. Health scare publicity for them is non-existent, so why the sudden need to do inspections while offenders and repeat offenders grab headlines and court cases wind slowly through the system?

Those of you who choose to go with the local foods and healthy living may wish to contact your local representatives and try to nip this in the bud, because from here it may only get worse.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More To See On Main St

If most of you come downtown for the Spotlight Festival, and I hope that you do, I want you to pay particular attention to the new developments on the north side of Main St, opposite the Centrepointe "field". For so long, probably 30 years or more, two of the three buildings in the photo above have placed on the ugly downtown list and now they are being renovated.

The dark gray building on the left has had its false front torn off, a temporary wall built just inside and then painted a light blue. Saturday, during the downtown celebration, they were putting the finishing touches on a new brick face by installing new windows and doors. It looks great.

The building on the right has has its upper story false front removed. I think that what they found behind there is beautiful and a tragedy.

It may be hard to tell, but the capitals of all the columns have been destroyed and the other original cornice work is missing. I hope that enough of the stone work is in good enough shape and/or the existing historical photos can give sufficient detail to recreate the capitals and approximate the missing cornice.

Below is a view of how Asa Chinn saw it in the early '20s. It won't look like that again but some of the elements could be used to make a fine looking building. The folks doing the construction are the same as did the Dudley's redo on Short St. so we know that they will do it right.

I'll keep my eye on this one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ready, Set, -----> Go!

I am appreciative of the spaces around town that are used for our public gatherings and festivals as we are set to begin our boldest and longest effort in my memory. Eighteen days of the Spotlight Festival using three outdoor entertainment venues and much of the newly renovated streetscape will tax both the infrastructure and the maintenance personnel to their utmost. I just hope that our foreign guests don't abuse these spaces as much as we do and maybe we can learn something from them about gathering in public spaces.

Last week's "Festiva Latino" and the earlier "Roots and Heritage Festival" have served as a warm-up for the city's crews and help point out what I think are some failings. Failings of both the organizers and the participants.

First, let me say that the spaces are supposed to be designed for these types of events, but a little extra effort and preparation would go a long way. The food vendors are generally relegated to setting up in the streets and I would guess that it is due to the cooking splatter and mess that just seems to occur in kitchens and other food prep places. The segment of Corral Street used during the "Roots and Heritage" still gives off the odor of cooking oil some 2 weeks after the event. To be fair, it has been hot and dry, and not rained any to help clean off the pavement and the City has not made any effort to clean it. Similar vendors for the "Festiva Latino" used the curb lane of Limestone but it does not show the same level of grime. Why can't we require some sort of portable flooring for events like this? Restaurants require a grease trap from kitchens but this flows right into the storm drains - no treatment. Hello, EPA?

The remnants of the evidence of participants is another story altogether. I don't think that it matters how many trash or recycling recepticles there may be, a large amount of food and drink debris can still be seen tracked across the pavers of the Courthouse Plaza or the sidewalks around the blocks. I just don't believe that most people would treat their backyards and patios like that when they throw a party. Once the party is over then the clean-up has to begin. If you want to get an idea how bad it could be, drive by Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday after a home football game and watch the crew methodically go through the stands, then multiply by 18 and realize that there is practically no week's interval allowed in there.

We Lexingtonian's have spent the last 4 years preparing and decorating for this one event. We have spruced up our streets and parks, our new and old spaces and even found a place to disguise our less than immaculate street occupants. We have issued an open invitation to the world to come and visit, to partake of our city's good things and to take home more than just memories. The one memory that I don't want them to take is an image of our downtown in a state similar to one out of "Animal House". We may not have everything in top shape, but can we not make it worse? Can we try to clean up after ourselves and not leave it to the City crews?

I decided a while back, not to get too excited about this next two weeks. No great expectations, just do the best we can to prepare and let it flow. Que sera, sera. No great disappointments. No regrets. I have heard all the horror stories about the volunteers and the debates about the high ticket prices (including the Ticketmaster fees) which have turned a lot of people off concerning the whole idea of the Games. Well, with one day to go until they start, we will just have to let them proceed and hope for the best.

I will be here, watching. If I see something I don't like, you will hear from me. I will also comment on the good things I see and hear.

Let the Games begin!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lyle Lovett Coming To The WEG, Maybe?

"Good fences make for good neighbors" or so the proverb goes can also be applied to some of the fence-rows here in Central Kentucky. Our famous rolling countryside is laced with them, but somewhere, out by the Horse Park, there are two neighbors who are at odds with each other or so it seems.

This past few weeks have seen the quiet clearing of rural fence-row along the Iron Works Pike which now reveals a previously hidden campground. A campground ready for the WEG and extremely close. More than a couple of properties have desired such a money-maker and one went as far as the Board of Adjustment requesting one of over 300 spaces, only to be denied with under 6 months to prepare.

Now, with horses and riders set to arrive this week and the opening ceremonies set for Saturday night, this seemingly illegal campground is out in the open and should, by all rights, be prevented from accepting any campers. The owners of the property should not be allowed to profit from this hoodwinking of the people.

Rumor has it that one(or more) of the spaces has been reserved for the singer and horseman Lyle Lovett. Lovett is a owner and sometime rider of reining horses and recently bested William Shatner in celebrity competition. He was also hopeful to bring his best horse to be shown by USEF reining team member Tim McQuay during the WEG. I'll bet that Lovett knows how to travel "in style" and now he may not be able to hide it.

If anybody knows any more about this, drop me a line.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Valet Parking?

The City has just recently finished the re-do of the Main St sidewalks and parking spaces. This is no surprise. Connie Jo Miller has been telling us for the past few months that "the world is coming" and that Lexpark has worked hard to free up the parking spaces in downtown, making them available to all. One of the best parts is the statement about "all parking spaces are FREE after 5:00P.M.

This evening, while walking to my car, I watched the valet parking guys from Bellini's setting up for the supper hour. Waitresses were setting the outside tables and the ladies from Taste of Thai were sweeping and preparing. An auto, bearing Florida plates, pulled into a space on the CentrePointe side of the street, the driver sat idling and the valet raced across the street (No, he did not use the crosswalk or wait for the light) and approached the drivers side.

It seems that Bellini's has an agreement with the City to appropriate three of these "free" parking spaces for their "valet service". It was not yet 5:00 and so the spaces still were on the clock - so to speak.

The valet's supervisor also approached the car and explained that the sign had not been put in place yet, but the spaces were "reserved". (He also did not use the crosswalk.) I guess that the driver was waiting for someone but he did not want to eat at Bellini's or give his car to a stranger. If it was me, I would have asked for the paperwork to prove that it "was" valet parking spaces.

I really do want all the downtown restaurants to do well, but we have just invested a boatload of cash to make our downtown streets extremely inviting and walkable. We have previously invested even more money to build several parking structures, within easy walking distance, and now our downtown diners don't want to use them? I am not even talking about the foreign visitors, they are not here yet, these are our home-grown taxpayers who won't use what they paid for and complain that they are over taxed.

I truly believe that the government should not be in the parking business. Leave that to private enterprise like the livery stables of old, back when we did not have cars and rode carriages and buggies. I also believe that private enterprise should not "freely appropriate" a portion of something that we all have paid for. I hope that there is a yearly fee for the use of these parking spaces. If there is, it should be set by Lexpark but approved by the Council, so that we all know what it is.

Over the last year, the city has given Bellini's and the other downtown establishments some beautiful new dining and relaxing spaces, and I hope that there are more to come. The Mill St proposal comes to mind and the Esplanade. The walkable downtown streets should encourage our patrons to linger a while and walk off a bit of dinner, not hop out of the car - eat - hop in the car and go. That is what drive-ins and drive-thrus are for. You do notice that we don't have any of those downtown, don't you?

In the next few weeks, crowds will throng around downtown(or so we are told) and the CentrePointe block and some will remember what Connie Jo told them about free parking spaces and most of them will be using the sidewalks for their intended purpose, walking. At some point(hopefully in the not to distant future) some sort of construction WILL occur on the block and the curb lane parking spaces WILL disappear (temporarily?) Will Bellini's cry foul them, or not?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Legacy Trail: Bike Events For Everyone

I did not hear the Mayor's speech at the opening of the Legacy Trail but I saw the YouTube video. He says the the new trail puts Lexington "on the map" and makes us a cycling "destination". I have to wonder after all the other grandiose projections about Lexington's "so-called" accomplishments.

I have enjoyed cycling here in Fayette County since the late '50s and have always found town very easy to get around by bike. The masses are just now coming to realize what I have known all along. I ride for enjoyment and don't get into racing or bike polo, nor do I go for high-speed jaunts through the countryside. I just plod along and enjoy myself.

But, now that we have arrived (in the Mayor's thoughts) I wonder when we will get all the other stuff that goes along with cycling and the young activists that we have in Central Kentucky. Lexington has lagged behind the rest of the country, or so the pundits say, and we get our ideas from the big cities of the east. I have been re-reading "The History of Pioneer Lexington; 1781-1806" by Charles Staples, who was a neighbor when I was growing up, and much of the merchandise that local shopkeepers brought to sell - came from Philadelphia. Not Boston, not New York, but Philadelphia. Just last week, Philadelphia held their latest rendition of a local "Naked Bike Ride", you know, the protest bike ride where you wear the least that you feel comfortable with and advocate such things as global warming and Peak Oil and traffic congestion.

Most of the world's "NBR" events (some call them "Bare as you Dare" rides) are along city streets and through parks. Some at night but most are now in broad daylight. Now that we have a premier facility for cycling, how far off can a Lexington "Naked Bike Ride" be?

Mrs. Sweeper thinks that I would be "front and center" for one, riding proudly and slowly, but I am not so sure. I saw all the different varieties of age and body shape last Sunday, it could be a scary thing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Legacy Trail, But Legacy To What

I toured the Legacy Trail (or at least part of it) today. I went out to the Coldstream Park and joined the throng for a ride to the Horse Park. I was hoping to be accompanied by the rest of the family but Mrs. Sweeper was doing some of her "women's" stuff, one of the little Sweepers' has a bike malfunction and the other had to do homework. I was left to do it all alone.

I was surprised to see the number of folks out riding, walking and otherwise enjoying a beautiful day. I got there early enough to get on the trail and out to the Horse Park before the festivities took place at the Coldstream location. I was on the way back when the Mayor's party headed out that way.

The trail is an easy jaunt with a few hills but they are not very steep or long. The bridges and stone walls are quite well done and will look very nice when the landscaping is fully established. The one item that I see as missing is a permanent "comfort station" because someone is going to need to go while on the trail.

I first heard about a "trail to the Horse Park" back in the early '90s-nearly 20 years ago. There was not much to see at the Horse Park back then. Not the number of national headquarters, or events, and a limited number of "name" horses, but there was a desire to get there by bike and a less than desirable road system to do it. At that time, I was starting to slow down my riding everywhere in the County and using any road to get there, but others were looking to go to the park with families, safely.

The late wife of a former mayor, Carole Pettit, was the first to mention it that I know of. She and Lexington's environmental planner spent many hours looking at maps and aerial photos of the land occupied by the UK research farms on Newtown and Iron Works Pikes. I know that she wrote many correspondences to the Agricultural College and the farm manager about using the existing farm roads and the tunnel under I-75. I know that this was a passion of hers, it may not have been her idea but she did press forward on it. Strangely, her name is missing from all information or credits relating to this trail.

This trail may be a "legacy" project of the WEG, as if we need to be reminded, or it may be a tribute to the legacy of the "Horse Capital of the World" but, in my mind, this is a legacy to Carole Pettit.