annual chamber event
dubbed Louisvilles best-kept secret
Monarchs to perform Saturday
Helen E. McKinney
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,
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, childrens 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 Churchs
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.
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. Its our
gift to the community.
The first selection of the production is Masquerade from
The Phantom of the Opera. The theme of this years
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
churchs sanctuary and ends with a gospel number.
First Baptist Church also has a childrens booth, a 50s soda shop
in the churchs 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 years 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, hes right there, she said.
Eastern High School marching band takes the streets during the
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. Its
a nice way to enjoy the community, he said.
Clients from St. Marys 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, theyll 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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