April 2013 Issue
35 Reasons to Celebrate Ohio
Looking for the best of American life? Look no further. It’s all right here.
Bob Beasley, Linda Feagler, Ron Rollins, Jill Sell, Marilou Suszko, Ilona Westfall
The slogan may be a thing of the past, but the essential truth of the matter remains: Ohio is now and always will be “the heart of it all.”
Mansfield author Louis Bromfield described our geographical place in the world well. “Where exactly is Ohio?” he asked. “It is the farthest west of the east, and the farthest east of the west, the farthest north of the south, and the farthest south of the north, and it is probably the richest area of its size in the world.”
Given all that, you will pardon our dilemma. How do you single out just 35 reasons to celebrate a place like that?
Ohio brims, hums and bustles with reasons to celebrate. So start with our list and add your own. Who is to say you’re wrong? As an Ohioan, after all, it’s all about you. Everyone knows we’re the center of the universe.
Though Ohioans are sometimes maddeningly modest about it, the Buckeye State has one of the richest, deepest, most interesting histories of any in the union.
Start with our presidents. Ohio lays claim to eight — William Henry Harrison (born in Virginia, but elected from and buried here), Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding. Our state practically owned the White House during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Then there are our pioneers and war heroes. Texas may have Davy Crockett, but Ohio has Daniel Boone. The famed woodsman spent a good bit of his time hunting, pioneering and Indian-fighting on our side of the Ohio River. While Texans remember the Alamo, how about another high-stakes underdog contest that we actually won? Ohio has the Battle of Lake Erie, in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry dramatically took the Great Lakes back for our side during the War of 1812, thereby giving our young country a key victory against the British when we really needed one.
Ohioans have a long history as crusaders for freedom. Before the Civil War, our state played a crucial role in the abolition debate and in the Underground Railroad that helped slaves to freedom. The first African-American field officer in the Civil War, Martin Delaney, lived here and is buried in Wilberforce — whose college, along with Oberlin, Antioch and Central State University, speaks to the important role Ohio played in civil rights and co-education. Oberlin was the first college in the nation to regularly admit women.
Our story goes back much further than all that. Ohio was home to the mound-building Native Americans of prehistory who left us with such fascinating landscape wonders as the Newark earthworks and the amazing, internationally known Serpent Mound.
As innovators, we reach for the sky. Not only was powered flight created by those two Daytonians, Wilbur and Orville Wright, but two young pilots — John Glenn from New Concord and Neil Armstrong from Wapakoneta — took us into outer space.
Ohio inventors, famous and otherwise, have imagined and created countless routine-but-important things that touch and impact our everyday lives, from the stepladder to the first traffic light to the pop-top can to the ignition system in your car.
While we’re shedding light on the subject, let’s not overlook the most amazing inventor of them all, Thomas Edison — born and raised in little Milan, Ohio, where you can still visit his boyhood home.
— Ron Rollins
Ohio is Mother Nature’s portfolio. She shows off woodlands rich in wildflowers, wetlands teeming with rare plants and animals, and prairies that mimic their larger, western cousins. She boasts of the state’s natural coastline, rivers big and small that wind through our towns and countryside and hills that roll across the state. The diversity of Ohio’s natural beauty is unmatched, and is a gift to residents and tourists alike.
Water is the liquid of life, and Ohio’s northern boundary hugs Lake Erie, the 11th-largest lake in the world and the fourth largest in surface area among the Great Lakes. On the calmest, sunniest days, blue diamonds sparkle on the water’s surface. During storms, black waves rise to frighten us with their angry allure and size. But the lake has given Ohio myriad commercial and recreational opportunities. Lake Erie’s islands include Kelleys Island, made for nature lovers, and Middle Bass and South Bass Islands, just right for summer fun.
The Ohio River is the largest tributary of the Mississippi River and forms the entire 451-mile southern boundary of the state. Its sheer size and importance have shaped Ohio’s history. Additionally, the state has 29,113 miles of rivers. Four rivers are designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers as well as Ohio Scenic Rivers: Big and Little Darby creeks, Little Beaver Creek and Little Miami River. Rare fish and mussels, a protected salamander called a hellbender, and riverbanks teeming with blue heron and mallards add to the waterways’ busy life.
Ohio’s parks have earned national recognition as well. The 32,950-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio is surrounded by two large urban areas. Many visitors are surprised to discover that river otters, coyotes, mink and beaver live within the mostly deciduous forest and along the crooked Cuyahoga River. The park is a botanist’s playground with its 943 plant species, from the petite spring beauty wildflowers to majestic red maple and American beech trees.
Each of the 75 Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Ohio State Parks is unique. Salt Fork’s fascinating geological sites include huge sandstone blocks, caves and waterfalls. Deer Creek is known for ring-necked pheasants. From the highest points in the forest, visitors to Shawnee see a magical blue haze, the result of moisture in the air and views of the forest below.
In Ohio, we clearly can see the forests for the trees. Wayne National Forest in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio covers more than a quarter million acres. Visitors camp, fish and traverse more than 300 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, all-terrain-vehicle riding and horseback riding. Botanical herbs including American ginseng and goldenseal are treasures in the area.
State nature preserves, sanctuaries for wildlife, are among Ohio’s most precious areas. The state’s 135 preserves include Lakeside Daisy in Ottawa County, with the only natural population of its namesake wildflower in the United States. Lake Katharine in Jackson Township features a pristine lake surrounded by sandstone cliffs and Sheldon Marsh in Erie County is a notable destination for birdwatchers. — Jill Sell
Arts at Heart
When we think of arts and entertainment meccas, Hollywood and New York City immediately come to mind. But there’s no question that Ohio more than holds its own as a hub of creativity. Variety runs the gamut from world-class orchestra concerts to grassroots arts festivals — held everywhere from big urban metropolises to the small towns that dot the Buckeye State.
Take our museums, for instance: At one end of the spectrum, there’s the world-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art; the Cincinnati Museum Center, former-train-station-turned-art-deco jewel; and the very cool Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. But we’re also loaded with hidden gems like the Mazza Museum in Findlay, home to an exquisite collection of illustrations from children’s books.
For music lovers, Ohio offers something to satisfy every ear. Classical fans can hear Beethoven by the Cleveland Orchestra (the ensemble that Time magazine proclaimed to be “the best band in the land.”) Then there are venues, such as Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, known for an eclectic playlist of touring rock, bluegrass and folk bands. In fact, the state is full of indoor and outdoor music festivals year-round. Cases in point: the River City Blues Festival in Marietta and Cincinnati’s Midpoint Music Festival.
Whether you’re into Shakespeare or the latest Broadway musical, you’ll find it on stages throughout the state, from Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare — the country’s second-largest performing arts center — to Amil Tellers in Lima, the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts in Portsmouth and the Zanesville Community Theatre.
While we may not be as glitzy as Hollywood, Ohio has plenty of screen gems as well. Many movies and TV shows have been set or filmed here, including “The Deer Hunter,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” In recent years, the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive has made filming here even more financially appealing, which resulted in downtown Cleveland being transformed into New York City for “The Avengers.”
Tap shoes, ballet slippers and even wheels make an appearance in Ohio’s dance troupes. Dayton Ballet and BalletMet in Columbus perform graceful pas de deux, while the Contemporary Dance Theatre brings touring modern dance companies to Cincinnati. And the unique Dancing Wheels Company & School in Cleveland features dancers with and without disabilities.
Want to sample performing and visual arts at the same time? Ohio sets the scene for that, too, with an abundance of events eagerly anticipated each year. Bowling Green’s Black Swamp Arts Festival has well-known bands performing alongside award-winning art displays. And Cleveland’s IngenuityFest is known for introducing technology to more traditional arts.
Taking all this into consideration, it’s no surprise that some of the biggest celebrities in the arts hail from here — including actors Halle Berry and Clark Gable, Grammy -winning rockers The Black Keys and painter George Bellows. — Ilona Westfall
Could there be a better way to celebrate food and drink in Ohio than with those grown, prepared or crafted right here? Fill a glass with wine from any of the state’s 160 wineries or pour a beer brewed at one of 30 craft and microbreweries. If “spirits” move you, check out the handful of small-batch distilleries that have emerged over the past five years. Distinct vodkas from Middlewest Spirits, white rum from Portside Distillery and gin from Watershed Distillery provide higher proof that creativity and sustainability is deeply rooted in those who quench the thirst.
Want the perfect complement for your drink? Say cheese. More than a dozen Ohio goat and cow’s milk cheese producers handcraft some 30 original fresh and aged varieties. Add Kokoboreggo and Yellow House Cheeses, the first sheep’s milk cheese producers, and the options to round out a delicious, locally sourced cheeseboard just get better.
Ohio’s bees buzzed with excitement last year. Not only did the honey they collected flow freely, but over the past three years the number of registered beekeepers increased by 8 percent and colonies or hives now number more than 36,700. The majority of beekeepers are hobbyists keeping less than five hives.
The fact that they are introducing more pollinators to the environment makes everyone — from the home gardener to the orchardists — very happy.
From hive to the bottle, beekeepers bring their honey harvest to Ohio’s 264 farmers markets — year-round. While the state stands seventh in the nation for active markets, the USDA puts Ohio in a top spot for winter markets. Fifty off-season markets set up weekly in a number of indoor venues dedicated to feeding a year-round yen for locally grown foods.
For food to “go,” Ohio’s fleet of urban food trucks have made good eating a truly moveable feast. There are more than 100 gourmet meals on wheels worth chasing, offering everything from ethnic specialties to American contemporary cuisine. Finding one is easy at ohiofoodtruckfinder.com
A number of food-focused organizations make it their mission to educate and entertain Ohioans about food and agriculture. Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is in its 30th year of organizing tours and on-farm experiences for hobbyists, the curious or those exploring small-scale farming. Ohio Farm Bureau’s Grow and Know programs run spring through fall with farm visits, on-farm breakfasts and dinners, cooking lessons and even cooking competitions.
Food writers and bloggers such as Central Ohio’s Rachel Tayse Bailleul (harmonioushomestead.com
) and Northeast Ohio’s Laura Taxel (clevelandmagazine.blogspot.com
) provide even more ways to stay connected to local food and agriculture. Informed and enthusiastic, their sites and observations ensure that the search for all that’s tasty, timely and growing is never very far away. — Marilou Suszko
Few places can match Ohio’s contributions to the world of sports. Professional baseball started here, the greatest champion in golf was born here, the road to the Final Four in college basketball begins here, and every football player hopes to end up here. These are just several of the many sports-themed reasons to celebrate Ohio.
In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings fielded the first pro team in baseball. One hundred forty-four years later, they’re still playing ball in the Queen City. The current edition of the team — now known as the Reds — is defending its National League Central Division title this year. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians, who have a slightly shorter history, are looking to return to winning ways under new manager Terry Francona.
Along with those two big- league teams, Ohio is home to several great minor league squads. The Dayton Dragons, Toledo Mud Hens, Columbus Clippers, Akron Aeros, Lake County Captains and Lake Erie Crushers are all great options for folks in search of affordable family fun.
Before baseball begins each year, the men’s college basketball season finishes in a frenetic flurry of games known as March Madness. It all kicks off with the “First Four” at the University of Dayton Arena, which has been the opening-round site since 2001.
Moving from the court to the course, no one has won more major golf championships than Upper Arlington native Jack Nicklaus. While he’s long retired from competition, the Golden Bear still hosts the Memorial Tournament each spring at his Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, and his achievements are immortalized at the Jack Nicklaus Museum on the campus of his alma mater, The Ohio State University.
Nicklaus isn’t the only athlete with a shrine in Ohio, where the rich traditions of both the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals incite the passions of football fans from one end of the state to the other. Canton is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where 280 of the sport’s greatest figures are enshrined. The Hall of Fame is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and, on Aug. 3, it will welcome seven new members, including Cris Carter who is a native of — where else? — Ohio. — Bob Beasley
Many Buckeye writers past and present — such as Dayton’s Paul Laurence Dunbar and Rita Dove, who hails from Akron — exude sheer poetry in their words about the people, places and causes they’re passionate about. Our novelists take a more, well, novel approach: Cleveland’s Les Roberts selected his favorite North Coast city as the backdrop for his private-eye mystery series, while Centerville author Carrie Bebris takes readers back to a time of duels and ballroom dancing in her popular books based on Jane Austen stories.
Love is good, but so is laughter. For the latter we turn to the work of humorists such as Dayton’s Erma Bombeck. And it’s easy to see why Columbus is proud of native son James Thurber, whose inimitable wit touched genres ranging from short stories and cartoons to essays about life’s conundrums.
News and newsmakers also lead to riveting reads: Douglas Brinkley, who grew up in Perrysburg, has penned a litany of gripping nonfiction books tackling subjects ranging from Hurricane Katrina to Walter Cronkite. (He and pal Johnny Depp just finished editing House of Earth, a recently discovered novel by legendary folk musician Woody Guthrie.) Hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post, Susan Orlean is known for her colorful travel essays that span the globe and exhibit a wanderlust born perhaps from what she describes as “a happy and relatively uneventful childhood in Cleveland.”
Clearly, the adage “so many books, so little time” rings true throughout our state. Ohio is replete with must-reads by Sherwood Anderson, Zane Grey, Robert McCloskey, Toni Morrison, Gloria Steinem, and, lest we forget … insert the names of your favorite writers here.
We’re also thankful for the fact that one doesn’t have to be Nancy Drew to discover the treasure trove. (Although, America’s most famous girl detective is one of us: The first 23 books in the beloved series were penned by Toledo Blade reporter Mildred Wirt Benson.)
Ohio’s libraries — from grand marble structures steeped in architectural wonder to brick-and-mortar buildings emanating small-town charm — have stories to share. And they’re leading the nation in doing so: In 2011, the National Center for Educational Statistics ranked us No. 1 in library visits per capita.
— Linda Feagler
MORE REASONS TO CELEBRATE
We asked our Facebook friends to name some of their favorite Ohio places and attractions. The following are just a few of their responses.
Cindy Lou Cheney Weatherholtz
“Rock and roll to farmers’ fields, roller coasters and museums. Bratwurst, popcorn and pumpkin festivals. Lakes, rivers and state park beaches. So many things to see and do in my great state of Ohio! That is what I love — exploring it all!”
“35 miles in any direction and you enter a new Ohio.”
Easy Travel Mom
“People travel the world (trust me, I have) to see what Ohio can do all on its own — an African Safari at African Safari Wildlife Park; island hopping [from] Kelleys Island to Put-In-Bay; an amazing indoor experience at the best science museum, COSI; for the hippie or music lover in all of us to enjoy the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; what beauty comes at Hocking Hills from ziplining to hiking; the holiday light shows across this state but particularly at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; and the surprising history. With four seasons, Ohio has it all — but more importantly, it has the diversity of its people that no matter what, will give you directions with a smile! And my personal opinion is it really is THE place to raise a family. I’m not from Ohio (or the Midwest) but I love it!”
Cheryl J. Brinkmann
“Born in Cleveland, went to college in Cincinnati, lived on the Great Lakes where I saw turtles hatch and crawl to life in Lake Erie. From lighthouses to great academic institutions, to farmland, to horse land ... that is Ohio to me.”
Mary Louise Kuehnling
“I feel so fortunate to have lived in the historic Merriman Valley, Portage Path area, in Akron, for 57 years. I have walked the wooded paths of Sand Run Parkway and driven by the old Indian trails that stretch for miles along the river. Akron has so much to offer, with its E.J. Thomas Hall, University of Akron, Weathervane and Coach House theaters. My home was also very near the famous Stan Hywet Hall that I visited often.”