This year’s Beer Cheese Festival in Winchester was a huge success, with perfect weather and a record crowd. My wife Clare and I walked it from end to end, checking out exhibits and visiting with friends. On North Main Street, we ran into Ron Kibbey at Kevin Palmer’s Art booth. Ron showed us a caricature that Kevin presented to him as a gift. We were much impressed.
The image captures two iconic Winchester figures—the subject and the artist—that most people know and everyone should. We’ll start with the subject, Ron Kibbey. I had known Ron for a long time before I learned how he came to be in Winchester from Steve Flairty’s book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes 2.
Ron Kibbey grew up in Baltimore, graduated from nearby Towson State College, and spent four years in the U.S. Air Force. After his discharge, the young hippie set out on a cross-country trip in his Volkswagen Beetle. His destination was Vermont. While passing through Winchester, his VW broke down, and he had to have it towed to Lexington for repairs. That was in 1973. Yep, Ron has now been “stranded” in Winchester for the last 50 years.
Ron took a job as a social worker in Winchester and has been hard at it here ever since. His list of accomplishments is too long to go into in this brief sketch. He worked tirelessly on programs addressing the problems of drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, handicapped access, daycare services, and many more. He is now “officially” retired but has hardly slowed down. After a long career in social work, he is still busy advocating for disadvantaged citizens of Clark County.
A few of his side activities alone would keep most people hopping. He hosts his monthly “Comedy Classics” showing vintage movies and cartoons at the Clark County Public Library. He also has a regular column in WinCity Voices called Reel Classics that provides in-depth reviews of his favorite old movies. This is in addition to his local volunteer work.
The artist, Kevin Palmer, is our former well-regarded Winchester Police Chief. He retired in 2022 after more than twenty years in law enforcement. His recent accomplishments with the department included starting a K‑9 unit and equipping police officers with body cameras, to name a few.
Kevin is also a dedicated reenactor with a focus on the Colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War eras. And, as you might expect, he has put together a collection of period-correct clothing and accessories. He was a regular at the annual Siege of Fort Boonesborough.
I can recall memorable programs he put on at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum. In one he described what it was like surviving the Wilderness Trail in pioneer times. In the other, he portrayed Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at a press conference (I found the resemblance striking.) Kevin has been designated as the Living History Coördinator for the museum. He attributes his interest in history to one of his teachers, Sandy Stults, now the museum director.
And now we’ve learned that he has been a talented painter all along. Kevin started a retirement business, The Painter’s Workshop, which offers painting classes for individuals or groups. Clare attended one of his group workshops and came away impressed—she wants to go back for more. I think Kevin’s skill is more than evident in his caricature of Ron Kibbey.
Ron and Kevin each acknowledge that after working together over the years in their roles in social work and law enforcement, they developed a long-lasting friendship and mutual respect for each other.