Our first-ever Mini Summit, presented by Kentucky Power, took place in Ashland and quickly turned into a not-so-mini Summit. More than 650 people from 48 Kentucky counties, 32 of our 54 Appalachian counties and six states attended the event on March 7-8 in Ashland.
Let’s jump right into some highlights.
Ashland rolls out the Red Carpet
The City of Ashland and Visit AKY rolled out the red carpet for SOAR’s first-ever event in the city. The Summit was focused on tourism and downtown revitalization and featured breakout sessions, panel discussions, and plenty of networking opportunities.
Jim Host, Ashland’s native son, was the keynote speaker. While his work has spanned generations and has greatly shaped college athletics marketing as we know it, Host was commissioner of public information and tourism for Governor Louie Nunn in 1967.
He hasn’t stopped selling Kentucky — or Eastern Kentucky.
“If you don’t believe in Eastern Kentucky, how can you sell Eastern Kentucky?” Host asked those in attendance.
Host, who was a founding member of SOAR’s Executive Board, was presented a painting depicting him throwing a baseball with the Central Park, or CP-1, field in the background. Host is a member of the prestigious Ashland CP-1 Hall of Fame.
Country Music Highway Tribute Show
On the evening of March 7th, the Paramount Arts Center hosted the first-ever Country Music Highway Tribute Show to celebrate all the phenomenal artists that have traveled along Highway 23, such as Chris Stapleton, Loretta Lynn, and Patty Loveless to name a few.
Devin Hale began the tribute with a show stopping rendition of Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. Holly Forbes, a contestant from NBC’s The Voice and a native of Boyd County, also performed. She devoted her performance to Tyler Childers, a native of Lawrence County, and Chris Stapleton, a native of Johnson County. Hill Country Carnival, Sarah McCoart, the Shelby Lore Band, and Rob McNurlin also performed. McCoart is the great niece of Loretta Lynn and performed alongside her great aunt as a child at the Paramount Arts Center.
In addition to the Tribute Show, SOAR is hosting a silent auction to raise money for the Paramount Arts Center to restore its marquee. Some of the items include a signed vinyl from Chris Stapleton, a signed guitar from Wyonna Judd, and tickets to Justin Lynch’s concert on April 21st in Pikeville. The auction will end on Friday, March 24.
History of the Paramount
All of our SOAR team arrived in Ashland this week for the Mini Summit and were greeted with warmth, appreciation, and support at each and every level from its citizens and public servants. The Delta Hotel was an enjoyable home away from home for us during our brief stay. The police officers, local administrators, shuttle drivers, caterers, volunteers, local eatery staff, Paramount Arts Center staff, and the local steamfitters union all did their best to cater to any problems that arose during our event.
“When I walked into the Paramount Theater the term ‘shock and awe’ came to mind,” said Tal Jones, Innovation Champion. “I have been to several Las Vegas and many New York theaters that did not impress me nearly as much.”
During the roaring twenties, particularly before the first “talkies” were invented in 1927, vaudeville and silent movies were the dominant form of national and local entertainment. To achieve the broadest possible distribution of its films, Hollywood-based Paramount Pictures constructed a grand movie palace in practically every major city in the country. While the Ashland Paramount was scaled down to a third of its original intended size due to the economic impact of the great depression, it was completed, has weathered good and bad economic times, and continues to host approximately 120 events a year, generating an estimated 6 million dollars to the local economy. Click HERE for the full history of the Paramount.
The Paramount Arts Center, the Delta Hotel, and the warm gracious people in Ashland served as wonderful hosts to our Mini SOAR Summit.
Local food on display
This Mini Summit was unique in the fact that many local restaurants were highlighted. Attendees were able to choose between eight different restaurant options, which were Dragonfly Outdoor Cafe, Fat Boy Q Food Truck, Tacos and Company, Fat Patty’s Restaurant, The Winchester, the Mill Cafe and Bakery, the Jockey Club, the Hall of Fame Cafe, and Bella Fonte Italian Restaurant.
Attendees were given two hours to travel to their chosen lunch location and explore Ashland. With a variety of different menu items, one thing that all the restaurants had in common was that they were all owned and run locally. Some, like the Dragonfly Outdoor Cafe, even make their food from fresh products every week.
Northeast Kentucky Meetup
The SOAR Innovation Team hosted its Northeast Kentucky Meetup on March 8th after the plenary session of the Mini Summit. The event was hosted by KY Innovation, the Ashland Young Professionals Association, KY SBDC, and the Morehead-Rowan County Young Professionals.
The Meetup was a great success as economic development leaders in eastern Kentucky were able to enjoy conversations about their organizations and learn about other efforts in the region. Attendees like Eric Byrd and Don Skaggs were able to share great knowledge on their work at the KY Inventors Network and the KYPTAC respectively.
The SOAR Innovation team plans to host professional meetups regularly in the future in order to better connect our network across the region and uplift the young professionals of eastern Kentucky.