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Trying to scam a refund for your comp Strawberry Hill ticket? Not so fast ... 

Street Talk

Some Trying to Scam Horse Races Refunds
Uptown Neighbors Protest Gas Station
Fan Church Closes Doors
They Don't Mind The Resemblance
Show Chess Champ Your Stuff
Some Trying to Scam Horse Races Refunds

Talk about your petty frauds: Some people, including "very visible" Richmonders, have been trying to get refunds on complimentary tickets to the rain-wracked Strawberry Hill Races at Colonial Downs, event organizers say.

Atlantic Rural Exposition Inc. spokesman Jay Lugar says the would-be cheats seeking money for the free tickets include "people who are very visible in this community. It's amazing to see people trying to get around the system like that."

Lugar refuses to identify any of the celebrity swindlers or high-profile frauds, but says they are being foiled by ARE's ticket-bar-coding system, which determines whether the tickets were $16 advance tickets, $25 tickets sold after April 11, or freebies distributed to local media and others to spur interest in the event.

Lugar says ARE doesn't know how many tickets were sold, but he estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 people got to watch the April 15 races despite mud-and-muck-related parking problems at Colonial Downs.
— Rob Morano

Uptown Neighbors Protest Gas Station

The rumblings have started.

Five years after Little Oil Co. said it would build a state-of-the-art gas station — complete with Padow's Deli — at the corner of Main and Shields streets in the Fan, the still-vacant lot sparks new outcries from its neighbors.

With construction plans halted in favor of other projects, the corner lot has found an alternative use as a much used and needed parking lot — to the delight of business owners such as Doug Curtler of Visions salon and owners of neighboring restaurants Stella's, Sticky Rice and Southern Culture.

But now word is circulating that Little Oil Co. has negotiated to sell the lot to Rennie Petroleum, which owns the Virginia-based convenience stores. Stratford Ward, executive vice president with Little Oil, declined to comment on the property or its intended use. However, Garland Watkins with Rennie Petroleum says the deal hasn't closed but is under contract. "There are a couple of issues still in flux," says Watkins. "We think we're going to bring something to the Fan that's desirable to most."

But it's a hard sell to members of the Your Neighbors Uptown civic association, which circulated a flier last week in hopes area residents would contact the 2nd District City Council representative — Mayor Tim Kaine — and protest.

Members of Your Neighbors Uptown argue a proposed gas station goes against the "West Main Street Corridor Plan," a rezoning initiative that would prohibit businesses like gas stations. City Council approved the plan in 1998. "Calling for something and implementing it is another thing," says Your Uptown Neighbors' president, Mark Brandon, who hopes interested citizens will turn out for the group's next meeting May 2.

Critics argue a suburban-style station detracts from Main Street's urban architecture, contributes unwanted trash, attracts loiterers and increases the risk of problems associated with off-site ABC licenses.

"The truth is, it can be stopped if enough people get inspired," says Brandon. "You just got to light a fire."
— Brandon Walters

Fan Church Closes Doors

It's a sign of the times that Patty Russell and the 24 weekly churchgoers of Pace Memorial United Methodist Church knew was coming.

Although its members number 110, the two dozen people who show up on Sundays can't fill the pews, let alone support a full-time minister.

"We've been losing members since 1921," Russell says with a gentle laugh. She's been a church member for nearly 30 years and works as a district archivist for the Methodist Church.

The church, located at West Franklin and Pine streets, will hold its last 11 a.m. service June 25.

Begun as a mission of Centenary United Methodist Church in 1840, the modest Main Street Chapel officially became Pace Memorial after the death in 1920 of benefactor James B. Pace, a tobacco merchant and banker, who donated $100,000 to ensure the church's future as an urban Methodist place of worship.

In recent years, Pace has become known for its community outreach and as an intake location for homeless services provider Caritas.

Proving that numbers haven't always meant strength, the church has survived everything from post-Civil War recession to suburban flight to a 1966 fire that burned the once-stately church to the ground.

Because of a reverter clause in Pace's deed, says Russell, "We couldn't do what other churches did in the '60s and move to the suburbs. We couldn't get a loan, so we built a much simpler building with the money from the insurance." And, still, adds Russell, its maintained a humble and faithful place in the community.

But now, the Richmond District of the Virginia Methodist Conference, of which Pace Memorial is part, has "at some official level determined we're not a viable congregation," says Russell.

Even without its members, its mission continues. It's slated to become a Methodist campus ministry for students. "It's very difficult for all of us," says Russell. "Continuing Mr. Pace's wish to serve the community is the only way it could be tolerable."
— B.W.

They Don't Mind The Resemblance

[image-1]Gillmore & SchaffnerIt was bad enough when Gov. Jim Gilmore momentarily mistook Channel 8 news anchor Lisa Schaffner for his wife, Randolph-Macon classics professor Roxane Gilmore, at a Christmas 1998 press dinner, but now even the women are having a hard time telling themselves apart.

The confusion results from a resemblance between Gilmore, 45, and Schaffner, 38, that has perplexed some Richmonders since the state's first family arrived on the scene two years ago.

"It's hysterical," Schaffner says. "Roxane and I call each other twin sisters and joke about it all the time."

But after a March 23 Richmond SPCA event, things spiraled out of control. Mrs. Gilmore attended the event; Schaffner did not, but while looking at video of the gala, thought she spotted herself.

"I said, 'Hey, wait a second! That's me! But I don't remember going there,'" Schaffner says.

For her part, Gilmore says she experienced a similar identity crisis last month at a literacy event with Schaffner when a woman approached Gilmore and asked her to autograph a picture.

It was a photo of Schaffner, but Gilmore didn't immediately recognize it as such. "Actually, I'm very flattered to think I would resemble Lisa," she says. "We have a lot of fun with it."

We could not bring ourselves to put the governor in the position of having to comment on any of this.
— R.M.

Show Chess Champ Your Stuff

Not since Bobby Fischer visited Richmond in the early '60s has the city's chess community had so much to celebrate: Gregory Kaidanov, currently the top-ranked player in the United States and consistently in the top 100 worldwide, will give a lecture and a series of publicity-friendly exhibitions Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Kaidanov, 40, a Russian emigre who lives with his family in Kentucky, says he hopes to dispel myths about the world's greatest strategy game. "In many people's minds, chess is a boring game which takes several hours to complete, and so forth." Through playing blindfolded against an opponent, and by playing 50 different games simultaneously, on Saturday, he aims to show Richmonders it's "extremely interesting and full of different adventures."

Kaidanov says he agreed to make time in his busy international tournament-playing and chess-teaching schedule to visit here at the behest of Brian Sumner, one of his pupils and vice president of a local chess club. Sumner advises those who attend the free event and get to play against Kaidanov to bring their best game: "Just play how you're used to playing and try not to let him intimidate you," Sumner says.

Kaidanov says he hopes his Richmond trip also attracts more interest in chess among minority kids — he happens to coach Maurice Ashley, who last year became the world's first black grandmaster.
— R.M.

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