Kentuckians, you must remember this.
2011 in Kentucky was perpetually damp — the most sopping year in Kentucky history in many locales. A ho-hum race for governor shifted attention to the doings in Washington, where new U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made himself a Tea Party icon.
Lexington was hopping. The city got a new mayor, a proposal to renovate Rupp Arena and build a new civic center, and a raft of controversy from government employees.
University of Kentucky sports had a great year, particularly in basketball and women's sports. UK also got a new president, who quickly turned his attention toward upgrading some of the more miserable dormitory and classroom spaces on campus.
Never miss a local story.
Lexington was called lazy by a national magazine, and a Pike County church vote on race went internationally viral on the Internet.
Kentucky news in 2011 was cloudy, with a chance of controversy.
Rand Paul gets a running start
Tea Party favorite and Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul, son of conservative icon Ron Paul, made his debut in the U.S. Senate. The Republican promptly produced his own budget-reduction blueprint that called for $4 trillion in cuts and would have eliminated the departments of Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy, and would have repealed the health care law.
Said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in March: "He's done more in three months than some senators do in their entire careers."
Williams loses big
Republican David Williams, president of the state Senate, got a chance against incumbent Steve Beshear but failed to convert his Frankfort mojo into success in the low-turnout race for governor. Beshear pulled 56 percent of a 28 percent voter turnout statewide to win a second term. Williams wound up with 35 percent, and perennial candidate Gatewood Galbraith with 9 percent.
Hoops hero Farmer couldn't find the basket
Williams' running mate, Richie Farmer, stumbled so much in 2011 that he could have used knee pads.
His wife of 13 years filed for divorce in the spring. The media and Democrats dogged Farmer with questions about spending in his state office on purchases: refrigerators and televisions, hotel stays and conference trips.
By the end of the year, Farmer had lost his bid to become lieutenant governor and claimed that it was appropriate to hire a woman friend to work on administrative tasks in his office for $5,000 a month.
Comedy routine sinks ag commissioner candidate
The lone Democratic loss in a statewide race came at the hands of agriculture commissioner candidate Robert Farmer, who had the name for the job but made slams against mountaineers during his career in comedy. Republican Jamie Comer, who really is a farmer, won that one.
Gray: Rupp and riled employees
Lexington's new mayor, Jim Gray, got off to a fast start in his first year in office with a supercommittee to extensively plan the area in and around the Rupp Arena/convention center area with a lengthy time line — to be ultimately completed in 10 to 20 years.
By year's end, the consensus was to renovate the arena to include a glass and translucent covering, build a new civic center and extend amenities around the surrounding neighborhood. The price: $260 million. The financing? To be announced.
But Gray had a rough year with city employees.
The city had proposed limits to the "home fleet" system that would have limited where and for what purposes off-duty officers could drive city-owned vehicles, but by year's end decided to postpone the changes. A month later, firefighters said that the city wouldn't deter them from putting up signs protesting equipment brownouts.
Even more city employees were outraged by the steep increases for health insurance coverage, prompting the Urban County Council to promise an extra $3.8 million over two fiscal years to cover employees, their families and retirees.
Resolved: A Centre debate
Centre College in Danville landed its second national debate. The liberal arts college, which had hosted a 2000 vice presidential debate at its Norton Center for the Arts, will host the nation's only vice presidential debate in 2012. Eastern Kentucky University, with its new EKU Center for the Arts, had been in the national pool to host a debate but was ultimately unsuccessful.
LAW AND ORDER
Odd case gets odder
The mysterious death of Umi Southworth in 2010 got even more mysterious as the year progressed. The Lexington woman was found outside her Meadowthorpe Avenue home on June 9, 2010, and police thought she was dead. She was not, but she died the next day.
Her husband, Donald Southworth, was indicted and charged with her murder in June 2011.
Donald Southworth's defense attorneys said this in a document: "After the commonwealth introduces evidence that defendant raped a dog, digitally penetrated a 'baby in diapers,' and poisoned his mother, a murder conviction will be a foregone conclusion. While such allegations might make for sensational tabloid fodder, they have no place in a court of law."
Nunn pleads guilty
Kentucky political scion Steve Nunn pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of state employee Amanda Ross, his ex-fiancée.
Nunn had been set to go to trial in August.
Nunn is the son of former Kentucky Gov. Louie Nunn. Ross was found shot, lying in the parking lot outside her home in downtown Lexington on Sept. 11, 2009.
Glenn Doneghy was sentenced to 30 years in prison in the death of Lexington police officer Brian Durman. Thanks to the vagaries of Kentucky law, a few months later, Doneghy got only 20 years.
Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael used words such as "regrettably" and "disgustingly" in explaining to a packed courtroom that he could not follow a jury's recommendation that Doneghy get 30 years because 20 years was the most time that Doneghy could receive under Kentucky law.
Doneghy has to serve 20 percent of the 20-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Lexington dermatologist Martha Post was shot and killed in her van on Sept. 1 while leaving work at her Huguenard Drive office. Marty Roe was later arrested and charged with murder in the case.
Post and her husband, Dr. Robert Truitt, had complained to police twice in 2010 about harassing phone calls from Roe, a former employee whom the family had tried to help, even inviting him to their holiday celebrations.
It was the year of the anniversary in Kentucky.
Toyota celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Georgetown factory ground-breaking. Lexmark turned 20, Keeneland turned 75 and the rebooted Shakertown turned 50.
Lexington's Burger Shake on New Circle Road, a local institution, raised the price on its base burger from 84 cents to 99 cents; the price started at 19 cents when the restaurant opened in 1957. The price is considered an indicator of Central Kentucky inflation.
To market downtown
Downtown Lexington got two groceries, Town Branch Market and Shorty's, the Urban Market. A lack of grocery stores had been considered one of the key drawbacks to living downtown.
Commandments battle ends
Kentucky's Supreme Court declined to hear yet another appeal of rulings barring Pulaski and McCreary counties from posting the Ten Commandments. That ended an 11-year legal battle and forced the counties to pay about $450,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Church misstep goes viral
A small Free Will Baptist church in Pike County decided, by a vote of nine of its 40 members, to express disapproval of interracial unions, which greatly disappointed a young woman who grew up in the church and was planning one. The story quickly went viral on the Internet.
After an international ruckus, the church reversed its decision.
From shopping to worship
The shopping mall site at Richmond and New Circle roads will soon be a campus for Jessamine County-based Southland Christian Church. The new church is one of five planned satellite worship centers for the megachurch and is expected to be completed in 2012. Whether the Perkins restaurant will remain on the site appears to be headed to court.
Stu cuts it short
Popular Fayette County schools superintendent Stu Silberman unexpectedly resigned seven years into a promised 10-year stint. He now heads the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
Capilouto arrives, prioritizes
After a search as transparent as the black curtain that barred the public from its deliberations, UK's Board of Trustees slapped the lid on its search for a new president and hired Eli Capilouto, provost of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Capilouto got a contract with a base salary of $500,000 — a substantial step up from his $371,664 salary at UAB.
Within a few months of his arrival, Capilouto launched an ambitious program to upgrade UK's classrooms and dormitories. He also said that UK would not support any state funding for the proposed renovation of Rupp Arena because that would take away from the possibilities for financing UK's on-campus needs.
Todd gets parting gifts
Outgoing UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. received the retention bonus guaranteed in his contract for staying 10 years, which is worth $511,000, his base salary during his last year of work. Then he was allowed to join UK's engineering faculty as a tenured professor with a salary of about $162,000 a year. He was given a full-time secretary for four years and got to keep his cellphone, laptop computer and other equipment that he used as president.
There's more: He also got a travel budget of $30,000 a year for four years and $5,000 for memberships in professional organizations — and four season tickets to UK football and basketball games.
Arts: game on
Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond opened a $30 million-plus arts center that challenged the dominance of Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts in Danville in luring regional high-profile events. It opened with Wynonna on Sept. 24 and hosted Jerry Seinfeld in December.
Former Gov. Paul Patton emerged as leader of a bid to move the University of Pikeville into the ranks of publicly funded colleges in Kentucky. Given that the colleges and universities already in that pool appear universally ticked off at what they're receiving from the state, don't expect this move to slide through quietly.
Back to the Final Four
The UK Wildcats men's basketball team ended its 12-year Final Four drought, the longest in its history. "We've proved you can be a young team and make the Final Four," Coach John Calipari said.
The team lost to Connecticut by a single point on April 2, ending its post-season run.
Women's sports soar
The men's basketball team wasn't the only UK team making a run in 2011.
"I'm 100 percent of the belief that we have a talented team, and that if we can get it together, there is not a game we should go into feeling like we don't have a chance," UK women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell said. The women's team didn't lose a game this season until Dec. 17, when it fell to No. 3 Notre Dame.
During the 2010-11 season, UK women finished second in both the Southeastern Conference regular season and the tournament, and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The volleyball team went to the NCAA regionals and lost to Texas in a closer-than-it-looked matchup Dec. 9. UK was in the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in three years.
Softball, at 40-16, had its best season in school history and went on its first trip to the NCAA Tournament super-regional.
Rifle team bull's-eyes title
UK's rifle team took its first national title in the small-bore team air rifle event on March 12, finishing ahead of West Virginia and Texas Christian.
The UK men's basketball team will soon be housed in an $8 million Wildcat Coal Lodge, the lobby of which will be the home of a tribute exhibit to the coal industry.
The lodge's controversial name had spurred Kentucky author Wendell Berry to pull many of his personal papers from the UK archives in 2010 because he said it showed UK was in a "manifest alliance" with the coal industry.
Cats beat Vols
In a football season best considered a learning experience, the Cats pulled out a grand last-minute surprise, beating Tennessee 10-7. It was the first time since 1984, when Coach Joker Phillips was a UK wide receiver, that the Cats topped the Volunteers.
"I'd rather end the season this way than a bowl game any day," senior linebacker Ronnie Sneed said.
Somers cool on Brown
TV personality/alternative health guru Suzanne Somers is no fan of former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. Somers verbally demolished Brown during Fayette Circuit Court proceedings in January in a civil case against her over a failed do-it-yourself meal preparation program bearing Somers' name.
Somers said that Brown seemed "thick," was "bumbling" and was not very well groomed. A chief executive officer should not have dandruff, should wear clean clothes and should cut his hair, she said. Brown was not a defendant in the suit.
Medal for Meyer
Dakota Meyer, an Adair County native, became the first living Marine in nearly 40 years to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was honored at the White House in September.
Meyer, 23, was honored for his action on Sept. 8, 2009, in Afghanistan. He repeatedly charged through enemy fire to rescue other Marines and U.S. and Afghan soldiers who had been ambushed by insurgents.
In December, a McClatchy Newspapers article said that parts of the account of Meyer's bravery that the Marine Corps publicized and that Obama described are unsubstantiated or exaggerated, according to military documents McClatchy examined. The article concluded, however, that Meyer's medal nomination was deserved. The White House and the Marines stood by the public accounts.
Lebanon's Ernie Brown Jr., aka "the Turtle Man," got a show on the Animal Planet network: Call of the Wildman. For an audition, Brown, who uses his bare hands to capture and move animals into their natural habitats, took a producer with him while he caught 11 turtles and a catfish.
Note to truckers: Put down the cell phone before you kill someone.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the 2010 crash in Hart County that killed 10 members of a Mennonite family on their way to a wedding. After ruling that the Interstate 65 wreck was caused by a driver distracted by his hands-free cellphone, the NTSB in 2011 endorsed a cellphone ban for truckers.
Men's Health magazine said Lexington was America's least-active city, prompting Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert to give the city a "Golden Reacher-Grabber Award."
Lexington responded by holding a Sedentary Parade, featuring Mayor Jim Gray sitting on a couch atop an electric cart.
Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County hosted Kentucky's first Sprint Cup race in July.
It didn't go well.
State transportation officials blamed the track's parking plan for the traffic jam that left thousands of fans idling on the highway as the Quaker State 400 was held.
The state later said it would invest $3.6 million to widen nearby roads and build a pedestrian walkway under Ky. 35 to connect the track with 143 acres that were bought to expand parking.
Kentucky is to get its second biblical tourist attraction, the Ark Park, and it shoveled a boatload of incentives to make sure it did. Ark Encounters LLC official Mike Zovath said the state's offer of tax incentives, worth more than $40 million, was too good to pass up.
CentrePointe: still grassy
The CentrePointe site between Lexington's Main and Vine streets remained undeveloped green space.
Architect Jeanne Gang joined the project and submitted a much-liked design, but developer Dudley Webb later revealed that Gang — recipient of one of the year's MacArthur "genius" grants — was no longer attached to the project.
RAIN, SNOW, ICE
On Dec. 27, Lexington beat its all-time rainfall record of 65.76 inches, set in 1935. As of Friday night, the new record was 66.35 inches.
Louisville; Ashland; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; and Huntington, W.Va., also had record rainfall.
Frosty the season
The winter of 2010-11 went on well into March, even after socking Lexington with 27.6 inches of snow from December through February, nearly twice the normal amount. The average temperature was a shade below freezing, at 31.5 degrees, about 3.4 degrees colder than normal.
Glide on by
A new ice-skating rink in Lexington's Triangle Park opened in November. Skating at the 85-foot by 60-foot rink is $10 for 90 minutes, with or without skate rental. The rink can accommodate nearly 200 ice skaters at a time.