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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Highlands Gives Valiant Effort in Playoff Loss at Covington Catholic

Colonels Score 28 Straight to Pull Away in Second Half

Twitter Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds football team lost 38-21 at Covington Catholic in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs Friday.

Editor Note: There will be no video highlights for this game.

The scoreless skid at Wooten Field stopped Friday. But unfortunately for the Highlands Bluebirds football team (5-6 overall), the losing streak against the defending Class 5A state champion Covington Catholic Colonels (9-1) did not.

Highlands took its first lead over the Colonels in two years at 14-10 with 7:26 left in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Charlie Noon scored from 14 yards out and sophomore kicker Davis Burleigh booted the second of three extra-point attempts.

"That was definitely a good feeling,"
said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "We worked hard to put ourselves in that position. It was a great play by Charlie on fourth down."

But Covington Catholic responded scoring the game's next 28 points behind the legs of three-year senior starting quarterback Caleb Jacob on the way to a 38-21 victory in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Jacob scored all five CovCath touchdowns rushing for 95 yards on 16 carries for an average of just under six yards per carry. Junior running back Brayden Collins rushed for 80 yards on 10 carries averaging eight yards per touch for CovCath.

Located at 18 N. Fort Thomas Avenue. Gift cards available! Shop local!

"There was no wearing down. (CovCath) found a groove offensively,"
Weinrich said. "We could never win field position. Their kickoff team did a good job when they did score putting it down in the end zone, putting us on the 20 and made it difficult to drive the field every time."

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Federal Judge: Gov. Beshear cannot stop in-person classes at private religious schools

Newport Central Catholic, FTM file. 

A federal judge has struck down a portion of Governor Andy Beshear's executive order requiring private as well as public schools to halt in-person classes until December 7 for elementary schools and January 4 for middle and high schools. 

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said in a 22-page order that he was granting a preliminary injunction to 17 private Christian schools that had filed a lawsuit against Beshear’s emergency restriction. He said his order would apply statewide.

The order does still remain in place for public schools.

"There is ample scientific evidence that COVID-19 is exceptionally contagious," the judge wrote in his opinion. "But evidence that the risk of contagion is heightened in a religious setting any more than a secular setting, or in K-12 schools as opposed to preschools, universities or colleges is lacking.”

“If social distancing is good enough for offices, colleges, and universities within the Commonwealth, it is good enough for religious private K-12 schools that benefit from constitutional protection," Van Tatenhove wrote. "Ultimately, the First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.”

He went on to write that the Governor, nor Commissioner for Public Health, Dr. Steven Stack haven't made an adequate case to close in-person schools. 

“(They) have not adequately explained why K-12 schools must close” while preschools, universities and colleges remain open as long as certain precautions are taken."

Beshear’s order also seems to run counter to CDC recommendations, said the order, noting that CDC Director, Robert Redfield, recently said that school is one of the safest places for children.

"The truth is, for kids (Kindergarten) through 12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school," Redfield said. "And it’s really important that — following the data, making sure we don’t make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close."

A spokesperson for Governor Beshear said that an appeal has already been filed in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“We are disappointed but not surprised that Judge Van Tatenhove, for the second time, has refused to acknowledge the U.S. Supreme Court decision that found an action like this is both legal and constitutional,” said Crystal Staley, spokeswoman for Gov. Beshear. "Let’s be clear: lives are on the line and everyone must do their part to defeat the virus.”

Tatenhove was the same judge who ruled earlier this year that Beshear could not halt in-person services at houses of worship. The Kentucky Supreme Court earlier this month unanimously upheld the governor’s emergency orders.

Danville Christian Academy, a Boyle County school that serves 234 students in preschool through 12th grade, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed the lawsuit on November 20 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. 

They plan to open in-person instruction on Monday.

Locally, no private schools have announced their plans. 

Last week, Gov. Beshear issued the school-related executive order as well as  new restrictions that apply until mid-December for restaurants, bars, gyms, offices, indoor gatherings, weddings and funerals in response to a third wave of Covid-19 cases spreading across the Commonwealth. 

NKU opens season with thrilling one-point win over Ball State; NKU women lose in OT to UC


The Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team began the season in style by opening with a one-point victory over the Ball State Cardinals on Wednesday night in BB&T Arena. The Norse captured the 74-73 win thanks to major assistance from Adrian Nelson with only several seconds remaining as he nabbed his 19threbound of the night on an offensive board that eventually secured the victory.  


  • Nelson had a career-night with an impressive 19 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end of the court and nine on the defensive. His second-career double-double was rounded out by adding 10 points for the Norse off 4-for-8 (50 percent) shooting from the floor and 2-for-8 (25 percent) shooting from the charity stripe.  
  • Trevon Faulkner tallied a team-best 17 points on the night, going 6-for-11 (54.5 percent) from the field and 1-for-3 (33.3%) from three-point range. He added four boards in his 24 minutes of play.  
  • Marques Warrick contributed 14 points, all of which were counted in the first half. Warrick was one of three Norse, along with Bryson Langdon and Trey Robinson, to dish out four assists. 
  • Robinson and Adham Eleeda also reached double figures in scoring with 11 and 10, respectively. 


  • With 22 seconds remaining on the clock, Langdon received a pass at the left wing from Robinson and knocked down a vital three-pointer as the Norse reclaimed the lead in what would eventually mark the final score of the game.  


  • NKU opened up the 2020-21 season with a hot 7-0 start against Ball State. The Norse maintained the lead until the 10:33 mark in the first half, until the score was tied at 19 apiece.   
  • The Norse and the Cardinals doubled up on field goal percentage, both going 50 percent from the field. The two teams were not far apart from each other in attempts and makes as the home team went 16-of-32 and Ball State shot 15-of-30. 
  • NKU dominated time spent with the lead, only allowing Ball State to capture 47 seconds with the outright lead.    
  • Faulkner ended the first half with 13 points upon shooting 4-for-8 (50 percent) from the field and nabbing a solo three from beyond the arc. 


  • Despite the Cardinals taking a six-point lead late in the second half, the Norse rallied a victory thanks to key rebounding efforts. NKU outrebounded Ball State 25-24, with two offensive rebounds helping to secure the win in the final seconds of the game. 
  • The lead was also overcome by impressive shooting from deep range as both Eleeda and Langdon sank three-balls to tie up the game and take the lead, respectively.   
  • NKU bested Ball State in 3-point field goal percentage for the second half, with the Norse shooting 20.0 percent compared to the Vikings 16.7 percent performance.   


  • Nelson earns his second career double-double with 19 rebounds and 10 points, and his 10th career double-digit rebounding game. Nelson’s last career-high rebounding night and first career double-double both took place at UIC on January 10, 2020, where he snatched 15 rebounds and added 13 points. He ended his season last year with nine games in double-digits in the rebounding column. 
  • NKU went 4-2 last season in games decided by four or fewer points and the team went 10-1 last season when scoring between 70-79 points. The Norse add on to those statistics in the win column with this one-point, 74-73, dub over Ball State.  
  • This is the second-straight season opener with a freshman breakout performance. Warrick’s 14 points and four assists stack up against Langdon’s debut last season as he scored 20 points and picked up two assists against UC Clermont on November 5, 2019.   
  • NKU finished the game with a total of 43 rebounds obtained. The Norse averaged 36.6 rebounds per game last season. 


The Northern Kentucky women’s basketball team lost a close overtime game to Cincinnati in its season-opener, 67-73. NKU falls to 0-1 for the season, while the Bearcats start their season 1-0 on the year.  


  • Ally Niece led the Norse with 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting (50 percent). Niece also chipped in two assists in her 35 minutes of play.  
  • Grayson Rose dropped two three-pointers on the Bearcats to score 8 points, going 3-of-8 (38 percent) from the field.  
  • Kailey Coffey led the team with 8 rebounds, four of which were from the offensive glass.  
  • Ivy Turner contributed nine points and had a steal on the defensive end. 
  • In her NKU debut, Lindsey Duvall contributed 13 points behind 4-of-6 shooting from the floor and 5-of-6 at the charity stripe.  


  • Carissa Garcia notched the first points of the new season with a fast-break layup 30 seconds into the game.  
  • Niece and Emmy Souder put up four and three points, respectively, from there to go up 9-8.  
  • Turner finished off the close first-quarter with a layup, giving NKU an 11-8 lead.  
  • To kick off the second quarter, NKU went on a 9-0 run fueled primarily with six points by Turner.   
  • The Norse lead held steady from there after both sides traded buckets. NKU went into the break leading, 26-17, with 13 of their points coming off of Bearcat turnovers.  
  • NKU shot 36 percent in the first half through a 10-for-28 (36 percent) mark from the field.  


  • Cincinnati had scores on three-straight possessions to open the new half, but NKU kept the bearcats in check with a layup by Garcia and a jumper from Niece, followed by two more free throws by Garcia.  
  • The Bearcats trimmed the Norse lead from eight down to three with 6:45 left in the quarter. Fortunately for the Norse, they rebounded with a pair of layups and a free throw by Souder, bringing the NKU lead back to eight points with 4:50 to go in the third.  
  • Duvall ended the third quarter with a shot from down low, putting the Norse up 44-37 heading into the final ten-minutes.  
  • Cincinnati broke out to a 7-2 mini-run to kick off the fourth quarter. Duvall and Niece stopped the bleeding with three free throws and a made jump-shot, respectively.  
  • The Bearcats continued their creep and eventually tied things up at 51 at the final media timeout.  
  • Rose had a pair of clutch shots fall in the final minutes, but Cincinnati answered to tie the game up at the end of regulation. 
  • The Norse forced the Bearcats into 10 turnovers in the second half. 


  • The Bearcats stampeded through a 12-3 run to begin overtime, giving them the 68-59 edge with 1:56 left. NKU’s only points in that span came through a layup by Duvall and a free throw by Coffey.  
  • Niece and Duvall contributed another pair of buckets to make it a two-possession game with 1:04 to go in the period.  
  • The Norse brought it to a three-point game after makes by Turner and Duvall, but Cincinnati held on with an and-one bucket in the final seconds to win the game.  


  • The final half proved to be the most impactful, NKU scored 41 points in the third quarter, fourth quarter and overtime, while the Bearcats scored 56.  
  • Duvall’s 13 points is a new career high. Her last best was nine against Tennessee State on December 12, 2017, when she played for Louisville. 
  • The last time NKU had an overtime matchup was in 2018, where they had back-to-back overtime contests against UIC (Jan. 21, W, 61-53) and Wright State (Jan. 28, L, 68-63).  
  • NKU had 21 points off the bench, 42 of its 67 points in the paint and 16 points off of turnovers. 


The Norse travel to Akron for their second game of the season on Tuesday, Dec. 1.  

Highlands Hopes to Play Loose in Playoff Rematch at Covington Catholic

Bluebirds Searching for Ways Break Scoreless String Against Arch-Rivals

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands players Dominic Robinson (19), Charlie Noon (1), Charlie Moore (53), Adam Bowman (51), Chase Gordon (75) and Jake Arthur (71) wait on the play call Friday in the playoff win over Conner. The Highlands offensive line has been key to allowing skill position players such as Noon and Robinson do their thing in recent weeks.

Aside from the usual Beat the Colonels chants, the Highlands Bluebirds football team could add another rallying cry this week.

Discover how much bluer the turf is in the end zones at Wooten Field, prevent the hosts from doing it as much and a whole lot more.

Highlands (5-5) earned another shot at the Covington Catholic Colonels (8-1) in Park Hills with a 27-16 win at Conner on Friday to open the Class 5A playoffs. The blue Colonels took out Cooper, 32-8 in the first round of the playoffs in Park Hills. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday.

"There's been a lot of energy, a lot of focus these past few practices," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "It's been very spirited. It's been a good couple days."

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Buying gift cards for local NKY businesses just got easier

The Midway Cafe, Fort Thomas, Kentucky. 

A campaign to support Northern Kentucky small businesses during the holiday season by encouraging shoppers to purchase gift cards at local shops, restaurants, bars and more launched yesterday and will last through the end of the year.  

Support local! Located at 1017 S. Fort Thomas Avenue. 

Operation Winter is Coming is designed to influence consumers to buy holiday gift cards at Northern Kentucky businesses. The effort is an initiative of OneNKY Alliance and is being led by meetNKY l Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau and being supported by OneNKY Alliance members including the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

"The effort is unique because the mission of meetNKY is outside of Northern Kentucky, but the most important thing we can do right now is support small business and drive as many much-needed customers and sales as possible," said meetNKY Interim President & CEO Julie Kirkpatrick.

A list of favorite local experiences, including restaurants, bourbon and wine bars, coffee shops, breweries, family-friendly attractions, museums, sweet shops, and more, can be found at  The list is designed to help a gift-giver identify local businesses to support while tailoring their gift-card purchases to the recipient’s interests.  Links are included for online gift card purchasing where available.

"This year more than ever, Northern Kentucky businesses need our help to survive the holiday season," Kirkpatrick said. "Gift cards make wonderful gifts and purchasing them right now is a great way to support the businesses that make our communities diverse, thriving places to live and visit."

Roofing, siding, gutters, painting. Call Matt. 859-393-5264. 

"The holidays are a time when Northern Kentucky always comes together as a community," said NKY Chamber President and CEO Brent Cooper. "With all the challenges our local businesses continue to face, it is so important for consumers to remember that when they do their holiday shopping to purchase gift cards from a Northern Kentucky business. Gift cards not only make great gifts, but they help our local businesses owners and operators continue to weather what has been a very tough year." 

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fort Thomas Matters launched, a similar program dedicated to Fort Thomas businesses, which raised nearly $10,000 for local businesses. 

Scuba Santa Returns to Newport Aquarium This Friday

Scuba Santa returns to Newport Aquarium this Friday November 27. For the 18th year, kids and adults alike can enjoy this unique tradition where Scuba Santa swims with a tank full of sharks and other sea life. Guests can even talk to the jolly man underwater and tell him what they want for Christmas. Plus, they’ll discover festive lights and holiday music throughout the aquarium all running through December 24, 2020.

Pick up and go! Located at 14 N. Grand Ave. 

“Meeting Scuba Santa is magic,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium’s Executive Director. “There’s no other way to describe it when you see him in his aquatic world surrounded by fish and having a moment with a child they will never forget. It’s so special.”

Guests will notice many of the animals are excited to see Scuba Santa and his elves. Denver the loggerhead sea turtle can be seen curiously trying to get a look at Santa’s list. The shark rays also enjoy swooping and soaring past the giant Shark Ray Bay Theater window, where Scuba Santa makes his appearances.

In Other Words: CORA Makes Trails and Us Better


Jen Kirst, Nathan Kirst, Mike Lehrter, and Sherman Butler work the trail. 

Things don’t happen by themselves and when a group shares a vision then something big can happen. 

The bike trails in Tower Park are getting some long needed attention from the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance (CORA) in partnership with the city of Fort Thomas. 

Olivia Birkenhauer the Vice-President of CORA says, “Our plans for Tower Park Mountain Bike and Hike Trails are to fix the erosion issues we have, to repair and maintain what trails are currently that they are all more sustainable....The city is a great partner, supplying us with gravel to help us ensure trails are more sustainable for hikers and bikers."

Maria Bozeman, one of CORA’s organizers says, “CORA maintains the mountain bike trails in Tower Park but it takes an army of volunteers on community trail days to see the work done. We had over 40 on our last trail day, November 14!… We are working towards the short term goal of creating a well-signed beginner ‘green’ loop of approximately 2.5 - 3 miles. We would like to see way-finding for folks who do not know the trails well, so they can ride, hike, or run a continuous loop without getting turned around or lost. A long term goal would be to sign a ‘blue’ or intermediate loop as well as the difficult ‘black’ trails. Riders who ride the advanced trails know their way around well enough, so that’ll come last!” 

And the vision is clear. Maria Bozeman says, “The vision is to have a wayfinding system for different levels and types of trail users throughout the park; a map at trailhead with loop mileage and well-signed loops.”

CORA organizer, Brian Bozeman, Maria’s husband, notes that trail maintenance can be tricky. “Managing water and the way it flows over the trail is the largest concern to creating and maintaining sustainable trails. Locally, we also have the challenge of the clay content of our soil acting as a sponge that holds water. Erosion from users is very high when water is being held in the tread of the trail. Re-routing and fixing drainage issues should help, but the Trail Steward also notes on the Facebook page when the trails are closed. Users should consult this before heading out, it is a color coded system, green means go, red means enjoy the sidewalks today, yellow means it’s slick but usable, blue (used in winter) indicates freeze/thaw in effect and only usable if trail is frozen.”  

He adds that, “We are being careful to avoid the NKU Ecological Restoration Areas.” That’s a lot of attention to details that users of the trails don’t see.

CORA’s community work days are scheduled for the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 AM. Check the Ft Thomas Trails—CORA page for location details each month. Bozeman says, “We are asking folks to follow all COVID protocols when working during a community day, as well as limiting the use of tools to adults and older children.” 

Maria Boseman says, “It is a perfect winter-Covid-family activity!” 

You know, lots of people in various civic organizations work quietly and joyfully to make the city more enjoyable. They don’t do it for recognition or for money. They do it simply because it’s the right thing to do. It’s enjoyable and it builds community. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gov. Beshear: Kentucky Continues to See Exponential COVID-19 Growth

Today at his press conference, Governor Andy Beshear implored Kentuckians to adhere to new restrictions and guidance that will help stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth.

He said the number of Kentuckians diagnosed with COVID-19, hospitalized with the disease, admitted to the ICU and put on a ventilator because of complications from the virus continues to rise week over week, reporting that today’s case report is the highest ever for a Monday.

Learn more, click here >

“Day in and day out, our health care workers are doing what it takes. So day in and day out, we have to, too. Think about their sacrifice, every day going into a unit where they could contract this virus that they see people die from,” said Gov. Beshear. “We are at war."

Beshear said that wearing masks continues to be the most effective action Kentuckians can take to protect themselves and others. A recent study in Kansas from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that on average, counties that mandated mask-wearing saw a 6% reduction in cases; in contrast, the counties that opted out saw a 100% increase in cases.

Case Information 
As of 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, Gov. Beshear reported the following COVID-19 numbers:

Boone County: 85 cases
Kenton: 77
Campbell: 39

New cases today: 2,135
New deaths today: 5
Positivity rate: 8.97%
Total deaths: 1,792
Currently hospitalized: 1,573
Currently in ICU: 391
Currently on ventilator: 203

Those reported lost to the virus today include a 73-year-old woman from Fayette County; a 73-year-old man from Harlan County; two men, ages 85 and 88, from McCracken County; and a 77-year-old man from Webster County.

Campbell County FOP #10 Cops and Kids Event benefits record number of children this year, despite pandemic

James McKenna, Jimmie Poyter and Nick Heiert, at a past Cops and Kids event. FTM file. 

A fundraiser that police departments across Campbell County undertake each year will continue this year despite the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Campbell County FOP #10 announced that over 90 children will be served this year - a record number - even with fundraising programming through the year being hampered.  Local schools helped identify  students who would most benefit from the program. 

FOP #10 represents every law enforcement agency in Campbell County, Kentucky with exception of Newport Police Department, which has its own union. 

This is the 26th year of providing Christmas to local children. Over 2,000 children have benefitted from FOP #10's efforts through the program's history. 

FTM file. 

This year, in order to follow social distancing guidelines, shopping with take place without the children, but kids will meet officers at the gift wrapping and pick-up location. 

"We know the need is even greater this year so we have worked hard to make this event happen while keeping everyone involved safe," said Officer Jimmie Poynter, event chairman.

Shopping will take once again at Meijer Cold Spring. Campbell County FOP #10 will also shop for the Marine Corps Toy for Tots program again with the help of the NKY Young Marines.

FTM file. 

NKU Serving Students Thanksgiving To-Go Meals

Northern Kentucky University’s on-campus food pantry and student community center, FUEL NKU, hosts its third annual Thanksgiving Celebration on Nov. 25 with plans to serve to-go meals for nearly 200 students staying on or near campus through the holidays.
Learn more here:

FUEL NKU hosts a family-style feast each year to help students give thanks and share a special meal together. With the university’s transition to remote operations and learning through winter break, FUEL NKU is teaming up with the campus community to make sure students have consistent university support they need.
“The holiday season is right around the corner, and the pandemic has brought an increase in food insecurities on campus,” said Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor, FUEL NKU founder. “No one should be hungry, especially on a day that typically celebrates time with loved ones. We will be ready outside the Student Union with meals ready for you to grab and go.”
FUEL NKU is partnering with several community partners to provide the Thanksgiving meals for students. The Kroger Co. provided turkey for 200 meals, and Busken Bakery donated pumpkin pies. Chartwells, NKU’s external food services partner, pitched in to cover an array of side items and help with coordinating the event logistics. Along with the to-go meals, students can also request other food and essentials to support them through the upcoming Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
What: FUEL NKU Thanksgiving Celebration To-Go Dinner
When: Nov. 25, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: The James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union

The number of students in need of FUEL NKU support continues to expand. Since 2016, the student community center has welcomed 15,067 visits and provided 85,706 pounds of food and toiletries to students over the last year.

Christmas Tree Seller Celebrates 50 Years Bringing Holiday Joy

Paul Stuempel and his wife, Rose Anne. 

by Robin Gee

Ahhhh...there is nothing more evocative of the holiday season than the smell of fresh pine trees and wreaths! And, there is nothing quite like a real Christmas tree, said Paul Stuempel, who is setting up his seasonal shop again this year at the Fort Thomas Plaza.

Stuempel grew up in Fort Thomas, but now lives in Dayton with his wife, Rose Anne, who helps with the business. The couple work with about 12 people on site each season, many of them high school students from Highlands and the surrounding area.

Paul Stuempel, owner of Natural Green, outside his Wreath workshop. He is about to open up his Christmas tree business for the season at the Fort Thomas Plaza.

An unplanned direction turns into a lifelong passion

This marks Stuempel’s 50th year selling trees. Back in 1970, when he first started, he had no idea he would fall in love with the business and that he would develop a real passion for what started as what one might call an act of desperation, he said.

When he was in his early 20s with two small kids and a wife, he found himself out of a job. He decided to try his hand at selling ice cream and purchased a truck for a season, but there were a lot of other competitors, and it seemed every time he pulled into a neighborhood, another seller had just left.

So, after a disappointing summer, he was again broke and without a job. His father, a bit frustrated with the situation, told him, face up to it, go get a job now. Fall was fast approaching. His dad was likely joking when he threw out a few ideas — why don’t you go get some turkeys or Christmas trees to sell?

Little did Stuempel, or his dad, know that the casual comment would turn into a lifelong business. "Christmas trees? I thought, I’m going to look into that! But, I really knew nothing about it. I even had a fake tree at home," he said. 

How it all began

Stuempel had a buddy in real estate who just happened to own an old empty lot across from Krogers in Bellevue. "So I rented it, fixed it up and that was my first Christmas tree lot...I ran electricity from the gas station next door and made a few trees into light poles."

Of course, the next step was to find trees. Back then, before Paul Brown Stadium was built, all the produce wholesalers had open-air markets along the river on the Cincinnati side, in a section known as "the bottoms," and everyone carried trees, he said.

At the time, business was booming. "My lot was in the middle of six other Christmas tree lots. You couldn’t pass a church parking lot or see a boy scout troop who was not selling trees," he said.

In the bottoms, trees were going for $1.25 to $2 per tree. He found an ad in the newspaper from a guy who was selling trees for 75 cents each. The man had harvested leftover trees from fields in Ohio, cut them down and brought them back to sell.

"So, I bought 75 to 100 trees from him, enough to be able to get started," Stuempel said. He continued to buy trees from the seller and from the big produce houses like Castillini and Fries Brothers.

"About 15 years into it, though, I started buying direct from tree farms," he said. For the past 35 years he has purchased from a farm in Michigan.

"The one thing I decided from the start is I would never have a cheap tree on my lot," he said.

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Hard times for tree sellers

As the years progressed, he noted, fake trees began to rise in popularity. Despite this, the market was strong up until the recession of 2008-2009. “The year 2005 was my highest sales. I sold about 1,450 trees.”

Yet, by 2007, the economy had started to unravel and when the downturn hit, things came undone, he said. On top of that, more people were turning to artificial trees for convenience. He has a theory that a reason for this may be that Boomers, who grew up with real trees, are becoming less able or willing to handle them or may be downsizing their homes.

Sourcing trees also became a bit harder after the big produce wholesalers were forced out of the bottoms, but it was the economic downturn paired with the growth of artificial options that took a toll on the industry, especially over the last decade. Fewer wholesalers are handling trees these days, he said.

The business can be volatile anyway, as tree growers are subject to the same issues that can plague any farmer — drought, insect infestation, high winds. Despite all that, Stuempel’s business has been steady, and he’s selling about 1,100 trees a season.

The season for Christmas tree sales is brisk and intense. It begins just after Thanksgiving and goes through mid December.

Getting the word out

Over the years, he said, he’s gotten more savvy about marketing. He’s added handmade wreaths and swags as well as tree-related items he sells from a trailer on his lot.

Pick up and go! 14 N. Grand Avenue. 

While he admits he prefers old school marketing over social media, one service he added in 2000 as a little "extra" for his business increased his sales by 30 percent and has turned into a holiday tradition for many Fort Thomas families.

Each year, when a family picks out a tree, Stuempel takes a photo of the family with their tree. As the season approaches, he sends out the photo and a reminder that Christmas tree time is coming. Many families have included these photos on social media and in their own holiday greetings.

Stuempel’s operation is a brisk and intense one. Although, he said the “season” for tree-buying has shifted earlier in recent years, the main sales period runs from the day after Thanksgiving through the beginning of December. "By December 15, most of the trees are gone. We generally close up between December 15 and 17," he said.

Trees and tree grades

When asked about what types of trees he handles, Stuempel mentions a wide variety including Scotch pines, Frasier Fir, Balsam Fir, among others. He likes to keep a wide variety, but the common denominator is the quality. He strives for premium and top-graded trees.

Trees are inspected and rated by the Department of Agriculture, he explained. The rating for top quality trees is premium, followed by US 1 and US 2. Below that are field grade trees and those that are ungraded. If a seller feels the trees he or she has purchased are not the grade they paid for, they can call in the government for an inspection.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Highlands Takes Down Conner Again to Start Class 5A Playoffs

Bluebirds Make Halftime Lead Stand

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands junior running back Griffin Richter made his return to action Friday in the first round of the playoffs against Conner. Highlands won 27-16 to advance to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Note: There will be no video this week.

Coronavirus 2019 may have denied high school football teams across the country full seasons.

But the pandemic did not deny the Highlands Bluebirds (5-5) a playoff win this year. Highlands built a 20-0 halftime lead and made it stand in a 27-16 win over the host Conner Cougars (3-4) to start the Class 5A playoffs Friday.

This marked the first playoff win for the Bluebirds in two seasons. They lost 38-28 at Conner in the same round last year after driving to the Class 5A region championship game in 2018. Highlands shut out Conner, 36-0 on the same field Oct. 3. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association pushed the playoffs back a week as a result of Coronavirus 2019 cases.

"They did a good job last week of staying even keel and just focusing on that day,"
said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "It seemed like it was going to be forever until we got a chance to play. Instead of focusing on that, they focused on the day. We had to alter what we would typically do just to get better for two weeks, then a week and a half, then a week as opposed to a typical Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday type deal. They did a good job of getting themselves ready to play."

HHS plunges into NTI again, Prin. Bertasso announces expectations and procedures

By Lexie Crawford, Editor-in-Chief, The Hilltopper 

On Wednesday, November 18, Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order that, among other mandates, required all public and private high schools in the state of Kentucky to cease in-person learning from November 23 to January 4, 2021. 

Though Highlands High School (HHS) experienced COVID-19 related disruptions previously and has a set plan for non-traditional instruction (NTI), some things have changed since the beginning of the school year. 

On Thursday, November 19, HHS Principal Matthew Bertasso appeared on the daily announcements (LINK: Prin. Bertasso’s announcement begins at 6:12) to share some of the changes to NTI and what it will look like this go around. 

During NTI in the beginning of the year, there was a convening time, during which students would meet with their Advisory classes and have additional time to work on assignments. This NTI will do away with Convening. Instead, the lunch time has been extended and will include Advisory time and Focus period. During Advisory time, targeted activities will take place, so students are advised to look forward to that. Focus will be brought back to provide students with additional time to work on assignments. 

This NTI’s schedule is similar to that at the beginning of the year, but does feature a couple of differences. Like NTI at the beginning of the year, even number classes (2nd, 4th, 6th, Early Bird (EB)) will meet on even number calendar days and odd number classes (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th) will meet on odd number calendar days. However, compared to the previous 70-minute classes, each class this NTI will be 80 minutes long. During this time, classes will host Microsoft Teams meetings, host virtual and in-person small group meetings, and give time to work on assignments. After the first two classes (1st/2nd and 3rd/4th) of the day, there will be an 80-minute break for lunch, Advisory, and Focus, which will be called LAF. The third and fourth classes (5th/6th and 7th/EB) of the day will be held after LAF. 

Though classes can only hold time bound events on their particular days, there may be other assignments for those classes on the days they’re not meeting. Students are advised to check Schoology everyday for those assignments and ensure they know where those assignments will be. Those assignments need to be completed, as they will roll over to the next class period. 

Prin. Bertasso emphasized the importance of participation, as this will need to be reported to the state, same as attendance is when students are in-person. The HHS staff also wants to ensure students don’t get lost along the way. This participation will be tracked in three ways. The first is a report pulled from Schoology, showing who has been in Schoology, what activities they’ve done, and more. The second is through Microsoft Teams, as teachers can pull a report showing who was in meetings and how long they were there. The third is teachers themselves will be able to report participation in class. Prin. Bertasso urged students to connect with their teachers on a regular basis. 

Transportation Cabinet’s “Drones” Aid in Brent Spence Bridge Inspection

Use of technology provided swift visual findings to supplement in-depth engineer inspection

As the Federal Aviation Administration celebrates Drone Safety Awareness Week, Nov. 16 – 22, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet deployed the use of drones on the Brent Spence Bridge to aid inspectors collect preliminary visual inspection images following the bridge closure on Nov. 11. Drones were brought in to aid inspection efforts before inspectors could access the bridge due to the large amounts of debris.

"The Cabinet has embraced the use of drones to provide another set of eyes to quickly and safely inspect structures for routine work and emergency events," said Transportation Secretary Jim Gray.

KYTC drone pilots and drone teams from Palmer Engineering and Burgess and Niple were on-site at the bridge to deploy drones to capture high-quality footage. Although only a portion of the bridge has fire damage, the entire bridge was inspected to check for any residual impacts. Drones flew the entire truss of the bridge to check for steel member alignment, including areas inside and outside the heat-affected zone. They provided up-close imaging as well as full views of the bridge.

"Drones give us the ability to access difficult to reach areas, give us a way to initially assess the extent of damage, and help us see the structure as a whole. We've used drones in a variety of ways to supplement bridge inspection," said KYTC Chief Bridge Inspector James Edmunds.

The use of drones will continue as repairs begin to document inspections conducted by rope, man lift, snooper and other inspection practices. Over the past two years, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has expanded its drone use statewide to aid in inspection efforts.  

See the video here:

Northern Kentucky Chamber “Where We Stand” Reception to feature: Schroder, Roberts, Koenig, Adams


The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (NKY Chamber) will host its annual “Where We Stand” legislative agenda preview on Dec. 8 from 1-2 p.m.


This year’s event will be virtual and feature a panel discussion focused on the NKY Chamber’s legislative priorities among other timely topics. Republican Majority Caucus Chair, Julie Raque Adams, will provide perspective from Senate Leadership on what to expect in the upcoming 2021 legislative session. Senator Adams discussion will be followed by a panel discussion of three Northern Kentucky Caucus members, including Senator Wil Schroder, Representative Adam Koenig, and Representative Rachel Roberts. 

“We are delighted to have Senator Adams, Representative Koenig, Senator Schroder, and Representative Roberts join us for this annual event,” said Kristin Baldwin, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications of the NKY Chamber. “Attendees can look forward to hearing and learning more about the key legislative priorities for 2021 and how the legislative agenda will continue to advance the Commonwealth and our region.”


Registration for “Where We Stand” is free for NKY Chamber members, $15 for future members, and free for NKYP Passport holders. For additional information, and to register, visit Pre-registration is required. 

Roebling Capital Partners Announces First Closing of its Debut Private Equity Fund

Fund I closes ahead of schedule despite economic uncertainty surrounding COVID-19

Dan Magarian and Keith Carlson. FTM file. 

Roebling Capital Partners (“RCP”), a Cincinnati-based lower middle market private equity investment firm, has announced the first closing of its debut private equity fund, Roebling Capital Partners Fund I (the “Fund”).  

The Fund has secured commitments from a diverse investor base from mainly local investors with varying backgrounds. The Fund has likely been popular due to the lack of local private equity investment opportunities and the confidence investors have in the partners of the firm, who each bring an extensive background in M&A, investing, tax, business leadership, real estate and entrepreneurship.

RCP was founded in May 2020 by five prominent businessmen from the Cincinnati area to meet the regional demand for private equity investments. Day-to-day operations are managed by Keith Carlson, Dan Magarian and Brian Malthouse, CPA; they are joined by William P. Butler and Robert B. Sathe, CLU, ChFC®.

RCP is ahead of schedule in reaching its first closing of Fund I despite the economic uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.  According to Keith Carlson, CEO and Managing Partner at RCP, “Considering the current economic climate and uncertainty about what the future holds post-election, we are happy to be making significant progress for Fund I. We have reviewed over 200 deals since opening our doors just five months ago, with one pending transaction close to completion that is under Letter of Intent.”

RCP plans to invest $1 million to $4 million per deal (including follow-on investments), serving either as the primary equity sponsor or as a co-investor alongside other equity sponsors.  Transactions that require more than $4 million can be accommodated with RCP’s extensive network of like-minded institutional investors.

Executive Transportation Hosts Holiday Hope Charity Drive 2020

The Holidays are a such special time, filled with good food, friends and family, and special memories. But for many people this time of the year reminds them of what they do not have. With the lack of basic needs like warm food and a warm bed, this season can leave many feeling hopeless.

Executive Transportation is excited to announce their 3rd Annual Holiday Hope Charity Drive. Each year they collect needed winter items for the children and families served by the Henry Hosea House in Newport, KY. COVID-19 has heightened the need for us all to come together and help those who are less fortunate this Christmas.

For the safety of everyone, they will not be having our larger one-day event, but rather, they have designated four locations as drop-off points throughout the month of December.


-Executive Transportation: Dec 1-21 | 9AM-5PM

-Carabello Coffee: Dec 5th | 9AM-12pm

-WesBanco Fort Thomas: Dec 11-12 | 9AM-5PM

-BB&T Highland Heights: Dec 17-18 | 9AM-5PM

*Masks are required at all locations.”

Kentucky Distillers' Association Announces New Riff Distillery levels up a "proof"

New Riff Distillery, located in Newport, Kentucky. FTM file. 

The Kentucky Distillers' Association has announced that New Riff Distillery has met the inventory requirements to advance to “Proof” level membership, the second-highest tier. “Proof” level membership is reserved for established licensed distilleries that maintain an inventory between 10,000 and 25,000 barrels of distilled spirits. 

In additional, the KDA announced that Rabbit Hole Distillery, Wilderness Trail Distillery and Willett Distillery have advanced to the rank of “Heritage” members, the highest level in the non-profit group that unites and leads the state’s signature Bourbon and spirits industry.

Support local! The Midway Cafe in Fort Thomas. 

To qualify as a Heritage member, distilleries must have at least 25,000 barrels of distilled spirits aging in Kentucky warehouses. As Heritage members, Rabbit Hole, Wilderness Trail and Willett will have an expanded leadership role in the management of the association and the future of the iconic industry. 
“This year we are recognizing the growth of four KDA members, a tremendous accomplishment that is rightfully celebrated,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “In addition to their individual achievements, all four companies actively work for the greater good of the industry and will now expand that leadership role.

“We raise a glass to toast their success and advancement within the KDA ranks and our iconic industry.”

The KDA now has 14 Heritage members, including Bardstown Bourbon Company, Beam Suntory (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), Brown-Forman, Diageo North America, Four Roses, Green River Distilling Co., Heaven Hill Brands, Louisville Distilling Company, Lux Row, Michter’s and Wild Turkey.

Local, trusted and reliable. Call Adam today! 859-628-8304.

Located near downtown Cincinnati across the Ohio River in Newport, New Riff is the creation of Ken Lewis, former president of the Wine and Spirits Guild of America and former owner of The Party Source, one of the country’s largest and most prominent retail package stores. 

New Riff, located at 24 Distillery Way, offers free on-site tours and educational programs, as well as an event center and rooftop garden for meetings and private gatherings. A main architectural attraction is the gleaming all-copper, 60-foot column still encased in glass. 

New Riff joined the KDA in 2014. The distillery joins Alltech’s Town Branch Distillery in Lexington as the KDA’s two Proof level members. 

American Maid of Fort Thomas helps families de-stress with a clean, organized home

Book now! Call 859-568-2100 - Mention FTM! 

By Nora Schomaker, owner of American Maid of Fort Thomas 

2020 has been an uncertain and stressful time for all of us and American Maid of Fort Thomas is highly aware of our customers' concerns regarding safety. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our company has been deemed an essential service and our responsibility to our customer is not something that we take for granted. You can be assured that your safety is our number one priority.  We will concentrate all our efforts on providing you a friendly, safe and professional cleaning experience.

We use the same sanitizing and deep-cleaning methods pre-pandemic as we are right now, so our method of operation hasn't really change too much. We want to ensure a safe, clean and organized environment for your home.

We mask at every home we enter.   

We took advantage of some down time early on in the pandemic to better educate ourselves on methods, products and procedures necessary to provide our clients with the satisfaction of knowing their homes surfaces are properly disinfected.  Our cleaning staff have been certified in techniques and procedures involving COVID-19 precautions and awareness through the OSHA approved 360 training program.  

While we all are doing our best to do our part in stopping the virus spread, Thanksgiving and Christmas may not look like they have in previous years. Nonetheless, we are here to help with your deep cleaning needs as you prepare to spend the holidays in a way that best suits your family.

Call me, Nora Schomaker, today for a free quote! 859-568-2100. Mention Fort Thomas Matters and we will prioritize your call.