Leadership Winchester: Tourism & Downtown

African-American Heritage Trail

November 4, 2019

Focused on Tourism and Downtown Winchester, the Leadership Winchester-Clark County class got their steps in last month!

Nancy Turner, Director of Winchester-Clark County Tourism, and Rachel Alexander , Director of Main Street Winchester, hosted the Leadership class in the heart of Winchester. They spent the day criss-crossing the historic streets learning about the many things to do in Winchester.

They began their day at the newly opened Winchester Design Studio (11 South Main Street). It is a space run as a partnership between Main Street Winchester, the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the University of Kentucky College of Design. The partners wish for the Design Studio to be an example of how a creativity can help activate rural communities.

Nancy Turner talked about the strides Clark County has taken in the last two decades to becoming a destination. Tourism's new slogan for Winchester-Clark County, "Always Original" reflects the attractions that are unique to the region. The class got to visit both the first attraction of Winchester, the Bluegrass Heritage Museum, and the most recent, the African-American Heritage Trail. Both are located right downtown in Winchester!

Rachel Alexander gave an over view of Main Street Winchester's purpose, and spoke about the new Downtown Development Investment Fund Grants (DDIF). The grants fund new businesses, roofing, facades, and upper story residential projects in an effort to maintain the economic viability and history of the buildings downtown.

The group left the Design Studio to go on the African-American Heritage Trail starting at Heritage Park. Brenda Smith, who helped organize the trail, guided the class to several of the markers. She went over the process of getting the Trail together, and the information on the markers.

Up next was a tour of the Winchester Sun, guided by Mike Caldwell. The class learned more about how the Winchester Sun has adjusted to a digital world. Mike Caldwell emphasized the Sun as a community newspaper. He highlighted how they work with advertisers on any budget, and consider any news sent to them for printing.

Combining tourism and downtown businesses, the group heard from a variety of folks at Wildcat Willy's Distillery. Laura Freeman talked of her goals with her suite of a businesses. Historian Harry Enoch spoke of the building's long history in Winchester, and Lyndon Comstock touched on the types of people that moved through Winchester.  Wildcat Willy gave an overview of his 'shiner philosophy, while Ben talked more about the farms and CBD.

Lunch was not a time to rest. After a self-guided tour of the Bluegrass Heritage Museum, the class sat down with their Engine House Pizza and heard from Alison Davis of CEDIK. She emphasized that the Design Studio wants to work creatively with the community, and to contact them with any ideas. Following Alison, the group heard from Sandy Stults, director of the Bluegrass Heritage Museum. In addition to talking up the museum, she pointed out they recently acquired the nurses' quarters building next to the museum. They are currently renting it out for events.

Up next were tours of several buildings currently being renovated on Main Street. Lara Thornbury and the McAllister sisters talked of the challenges and successes of renovating these historic spaces. Especially interesting was the ways the upstairs apartments were shaping up. The group walked through the different stages - from gutted all the way through finished spaces. Everyone wished the businesses going in on street level, La Trattoria, The Rogue Toad, and Betsy's Boutique, the best of luck.

The group next got to hear from GenCanna brand ambassador Mary Catherine Dorsett at their friends and family store, Forty-Six + Two. She explained how GenCanna gets Kentucky hemp derived CBD to a global market. Their main challenge is educating the public on what their products are, and establishing best practices for the market. The group happily accepted their free samples, and headed to the final destination of the day.

At Loma's Vanessa Ziembroski told her story of starting out as a design studio to what she's created today. The Opera House, Moundale Manor, plus the church and her newly acquired esthetic's studio, her operation has become a premier wedding venue in Central Kentucky.

To say the least, it was a very full day! The Leadership Class departed with weary feet and a newfound sense of all that is going on just in downtown Winchester.

This article is just a taste of what the class learned. Join us next year to discover more about your community! Until then watch our of the Facebook Live videos:

Brenda Smith on the African-American Heritage Trail

Mike Caldwell at the Winchester Sun

The folks at Wildcat Willy's Distillery