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Middletown Milestone Festival

Middletown’s annual chamber event
dubbed ‘Louisville’s best-kept secret’

The Monarchs to perform Saturday

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

September 2004
September 2004 Cover

MIDDLETOWN, Ky. (September 2004) – When Dr. Jim Cobban came to First Baptist Church in Middletown five years ago to assume the position of Senior Pastor, he was looking for a positive way to establish his church in the community. He decided to turn the Middletown Milestone Festival into something productive for his church.
Cobban initiated the idea of including this annual event in the church calendar. He said the festival is an outreach program to get the community involved in church. “God put us here to be part of the community,” Cobban said.
Now it its 34th year, the Middletown Milestone Festival will take place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 10, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 11 on Main Street in Middletown. Various activities for this free festival include a parade, family dog show, children’s rides, band performances and a fireworks finale.
Judy Francis, president of the Louisville East-Middletown Chamber of Commerce, said Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson was correct when he dubbed this festival, “One of the best kept secrets in Louisville.” In terms of area festivals, it has been ranked seventh in the region. The total estimated attendance is more than 55,000 people.
For many years, the festival had been based in First Baptist Church’s parking lot. Cobban and the church have become involved in the Middletown Milestone Festival, staging the “Broadway on Main Street” program every year. This play has become a staple of the festival.

Gene Holloway Antique Car

Photo provided

Gene Holloway rides
in an antique car during
last year's festival.

Viewing this 40-minute Broadway review is similar to seeing a show at Six Flags or Disney World, said Cobban. “It’s our gift to the community.”
The first selection of the production is “Masquerade” from “The Phantom of the Opera.” The theme of this year’s performance is the idea of taking off our mask and letting God see who we really are, said Cobban. The live musical production is held in the church’s sanctuary and ends with a gospel number.
First Baptist Church also has a children’s booth, a 50s soda shop in the church’s basement and a float in the parade. An Oasis tent will be set up, which provides a place for senior adults to sit down and have a refreshing drink of lemonade or water.
The Broadway review consists of 100 volunteers, with planning for this event beginning in February. Ideas for scripts, music, and casting culminate with rehearsals in July.
A budget of $5,000 is earmarked for this production. A fund raising auction was held Aug. 21 to help cover costs. Area businesses, artists and church members donated antiques and collectibles, and any extra funds will be put back into the church for next year’s show.
The church has become a vital part of this community celebration of Middletown and its history. This alcohol free, family event is “typical of an old country festival,” said Francis. It has become an event that is “loved by a lot of people,” she said. Many volunteers donate their time and talents.
Former Mayor Gene Holloway is a major supporter of the festival, said Francis. He has furnished food for the firemen and police in the past, and “anything we needed, he’s right there,” she said.

Eastwood Marching Band

Photo provided

The Eastern High School marching band takes the streets during the parade.

The variety of events that are packed into two days and the fact that it is well organized has contributed to its ongoing success, said Holloway. Middletown is an area comprised of a “nice community, nice businesses, and nice people,” he said.
Former festival chairman Mike Pepe said it is this reputation and the fact that it is an alcohol free event that keeps crowds coming back. Pepe became involved through his association with the chamber and said the city of Middletown has assisted the chamber in organizing the festival for the last several years.
“It has something for everybody,” said Pepe. The two to three dozen food vendors that set up at the festival have aided its growth, along with the many arts and crafts and miscellaneous booths. “It’s a nice way to enjoy the community,” he said.
Clients from St. Mary’s Center look forward to participating in the parade every year, said director of development Jeff Gaunce. The staff and clients, who are developmentally disabled adults create a float each year and being part of the parade “makes them feel like celebrities,” said Gaunce.
There is little doubt that this festival showcases the best of Middletown. Francis said Middletown adjoins high growth areas, with new growth and development springing up all around the town. One area Francis would love to see Middletown go forward with is beautification and safety issues on Shelbyville Road. Her goal in organizing the Milestone Festival is to make Middletown “an area destination for folks.”
Pepe said that because of its location, Main Street does lose some drive-by business. But he feels that once tourists visit and see what there is to offer, they’ll come back. Main Street and U.S. 60 “can and do complement each other,” he said.
Pepe also said that the area is seeing a lot of growth east of the town, which puts Middletown in the middle of economic expansion. Even though there are some shops that are not filled, Mayor Byron Chapman said the city is constantly working to occupy them.
The Wetherby House and park in downtown Middletown has also been designated as a festival headquarters site. Once renovation is complete on the house, city hall will move its offices there, said Chapman.
There are lots of houses on the National Register of Historic Places on Main Street. Chapman said the city wants to maintain its history while keeping pace with the 21st century.
In the time the chamber has sponsored this festival, it has grown substantially, said Pepa. Businesses and residents have come together to produce what he termed an “open house” for the city.

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