The bourbon industry and University of Kentucky campus construction boomed.
The downtown Centre Pointe project and an ambitious renovation plan for Rupp Arena floundered.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, were often as cold on the court as the polar vortex. The UK men's basketball team turned hot just in time to play for the national title in the NCAA Tournament.
In random order, here are significant stories that affected Kentucky and Lexington in 2014.
Report card: Needs work
A scathing audit and the superintendent's departure challenged Fayette County Public Schools, where there also was a contentious start to redrawing school attendance boundaries. The state auditor's office said there was no missing money or criminal wrongdoing. But the audit found excessive and unnecessary travel and conflicts of interest. It also identified problems in budgeting and financial management, and in administrative salary increases.
Less than two months later, Superintendent Tom Shelton resigned, taking a job as executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
Parents packed some meetings on school redistricting, wanting their children to attend schools closest to their homes. A redistricting plan to alleviate overcrowding is expected early in 2015.
McConnell in the majority
Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell routed Alison Lundergan Grimes in a U.S. Senate race that had national implications and attention. Despite the sound and fury of the campaign — initially Democrats saw Grimes as their best chance in 30 years to beat McConnell — the outcome meant nothing new for Kentucky's presence in Washington. McConnell will be the Senate majority leader when Congress reconvenes.
Growing anti-Ebola drug
Kentucky BioProcessing, the Owensboro company that grew the ZMapp compound given to two American Ebola survivors, went into full-scale production of the drug. Reynolds American owns the production center that grows pharmaceuticals in a special kind of tobacco plant. The ZMapp compound is grown for Mapp Biopharmaceutical. Two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, recovered from Ebola after being given the ZMapp drug.
Turn up the heat!
The polar vortex dragged Kentucky, and must of the rest of the nation, through a long, cold winter, prompting many public schools to cancel for an unprecedented number of snow days.
However awful it was, the Commonwealth has seen worse. In 1978, Lexington struggled with nearly a foot of snow for a big chunk of January.
Rupp redo in ruins
Rupp Arena renovation plans imploded on June 18, when Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said he was indefinitely suspending plans for a $351 million renovation of Rupp Arena and its attached convention center. UK had told city and state officials that it was interested only in a scaled-back upgrade, and the project never really won public support.
Gov. Steve Beshear, a champion of the project, said the renovation "is still what Lexington and the university need." Rupp opened in 1976.
The sinkhole museum
A giant, ragged sinkhole opened and swallowed cars on Feb. 12 and brought the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green worldwide attention.
The numbers told the story: In March 2014, 15,762 visited the museum compared to 11,114 in March 2013. In April, 23,488 visited, up from 18,201 in 2013. The increases continued. Nonetheless, the museum's trustees voted to close the hole, beginning in November. The museum will remain open, but its giant Skydome will be sealed off from visitors, who are able to watch the repairs through a Plexiglas wall.
A to-do over 'I do'
In February, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in Louisville ruled in favor of plaintiffs who wanted Kentucky to recognize their same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries. Heyburn put the decision on hold, pending the state's appeal. Attorneys for Gov. Beshear argued in May that "there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage."
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for gays and lesbians to marry in 11 additional states. The action didn't carry the weight of a formal ruling, but it was expected to send a message that same-sex marriage could soon be legal across the United States.
In November, eight same-sex Kentucky couples said they would ask the high court "in very short order" to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage.
In September, UK researchers cut their test plot of hemp. The 13 varieties sown in the spring at UK were to be evaluated for fiber and seed production. Murray State and other universities also planted test plots.
Hemp seeds had arrived at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in Frankfort on May 23, after being released by U.S. Customs in Louisville. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration had sized the seeds and tried to require that the state obtain a controlled substance permit to import the seeds from Italy and plant them.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail reeled in a record number of visitors in 2013, and based on the number of bourbon-related events held during 2014, may do even better in new figures to be released in January. In 2013, the trail's mainstream distilleries recorded 571,701 visitors, with an additional 61,698 visits to at least one "craft" or small distillery.
Bulleit Bourbon, one of the fastest-growing brands, broke ground in August on the $115 million Bulleit Distilling Co.
"It seems like the world just can't get enough of Kentucky bourbon," Gov. Steve Beshear said.
Rand in the running
Rand Paul attained national prominence. Kentucky's junior senator was touted repeatedly during 2014 as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. Paul is showing that he has appeal outside of his Tea Party base and is making inroads with younger voters. At the end of the year the question was: Can he raise enough money for a bid for the White House?
No change in stationer
Jim Gray became the first Lexington mayor in 16 years to win a second term on Nov. 4. Gray easily defeated his challenger, former Lexington police chief Anthany Beatty, getting 65 percent of the vote.
So far, a hole
There's a hole on Lexington's Main Street where the Webb Companies' Centre Pointe project is supposed to be. In 2014 — six years after the project was announced — the city discussed what the building complex should look like. A Webb-requested bond issue was tossed between governmental entities. A foundation was dug. At the end of the year, CentrePointe remained just a mighty big hole.
Finally, clinic to emerge
Four years after a $11.7 million federal grant was announced for a new public health clinic in Fayette County, ground was finally broken Aug. 12. The clinic is to open in October. Demolition had long been postponed on the project because of controversy.
Previous health commissioner Dr. Melinda Rowe and former HealthFirst Bluegrass executive director William North were both forced to resign. State auditor Adam Edelen investigated the clinic's land deal on Southland Drive, and federal regulators watched as deadlines to spend the money passed.
HealthFirst Bluegrass, an independent nonprofit, will operate the clinic.
Growth spurt at hospital
UK trustees voted June 8 to approve spending $150 million to complete the $763 million Chandler Hospital tower project. About half of the 12-story project, begun in 2004, remains empty. Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president for health affairs, said the university is seeking state permission to add 120 beds to its hospital, a 14.5 percent increase that would bring the number of beds to 945. Karpf disclosed the plans after long emergency-room wait times — an average of 10 hours and 44 minutes — were revealed.
The Alex Johnson case
One of the highest-profile year began in the last two weeks of 2013. Alex Johnson, 32, a chef at the University of Kentucky, disappeared on Dec. 20, 2013. He was talking to his girlfriend on the phone, there was a knock on his door, then ... nothing, for nearly a month. Then, on Jan. 16, police charged Timothy Ballard with complicity to kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
On Jan. 22, Robert Markham Taylor was arrested in Hidalgo County, Texas, near the Mexico border. He was charged with murder.
Two days later, fire department divers found Johnson's body inside a 55-gallon barrel in the Kentucky River. Ballard and Taylor face trial in October.
Cats play for title
The Wildcats pulled off a surprise NCAA Tournament run to the national championship game in early April after a lackluster season that featured several losses. Thrilling moments abounded. In three straight games, Aaron Harrison made game-winning shots in the final seconds. Fans were also surprised when Aaron and his twin, Andrew, returned for another season, along with Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress.
More than $576 million in construction projects have been authorized at UK, including improvements to the university's health care complex, dormitories and dining halls, and classroom and academic buildings. Five new dorms opened in the fall, and four old ones on the north end of campus were torn down to make way for new dorms at Euclid Avenue and Limestone.
Work began on renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, and on a new Academic Science Building and on The 90, a $32 million dining and classroom building next to William T. Young Library. Design work is being done for a renovation and expansion of the Student Center. The university added 400 jobs this year.
Gatton grows in stature
UK's biggest donor, businessman Carol Martin "Bill" Gatton, made history again Sept. 4 by donating $20 million for the university's $175 million expansion and renovation of its student center.
His $14 million donation in 1995 went to the College of Business named in his honor. The student center is scheduled for completion in 2017.
New president at Transy
Seamus Carey, a dean at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., became the 26th president of Transylvania University. He started July 1, succeeding Owen Williams, who joined Transylvania in 2010 but received a vote of no confidence from the faculty in 2013. Williams is now president of the Associated Colleges of the South.
A look at the big picture
Lexingtonians debated about building murals — one that was painted over, and another that some residents wish could be painted over.
A mural commissioned by LexArts in 2011 was painted over by the owner of the building, at the corner of Elm Tree Lane and East Short Street. The mural honored the East End's history as the home of Kentucky Association racetrack, which preceded Keeneland Race Course.
Lexington's largest mural was painted on the side of the Pepper Distillery warehouse by French muralist MTO as part of the annual PRHBTN street-art festival. The mural depicts a street artist behind bars with red police tape running across it saying, "Caution: Do Not Feed." Concerns were raised that the gestures were gang symbols and that the image might attract gang activity. Councilman Chris Ford wants more discussion on how to manage public mural projects.
Kentucky lost some of its great citizens in 2014. Among those who died:
Former Lexington mayor Foster Pettit, 84, Nov. 22.
Broadcaster Ray Holbrook, 85, Nov. 28.
Peter Bosomworth, 84, Sept. 28, led UK Chandler Medical Center for 24 years.
Nelson Bunker Hunt, Oct. 21, oil tycoon who once owned the 257 acre Bluegrass Farm at Versailles Road and Man o' War Boulevard, sold in 1990.
Pam Papka Sexton, 68, June 12, artist, writer and education advocate.
Jane Gentry Vance, 73, Oct. 2, UK professor, former Kentucky poet laureate.
Bill Sturgill, 89, July 19, an Eastern Kentucky native who was a wealthy and powerful figure at the center of the state's three signature industries: coal, tobacco and horses.
Paul Miller, 92, June 27, founder of the Paul Miller Ford auto dealership in Lexington.
Elmer Whitaker, prominent Kentucky businessman who rose from the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky to build a banking empire, 85, June 8.
And one non-human death of note: Cigar, the champion Thoroughbred, who had a total of 19 wins in 33 starts, with earnings or nearly $10 million. Oct. 7. He was buried at the Kentucky Horse Park.