It isn’t easy getting Lauren Mink Frazer to talk about herself. Ask a personal question, and the answer she gives will generally circle back to her favorite topic: Winchester. Or, as she likes to call it, “Funchester.”
I recently sat down with Lauren over lunch at The Engine House for an interview. It was during Beer Cheese Food Week, and we both enjoyed their special (“Rough & Ready Pizza Cone Megaphone”) washed down with – what else? – cold Ale‑8.
One of the first things I asked her about was how “Funchester” came about.
“It started off with me noticing people calling our town ‘Suck-Chester.’ They’re like, ‘there’s nothing happening here.’ To me, that’s a load of BS — there’s always something happening! I hate that kind of negativity.”
So, Lauren did what Lauren does: she decided to do something. She wanted to change the perception that there’s nothing to do in Winchester. She started a social media campaign, began scouring the Internet and social media for weekend activities, and started posting a compendium of activities each Thursday for the coming weekend. She called it “This Weekend in #Funchester.”
She says, “I realized that lots of the business owners aren’t necessarily their best hype people. And they’re not always good about getting out the word or knowing how to use social media. This is just me searching as much as I possibly can to pull things together. There are weeks when there aren’t festivals and major things happening. So I try to come up with some creative things because, as a mom, I’m trying to think in terms of ‘what are we doing this weekend?’ So for the Funchester thing, I just wanted to prove people wrong.”
When Lauren isn’t busy being the hype girl for Winchester, she’s tending to her other responsibilities: as a wife and mother of two, an insurance agent at Clark County Farm Bureau Insurance, her blog Love the Bluegrass, and her role as a talented vocalist who is very much in demand around the region. She even tried out for the television show American Idol a couple of times, impressing the judges so much in season 12 that she came within one night of making it to the live show.
“I made it all through the entire Hollywood week. And then they had to eliminate two girls for the live television part. I was one of the two girls chosen [to be cut.]”
These days, you can find Lauren on stage at many Central Kentucky venues. She’s excited about a brand new music series she had a part in putting together: Legacy Nights at the Legacy Grove Park.
“A small part,” she emphasized. “I’m on a committee and they are really doing a lot of the work.
“I asked myself, what can families do here? Instead of having to go to Lexington or Paris or Richmond? Can we take some of the ideas that they’re doing? Why can’t we make that happen here — like the Legacy Nights that we’re doing out at Legacy Grove. We had hundreds of people there — it shows that people were ready for something like that. So creating more such events that families can do together in a safe atmosphere and be all-inclusive.”
Last winter, when it was announced that there would be no Winchester Christmas parade, Lauren again stepped in. When I asked her about that, she talked more about the people who worked behind the scenes to pull off a last-minute parade. But make no mistake – Lauren was the driving force behind the parade.
I do say this is sort of like Mayberry, like a place you see on TV shows. I grew up here and I just want people to see the ‘Mayberry side’ of Winchester that I see.
“I mean, it was short. It was sweet. Like no fluff. I talked to a few people that had done it in years past – what worked and what didn’t work. What did people argue about, because I don’t want any of the drama — we literally had a couple of weeks to pull this off. I had a few people help me that had done [the parade] before. Then I called up my list of what I call the ‘doers’ — the people who you ask… and they get stuff done. Everyone rallied behind me and we got it done.”
When speaking with Lauren, it’s always abundantly clear that, despite having her hand in so many community projects, she is not in it for the glory. She truly lives and breathes Winchester. She wants to make this community the best it can be – even to make it the envy of other towns in the region.
“Oh yeah, I want other cities to be jealous of what’s happening here! We have to create more things to make people want to stay here and be involved here. Like this beer cheese food week. Or like our Winchester Young Professionals that Alyshia Martin and I founded together.
“Everyone always laughs but I do say this is sort of like Mayberry, like a place you see on TV shows. I grew up here and I want people to see the ‘Mayberry side’ of Winchester that I see. Maybe I see it with rose-colored glasses. I do know there are [things that aren’t so Mayberry-esque] going on. But I’d like for everybody to see it through my rose-colored lenses. Being raised here, I thought it was a sort of magical town.
“I went to middle school and high school in Lexington. And it was so different. You didn’t know everybody — you barely knew everybody in your school. Then I would come home and I would know everybody.”
A future in politics?
At one point in the conversation, Lauren startled me with an off-hand revelation.
“I love doing things out in the community. My dad was always out in the community, doing things, and I saw him giving back in that way. I just always sort of knew that that’s what I was going to do.
“Like maybe being the mayor — ”
Wait, I interject, you want to be mayor of Winchester?
“I can not be the mayor… not right now. Maybe when I’m like 60 years old. And I know it’s a big job…”
I point out that it might be a great fit for her. In a town such as Winchester, which is run by a city manager, the mayor can be the “hype person.”
“Right,” she responds. “I’d love that aspect of it. I think of [retiring Mayor Ed Burtner] who has gone so far. He’s gone above and beyond and made it his full-time-times-three job. He’s everywhere! I even told him the other day, ‘you realize when you’re not [officially] mayor, you’re still going to be mayor to a lot of us. Because you are Winchester’s hype person.’ He likes to say Winchester is the heart of Kentucky. And I love that.”
Trying to get her to talk more about herself, I asked her what it’s like performing on stage. But she quickly made it about her family. And her band.
“I mean, that’s my stress relief. Working in insurance every single day isn’t super glamorous. I love being in my office and chatting with people and getting to know them — and that’s why I love insurance. But then you need something fun to do. Singing is something that I’ve had to really work on — my life/music balance. Before my kids came along, I would say ‘yes’ to all the things. Now, it’s got to be something pretty good to get me away from my kids. And I know as the years go on, I’m going to be doing less music because they’ll have all the sports tournaments and all other things happening. And I want to be there for those things.
“But I do love performing! And I’m lucky that I play with some of the best musicians. I mean the best! And they’re not big partiers on anything. They’re serious about their work.”
What does Lauren do just for herself?
“I love working out at the Om Place. That is my release. I go and work out with some ladies down there, and it’s awesome. I love to read and I love to knit. Most people in my family get some sort of knitted gift for Christmas. And honestly, I like the things that I find for Funchester. I’ve loved finding something fun to do in my hometown — and then sharing it with everybody else in hopes that they will support those businesses. That is what I love.”
It’s very clear that Lauren Mink loves Winchester. And Winchester loves her.