Tag Archives: Kentuckiana

“What I have found is the true meaning of what love is in every aspect of my life: I love more today.”

Free at Last | Paul Kiger

Local real estate guru Paul Kiger was a force of nature, a whirlwind of energy. But much of that was focused on running from demons, until he came clean and focused on himself.


To the outside world, the trajectory of Paul Kiger’s life has resembled the bar chart of a great annual report – a steady upward climb to the top.

“He’s just a force of nature,” said Sarah Ring, his business partner for the last five years. “Always in full motion, working, thinking and acting faster than everyone else.”

High school class president. Marching band. School theater. Tennis team. Plus, he worked at his family’s grocery store in tiny New Middletown, Ind., and for his father’s roofing business.

Played baseball in the summer, basketball all winter. Drove go-karts on a track his father built for him in the backyard. Rode scooters and four-wheelers on gravel roads. Went with his grandmother to a picture-perfect Methodist church out in the middle of a cornfield.

New Middletown, population 83, had one stop sign in the middle of town. A model, small-town, Southern Indiana childhood, right out of a Booth Tarkington novel or an Andy Hardy movie.

And then, on to Ball State University, where Kiger was the only freshman to have his own news show on the campus radio station and was the vice president of his fraternity, pledge trainer and social chair. “I was the one who brought the girls to the parties,” Kiger said.

Also, while in school, he worked for the Ball State Foundation, calling alumni and asking for money. “I was raising $25,000 a semester,” he said, which taught him something about a skill of his that could prove useful in the future. “I learned that I was good on the phone and that I had a salesman’s personality.”

screen-shot-2018-11-20-at-12-31-18-pmDenial and Unacceptance

As far as Kiger’s internal life, though, there were bumps in the bar chart. While appearing to thrive at Ball State, he was also insecure, a small-town boy intimidated by upperclassmen from Indianapolis and Chicago. “I still had a country accent then,” he said, “which I spent a lot of time working to get rid of.” Another trait to add to his skill set – a chameleon-like ability to change his colors to whatever he felt the situation demanded.

But his small-town accent was easy to change, in comparison to the secret he was then harboring. Kiger is gay. And even in the “Will and Grace” stage of the late 20th century, where so much was out of the closet and celebrated, that was scary to him.

In fact, at first, it was a secret he didn’t entirely understand. Then it became a secret he understood enough to keep it hidden from the world – even from himself.

“I remember being bullied in high school,” he said. “Maybe it was because they were all wearing Carhartt pants and camo boots and I was wearing Doc Martens and Guess jeans. I could say it was all that redneck stuff. But I wasn’t accepting me, so why should anyone else accept me?”

He was in denial. “I thought dating girls would ‘fix’ me,” he said. “So I dated a lot, the prettiest girls, but that wasn’t any kind of a magic pill.”

The effort to keep it private, while still reaching for all those symbols of what he thought meant success – money, great car, great house, great wardrobe – began a descent into alcoholism and prescription drug addiction. It wasn’t until later, when Kiger was able to come to terms with all his demons, that he realized true relief, a flight to freedom.

But that came much later. In these earlier stages of his career, Kiger’s life did not appear to the world to be the life of a tortured man. Which is exactly the way he carefully planned it.

“He’s mister charm, charismatic, bigger than life,” said Ring. “People are drawn to him.”

“He’s perfect out in the world,” said long-time friend Debbie Farmer, owner of Creative Enterprises in New Albany.

“Perfect out in the world,” perhaps, but to Kiger it was part of an exhausting self-camouflaging program. He partied hard, partly to help deal with his secret and his insecurities – and then just to party.

Out And Relieved

In his junior year in college, though, Kiger did come out to his fraternity brothers. The reaction was so supportive and so positive that he was able to put at least that demon to rest. “It was a huge relief,” he said, “not looking over my shoulder anymore, not waiting for something to happen – even if nothing ever happened.”

But there were still malingering demons. “The struggle, generally, became my driving force,” he said, “to make something of myself. The ‘I’m going to prove that I’m better than all of you!’ syndrome. I think that’s typical for the LGBTQ community.”

Alcohol And Adderall

So Kiger’s life went into overdrive – working hard, partying hard, drinking hard.

“What do 20-year-olds do? You go to the bars, that scene, those relationships. But I never really liked staying out late. I had myself tested for ADD (attention deficit disorder) and was prescribed Adderall. That became a miracle drug for me for the next 10 years.”

But it also turned into a vicious cycle. “Adderall was an upper that allowed me to stay out later, so I could drink more.”

Not that it in any way affected Kiger’s career. Based on his successful work for the Ball State Foundation, he was hired by Progressive Insurance as an insurance adjustor. “It was an awesome job. Good pay and lots of travel.”

He started in Louisville, but Progressive moved him to Minneapolis, then to Ft. Lauderdale. Then he moved to Chicago, for another company.

“In Chicago, I decided I’d had enough of the insurance business and moved back to Southern Indiana.”

He bought a historic New Albany mansion on East Market Street, extensively renovating it and starting a new career at the same time.

“What I have found is the true meaning of what love is in every aspect of my life: I love more today.”

“What I have found is the true meaning of what love is in every aspect of my life: I love more today.”

Keeping It Real Estate

“My sister, Paula (Kiger), was in real estate, and she taught me how to get licensed and build my book of business. Everything in real estate is relationships, so I began assembling my local network. I joined everything. If it had ‘New Albany’ in the name, I was involved.”

That’s when he met Farmer, who was president at the time of Develop New Albany.

“Boy, did he get involved,” she recalled. “He joined our board, and we immediately clicked. It became a mentoring relationship, for him and for me.”

She also saw the hard-charger behind the charismatic personality. “I remember being impressed with how focused he was on his business,” she said. “I watched him build it, brick by brick. He was on warp speed, trying to accomplish all those things.”

But “warp speed” is generally exhausting. Kiger joined a Re/Max Advantage office in Floyds Knobs that was owned by his sister Paula Kiger and Linda Finney. It was 2007. The real estate market was about to go into free fall.

“My first year, I netted about $2,000,” he said. “I basically lived off my credit cards. By the next year, though, I was making six figures.”

In 2010, Kiger was named Realtor of the Year in Southern Indiana. He was just 30. The next year, he was featured on the HGTV show “House Hunters.”

“If there was a spotlight, I always found a way to be in it,” he joked.

Conversely, he said, his success was a justification for his drinking and drugs.

Hey, No Problem

“There had been no repercussions from my addictions,” he recalled. “I was never going to be that guy who made an ass of himself at a bar. There were no DUIs, my business was good, I was making money. But that only made the whole thing worse. I concluded that I had no problem balancing everything and making it work.”

That, however, was becoming a thin veneer.

“On paper, I was a rock star,” he recalled, “but I was spiritually sick. Nothing was ever enough. I had no sense of a higher power. I volunteered for everything, but always with selfish, self-centered motives.”

It didn’t affect his work. But alcohol is a depressant, and he needed to be up when he was out networking. So there was an increasing reliance on the Adderall, which is an amphetamine. It becomes a spiral, and spirals usually spiral downward.

Besides, it must have been frightening for a man who strove for everything, only to have everything and still not be fulfilled.

“I found out that driving a Lexus at the age of 25 did nothing for me,” he said. “By 2009 and 10, I was drinking and overmedicating, and getting miserable.”

screen-shot-2018-11-20-at-12-32-29-pm“I will not bury you”

Kiger was blasting through his Adderall meds. In 2015, his partner Andrew got ahold of his pill bottle. “Two weeks into my 30-day prescription and I had only five left. It was obvious that I was abusing. And, to make it worse, he thought I had quit the year before.

“I’ll never forget what he said to me: ‘I will not bury my partner. We won’t be together if you continue to destroy yourself. I’ll still be your friend, but I will not be your partner.’ ”

That’s when Kiger decided he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

“I stopped the drinking and the meds and checked into a treatment center,” he said. There, he found a 12-step program that worked for him. He also found God.

“I’d always had a conflict with God over the whole gay thing,” he said. “But I had a spiritual awakening. That was the biggest thing, finding a higher power. If I were to trust the process, it would now be OK to trust God.”

He joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany, though he admitted that what first attracted him was the architecture. “It’s like a mini-castle.”

What drew him in, though, was the traditional feel of the service and the hymnal. “It was like going to church in New Middletown with my grandmother.”

And what sealed the deal, for him, was the church’s progressive nature and its acceptance of the gay community.

Keep It Simple

And so it was back into the fray for Kiger. Only this time, he was concentrating on his recovery – and the recoveries of other alcoholics. “My priorities changed,” he said. “I needed to be of service, counseling others, giving to them what had been given to me – a softer way of living. Being part of a sobriety program saved my life.”

“I think he has learned that people will accept him as he is,” said business partner Sarah Ring. “He’s more settled. He doesn’t have to work so hard at it.”

She said he’s completely focused on his recovery now. “He meditates, prays, goes to his meetings and is serious about taking care of himself. It’s his new top priority.”

It’s all part of the same “Paul personality,” said his friend, Debby Farmer. “As much as he embraced the lifestyle he’d had before, that’s how much he has embraced this new lifestyle – only this is a positive one. It’s a lifestyle that feeds his soul.”

Kiger works out three to four days a week at Katy Hearn Gym with Chastain Schneider. He also simplified his life, moving out of his 6,000-square-foot New Albany mansion and into a three bedroom/two bath, 2,000-square-foot brick ranch in Silver Hills.

He’s also remained civically active. Kiger is involved in the City of New Albany Human Rights Commission and is the 2019 incoming president of SoIN, the tourism bureau of Clark and Floyd counties.


Paul Kiger with (from left) Jim Epperson, Todd Read and Luanne Mattson

“What we need from a president is a connection with the community, good at networking and partnering and a willingness to get involved and learn,” said SoIN Executive Director Jim Epperson. “And Paul is all that. He lives the SoIn lifestyle. He’s familiar throughout the neighborhood, runs a local business and enjoys the local nightlife. He has enormous energy.”

Yes. Only now, it’s not an energy fueled by cocktail glasses and pill bottles. And it’s no longer motivated by selfish or practical concerns. It’s all coming from somewhere else, somewhere within – from the spirituality he has finally found.

“I’m truly happy and content,” Kiger said. “At last, I can say that.”


Let It Snow

Made By Morgan

Snow Frames are a special way to save your memories

By Morgan Sprigler

The most wonderful time of the year is here, and do you know what that means? An endless array of crafting possibilities! When I was strolling through Ben Franklin Crafts & Frame Shop in New Albany last week, I came across the cutest shadow boxes. I stood there staring at them for the longest time, trying to think of what I could use them for and a lightbulb went off: a Snow Frame, which I’ve decided is the sister to a snow globe. I hope that you all have fun creating your own version of this little winter wonderland.



Miniature shadow box/frame

Floral Styrofoam

Faux snow

Mini snow balls

Floral picks (or miniature trees)


Hot glue gun




Step One

Using a butcher’s knife, slice a small piece of floral Styrofoam to fit at the base of your frame. You want to slice a piece small enough so that when you add your snow, it will fall in the front, back and sides of the Styrofoam. Once you are happy with the size, place inside your frame. (Hint: Using a butcher’s knife will create much less of a mess than using scissors.)


Step Two

Add your snow. Using your butcher’s knife, or some other utensil, direct the snow to fall around your Styrofoam in order to conceal it. You only want a light dusting, as you will add more snow in another step.


Step Three

Decorate. I took photos of my girls throwing leaves, had them developed and then cut around the perimeter of their bodies. By gluing a snowball in their hands, I created a snow ball fight. So cute! You can use any photo you would like to create your scene. Once you have your photo cut out, glue a toothpick to the back and insert into the Styrofoam. If you do not want to use a photograph, Ben Franklin has tons of mini Christmas themed items, including miniature nativity sets, reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas lights, drums, Christmas trees and more. I used a floral pick for the background of my snow frame. I brought in some color by gluing berries onto the pick. How fun would it be to decorate a mini Christmas tree for your background?! You could even use a light dusting of white spray paint to frost your glass. I mean, go crazy with this, guys!


Step Four

Find a place to display your creation. Mine has found a home as a centerpiece on my girls’ arts and crafts table. I think this makes the perfect centerpiece when added on a tray, especially when surrounded by greenery and some battery-operated Christmas lights.


From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you who follow my column. I hope in some small way, I inspire you to be creative. I wish you the happiest of holiday’s and hope that you find peace and joy this season.




Hinkle’s Sandwich Shop vs. Shipley’s Tavern

And the winner is…everyone


By D. Todd Applegate

Photos by Christian Watson


The latest Extol food excursion took me to two iconic establishments in Madison that you simply must try: Hinkle’s Sandwich Shop and Shipley’s Tavern.


Of the two, Hinkle’s is more well known to outsiders, but both are well known to locals. I’ve been to Hinkle’s many times over the years and, in fact, it was considered another food group during my college years at Hanover. If you like slider-type burgers at all, or old-school diners, you will love Hinkle’s as well.


But what about Shipley’s Tavern?


Shipley’s is a pub in downtown Madison, but that’s about all I knew about it. Ironically, and unrelated to this review, a few weeks back, I spoke with a trusted fellow foodie who was born and raised in Madison, and brought up Hinkle’s and cheeseburgers. “So, you would pick a Hinkle’s cheeseburger over a Shipley’s cheeseburger?” he asked, his choice (competitiveness?) evident in his tone.


With that in mind, I decided to focus on the obvious: Who has the best cheeseburger.


Hinkle’s and Shipley’s both serve up good eats and are just around the block from each other.


Hinkle’s is quintessential diner food done right since 1933 when Winfred Hinkle opened his restaurant at 204 West Main St., the same location you find it today. Not fancy and largely unchanged, but with a personality, a following and community presence all its own. Hinkle’s started out as an ice cream parlor idea in Bloomington in 1930, expanding to Columbus, North Vernon and then Madison in 1933. And Winfred Hinkle added small burgers for 5 cents that people could afford during The Depression. Madison is the lone location that remains today. Thankfully.


Shipley’s, meanwhile, is a local pub serving your favorite libations and good pub grub in a friendly atmosphere. It was derived and has survived as a tavern and meeting place for locals and visitors alike since 1867. It is perhaps the original “Cheers” of Madison.


While, the food and its role has evolved, what hasn’t changed in 151 years is the “come in, everyone is welcome here” atmosphere of this local watering hole.


Think about this: For 85 years, Madison stalwarts Hinkle’s and Shipley’s have been making their burgers and doing what they do from a mere 132 steps apart. Kudos to all involved.


But, back to searching for the best cheeseburger in Madison.


To compare cheeseburgers as the focus simply wouldn’t tell the whole story. To begin with, their cheeseburgers are too different. And – this was delightful albeit surprising – after talking with employees from both locales, each emphasized they have never viewed the other as a competitor. Rather, they see themselves as unique with totally different businesses and histories but with a shared love of doing business in downtown Madison, and each one respects the other’s longevity and place in the community.


So much for the contest idea. But left up to my own culinary devices, the only way to settle this was to go and find out for myself.  To this end, on a recent Friday night, I did my culinary and historical research on both.


And here’s what you need to know:


Hinkle’s: Hinkle’s has two entrances. The door on the left is for tabled seating (added in the mid-70s). The door on the right steps into the original counter seating from 1933 with 11 rotating stools. I recommend the counter seating, but don’t be in a hurry, especially during busy times. While you wait, step back in time and order a milkshake (there are 43 flavors to choose from).


I ordered a large chocolate shake, and it was the best shake I have had (at least since the last time I had one there). Choose from thick, diner-style large ($3.59) or small ($2.09) shakes. Take off the lid, place a straw in the middle and it won’t move. Exactly as it should be.


I also ordered the obligatory cup of chili ($2.09 or bowl for $3.09). Just diner style goodness from the ground beef and onions from the griddle, with beans and spaghetti added to a rich and thick chili-mac base It’s good hearty, diner chili.


Then came the infamous slider-style cheeseburgers ($1.70 ea.) and fries ($2.09) – crisp, but maybe needing a little more salt. Two Hinkle style cheeseburgers on this day, hot off the grill, came served with fresh, handmade beef patties, grilled onions, American cheese melted perfectly and dill pickle slices. Just like they were served up in 1933. Condiments are on the counter if you prefer, but they aren’t necessary. I don’t know what nostalgia tastes like, but you will know you are eating it here.


While not the original slider as we know it – as White Castle opened in Wichita, Kansas in 1921 – Hinkle’s has a winner.


Yes, there are other things on the menu at Hinkle’s, including breakfast (be sure to order the hash browns), but you won’t find alcohol on the menu or a fancy interior. And you won’t need them.


Hinkle’s Sandwich Shop

204 W. Main St.



6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday

6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday

24 hours Friday and Saturday




Moving on…


To get to Shipley’s, exit Hinkle’s, turn left, walk 75 steps east on Main Street to the light at West Street. Cross Main Street and walk 57 more steps and you will arrive at Shipley’s Tavern, 322 West St.


Shipley’s Tavern is unmistakable with the harvest gold painted brick and large black awning.  In the daylight, the south side harvest gold façade makes a 2-story canvas for a spirited mural painted 5 to 6 years ago by a Hanover art student.


Entering Shipley’s, you sense you might be stepping into a time warp. The narrow and dark (even at noon) entry opens into a cavernous single room with a bar that seems to run the length of the building. Except for the big screen TVs above the bar, you imagine it could be 1867 or 1933 or 1967. But it’s not.


You can immediately tell that the bar is the focus here. It faces mirrored walls, various bar lights and memorabilia, and appears stocked with pretty much any possible libation you might be interested in.


The left wall is adorned with movie posters and framed pictures and caricatures, many with comments and autographs of past and current patrons, presumably some celebrity types. You can sense the history of river boat voyagers, regatta patrons, filmmakers and actors from movies shot in Madison, musicians and others who have made this a stop over the years.


I perused the menu but ordered the large ½ lb. cheeseburger ($10.95), fries (included with burger or $3.95 a la carte) and a bowl of chili ($3.95).


The locals and my server suggested that the chicken breast ($7.95), pork tenderloin ($7.95) and fried pickles ($5.95) – “you can’t go wrong with those” – but this was a burger competition. So…


The beefy goodness, handmade daily, was enveloped in melting American cheese. You can order it dressed (lettuce, tomato, onion) or undressed – like me – with just dill pickle slices, and a lot of them I might add, and condiments.


NOTE: Don’t be in a hurry. If you want fast, there are other places that will accommodate. This isn’t necessarily one of them. It takes time to prepare greatness. I (impatiently) relaxed, took some notes and watched my burger being prepared on the surprisingly small grill within view. But finally, my burger and hot crinkle cut fries arrived. So worth the wait! And as if the burger wasn’t enough, the chili was excellent.


Shipley’s Tavern

322 West St.



Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight

Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Sunday 11 a.m. to midnight




So, after this match-up, who is the winner of Madison’s two mainstays? Hinkle’s and Shipley’s both win. Madison wins. And you win when you visit.


Tastefully, Todd





EXIT | December/January 2019

Photo taken at En-Joy The Venue at Flat Rock Estates in Henryville.

By Tracy Reardon


En-Joy The Venue, located at 13967 E. Flat Rock Trail in Henryville, is an upscale, outdoor venue with hardscaped, tiered seating featuring a breathtaking view of Sydney Lake. The venue features trails, lakes, shuttle service and an on-staff event and wedding planner. The property also is home to En-joy the Pavilion, an Amish built reception area with 360 degree unobstructed views of nature. It’s the perfect venue for weddings, company picnics,  class reunions, retreats, graduation celebrations, one-of-a-kind galas and more. Book now by calling 812.727.5545 or visit enjoythevenue.com for more information.


New Hope Services

Southern Indiana organization covers 20 counties and helps people of all ages and backgrounds

By Lisa Hornung

Courtesy Photos


Decades ago, a group of parents who were frustrated that their children with developmental and intellectual disabilities weren’t being taught in public schools started New Hope Services. The parents wanted their children to learn all they could, so they banded together to help each other as well as other parents of disabled children.


Now, New Hope, a human services agency that has been around for 60 years, is all over Southern Indiana – covering 20 counties – and it’s one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the area. But it’s no longer only focused on disabled children and adults. The charity also helps young families and seniors with family planning, parenting skills and affordable housing.


The agency has many long-term employees who stay because of the love they have for their work.


“We’re mission-driven here, said Senior Vice President Bonnie Long, who has worked at New Hope for 38 years. “I like being part of something bigger. It makes you feel like you’re giving of yourself and giving to others.”


Executive assistant Kim Tungate agreed: “What keeps me here is our mission and what we do, so family oriented. We’re like a big family.”


Senior Housing

The latest program to be added is the apartment communities. Adults 55 and older can live in affordable income-restricted apartments owned by New Hope in several locations. In Brazil, Indiana, New Hope undertook an adaptive reuse project and turned two blighted buildings into apartments for seniors. The junior high school and the Davis building were historic properties but are now nice places for older adults to live in and called Davis Zeller. Several other projects, such as M. Fine on Spring in Jeffersonville and The Lofts at Leeson’s in Elwood, continue the ongoing project. Once the mortgages are paid, the rental income goes to support other New Hope initiatives.


Family Services

The largest division in number of people served, is Family Services. Family Services offer help that includes the Women Infant Children (WIC) nutrition program, promoting breast feeding, help with family stability and more. New Hope operates the HopeCare Clinic, which provides basic medical services, such as breast exams, pap smears, birth control, pregnancy testing and counseling, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.


The clinic serves women and children from prenatal care up to 5 years old. It’s a walk-in clinic, but it does accept appointments. Services are low- to no-cost, and insurance and Medicaid are accepted.


Adult Services

The Adult Services arm of the organization incorporates New Hope’s original mission, that of helping those with disabilities succeed in life. Adult Services includes residential living for those with severe disabilities, as well as employment services.


The Adult Community Empowerment Program (ACES) facilitates activities to help adults socialize and engage in their communities. “After 40 years of nursing, this job provides me an opportunity to earn money and be useful after retirement in a fun and creative way,” said Andrea Hannah, lead at ACES.


Those in the Adult Services programs can get jobs either out in the community or at New Hope Industries. Local companies contract with New Hope to do things such as collating, labeling, small hand assembly, and a wide array of piece work assignments. Other examples of capabilities include shrink wrap operations, poly bagging and packaging. One of the biggest employers is Walmart. Walmart brings a semi-truck daily full of used cardboard boxes. Employees unload the boxes and sort them for reuse or recycle. If the boxes can be reused, workers add stickers over the bar codes and stack them to go back to Walmart to be used again. Those who are employed work together and take their breaks together, providing not only an income but socialization, too.


Over the past 60 years, New Hope has grown and expanded, and will continue to do so. Tammy Mathis, a direct support professional for 13 years, highlighted one of the reasons: “My thing is my love for the clients, even on their bad days.”



New Hope Services

725 Wall St. In Jeffersonville




Engagement Announcement | Ross Wallace & Diana Hylton

Ross Wallace & Diana Hylton


How did you meet?

We met over five years ago through mutual friends. We have a friend who plays music around town, and we would see each other when we’d be out at his shows. We connected, and quickly became inseparable.


What’s your engagement story?

The day we got engaged, Ross knew that he was going to hit a milestone for (his business) Him Gentleman’s Boutique that he’s been striving for. He knew it was the perfect cover to plan a beautiful evening at Jeff Ruby’s without giving away that he would be popping the question. After an incredible dinner with no cell phones and no distractions and the best conversation, he  got down on one knee and proposed. The night was absolutely perfect. We decided to keep the moment to ourselves and not share until the following evening so the night was just for us.


Any wedding plans you can share?

As of right now, we are leaning towards a destination ceremony with immediate family and then coming back thome to host a big party to celebrate with all the incredible people in our lives.


Can you explain the unique professional relationship you have with one another?


We are so intertwined in each other lives and work. Ross is my number one fan and I am his. We both were each other’s push to take the risk and open our own businesses. Him Gentleman’s Boutique and Mane Alley Color & Extension Bar, my Salon, are attached in the same location in New Albany. Ross allowed me to take over the back 500 square feet of the store to open my dream salon with an entrance from the alley. Our conversations are so much about the futures and goals of where we see ourselves and and our businesses that it keeps us motivated and constantly striving for the impossible dream.

The team from
Starlight Distillery
with Dana and
Ted Huber

Recap: A Bourbon on The River Experience

Harvest Homecoming 2018 may be in the rear view mirror, but now is the time to make plans for next year’s Bourbon on the River

Story and Photos by Miranda McDonald

The team from Starlight Distillery with Dana and Ted Huber

The team from
Starlight Distillery
with Dana and
Ted Huber

Even though Harvest Homecoming is one of Southern Indiana’s most anticipated annual events, I have to admit that I’d never attended it before this year. As I divulge what must seem like a completely shocking revelation, seeing as Southern Indiana has proudly become a second home to me since joining the staff at this publication several years ago, I also must make it known that my absence from the Harvest Homecoming activities hasn’t come without some serious regret. Every October, my social feeds fill up with photos of friends and colleagues posing proudly with a unique piece of art or that perfect fried pork tenderloin sandwich they found while perusing the tents lining the streets in downtown New Albany. That being said, you can only imagine my delight when after years of almost, but not quite making it to the yearly festivities I was invited to attend one of the festival’s newest additions, Bourbon on the River.

“We are the first to bring bourbon tasting, cigars and jazz  – all the things we love about the south – to this side of the river,” said event organizer Rosie Bryant.

Bourbon on the River made its debut in 2017 as the premiere bourbon tasting event at Harvest Homecoming. This year, it not only expanded the list of distillers participating from four to eight also quickly sold out, even after doubling its attendance. The expanded list of distillers involved in this year’s event included Diageo Bulleit Bourbon, Michter’s Distillery, Jeptha Creed Distillery, Copper and Kings American Brandy Company, Evan Williams Distillery, Brown-Forman, the Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company and Starlight Distillery, one of the event’s main sponsors.

At the event, all distilleries showcased a unique cocktail or pour featuring their specific libation. Each of which, I had the pleasure of tasting. A few of my favorite alcohol-infused concoctions included the Peerless Harvest Apple Rye and the Double Starlight Blackberry Lemonade, a sweet mix of lemon juice, Starlight Distillery Blackberry Whiskey, and simple syrup that was topped off with three ice cubes and a lemon slice.

As Rosie walked me around the Sounds Unlimited Productions’ Party Tent on the River – the event’s location since its inception – I couldn’t help but sway slightly to the buoyant beat of the Pharrell Williams hit song “Because I’m Happy” while Bard and Eddie of the local band Jake & Elwood performed for the crowd. The band’s set list, a true array of classic hits that spanned from the ’80s to present-day, provided an upbeat soundtrack for the evening. However, it was “Love Shack” by The B-52s and the liquid courage provided by Michter’s neat pours that really got the crowd moving toward the dance floor.

Attendees in the Cigar Lounge

Attendees in the
Cigar Lounge

After I sampled my fair share of the local spirits and engaged in a bit of dancing, I eagerly made my way to the food table located directly beside the craft beer booth in the front area of the tent. Sam’s Food and Spirits provided a variety of perfect party snacks that included green chili wontons, spinach dip, bread pudding and an additional assortment of cheese boards for the VIP area.

While I carefully made room for a few slices of Gouda and Colby-Jack cheese next to the rather large pile of chili wontons on my plate, I asked the lady standing next to me what she liked most about the event.

“I love the bourbon, but it is really the social part that brought me back this year. It really feels like a reunion with old friends,” she explained.

Aside from the bourbon, live entertainment and culinary delights, there was also a cigar lounge that had been erected directly outside of the main tent. With cigars and bourbon being such an historical pairing, The Office Cigar Lounge provided baskets of fine cigars for attendees to enjoy.

There were also several raffles that took place throughout the night. Some of the prizes included thermos mugs, candle baskets and t-shirts. The largest prize included a barrel head engraved with the official Bourbon on the River Logo, and the signatures of all the master distillers from the participating distilleries.

I didn’t happen to win any raffle prizes, but the night thoroughly exceeded my expectations and allowed me to get my very first glimpse into what Harvest Homecoming is truly all about: bringing the community together to celebrate the rich heritage of Southern Indiana.

After my Bourbon on the River experience, I reconnected with Rosie to ask if there was anything additional attendees could look forward to at next year’s event.  She responded: “The Harvest Homecoming Festival was voted as the top fall festival in Indiana. That’s an award we cherish. Every member of the festival, from board members to the volunteers, put their heart and soul into it. Going into our 52nd year, we will strive to make it even better. Bourbon on the River is a new event, so we are always asking for input on how to improve it.”

screen-shot-2018-11-20-at-4-11-40-pmBryant later added that there will be changes to the current ticket prices of $60 for VIP and $45 for general admission. However, what those changes will be has not been decided yet. The board is also looking into moving the event to Bicentennial Park.

However, one thing that won’t change at next year’s Bourbon on the River event is a unique experience that pairs live entertainment and appetizing food with the best bourbon Kentuckiana has to offer.



Bourbon on the River 2019

Want to know more about tickets or participate as a sponsor or distillery? Contact Rosie Bryant at 502.541.4056. Learn more about the event at HarvestHomecoming.com



Exhale: The Romeo Era Has Begun In Bloomington

By Zach McCrite

Follow @BigEZ on Twitter


“I’ve long subscribed to the theory of ‘the lower the expectations, the happier you will be.’ ”


If we are fans of the same team – you and I – then, I am the fellow fan that you hate.


I am the fan that will temper all excitement and expectations when my team’s season starts or before they have a big game.

Why? Because I’ve long subscribed to the theory of “the lower the expectations, the happier you will be.”

But here I am, watching Indiana University men’s basketball (full disclosure: I’m a fan) … and I’m getting pumped.

I went to Assembly Hall for the season opener for the Hoosiers. Now, I’m well aware IU was going up against a completely undermanned, well-below-average opponent in Chicago State. It was also election night for, arguably, the most contentious midterm election cycle in our nation’s history. Needless to say, the Hall wasn’t sold out.

But, you could still feel an energy in the building not felt since Indiana hung a Big Ten championship banner after their last regular season game in 2016.

Stop me if you’ve heard this guy’s name before: Romeo Langford.

His 6-foot, 6-inch, 19-going-on-25 frame was the curiosity of almost every one of the 17,222 crimson-clad spectators. It was almost a nervous energy.

What will Romeo do? Will he dominate? Will he be a passive freshman? Will he still be the same hardly-stoppable force he was when he was hanging 30+ points per night down on Vincennes Street in New Albany the last four seasons?

For the first 7:42 of the game, he didn’t do much. He missed one field goal attempt and one free throw. He had one point.

Langford came off the court, got some instruction from Archie Miller, and gave the same stoic demeanor that New Albany head coach Jim Shannon knew well, even if the Hoosier diehards in attendance, and maybe even Miller himself, weren’t quite sure what the expression meant.

Because, let’s be honest, it was the same stoicism fans drooled over when he scored a NAHS record 63 points at Jennings County earlier this year, and the same stoicism we all experienced when Warren Central’s buzzer-beater in the IHSAA Final Four sent Romeo inside the locker room to tear off his now-retired No. 1 jersey for the last time as a Bulldog. Rarely had he worn his on-court emotions outwardly.

Surely, we weren’t going to see a passive Romeo Langford at the collegiate level, right? Nah. Expectations were a little higher this time around, remember?

And, it was at that moment, almost midway through his first half of basketball in an Indiana uniform that I remembered that Langford is a kid. A baby, even. It’s his first official collegiate basketball game. He’s eight months removed from playing in gyms as small as 2,100 (even if those gyms sold an amount of tickets that would make any fire marshal wince) and perhaps just eight months away from signing a contract that’ll have him playing basketball for $2,100 per minute.

Life comes at you fast. But maybe not any faster than it’s come at Romeo. It was at that moment I lowered my expectations for him and for the Hoosiers.

Not because I thought the season was going to be a failure. Just because we all forget that these are kids that were barely old enough to vote on the recent election night.

Perhaps something similar happened to Romeo during his brief respite from the game. Before you knew it, Langford had checked back in after a quick breather, and everyone who had seen him play on the red-glazed New Albany hardwood saw the same kid lighting up his new home floor – Branch McCracken Court at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall, to be precise. Bulldog red traded in for Hoosier crimson.

A jumper from the baseline here. A slash-and-gash, coast-to-coast transition bucket there. Before you could blink, Romeo had 17 first half points.

And it was then that Southern Indiana fans who have hitched their wagon to Romeo after watching him in high school could release some of that nervousness.

Let’s be honest, for the diehard IU fans that live in the reach of this publication, there is a connection to the kid. He’s magnetic. He’s humble. It’s obvious his parents have done a superb job on him. And I’m sure his parents are also aware that most of Southern Indiana have adopted Romeo as their own, whether Sabrina and Tim like it or not.

So, like good parents, everyone held their breath a little as Romeo started his collegiate basketball career, however short it may be.

All for nothing. The jumpers. The slashing-and-gashing. The humility. The stoicism. It’s all still there. And so is his game even as his comfort in the college basketball world increases daily.


And, for the record, he’s changing me. With every subsequent game, win or lose, my usual expectation-limiting is starting to dissipate. My excitement beginning to percolate.

Before too long, I might be the fellow IU fan you don’t hate anymore.


A New Life

Michelle Wells offers fashion and friendliness at Mariposa Consignments

By Remy Sisk

Photos by Christian Watson


PULL QUOTE: “We get new items not only daily but hourly.” –Mariposa Consignments owner Michelle Wells


In downtown New Albany’s eclectic cultural landscape, Mariposa Consignments sits nestled on Pearl Street between Market and Main. A unique boutique, Mariposa offers an extraordinary range of like-new, vintage and brand-new fashions that vary from high-end to completely affordable. The shop is owned by Michelle Wells, an experienced Southern Indiana retailer and style icon. After a dynamic career in fashion, Wells is more than content to be running her own store, happily serving the residents of Kentuckiana.


“My grandmother was a seamstress. She always made our clothes when we were kids, and I think that’s definitely part of how I became interested in fashion,” Wells said.


Growing up, she was encouraged by her family to get a job if she wanted to buy her own clothes (her first aspirational purchase at 14 was a pair of Jordache jeans). So, she accepted a position at a Paul Harris clothing store. From then on, Wells was immersed in fashion and has spent three-quarters of her life in the fashion and retail industry.


Several years ago while working as a manager for a furniture store chain, Wells realized she wanted to do something that made more of a difference in her local community. Consequently, she merged her passions and began operating Hosparus’s Spring Street thrift store. As the shop was relatively small and somewhat off the beaten path of New Albany shopping, Wells knew she had to take action to make this work. She formed relationships with other area consignment stores and greatly enhanced the stock at Hosparus, making it a viable destination for uncommon finds.


Wells’s efforts were successful; however, Hosparus eventually disbanded the store. But her work did not go unnoticed. In 2012, Laurie Jacobs, who opened Mariposa in 2010, called Wells and said that she wanted to move on with other ventures in her life. She knew Wells was good at her job and would ensure Mariposa’s survival. Jacobs asked Wells if she wanted the store at no cost. “She literally paid it forward,” Wells recounted. “She wanted it to continue and knew that I knew what I was doing since I’ve been in retail my whole life.”


Fast forward six years, and Mariposa is now a fashion staple of downtown New Albany, where Wells and her staff see new customers every day. After working for others throughout her life, Wells has found her place as a store owner and ushered in an era of growth at the shop, which is in no small part due to her business vision and ardent commitment to customer service. “My whole goal is for people to find something really unique, try a new fashion and not spend a fortune on it,” she said. “One of the things I strive for is old world customer service. … Going into the mall, you may not get greeted or you can’t find what you’re looking for or can’t find a salesperson anywhere – we hear that a lot from our customers. And here, regardless of if they’re spending $9 or $400, we treat them all the same – like old friends – and help them find whatever special treat they’re looking for.”


Her one tip for first-time and frequent shoppers alike: Come often. “We get new items not only daily but hourly,” Wells said. “We schedule consignments by appointment that are set up every hour, sometimes every half hour, and our goal – the staff and myself – is that it has to be out on the floor within 15 minutes.”


With repeat visits, customers will undoubtedly soon develop a diverse, singular wardrobe representative of their own style. And that comes from the top down. Wells’s own style has morphed over time, but she’s proud to wear her fashion sense with pride. “My own style has evolved over the years,” she affirmed. “It used to be probably more preppy and classic, you could say, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the confidence to wear what I really, really love. I love vintage. My favorite piece is a 1950s housecoat that I wear as a dress. I just love wearing vintage pieces and mixing it up with current fashion or adding a little quirky touch to it.”


When customers walk into Mariposa, Wells utilizes this style confidence to encourage others to be open-minded and up for seeing pieces through a different lens – and that all starts with engaging with the shoppers. “You ask questions,” she said. “What is it that they like? And you try to get them to try something a little bit different or think of things in a different way.”


Mariposa is constantly stocking the shelves with new pieces. The best way to stay up to date is to follow the shop on Facebook, where photos of special pieces are frequent. For instance, Wells recalled, there was a recent time when she posted a dress online at 9:30 a.m. and not 20 minutes later, a customer, who’d taken an early lunch, bought the dress. If you’re seeking prom wear, keep an eye out January through March, and if your prom-goer finds her dress at Mariposa and lets the store snap a photo, you get 15 percent off the gown.


Regardless of what you’re looking for, however, you can be certain that at Mariposa you won’t just be able to explore a fabulous collection of fashions but you also will be treated as if Wells and her staff have known you all their lives.


And if you can only buy one thing, Wells said with certainty there is one item everyone should have in their wardrobe: “The best pair of shoes you can buy!”


Five Tips for Finding Your Signature Style

By Michelle Wells

  1. Figure out your body type.
  2. Find a celebrity who has your body type and whose clothing you like – not to copy them but to find the designer that makes clothing for your body type.
  3. Find your color palette.
  4. Wear what you LOVE.
  5. Invest in quality.



Building a goat stable this fall
was a family (and friends) affair.

FamFitter | December/January 2019


By Adam & Kristin Kleinert

It’s that time again. We feel compelled to close the year with a little reflection, and, this time, we decided to ask the family to give us some feedback. In an effort to keep it simple, we posed two questions to be answered by each member of our crew. We’re hoping to gain a little insight into what worked for us this year, and what we can do in the upcoming one to keep working toward our goal of becoming a fitter family. We encourage you to try something similar with your tribe; it’s fun to hear the different answers and may even be helpful in your own journeys.



In regard to food, fitness or lifestyle, what did we do this year that you liked or didn’t like?

What could we do next year?


Brahm, 2nd grade, age 8


I like going camping. You know I always want to go camping. I wish we could stay more and more days and go to more new places. Let’s take everyone.


Also, I like taking my lunch to school and not eating school lunch. Next year, I want to take my lunch to school every day and go camping all the time.



Molly, 5th grade, age 10

I love the goats! They are the best new thing we did this year and I can’t wait to show them at the 4H Fair. Now we should get some chickens. They go good with goats, right?


I vote next year we get chickens!



Eli, 8th grade, age 13

So this year I learned I need a schedule. I want to participate in all the sports and

activities I can, but I know I have to do my stuff at home (chores and homework) so

that I’m allowed to do the things I like. I didn’t love having to make a schedule at first,

but once I had one, it seemed like there was a ton of time in my day.


For 2019, I’m going to try to keep a good schedule and stick with it.

Building a goat stable this fall was a family (and friends) affair.

Building a goat stable this fall
was a family (and friends) affair.

Sydney, 10th grade, age 15

We cooked some really good meals with things from our little garden this year; especially with the basil, tomatoes and peppers. The homemade pizza we grilled outside on the fire, the lasagna, the caprese orzo salad – those are my favorite things we made.


Next year we should try to use as much as possible from the garden, and maybe add another box. Strawberries would be good.


Kristin, mom, 30-something

I feel like our focus on family is usually a strong suit for us, and that was no exception

in 2018. Though we are often super busy, overall we were able to strike some balance

this year between the stress of over-commitment and the hustle and bustle of daily

family life.


In 2019, as cliche as it sounds, I want to maintain a more consistent exercise schedule. It seems I begin to form a good routine, and then it goes by the wayside before becoming an actual lifestyle regimen. I know plenty of other busy moms who manage to fit in a workout almost daily, so I realize my excuses aren’t unique. I feel so much better, both mentally and physically, when I’m consistently active.


Adam, dad, older than Kristin

Risking redundancy, my thoughts are actually a mix of all the others. I would love to do

more camping, look into the possibility of adding more livestock, and I’d most definitely like to cook with more homegrown produce. However, I am excited to try and create more of a schedule than we currently use. No military-type boot camps and bed checks, and nothing that covers every minute of every day. It just seems we are always worried about what we could or should be doing.


My goal is to utilize a calendar that is efficient enough to allow us to actually enjoy our free time when we have it.