From “Troubled Youth” to Ebenezer Scrooge: An Interview with actor Gary Sandy

From “Troubled Youth” to Ebenezer Scrooge: An Interview with actor Gary Sandy

Early in his professional acting career, Gary Sandy said he specialized in portraying “troubled youth.”

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“Those were the best roles to have,” the actor said, though he understands that fact may be difficult for casual fans of his former television series, WKRP in Cincinnati, to grasp. But it was because of his “All-American Boy” looks, combined with his considerable skills as an actor, that made him so effective in villain roles in “As The World Turns” and “Another World.” It will also serve him well on the Rohs Opera House stage in Cynthiana, Kentucky this Friday and Saturday night, Dec. 12-13, when Sandy takes on Ebenezer Scrooge for “A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play.”

Sandy is excited for a chance to put his spin on the Scrooge character. “I’ve been looking at what other people have done with the role and deciding what elements I’d like to steal,” Sandy joked during a phone interview last week.

But given his professional history, be prepared for some surprises. Sandy built his early career on people underestimating the character types that fit him as a performer. Right out of school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York in 1970, Sandy was put in touch with an agent. “I told the agent, ‘you set me up for something acting-wise and I’ll get it,’ which was a pretty naive statement at the time, but I was young,” Sandy said. Nevertheless, he credits his hubris for his chance to read for the character “Thomas Hughes” on “As The World Turns.” On meeting Sandy, the soap’s casting director’s first impression was that he was too much of a nice guy for the role. “The character was just getting back from Vietnam and they wanted someone to play the role as ‘troubled.’ I convinced her to let me read the part. After the reading, she said, ‘In 30 years of casting, I’ve never been more wrong.’ “But I still didn’t get the part because then she said I was too ‘troubled’.”

“Even when we went to live tape, the shows were always just a day ahead of the broadcast. Writers were cranking out scripts like mad, so you can imagine the hokey lines that actors had to make convincing. That’s why I loved the bad guy roles so much. We got these great evil lines to say.”

But she also told Sandy to wait three months because there was a character for which Sandy would be perfect — the role of drug dealing Randy Buchanan. From this start, Sandy continued to play bad guy roles in soaps. His final daytime television role was in the short-lived series, “Somerset,” a spin off of the popular series “Another World.” Sandy’s evil character was last seen crying in a jail cell — the narrative thread was left unresolved, Sandy said.

“When I was in soaps, we were live. Even when we went to live tape, the shows were always just a day ahead of the broadcast. Writers were cranking out scripts like mad, so you can imagine the hokey lines that actors had to make convincing. That’s why I loved the bad guy roles so much. We got these great evil lines to say.

“Bad guys were just the better roles to play. They were the better roles!” he exclaimed.

After four seasons of playing Andy Travis on WKRP, where Sandy was ofttimes asked to play the straight man to the ensemble of comic characters, he earned guest spots in television and occasional movie roles. But the theater is where his career has flourished and where he has avoided being pigeon-holed in “Andy Travis”-like roles.

“The stage has given me the chance to take on all sorts of complex characters.” His most notable successes include a starring role on Broadway in “The Pirates of Penzance”; the lead in a production of “Billy Bishop Goes to War”; and a co-starring role with Ann-Margret in a national touring production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

In the latter days of his career, Sandy has found a niche performing in live radio plays.

He was recently part of the cast for a well-reviewed performance of the live radio drama “The BBC Murders” by Agatha Christie in Florida. “These are very entertaining productions. They combine the experience of live theater with a look into how old-time radio dramas are produced,” Sandy said. The production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” which will be revived at the Rohs Opera House in Cynthiana, Kentucky will feature radio sound effects and advertisements from radio’s golden age. “People are going to come out to the theater and they are going to have a ball with this play,” Sandy said. In addition to playing Scrooge, Sandy is also proud to offer his support to local theater in Cynthiana.

“My mother and a lot of my family live in the north central Kentucky area. There are a lot of good memories for me here,” Sandy said. It’s been a long time since those days – almost an entire professional career. But Sandy has always had a special place in his heart for this area of Kentucky and he feels honored to be a part of this holiday event.

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“An accident wanting to happen” – Ottis Tussey’s experiments in abstract

When asked to describe his style of abstract painting, Ottis Tussey said that his style is “kind of an accident waiting to happen.”

Ottis Tussey at work in his home.
Ottis Tussey at work in his home.

“I surprise myself at times. I start out with this vague idea and then something happens that changes everything or moves me to something else,” said Tussey.
If there is one thing that Tussey enjoys as much as working at his canvas, it is talking about art.
Not his art in particular, though he is happy to share insights into what he perceives are his strengths in the visual arts, but he also enjoys delving into the kinds of things that he enjoys as a spectator as well as a creator.

Whether visiting the museums or churches that house the world’s great masterpieces or perusing the unheralded work of artists in the local art galleries, he has developed an appreciation for the image and the craft on display.
“I love to see the work of talented artists and the incredible things they do. When I visited Rome some years ago and saw works by Michaelangelo and other great Rennaissance artists, there were times when I would just tear up. They could do anything,” Tussey said.
That statement is also true of artists with whom he has come into contact at his home at Lake Carnico in Nicholas County, Kentucky.
“Several of my paintings are at the Z-Gallery in Carlisle [Kentucky]. Louise Zachary’s place features several wonderful paintings as well as  beautiful hand-made quilts and woodworking.
“And then, of course, I have several abstracts at the [Licking Valley Campus, Workforce Solutions] art gallery in Cynthiana, where there is also many beautiful works. I am particularly fond of the paper mosaics that Mrs. [Claire] Muller creates. Those are stunning,” he commented.

“I surprise myself at times. I start out with this vague idea and then something happens that changes everything or moves me to something else,” said Tussey.

Though Ottis Tussey has dabbled in art throughout his life, it has only been within the last five years that he has applied himself to developing his artistic skills.
Tussey prefers to work in abstracts. In the years since he has taken up painting, he has been quite prolific.
“I am not accomplished at drawing figures or detailed images. As I’ve been working, I find that I don’t care so much for portraits or scenes as much as I enjoy the interplay of vivid colors on a canvas,” Tussey said about his work.

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Vivid, colorful backgrounds are a hallmark of Tussey’s style, particularly in his recent works.
In fact, there are times, he said, when he has labored so hard to create these colorful backdrops that it takes time to muster the nerve to add anything to the foreground.
“I love the interplay of colors and how they react with each other and with different types of canvas,” he said.
In recent months, he has been working with aluminum foil as a canvas, admiring how the reflective quality changes the nature of his acrylic paints.
In another painting in his home, he achieved an unexpected effect when water from a garden hose splashed against the canvas, creating a fragmented effect to which he was able to add his own designs.
However, some of his most striking abstracts have been captured using glass as his canvas. Several examples of his glass paintings are on display at the art gallery in Cynthiana and unframed at his home.
Perhaps the most important element in his development as a local artist is a level of personal confidence that he has in his work.
“I think I have reached a point where my work has achieved a recognizeable style. It was something that I did not have at the beginning. But these days, one can recognize work that I have done,” Tussey said.

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He attributes his growth to a certain discipline in his approach. Though he does not keep a regular schedule of time painting, he makes the effort to be at the easel working on a piece even if he is not particularly inspired to do so.
“I cannot develop if I let things go for too long,” Tussey said.
Regardless of whether he is happy with his work, he also makes an effort to carry a project to its end.
“The hardest thing for me is getting a new idea. I can only paint so many seagulls or random images. When I was getting into this, I thought that I always needed to wait until inspiration happens before starting in on a new painting. But sometimes, it’s just important to get in front of an easel and do something,” Tussey said. “If I don’t like it, I can just as easily paint over it. And having the painting underneath creates some interesting textures that I can use.”
With the coming holiday season, Tussey is following the lead of fellow artist Herby Moore and offering discounts of up to 20 percent on his paintings at the LVC gallery in the Harrison Square Shopping Center in Cynthiana, Kentucky.

“I don’t charge much for my paintings, so this discount is a real bargain for my work,” Tussey said.

How the Philae lander has renewed my faith

As I am writing this blog, I continue to switch between this page and live coverage of the Rosetta Mission, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) attempt to land a probe on a comet.

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I won’t know until after I publish this if the project is successful, but I have my fingers crossed.

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The images from the control room are mundane. There are banks of flat screen monitors on the wall with words and inscrutable tables of figures too small for me to discern. Not that I would have a single crumb of an idea what they said even if I could read them.
Meanwhile, two or three frumpy scientists of indeterminate age walk about the control room in wrinkled collared shirts and jeans with their security badges swinging back and forth.
A few are seated in front of a bank of computer consoles, but they don’t seem to be doing much.
They look too young to be involved in a project of such historic magnitude.
The room is practically empty even though its about 3 p.m. where they are. There is an estimated two hours left before they know if they’re effort is going to be successful.
Under such circumstances, I expected to see a control room packed wall to ceiling with nervous-looking people pacing. Since its Europe, I also expected to see them chain-smoking.
But the live feed is surprisingly calm.
I should be bored by the coverage, but I’m riveted to my seat. My only regret is that the ensuing press conference about the success or failure of this endeavor will not have the NASA logo featured prominently somewhere in the room.
Its largely because the anticipation of this event is allowing me to recall the sense of wonder that was so much a part of my childhood when space exploration was a big part of our national conversation and aspirations for our future, which included flying cars, video phones and visions of a space station orbiting the Earth around 1992.
Well, we got two of them so far. I do wish the International Space Station featured a swank hotel lobby with a martini bar. I’m sure the astronauts in the space station wish the same thing, but you can’t have everything … yet.
I was a month from my 4th birthday when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, so my memory of that time is unreliable at best. Yet I can recall my parents sitting my sister and I right in front of the television that evening and a peculiar sense of awe as we watched news coverage of the event.
Even at that age, at some simple level, I grasped that I was witnessing something of great importance, even if I was too young to comprehend the full significance of the event.
My wife’s grandfather would never be convinced that it all wasn’t an elaborate hoax.
When I relate this experience to people, there is a part of me that is frustrated that I will never be able to convey the sense of wonder that the Apollo missions had on me and my classmates at school.
The astronauts, the rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, the ocean rescues and the references to the mystical place called Houston (I didn’t connect the city with Texas until much later in life) all fed my imagination throughout my childhood.
It’s been a good long while since an event in space exploration has so fired my imagination in quite the same way, but somehow the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander have accomplished that very thing.
Even the few setbacks that have occurred in the past month has not dimmed my optimism nor diminished my anticipation for future exploration.
I’m not smart enough to be there. I’ll leave that to those frumpy young people. Nevertheless, my faith in our progress is restored.

An expressive newcomer – The art of Ray Duke

An expressive newcomer – The art of Ray Duke

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When asked to talk about the subject matter in one of his paintings, local artist Ray Duke prefers to turn the inquiry back to the questioner. He enjoys it when his work evokes a response from viewers.
“It’s not important to me that people get what I intended in a painting. I like hearing what my images make them think about,” Duke said.
Duke has converted a small bedroom at the back of his home on Wohlwinder Avenue in Cynthiana, Kentucky into a studio for his painting.
He has sold a few of his works here and there, but the majority of his paintings lie against each other against the rear wall.
Thumbing through the collection, one is struck by the range of subject matter that he has painted. One of the pleasures of looking through these works is tracing Duke’s development as a painter.  

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Even to people who do not have much of a background in the visual arts, it is still possible to recognize the development of a highly individual style. There is a great deal of movement and energy captured in these images. Thick strokes invite viewers to touch the canvas and appreciate the tactile sensations in the paint itself.

“I like the way the paint dries on the canvas,” he said. He has re-purposed some of his old canvases, with images he was not satisfied with, to new work. An unexpected benefit of this practice was the way his oils interacted with the older paints, creating a work that invites touching as much as it invites viewing.
Duke has been a practicing artist for decades.
“Growing up, I have always been able to draw and work in clay,” Duke reflected. Yet, he is a relative newcomer to oil painting.
When he first began applying himself as an artist in his spare time, his first devotion was to sculpting, which he had begun in earnest as far back as 1996 while he and his wife were living in San Francisco.
In his living room are impressive examples of his skills as a sculptor. Among them is a detailed scene of two baseball players falling over themselves to catch a fly ball. He’s a fan of baseball, particularly of the San Francisco Giants.
Another is an almost mythic depiction of a beautiful woman with her arms open, an inviting expression on her face, and a scorpion’s tail and pincers seemingly ready to strike.
Duke would have happily continued creating bronze sculpture, but it is a very expensive endeavor.
“It’s not just that bronze sculpture requires a lot of money in materials to create the molds, it also costs a lot to reproduce the works for people who like them. Bronze sculpture is cost prohibitive as a hobby,” Duke said.
He started to take painting seriously around November 2006. From an economic standpoint, it made better sense. A 4 x 5 canvas can run anywhere from $20 – $100.
If the subject matter calls for it, Duke uses wood canvases which are also not very expensive.
But in 2006, when he decided to switch his preferred medium to oil painting, there was one small hitch. He really didn’t know that much about it.
But things were going okay for he and his wife, Karen, – enough so that he decided to leave his job and spend 17 months with a friend in Mazatlan, Mexico to teach himself to paint.
The city proved to be fertile ground for inspiration. The rich culture gave him numerous subjects to depict on campus.
Carnivale in Mazatlan, Duke said, is one of the best known in Mexico. Though it does not have the tourist crowds associated with those celebrated in Rio De Janeiro or New Orleans, it is a vivid spectacle.
One of the works inspired by the celebration occupies a space in their master bedroom.
He has several others in hispersonal collection in the studio. What captures the attention most in his work is the individual detail in the faces.
One of the more vivid examples of that work is one of his early paintings of a struggling family. The fatigue in the face of a mother raising a family alone stands in contrast to the belligerent expression on the face of her son, a toddler who is already adopting a sense of the false machismo that is a bane of male culture in that part of the world, Duke said.

Mazatlan family
“I found that there was a steep learning curve when it came to developing skills as a painter. It took some time before I produced anything that I thought was worthwhile,” Duke commented. “It may have leveled out a bit more, but the curve continues to go upward.”
His development is like leaping from one rock to another to cross a stream, he said. “I can see the shore ahead of me, but I never get there. It always recedes.”
The 2008 recession was an economic setback for Ray and Karen Duke. Relinquishing their home in San Francisco, the Dukes came to Cynthiana to where his wife’s family resides.
“We’re like Okie’s from the Grapes in Wrath, but in reverse. We’re economic refugees from California,” Duke said.
But even in the midst of re-establishing themselves here in Cynthiana, Duke has found plenty of material to inform his paintings in Kentucky.

Portrait of Amber Philpot
Portrait of Amber Philpot

A source of enduring inspiration has been a series of nudes that he has interpreted in numerous ways. Recent experiments, which found their way to his living room wall, cast his nude model in the forms of two famous marble statues — Venus De Milo and Michaelangelo’s David.
Two other works that have been displayed in regional art shows are powerful images of a female boxer preparing for a bout.
As with many artists, he hasn’t sold many of his original works. But then again, he describes his work as more an avocation than a profession.
“It’s something that I enjoy doing,” Duke said.
Interestingly, the pleasure that he derives from painting is in the completed work, not in the process itself.
“I find that the work can be enervating. It saps a great deal of energy. I usually just work about two to three hours – about the length of a playlist on my iPod – then I stop and rest,” Duke said.
But when he finally comes to a point where a work is complete, there is a sense of release.

On occasion, Duke enjoys the way that his art can make a powerful statement.
On occasion, Duke enjoys the way that his art can make a powerful statement.

He’d like to sell more of his work, but the market is not the reason he commits time to creating  his art.
Ray Duke is always glad to meet new people and share his art with them. During art shows in the region, he is glad to break out a few examples from his growing body of work for people to see.

“I have known that I have talent to draw and create. I don’t want to live my life knowing that I have an ability and never used it,” Duke said.

Make your infants weird this Halloween … and be proud of it.

It’s scary sometimes what the internet teaches me about myself.
When just browsing on the web, I try to resist clicking links to the teaser articles that have numbers in their headlines.
You know the types of ‘articles’ I’m talking about:
“7 Oscar-winning actors who started out as slasher movie victims”;
“The 12 greatest horror movies you’ve never seen”;
“8 words about 12 high-calorie desserts from 21 greasy spoon cafes in the American south.”
Before you even click the mouse button, you know you’re in for the old bait-and-switch.
The article will be tucked away somewhere in the middle of a page with confusing directions about how to navigate through it. And no matter where you click the page, you’re all but guaranteed to find yourself on the web site dedicated to the latest revolutionary treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.
Speaking of irritations, it is a personal peeve to have to watch an ad before I can watch a movie trailer, which is also known as an ad.
I’m not sure what it says about us, or the internet, that an advertisement can market itself to advertisers. But there are plenty of times I have considered praying for one of Moses’ plagues to fall upon the person responsible for that idea — and a pox upon the Hollywood executive who dares to call that person brilliant.
I wish I could take that moral high road.
After all, this is my column, my personal soap box upon which I ascend to cast an unflattering light on these unscrupulous persons and reveal their obvious lack of shame.
Alas, I cannot walk that road.
I will give myself a bit of credit to recognize my imperfections, my own human tendency to tread the low road.
All it took to remind me of my own shamelessness is when I succumbed to temptation and clicked on a link to one of those infernal internet slideshow articles I complained about earlier: “The Most Hilariously Inappropriate Halloween Costumes for Babies” by Julia Lynn Rubin.
If you have my sick sense of humor, check out the images at blog.petflow.com/inappropriate-baby-costumes.
This article is not nearly the level of bait-and-switch that you get from the more irritating sites like Answers.com, by the way.
But the moment I read that headline, I was hooked as fast as a bass to a nightcrawler.
Oh what sights they had to show:
•A child in a strait-jacket and Hannibal Lector muzzle strapped to a two-wheeler.
• A man in a Jack Daniels bottle costume with his child dressed as a pack of Marlboro Reds.
• A baby girl in a Hooters outfit.
•A child in a Christmas Tree car air freshener costume.
•A child dressed as “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski.
As I viewed these pictures, I had to ask myself: Would I be the kind of parent who would dress my unprotesting infant in a cigarette pack costume for Halloween?
I can’t lie to myself or to you, my trusting readers.

You bet I would – in a flat New York minute.
I’d be the parent staring uncomprehendingly at the school principal while she tried to explain why my daughter’s zombie Cinderella costume probably didn’t need the pulsing veins in her neck.
If I had had four kids, I’d have talked them into dressing as The Ramones from the movie “Rock-N-Roll High School.”
It’s not an easy thing to admit to oneself. But like any good parent, I would have taken credit, and even some pride, for making my kids weird — A cool sort of weird,  mind you.
Especially on Halloween.
And on even deeper reflection, that guy who figured that there are suckers out there whose greed would lead them to drop  good money to advertise on my ads. That twisted individual — if I met him, I’d probably like him.

Impossible Magic reaches for new level in the entertainment world

Impossible Magic reaches for new level in the entertainment world

Not everything in a magic show is an illusion. Sometimes the stunts, and the risks, are dangerously  real.

Strait-jacket escapes, for example, are no illusion, said Reed Masterson, co-star of “Impossible Magic” with his wife, Ashton Nicole Masterson.

There are dozens of magicians that feature the escape. The Mastersons keep the stunt fresh for their audience by  attaching a small timer with an incendiary device to Reed’s back.

When the timer goes off — there will be flames, Reed promises.

He’s performed the escape numerous times and in nearly every performance, he has removed the jacket in time to contain the fireball in a metal container. But at a dress rehearsal for a Rohs Opera House show, he forgot a critical step in the stunt.

“I got stuck in a bad position and I couldn’t get out. I was down to the last 30 seconds and my arm was still trapped in the sleeve,” Reed said.

The guest audience, familiar with the trick, knew something was wrong.

“I got the thing off with about a second to go, threw it up and turned away just as it went off,” Reed said. “I felt the heat across the side of my body.”

A picture tells the story. A glowing cloud of fire partially singed Reed’s body. Had he been slower, that rehearsal may have been the “Impossible Magic” farewell show, Reed said.

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Fortunately, it was not.

That distinction goes to Reed and Ashton Nicole’s upcoming Halloween show on Friday and Saturday night,  Oct. 24 and 25, at the opera house.

They are calling it their “Farewell to Cynthiana Show” and it will feature Reed, for the first time, without his trademark mask.

Fans are guaranteed a memorable evening, Reed said, because Cynthiana is more than just a venue for the Mastersons’ show. It’s where Impossible Magic got its start.

“I’ve worked backstage at this theater since before I ever started a show,” Reed said. “It really is where I learned the craft.”

Before becoming a stage performer, Reed worked backstage for Roger and Lee Ann Despard’s Grand Illusions show, another touring magic show with roots in Harrison County, Reed said.

He and Ashton had put together a basic show for fun. In 2008, they asked owners of the opera house for use of its space for a 45-minute show.

“I was surprised when they said ‘yeah,’ mainly because I had no track record. We didn’t know if we could get an audience and Ashton had never been on stage,” Reed said.

The night of the performance, Oct. 23, 2008, Reed was happy to have just sold 60 tickets. It was better than what an out-of-town magic act had sold a few months earlier, he said.

Then the best and scariest thing happened an hour before the show, he said. He had gone home to dress and when he returned, there was a line of people from the opera house box office to the corner of Main Street coming to see the show.

“We sold out,” Reed said. “Ashton and I were scared to death.”

Since its debut, Impossible Magic has had a continuous history of sell outs in Cynthiana. The show, which is almost two hours long now, has evolved to where it takes a crew of 11 people to put it on.

“Our local show is always bigger than the one we take on the road,” Reed said.

Their growing fan base is aware of that as well, which is one reason Reed believes that they sell out and also why a second night was added to the October Halloween show this year.

“We turned away about 150 people last year. That’s enough to justify adding a second show,” Reed said.

A big reason for Impossible Magic’s increasing popularity is that the Mastersons change anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the show each year.

The husband and wife team continue to challenge each other with new illusions, stunts and enhancements to their signature performances.

The show next month is going to feature their popular dove act, but it will also introduce some new animal friends, including a beautiful German Shepherd-Huskey mix.

There will also be some additional segments featuring Ashton in the spotlight.

It took Reed some effort to get Ashton to add her skills as a mentalist to the show.

“She is shy and content for awhile to be the silent support to my magic. But since we put a spotlight on her, Ashton’s acts are among our more popular segments,” Reed said.

But even though their Cynthiana show is consistent, demand for the Impossible Magic show has grown throughout the region and it is becoming a dominant feature of the Mastersons’ professional life.

They have 70 shows already scheduled through August 2015 with bookings in Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois and Virginia among others.

Among those bookings are shows in Pigeon Forge and other larger tourist venues. The increased demand for the show has enticed the Mastersons to take Impossible Magic to the next level as a larger touring act.

In order to accomplish this task, it will be necessary to pick up stakes and take a break from their regular stops.

“We have a goal of scheduling 100 shows for the next year. I think we’ll be able to do it,” Reed said. “Our show this October won’t be the last we ever have in Cynthiana. But we’re getting requests to perform at venues farther away from home and we want to see where a larger tour will take us.”

A last place finish to remember

A last place finish to remember

I am indebted to Jeri Stracner from Carlisle and Pat Grenier for this column because I, unfortunately, did not witness the best part of the 5K Born to Run Walk/Run Saturday morning.

<div class="source">Photo courtesy of Jeri Stracner</div><div class="image-desc">Kristen Crawford crosses the finish line to the sound of cheers and applause in her first ever 5K run.</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="http://web2.lcni5.com/cgi-bin/c2newbuyphoto.cgi?pub=081&amp;orig=viewpoint_5krun.jpg" target="_new">Buy this photo</a></div>

While I’m not blessed with powers to predict the future — not even the soon-to-be future — I still hate missing the good stuff when it happens.
And the story about the end of the 2014 Born to Run 5K, folks, is about the really, really good stuff.
The run/walk, sponsored annually by the Cynthiana-Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, was wrapping up. Awards were being presented to the top finishers in the numerous gender and age categories, but not every participant had yet crossed the finish line.
There was somebody quite special completing the run in last place.
Kristen Crawford, from Carlisle, is the 32-year-old niece of Jeri and Mike Stracner and has cerebral palsy.
I am acquainted with Kristen because of my friendship with the Stracners, but I can’t say that I know her all that well.
When I would see her in the company of the Stracners or with her grandfather, Billy Dale Crawford, the thing I noticed most was that Kristen smiled a lot and seemed always to be in good spirits.
But that was almost a decade ago.
According to Jeri, a few years ago, Kristen was living in her own apartment and she wasn’t very happy.
“She was wallowing in excuses as to why she couldn’t go outside for a walk or get any kind of exercise,” Jeri explained.
Kristen’s personal malaise was affecting her health, Jeri said, and she wasn’t taking steps to change the course her life was heading.
Concerned, the Stracners decided to move Kristen into their home.
“We taught her about healthy eating. We encouraged daily walks. She went from a size 22 to a size 8,” Jeri said.
The 5k run, however, was Kristen’s first.
According to Jeri, Kristen was nervous. The farthest Kristen had ever walked before was two miles and now she was attempting to take on a five kilometer hike with only her walker for support.
She entered the race with a t-shirt that read “Excuses Suck.” Despite that show of determination, “she said before the race that her heart was pounding.”
It took Kristen longer than anyone else to complete the race. In fact, Grenier was already handing out awards to the finishers when she saw Kristen approaching the finish line.
And that, folks, is when the good stuff happened. I had already peeled off to take photos of the Big Feet, Little Feet walk, unaware of Kristen’s participation in the 5K. But then, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the poignancy of the moment.
Grenier halted the awards ceremony and everyone that had remained applauded and cheered as Kristen crossed the finish line.
“She told me that nothing but will power got her through the 5K,” Stracner said. “She is so proud of her accomplishment. It boosted her confidence and taught her that she can accomplish most anything, even though her body doesn’t cooperate very well.”
Congratulations to Kristen for a terrific finish and a warm smile, heck, maybe even a hug, to all those who made a last place finish the greatest of all the victories that day.