Thursday, January 18, 2018

Highlands Bowlers Prepare for Region

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Senior Hunter Kolb has helped the Highlands Bluebirds bowling team to another solid season.
It's been another good season for the Highlands Bluebirds bowling teams.

Following 7-0 wins over Lloyd Memorial at LaRu Lanes in Highland Heights one week ago, Highland faces Cooper on Thursday back at LaRu. Then the Region 5 Tournament takes place at SuperBowl Erlanger on Jan. 22 and 24. The only loss by either team was the girls game against Campbell County.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Good King: Arian Armstrong's Magical World

Arian Armstrong in Paris, France (photo: provided)


"I Wish I Could Cure Cancer. But I'm an Artist. So I Draw."

Fort Thomas resident Arian Armstrong is a visual artist - an illustrator, set designer, mom and visionary. Her experiences abroad, her strong Christian faith and the day to day moments she creates with her family inform her ongoing art project, The Good King.

Children (and adults!) sign up to join The Good King "tribe" (it's completely free) and are sent weekly secret coloring missions that spread goodness far and wide. Arian illustrates a new coloring sheet each week especially for a nominated individual, family or group experiencing illness or some kind of struggle. Each coloring sheet has a blank speech bubble where encouraging messages can be written. After Arian receives photos of participants holding up their finished coloring sheets she has the photos printed in a hardbound book and gives to the recipient.

The Good King Mission #33 
The Good King project acknowledges the suffering of an individual or group and connects them in a safe way to a community of support that is primarily, though not exclusively, children. Children actively participate in bringing something positive into the world. They offer their time and abilities on a weekly basis - over time the habit of love and encouragement is established.

Arian was recently awarded a Globe Grant through The People's Liberty. In March 2018 she will transform a storefront in Findlay Market into a "magical space where kids can come color The Good King missions in person."

Fort Thomas Matters spoke with Arian about The Good King recently at Fort Thomas Coffee - her favorite local spot and where she had her first solo art show.


Fort Thomas Matters (FTM): How did The Good King come about? How has it evolved since you started?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fort Thomas Jewelers: Master Jewelers, Superb Service & World Class Diamonds

Fort Thomas Jewelers Owners Vince & Renai Keairns on buying trip in Antwerp

Our most valuable jewelry - rings, pendants, watches and medals are often conduits of memory and beautiful treasures that embody some of our most cherished moments. With loving, hopeful hearts we give and receive small objects made with rare and precious materials which ultimately outlive us and carry something of ourselves into the next generation. Stone, metal and glass transformed in the deft hands of a Master Jeweler carry myriad promises - love, hope, friendship, strength, devotion and time.  

14k white gold vintage inspired mounting with GIA certified 1.09 carat diamond center with hand engraving on shank


For over 20 years Fort Thomas Jewelers has built a solid reputation as a trusted hometown business. They are the area's only IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization) certified retailer and have been entrusted to design, engrave, appraise and repair jewelry from residents of Fort Thomas, Highland Heights and the surrounding communities and cities. Owners Vince and Renai Keairns and the entire staff at Fort Thomas Jewelers are passionate about jewelry and scrupulous in their product selection and services. They offer the finest diamonds (ethically sourced) and gemstones, engraving services and perform on-site repairs. 

Originally located in Fort Thomas they have been at their new location for over five years fitted with state of the art technology in Highland Heights. Fort Thomas Jewelers is located at 2780 Alexandria Way, Highland Heights, KY in the Highland Pointe Plaza near Northern Kentucky University.  

Custom traditional style 14k white gold and 1.20 ct center

From FTJ's Facebook: Cast in 14k white gold and set in prong settings are, in order: a 1 carat round, 2.21 carat pear, 2 carat round followed by anouther 1 carat round diamond! Yeah! We added a fitted diamond channel band just to make sure this guy had the maximum amount of sparkle allowed on a finger and boom! 7.21 carat total weight and one for the records! 


  • Family Owned & Operated 
  • Repairs While You Wait
  • Jewelers by Trade with Over 20 Years of Service
  • Hand Selected Diamonds
  • On-Site Engraving
  • On-Site Create Bar
  • Engagement Ring Specialists
  • Master Setters
  • Master Goldsmiths
  • Master Finishers
  • Certified IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization)
  • Conflict Free Diamonds 
  • GIA Certified (Gemology Institute of America)
  • GIA Gemologist on site
  • Affordable Pricing
  • Appraisals

Repairs While You Wait - Most of us are unwilling and uncomfortable leaving our most valuable, irreplaceable and sentimental possessions in unknown hands. Fort Thomas Jewelers offers a "repairs while you wait" service. Because there are always specialists on site your jewelry doesn't have to leave your sight, much less the building. 

Master Jewelers - Collectively, the staff has over 100 years of expertise in jewelry design, setting, repairs, gem grading and finishing. There is always a GIA (Gemology Institute of America) Certified Gemologist on site. 

On-Site Create Bar - Fort Thomas Jewelers is an innovative, state of the art facility staffed by industry professionals that includes an on-site Create Bar where customers can be fully involved in the design process. 

Create Bar at Fort Thomas Jewelers

From Fort Thomas Jewelers website: 

How it works: You tell us what you had in mind, and we'll create a 3-D photo-realistic version. We'll tweak and play until it's perfect, and then our expert craftsmen will get to work. Come back in a few days and pick up your custom, one-of-a-kind ring. The rest is up to you! Mix and match from each category to build the ring that's exactly what you want. Or sketch out an idea and we'll turn it into the real thing! Stop into our store for a no commitment trial demo and more details!

See how it works: Create Bar Demo Video

  • All new inventory - after holiday restock! 
  • Bring in your jewelry to have it cleaned and checked - FREE
  • Check out the on-site Create Bar
  • Birthstone: Garnet

January is the time for new inventory at Fort Thomas Jewelers. Browse new items even if you're not ready to buy. While you're there get your rings and jewelry cleaned and checked - sweaters and gloves can wreak havoc on jewelry. Have your precious items cleaned and checked every six months to keep them in tip-top shape - it's FREE!

  • Valentine's Day inventory priced to sell
  • 24k gold dipped roses $99
  • Diamond engagement ring specials with interest free financing options!
  • Birthstone: Amethyst

All new inventory will be priced to sell just in time for Valentine's Day. From 24k gold dipped roses (only $99) to diamond engagement ring specials (including interest free financing options).

24k Gold Dipped Rose

  • Getting ready for bi-annual trip to the diamond cutting capital of the world: Antwerp, Belgium!
  • Pre-sales for Antwerp diamonds
  • Birthstone: Aquamarine

  • Bi-annual trip to the diamond cutting capital of the world: Antwerp, Belgium!
  • Once in a lifetime chance to get first picks on incredible diamond selection 
  • Birthstone: Diamond

In April, owners Vince and Renai Keairns will be making their bi-annual trip to the diamond cutting capital of the world: Antwerp, Belgium. No budget is too small to preorder your very own "handpicked" diamond. Call or stop in to discuss this amazing opportunity.

Diamond from pervious Antwerp trip

From round, brilliant cuts to oval and pear shapes the trip is an opportunity to hand select diamonds that have never been seen before. Official leave date to be determined, pre-sales to begin in March. If you're planning a spring engagement an Antwerp diamond could be your best bet!

For updates follow Fort Thomas Jewelers on Facebook 
Address: 2780 Alexandria Way, Highland Heights, KY 
Phone: (859) 442-0506

More Than a Cleaning Service: American Maid of Fort Thomas

Nora Schomaker and her family at Christmas


In June of 2016 Nora Schomaker turned one of life's challenges into the perfect opportunity. As a mortgage underwriter of 15 years she'd experienced the volatility of the housing market and knew it was time to change directions when the bank she was working for closed.

Based on experiences with both large and small cleaning services Nora was continually met with issues of follow through and availability. After researching cleaning services and not being able to find one that met her expectations she decided to start her own company that was reliable, thorough, worth the money and ultimately delivered on its promises. Nora, encouraged by her husband and children, took her severance and expertise and started her own business venture. American Maid of Fort Thomas was born.

Nora's husband Joe Schomaker is a long time resident of Fort Thomas and it wasn't long after moving here that she fell in love with the cozy hometown atmosphere and believes the success of her business is in part owed to the excellent reviews and word of mouth recommendations from her Fort Thomas clients. Reflecting on the past six months, Nora said: "American Maid has grown more than I could have imagined". 

American Maid of Fort Thomas has a list of glowing five star reviews on their Facebook page including this one by resident and Mint Yoga Studio Director, Nicole Carter-Schilling:

These ladies are the real deal! I'm in awe of how clean my house is right now. They went above and beyond my expectations. It's just what I needed, someone to come clean and anticipate my needs, beyond what I thought I needed. Thank you!


As temperatures grew colder earlier this winter Schomaker was inspired by a story she saw on Facebook about someone who knitted scarves and made them available to those who needed them. Wanting to give back in her own way she took the idea and started a scarf collection drive. 

Scarf drive in Washington Park (photo: provided)

Her clients were generous in their donations and soon she had over 100 scarves that she and her daughter handed out to the homeless at Washington Park. Nora called the whole experience extremely heartwarming and plans on doing something on a larger scale next year and perhaps more often. 
This is an advertisement. 


In addition to cleaning services, American Maid has recently added handyman services - Handyman of Fort Thomas. Nora's son Travis Meyer and husband, Joe tackle "honey-do" jobs including all types of painting, hanging doors, ceiling fans and mounting televisions. Travis has been working on restoration projects for the past five years and has a background in painting.

Nora and her daughter Sara Dean run a thriving cleaning service based in Fort Thomas whose mission is to improve their client's quality of life. Less time cleaning means more time doing what you love - being with family, enjoying hobbies or just relaxing. Nora believes no two houses are the same and each cleaning addresses the unique needs of her clients. She charges by the job and offers a variety of services beyond cleaning.

Visit American Maid of Fort Thomas' Facebook page
Call: (859)568-2100

Woodfill Elementary Students Inspired by New Science Program

Woodfill students present on their new Inspire Science curriculum.
--> Do you know what is the best mix of carbon dioxide, water and light for plants to grow? Or what processes information we take in using our senses — our brain, our nervous system or our senses themselves?

Students at Fort Thomas elementary schools are finding answers to these questions and more using a new interactive science curriculum, aptly named Inspire Science. The new program has excited students and teachers alike.

Students from Samuel Woodfill Elementary shared what they’ve learned and demonstrated how the program works at the January meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent School Board.

They presented a video that showed some of the hands-on experiments and experiences they’ve been having in class.

How Inspire Science works

Fifth-grader Sophie U. explained how the program works: "We use the five 'Es' to learn about our science content. The five Es are engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. Each lesson starts with something that gets us to engage in the learning target for the lesson, then we get to explore with an investigation or with a simulation on the iPad."

After the hands-on portion of the lesson, the students explain what they’ve learned using a series of critical questions, she explained.

Fourth grader Lily presented the video showing some of the things classes have done with the program this year. She said she liked a recent lesson in which students explored ways to separate out elements in a mixture. The students started with a mix of iron filings, sand. salt and water and used magnets and other methods to separate each item.

Hands-on and engaging

Intermediate science teachers Kelly Smith and John Gesenhues chose Inspire Science by McGraw Hill Education after intense exploration last year.

"Each lesson has an engage portion, a hands-on activity … and incorporates a simulation, math or graphing exercise to go along with it," explained Gesenhues.

The teachers also liked the convenience of all-inclusive modules and supporting materials.

"It’s great. My favorite part is that all the materials come with the program. Makes it so easy to do these lessons. No more running to Krogers to get the salt, the sand, figure out where to get sodium chloride. It’s all in the tub…And there are lots of hands-on activities," said Smith.

The program also makes use of computer simulation when it is not possible to do an experiment in the time or space available. Lily demonstrated an interactive exploration of how light, water and carbon dioxide could affect the growth of a plant. She tried different scenarios using the simulator to see how each amount affected a plant.

After the simulation or hands-on activity, students are asked questions about what worked, what didn’t and why, she explained. They are also given scenarios with possible answers and are required to pick the correct answer and explain the science behind their choice.

Woodfill Principal Keith Faust gave the teachers much credit for their careful work in choosing the program. "Last year they spent almost the whole year investigating different textbook companies, different programs. And we sat together in this room and decided this would be the best one for our students…so far very pleased with the results of it."

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fort Thomas Independent Schools District Named Best in the State

Fort Thomas Independent Schools have been named the best school district in Kentucky for 2018, according to

According to the site, the ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings, and more. A full explanation of the calculation is listed below.

With over 3,000 students and five schools, the district has long been known as an academic leader throughout the state but that's not stopping district administrators who want their students to be known as global leaders.

In fact, they have adopted a hashtag for the school year that personifies that goal: #FTISGlobalLeaders. 

Niche gave Fort Thomas Independent Schools an A+ for "Academics", an A+ for "Teachers" and an A for "Health & Safety".

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jeff Kidwell, Former Campbell County Sheriff and Republican Chair, Dies at 53

Former Campbell County Sheriff and Campbell Country Republican Party Chairman, Jeff Kidwell, died Friday of a heart attack.

He was 53.

Kidwell became the county’s first Republican sheriff in at least 40 years when he won the November 2012 special election to replace John Dunn, who retired after 26 years in office.

In 1993, he opened Star Computers in the Newport Shopping Plaza and first ran for office a year later for Campbell County Constable District 3.

During Kidwell's tenure as Chairman, county republicans saw unprecedented growth. In 2008, when he was elected as Chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, county republicans lagged democrats in registration by over 3,000 voters. By 2014, republicans outnumbered democrats by 1,000 voters for the first time in Campbell County history. Republicans now outnumber democrats by nearly 4,000 in Campbell County.

A reorganization of the county party saw Kidwell's nine-year run as Chairman end in 2017. He was succeeded by Chairwoman, Sarah Cameron, who helped Kidwell organize the Presidential Caucus in March of 2016.

RELATED: Campbell County Reorganization To Shape County for Next Four Years 

"I am terribly saddened to hear of Jeff’s passing," said Cameron. "It is an unfortunate reminder of how fleeting life can be.  This time two years ago, Jeff was planning the Campbell County Presidential Caucus.  He spent many hours volunteering for the party.  We express our sincerest condolences to his family."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Highlands Dance Teams Perfect Routines

Bluebird Varsity, JV Dance Teams Perform Well at KHSAA State

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, The Highlands Varsity Dance Team performs a routine at a recent basketball game.
The Highlands Dance Teams put on nice performances at football and basketball games with a great combination of moves.

But what people may not realize is how much time the team puts into the routines. It starts with summer conditioning and continues with two three-hour practices per week.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

WATCH: Mike Mitchell's Viral Rant and Bold Prediction

Former Highlands alum and Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Mitchell, made some waves with his statement to reporters about what he thought his team's chances were in this weekend's playoff matchup with the New England Patriots:
"We're going to play [the Patriots] again. We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. ...  We're gonna win."
If you don't know Mitchell from his Bluebird playing days, he isn't known to shy away from controversy. He unleashed a rant in a month ago that has been seen 3.4 million times. In it, he talked about how:

1) Football is soft
2) It's Andy Dalton's fault
3) Matt Hasselback is a jerk
4) No one likes Roger Goodell

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Pittsburgh must first get past the Jacksonville Jaguars, as it will host the Jags on Sunday in the AFC Divisional Round.

Johnson Elementary to Host Construction Project Town Hall for New School

Johnson Elementary School is hosting a construction project town hall on Sunday, January 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium and inviting legislators, parents, teachers and city stakeholders to discuss the progress of the project.

District stakeholders have been diligently attempting to secure funding for a new Johnson Elementary School, which is one of the most obsolete facilities in the Commonwealth. Senator Wil Schroder, Representative Joe Fischer and representatives from the district and Fort Thomas Education Foundation will provide an update on efforts to get funding, share information about what a new school would look like and answer questions.

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“We are doing everything we can to obtain funding for Johnson Elementary,” said Superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser. “We are in one of the most antiquated facilities in the Commonwealth and still our students and staff continue to demonstrate excellence. We are getting creative and talking with decision-makers daily, to make this a reality for these students. They deserve everything we’ve got.”

Johnson Elementary Principal, Ashley Dikeos, said that she is happy excited for the chance to engage the community in the discussion.

“I hope to the town hall allows us to accomplish clarity and to build excitement for the possibility of a new Johnson school for our students,” she said.  “I’m glad the opportunity has arrived for us to share the steps that have been taken regarding this project, as well as allow for the chance to have any questions answered.”

For Johnson, the challenges are large. Chief among the concerns with the building are that the school just isn’t big enough, modern enough and annual repair costs are exorbitant.

The enrollment currently sits at 459 students, with a capacity of 400. There are three unattached buildings, built in 1922, the 1950’s and the 1970’s, which make it necessary for whole classes to move about buildings during the school day.  The annual repair cost of existing structures to mitigate safety and security risk is two times the annual state average.

Currently there are shovel-ready plans into which the district has invested heavily, however even with the district maximizing their bonding capacity, allocating a large portion from the general fund and stakeholder contributions, there is a $16 million funding gap.

Simply, Fort Thomas Independent Schools has no alternative funding sources for this project.

Film Shooting on Woodside Place in Fort Thomas Begins

Most films feature both location and studio shoots, and in recent years the tristate area has attracted a number of major feature films. Yesterday, film crews working on “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a biopic about serial killer Ted Bundy told from the viewpoint of his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Kloepfer, took over Woodside Place, in Fort Thomas.

Zac Efron will be playing Bundy, and Lily Collins will be playing Kloepfer.

So how did Hollywood find Woodside Place?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Newport Catholic Hires Stephen Lickert As New Head Football Coach

Newport Central Catholic High School named Stephen Lickert as its new head football coach.

Lickert has been the head coach at Campbell County High Schools since 2011.

Coach Lickert will fill the vacant position left by Dan Wagner who announced his decision in December to step down.  Wagner, a 1978 graduate of Newport Catholic began his coaching career at Newport Catholic in 1980 and was the Head Coach since 2013.

Lickert graduated from Highlands High School in 1997, where he played football and was a member of the 1996 KHSAA State Championship Team and the 1995 KHSAA State Finalist Team.  

Lickert graduated from Georgetown College in 2001 where he excelled in football and was a member of the 2000 NAIA National Championship Team and 1999 NAIA National Finalist Team.  

Celebrating Two Years at Orangetheory Fitness Newport

Chase & Stephanie Whitehead, owners of Orangetheory Fitness Newport (photo provided)


Orangetheory Fitness in Newport celebrated their two year anniversary on January 7th. Owners Stephanie and Chase Whitehead have watched their business grow and become an integral part of our community. We asked Stephanie and Chase to share their thoughts on the past two years.

FTM: How has OTF grown, changed and become part of the community?
Over the past two years Orangetheory has grown immensely both on the local and global scale. The Newport studio was the first location in the area to open in January 2015. There are now five studios in the Northern KY/Cincinnati Area, with two more on the way. Globally, OTF has expanded to over 700 locations in the United states and have planned locations in 17 other countries. 
Locally, we have been able to give back to charities and organizations around us. In November, we donated over 700 food items to the Campbell County Neighborhood Center, and in December we adopted a local family for Christmas. We enjoying being involved and giving back to the community. 
FTM: Reflections on the past two years?
We are constantly amazed by our members and continuously grateful that they choose to workout with us in Newport. Their commitment and dedication to working towards a more healthy and active lifestyle is admirable. We now have over 700 members in Newport and over 100 have been with us since we opened our doors! We have a wonderful team of fitness professionals and associates working together to provide an unforgettable experience.
FTM: What's in OTF's future?
As a leader in the fitness industry Orangetheory is constantly improving and you can expect increased use of technology in the workout from a state of the art heart rate monitoring system, to top end fitness equipment, and a fitness program that constantly delivers results. 
At our Newport location we have a big year planned with many studio events and collaborations. We will be opening our third location, Orangetheory Fitness Florence, in late 2018/early 2019. 

What makes Orangetheory's fitness program and philosophy different is the integration of group accountability and the structure it provides both physically and mentally. We are more likely to stick with a workout - and get results - if we feel connected to a community of people with like-minded goals. Enthusiastic gym trainers are always there to work with you on modifications and to help you find your most effective workout. 

What to expect at OTF
  • 60 minute class
  • High intensity
  • Burn 500-1000 calories
  • Three blocks of cardio and strength training
  • Group workout
  • Trainer led

The group setting also provides a baseline pace so you can push yourself and find your preferred level of intensity. Each 60 minute interval workout is broken into three blocks of cardio and strength training. Participants move between rowing machines, treadmills and weight training tools. Participants burn an average of 500-1000 calories per workout!

Coach Ellen & Coach Bryan of Orangetheory Newport


Put your New Year's resolution to the test and join Orangetheory! Take the first step toward a healthier, happier you and register for the upcoming 8-week Transformation Challenge (TC) which starts on January 29 and runs through March 25th.

Each year since Orangetheory Newport has opened its doors they have run a popular weight loss challenge that has ended with a grand prize to the member who showed the greatest overall improvement and weight loss. Fort Thomas residents John Klingenberg and Shawn Green won the first two years respectively. This year they expanded the program to include a top male and female winner. 

Orangetheory Newport Transformation Challenge

A prize of $500 will go to top male and female participants. Winners will be determined by the highest percentage of weight loss. The TC is designed to get everyone engaged and motivated to reach fitness goals with a bit of friendly competition and common ground. Participants will have access to Orangetheory's dedicated trainers and resources.

Registration begins January 10th for members with an entry fee of only $25. Refer a friend and have your registration fee waived. Not sure if it's a good fit? First class free for first timers!

8-Week Transformation Challenge Details

  • Challenge dates: January 29 - March 5
  • $500 prize to top male & female participants
  • $25 registration fee plus membership
  • Register at Orangetheory Newport location
  • Take your first class FREE

Orangetheory Fitness Newport (photo: OTF Newport)

Membership & Pricing - First Class FREE!

No long term contracts necessary! Orangetheory offers several different levels of gym memberships including pay-as-you-go. First class is FREE for first timers. Call Orangetheory in Newport at (859) 838-4555 or check out their website and Facebook page to learn more.

Address: 185 Pavilion Pkwy Newport, Kentucky 41071
Phone: (859) 838-4555
Orangetheory Fitness Newport Facebook page


Program Offers Students at Highlands High-Skill Career Path

Students at Highlands High School have an opportunity to gain high-demand skills and a college degree, tuition free, through a unique program designed by and for regional manufacturers to address what has become known as the "skills gap."

Nearly three and one-half million manufacturing jobs are expected to be created in the U.S. over the next decade, yet two million of those jobs may go unfilled, according to The Manufacturing Institute, a Washington D.C. research firm.

Older, more experienced workers are leaving the workforce at a time when new manufacturing processes require workers with higher technical skills and training. Add to the mix outdated but persistent misconceptions about manufacturing as a career path, and there’s a real problem — not just for job seekers but also for employers and for officials eager to attract businesses to their state.

Find Out What the "NKY Picnic Table Project" Is

The Public Arts Network of Northern Kentucky has announced its new community initiative – The NKY Picnic Table Project -- a low-cost, high-impact project that will bring the region’s communities together with art and food.

Here’s how it works: Any person, family, or group -- such as a business, school, church, neighborhood, city, or club -- can purchase a custom-built picnic able from the Network for $500. After all purchases are made, the picnic tables will be delivered to a local warehouse, where the real fun will start.

Hassman and Doyle Lawfirm. 859-655-4430. This is an advertisement.
Over two weekends in April, the individuals or groups that purchased the tables will visit the warehouse to decorate their tables any way their hearts desire. The Network will supply refreshments, paint, and other art supplies at the warehouse.

“The picnic table is a timeless symbol of sharing and togetherness,” said Chris Manning, principal and landscape architect for Human Nature, Inc. and a member of the Public Arts Network. “This project allows individuals and organizations to join other Northern Kentuckians to gather together, show our pride, and decorate their tables to create and celebrate the unique mosaic that is our region.”

Once the table artwork is finished, all the tables will be delivered to the Purple People Bridge on Saturday, June 16, for a community picnic over the Ohio River. After the picnic, the tables will be transported to their final homes throughout the Northern Kentucky region, where they will provide unique art and new opportunities for community picnics throughout the year.

“As the convening member of the Public Arts Network, we are excited to be spearheading this project,” said Jill Morenz, director of Community Initiatives and Communications for The Catalytic Fund. “The Purple People Bridge will be the perfect setting for this huge picnic to celebrate our Northern Kentucky communities and the individuals who live and work in them.”

Fort Thomas Residents To Open New "Gourmet" Concept in Midway Business District

They were once two of the most unsightly and problematic properties in the city.

1011 and 1013 S. Fort Thomas Avenue were run-down, vacant and often the preferred home for squatters and crime. Now a with another signed lease and a build-out imminent on the second space, property developers Kyle Stevie and Chris Reid's vision for the property is almost complete.

They bought the two buildings in December of 2016.

RELATED: Midway Properties Sold to Fort Thomas Developers 
RELATED: Renovations are Underway at Midway Properties, See Exclusive "Before" Pictures

Grassroots & Vine, the newest retailer to sign a lease in the Midway business district, is a gourmet market and tasting room concept owned by residents Chuck and Barb Thomas.

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Are you all in? Sign up for the Barre3 Ft. Thomas "All-In" Challenge. 

Thomas is also the owner of Fort Thomas Central, a gift shop located at 3 N. Fort Thomas Avenue.

Chuck and Barb Thomas with their two girls. Provided.
Previously, Fort Thomas Matters reported that 1013 S. Fort Thomas Avenue has a signed lease for Fort Thomas Ice Cream, owned by residents, Jason and Angela Williams, which is right next door.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Couple to Open Fort Thomas Ice Cream 

The Thomas' said that they have been honing in on this business model such as this for about ten years.

"We started by hiring a consultant years ago, the 'Deli-Llama', to learn the basics of the deli and gourmet market business and have also visited many similar establishments along the way," said Barb Thomas.  "Moving to and living in Fort Thomas has encouraged us to establish a business model that will provide the community with specialty and locally-sourced food items."

Additionally they said they envision Grassroots & Vine as being a destination for small batch wines, craft beer and a nice selection of Kentucky bourbon.

"Need a special occasion or corporate gift?  Customers will be able to combine everything into a gourmet gift basket tied with a bow and on their way they will go," said Thomas. "Maybe you’re having a date night or girls night out?  Folks can meet for drinks and small bites while enjoying live music.  The patio will be open during warmer months for everyone to enjoy. The space will also be available for small events and private parties."

Thomas opened Fort Thomas Central in 2013 and believes her experience there will help her make Grassroots and Vine another success.

"I  have enjoyed creating friendships and integrating within the community at Fort Thomas Central.  We have hosted community events, fundraisers, food trucks, live music and in-shop events for everyone to enjoy," she said. "We have created a great working relationship with the community, school system and the City.  These relationships will help us as we start this new venture."

Grassroots & Vine will offer gifts and gourmet gift baskets but will focus on specialty food items, desserts and wine, craft beer and bourbon.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fort Thomas Attorney Announces Candidacy for Campbell Circuit Court Judge

A Fort Thomas attorney has announced that he intends to file to run for the Campbell County Circuit Court judicial previously held by longtime judge, Fred A. Stine, who retired in August.

RELATED: Judge Fred A. Stine Set to Retire 

Derek R. Durbin has formally announced his candidacy for the judicial seat of Campbell County Circuit Court, Division Two. Durbin is a long-time resident of Campbell County and has practiced as an attorney for 15 years. The majority of that practice has been focused on matters in Campbell County.

“I could not be more excited to announce my candidacy for this very important position. My experience, temperament, energy, and work ethic make me the ideal candidate to serve the citizens of Campbell County as a circuit court judge.” 

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In October of 2017, Governor Matt Bevin appointed Daniel J. Zalla to finish out Stine's term which ends in December 2018.

If more than two candidates file to run for the seat, a primary race will take place before the general election to follow in November 2018.

Buckling on Grand Avenue Should Subside as Weather Improves

Buckling on Grand Avenue looks bad, but it should ease back as temperatures rise.

Fort Thomas residents have noticed buckling in most of Grand Avenue this week, especially the section south of Highland Avenue.

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Weather conditions, especially wet weather followed by the recent extreme cold temperatures, caused freezing and lifting in the joints of the road slabs but it is expected to ease back down as the temperatures rise.

In Other Words: No Resolutions, Just a Seven Year “Truth” to Fill in Those Missing Pieces

So I have lots of “theories.” Lots. Like migrating rocks. They are like turtles except a lot slower. We see those rocks slide down the hills along the highways and creep their way to the edge of the road. Why? To get to the other side, of course. Duh.

Things often remain invisible to us until something something strikes a particular note and the door opens and then we see them - like an image or a word or a song - everywhere.  But then they flood our awareness and then twist and turn in unexpected ways that challenge our understanding of people or the world around us. And what I love most is our explanations of what we don’t understand. Just ask a child about Santa. I love how we fill the holes in our understanding.

My first exposure to a pet crackpot theory was an acquaintance who washed his hands after he did any kind of electrical work. I saw him wash his hands after changing a light bulb. As he scrubbed he said, “I don’t want all of ‘that’ on my skin. Don’t know what it will do.” Other than that, he was fairly normal. Really. Well, he had an pretty impressive handlebar mustache, I must admit.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Highland Country Club: Friendly, Affordable and Utterly Charming


Highland Country Club in spring (photo: HCC)


A low white fence hems a gentle boundary along Blossom Lane, the short road that cuts a path through Highland Country Club's golf course. Trees pepper small hardy hills and a spectrum of green foliage nestle and merge into acres of woodland. The 18-hole green is an expanse of bucolic terrain where wildlife is abundant and one can find solace from the hustle and bustle of everyday demands.

View of the green at Highland Country Club (photo: Golf Advisor)

In 1949, longtime member Vince Stegman wrote in a letter:

"The moment that you see the rose bushes, the ash trees, and the pear orchard that frame the approach to the club you get a deep comfort that here is a spot where nature is doing her best to release you from the world of nervous intensity"

Indeed, almost 70 years later, that sentiment holds true and Highland Country Club continues to draw members for its natural beauty, impeccably maintained course, swimming pool, friendly atmosphere and accommodating staff.

For over 100 years, greenskeepers, professional and casual golfers, club managers and volunteers have created new traditions and honored those that have been handed down. A Scottish flag flies below an American flag as a nod to the Club's heritage and history.

Highland Country Club veranda and lawn from the west (photo: HCC)

Highland Country Club was officially established in 1915 by a handful of individuals passionate about bringing golf to the area. The land upon which the green has been lovingly and carefully tended was once thick with pear, cherry and apple trees. The last of the orchard trees were alive as recently as 2006 nestled among banks of summer coneflowers, milkweed and mallow.


Changing seasons on the 18-hole course at Highland Country Club (photo: Golf Advisor)

Highland Country Club has always been known for its pastoral beauty - a characteristic that sets it apart from other local courses. The presence of nesting boxes, bird feeders and local fauna are a testament to the club's commitment to finding a balance with it's natural surroundings.

View from the green at Highland Country Club (photo: HCC)

The grounds were certified as a wildlife sanctuary by Audubon International several years ago which meant no pollution ran into the groundwater, no chemicals passed into the watershed and there were ample no mow zones for the local wildlife. Although no longer certified, the greenskeepers are committed to maintaining the spirit of the certification.


Main dining hall at Highland Country Club (photo: HCC)

In winter, the main dining hall is cozy and suffused with natural light streaming in from the many windows whose only interruption is a grand fireplace. The veranda is open during warmer months and guests can dine while being surrounded by the idyllic grounds.

Veranda and patio dining (photo: HCC)

Lunches and dinners are prepared by a star culinary team whose head is Chef Chris Smithson. Chef Smithson, formerly of Kenwood Country Club, serves up daily delights such as hand-cut steaks, spicy Cincinnati-meets-Texas chili, chicken and artichoke panini and duck breast on Caesar salad with homemade croutons. And the creme brûlée, well, c’est délicieux!


Each year young members are invited to holiday parties and recently enjoyed the annual Children's Christmas Party which featured the Frisch Marionettes, crafting and lots of holiday treats. General Manager of the Club, Dan Schlarman described the whole event as magical.

Weddings, benefits, banquets and numerous golf tournaments are among the many social events held at the Club throughout the year. 

Each June the Club hosts the Men's Highlander Golf Tournament followed by the Women's Highlander in July. The Director's Cup is held each August and opens the game up to a member and one guest. 

Table setting for the 2017 Ladies Highlander tournament (photo: HCC)

Most country clubs offer activities other than golf and Highland Country Club has offered much over the last century including bowling on the lawn, tennis, swimming and a host of public dances. 

Although public dances, lawn games and the original tennis courts have gone the way of history, bowlers can still gather for a few rounds and a stiff drink in the private four lane bowling alley on the second floor of the club. A men's bowling league meets each year from November to March and bowl while enjoying food and drinks from the bar - not a bad way to spend the cold winter months! Hosting a children's birthday party at the bowling hall is always a great time too.

Young golfers at a recent junior clinic at Highland Country Club (photo: HCC)

In addition to the annual egg hunt on the lawn at Easter Brunch and an array of social events for young families throughout the year there are educational opportunities including several junior clinics during which attendees learn from experienced golfers through a hands-on approach. It's a great opportunity to build self-confidence while connecting with peers and pros.


Highland Country Club boasts an Olympic sized swimming pool which hosts a summer swim league each year. The league is comprised of children ages 5-17 and has consistently performed well - they were champions for 10 years running! 

Highland Country Club swimming pool (photo: HCC)

Competitions are held at the 14 local country clubs that comprise the Greater Cincinnati Country Club League. Swim meets are fun, relaxed and smoothly run by a dedicated group of parent volunteers. It's a great way to connect with others with shared interests and spend those long summer days.

Highland Country Club pool crew (photo: HCC)


Recently the Club added a July through August pool only membership which has been wildly popular. Summer only members are welcome to join the swim league and participate in all the city-wide meets. 

To keep the pool from getting overcrowded the Club caps the number of memberships so there is often a waiting list. Even better, skip the waiting list and become a member. The upfront cost can be applied to a new membership if families decide to join and enjoy the Club all year long! 

Swim time at Highland Country Club (photo: HCC)


Now in the infancy of its second century, Highland Country Club has survived fires, financial difficulties, Prohibition, the Great Depression and continues to thrive, grow and enrich the lives of its members. Known as the friendliest club in the greater Cincinnati area, it is also one of the most affordable.  Membership dues will be increasing spring of 2018 so now is the time to join!

Veranda at Highland Country Club (photo: HCC)

Perhaps there is no better way to end than to recall longtime member Vince Stegman's passionate words about a place he so dearly loved.
"There is a magnificent view of the heart of Cincinnati although it is some five miles away... Highland was chosen because of its hills and ravines. These mean not only natural beauty, but the opportunity for a fine golf course. The men who chose this area for a golf course loved the ancient and royal game of golf. Next they figured ways and means for creating a club for golf".

For more information and current membership dues and fees visit Highland Country Club's website or contact general manager Dan Schlarman with questions. 

Phone: (859) 441 - 8810