June 2009 Issue
The charms of Ohio Magazine’s Best Hometowns — the five communities chosen for the honor last November — are apparent on a visit to their shops and restaurants, historic sites and signature events.
Linda Feagler, Jessica Esemplare, Ilona Westfall, Jenny Pavlasek, Jennifer Rogers
There are countless reasons we picked Athens as a best hometown. Swaddled with gently rolling hills and enviable natural beauty, this semi-rural city is an enclave of community spirit and commendable conservation efforts. It is also the home of Ohio University, the oldest public university in Ohio, whose constant flow of students from around the globe helps to keep a balance of fresh ideas sprouting out of town’s deep Appalachian roots.
Another thing we like about Athens: The people there know how to throw a party.
This summer, the celebrations spill out into the streets with two big outdoor events that are worth a trip. Beer enthusiasts will once again convene at Ohio Brew Week
), July 12–18, a tribute to Ohio’s craft brew industry. Beginning with a formal craft brew tasting at the Oak Room on Monday, it’s a week’s worth of beer-related events. Try the beer, cheese and dessert pairing on Wednesday that showcases beer’s sophisticated side, or take a ride on the aptly named and, not surprisingly, very popular Homebrew Choo Choo. The train departs on Friday evening, giving home brewers and microbrew fans an opportunity to see the countryside and sample interesting beers during an evening ride aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.
The event wraps up with a bang on Saturday with an all-day open-air festival where visitors can sample more than 76 craft beers from 23 Ohio microbreweries, including Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company, Toledo’s Granite City Food & Brewery and Weasel Boy Brewing Company in Zanesville. The tasting will run side-by-side with Boogie on the Bricks, an outdoor music and arts festival that showcases local talent and local food.
On August 29, the party continues for a good cause as the city rolls out the red carpet for seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who is taking part in the inaugural ride for Pelotonia (www.pelotonia.com
) — a cycling tour that raises money for The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Armstrong will lead a pack of riders who clip in in Columbus and pedal the 100-mile route to Athens to aid cancer research. Visitors can join the fun as Armstrong and the other bikers arrive to fanfare and food, music and other activities throughout Ohio University’s campus. The riders will spend the night in Ohio University dorms before heading back to Columbus in the morning.
While you’re in town, take advantage of the opportunity to see the debut of the approximately 85 quilts selected for the 2009 Quilt National,
on display at the Dairy Barn Cultural Arts Center (www.dairybarn.org
) through September 7. Originally a working barn, the nearly 100-year-old structure was spared from demolition in the late 1970s, and now serves as the community’s hub of cultural arts. Quilt National, an internationally famous biennial juried competition, celebrates the contemporary quilt as an art form, and the exhibit is a chance to experience how quilting traditions are finding ways to mesh with modern techniques, materials and trends. Make sure to stop in at the Dairy Barn’s gift shop, where you’ll find works from local and national artists.
Nearby is Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art (www.ohio.edu/museum
), located in Lin Hall at the Ridges, a complex of historic brick buildings that once housed the Athens Mental Health Center. The museum’s galleries house traveling and permanent exhibits.
For more information or to plan your trip, visit www.athensohio.com
Falling for the Arts
It seems fitting that Chagrin Falls — with its tree-lined streets and village square that could double as a movie set — is a mecca for arts lovers. Whether your passion is painting, music, dance or drama, this northeast Ohio city takes center stage season after season.
“Historically, we’ve always been very arts and culturally oriented,” says Nancy Haag, director of Your HomeTown – Chagrin Falls, the village’s preservation and community-development organization. She proudly attributes this distinction to the fact that since its founding in 1833, the town has been known as the commercial hub of the Chagrin Valley.
“Back when we were a mining town, people would come here to hear lectures,” Haag explains, “and our township hall was once a two-story opera house.”
The town’s reputation grew and now, more than 175 years later, Chagrin Falls remains immersed in culture.
For three-plus decades, the Valley Art Center (www.valleyartcenter.org) has enriched the lives of residents and visitors by presenting a variety of programs celebrating the creative spirit. The 26th annual Art by the Falls weekend is no exception. Held in picture-postcard-perfect Riverside Park on June 13, 10 a.m.–7 p.m., and June 14, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., the juried art show spotlights the work of more than 100 artists from around the country.
The following month, art makes an encore appearance during the annual Chagrin Falls Art Walk, held July 9, 4–9 p.m., and July 10, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., in the downtown business district. Guests are invited to browse the village’s eclectic assortment of boutiques and galleries and peruse the paintings, prints, jewelry, ceramics, photographs and more by some 50 regional artists.
Much like today, America was facing tough economic times 80 years ago. Back then, local newspaperman Alfred Hill decided to keep spirits buoyed by inviting his neighbors to form a theater group. Since their debut in 1930, the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre troupe (www.cvlt.org) has brought a repertoire to their River Street stages that ranges from the classic to the contemporary. This summer’s lineup includes “Perfect Wedding,” a farcical take on marital bliss, June 5–27; the “10-10 Festival,” a whirlwind evening of 10 10-minute plays, July 10–25; and “Grease,” the popular musical about summer love in the ’50s, July 24–August 22.
Ohioans aren’t the only ones who appreciate the village’s attributes: Two years ago, when New York’s Chautauqua Institution decided to take its renowned lecture circuit on the road, Chagrin Falls was chosen as a key stop. Talks in the Chautauqua-in-Chagrin program, which will be held on select Tuesday evenings, explore topics ranging from the role of mental health in physical healing to world peace.
No visit to Chagrin Falls is complete without a stop at the iconic Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, which offers views of the town’s famous water feature along with salty snacks and ice cream treats.
To find out what’s happening in Chagrin Falls, visit www.chagrinfalls.net
Just northwest of Ohio’s capital is a land of green fields, charming, brick-covered streets and good-natured Irish hospitality that rivals even the most authentic Emerald Isle town. Residents claim that “Irish is an attitude,” and it takes only a moment to realize what that truly means — from Dublin’s pervasive sense of community pride to its charming, Éire-esque downtown, visitors are hard-pressed to find a more unique and enchanting Ohio experience.
It’s clear that Dublin takes its name seriously, and each summer, the city comes alive with events steeped in Irish spirit. From May through September, Dublin’s historic “Bri-Hi” district is one of central Ohio’s hottest spots on Thursday evenings; known for its location at Bridge and High streets, Bri-Hi — the home of the Dublin Village Tavern, Brazenhead and the Kelly Gallery,
to name a few favorites — hosts Sláinte, a celebration of art, music and good company. During Sláinte, aptly named after an Irish toast to good health, local vendors and artists display their wares on the street while live music fills the summer air — it’s the perfect occasion to soak in Dublin’s distinctive community environment.
As for spectacular people-watching, the Dublin Irish Festival (July 31–Aug. 2) boasts quite a spirited crowd. The quintessential Dublin event paints the town green, white and orange each summer with all things Irish, from song, dance and theater to storytelling and sport. In true “Erin Go Bragh” spirit, festivalgoers can compete in contests such as “reddest hair” and “greenest eyes,” shop in the Irish marketplace, dine on fish ’n’ chips and take in a game of Gaelic football. National and international musicians perform, and the Columbus Feis competition brings more than 1,000 of the nation’s best Ceili dancers to the Dublin stage.
In June, Dublin’s premier stage is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village Golf Club.
The PGA Tour’s finest players head to Dublin’s most cherished links for the Memorial Golf Tournament (June 1–7), seven days of fairway action hosted by the Golden Bear himself. The tournament promises an exhilarating four rounds of golf and breathtaking views — Muirfield’s lush green setting is one of the Buckeye State’s most striking spots and the village’s homes are stunning.
In truth, one of Dublin’s primary sources of pride is its reputation for beautiful abodes. This year’s BIA Parade of Homes (July 11–26) takes place in Dublin’s Tartan Ridge neighborhood, a new development adjacent to Glacier Ridge Metro Park. Eleven elaborate custom quarters will be featured.
Though these spectacular residences may fall into the “break the bank” category, entertainment in Dublin doesn’t have to — the Sundays at Scioto concert series returns this summer for its 26th year, providing free, family-friendly entertainment along the banks of the Scioto River. Each Sunday from June 7 to July 26, the Dublin Arts Council hosts live music for all tastes, from funk to Dixieland jazz to British pop.
Very much like its overseas inspiration, Dublin, Ohio, comes alive with the warm weather; Ohio’s green gem is bursting at the seams with events and activities that follow one simple guideline — fun for everyone. Irish is indeed a state of mind in Dublin, and its warm, welcoming spirit can be found behind every shamrock-adorned door.
For information on visiting Dublin, log on to www.irishisanattitude.com
Consider yourself warned. A seemingly brief trip to Perrysburg can result in staying a tad longer than intended. Talk to residents and you’ll hear tales of former visitors who decided to pack up and head for the northwest Ohio town after what they thought was a short visit.
Travelers willing to take that risk will be pleasantly surprised when they discover that not only is Perrysburg fortunate to have an abundance of small-town charm, but it also holds its own against larger cities when it comes to activities and attractions.
With a statue of Perrysburg’s namesake, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, keeping watch over the scene, the picturesque downtown offers enough shopping, dining and sightseeing to keep anyone busy for hours. Stroll along Louisiana Avenue and take in the sight of historic buildings containing shops where locals and visitors alike flock for the art and music of First Fridays, each month through October. Perrysburg Farmers Market vendors line the street on Thursdays through Oct. 15.
Art lovers won’t want to miss “Art Along the River” (through Aug. 15), an open-air exhibit of 13 sculptures
extending from downtown on the grassy banks overlooking the Maumee River along West Front Street.
All this walking is undoubtedly going to make you hungry. Stop at Stella’s Restaurant & Bar, a neighborhood hot spot adorned with a dark-wood bar and red walls. The menu ranges from salads to steak and seafood entrees to burgers and other sandwiches. Afterward, head to the nearby Lamplight Café and Bakery and choose from a stellar assortment of desserts: muffins, pies and cakes guaranteed to appease any sweet tooth.
Thus fortified, head over to The 577 Foundation to nourish your brain. A farm dating to 1917, the foundation is dedicated to educating the public on ecology and history. Visitors can see a biodome, as well as a log cabin built in 1804 and relocated to the grounds.
Get an additional dose of history with an important blast from Perrysburg’s past: Fort Meigs. The reconstructed fort, opened in 1974, pays homage to its predecessor, which was the site of a bloody battle during the War of 1812 that proved pivotal to the nation’s victory. Today, the log fort and museum allow people to learn about the war through exhibits and artifacts found on site. The best time to visit Fort Meigs is during one of its special events like Muster on the Maumee (June 20–21) when re-enactors, complete with period garb and weaponry, set up camp.
Had enough of the past? Lifestyle center Levis Commons offers a thoroughly modern experience. The outdoor venue has a combination of national chains and local shops and restaurants, as well as an array of activities. The annual Levis Commons Fine Arts Fair (Aug. 22–23) invites people to gather around the fountain or clock tower and kick back. Wrap up your day by taking in some improvisational comedy at the Funny Bone Comedy Club or a live concert and a Cajun dinner at attached restaurant Fat Fish Blue.
For more to see and do in Perrysburg, log on to www.visitperrysburg.com
Berry Good Time
In the summer, the streets of Troy are vibrant with fairs, festivals and concerts that keep the town square lively for the whole season.
The fun starts in June with Troy’s annual Strawberry Festival,
the second largest of its kind in the country. The fair, June 6–7, isn’t limited to the strawberry-painted streets of downtown; it extends throughout Troy, with concerts, parades and an array of events in Hobart Arena, Memorial Stadium and along the Miami River.
Festivities include pageants, athletic competitions, a children’s treasure hunt and a concert at Hobart Arena featuring Zoso, a Led Zeppelin cover band.
And, of course, there are the strawberries. Fans of the fruit will find it fried, baked into pizzas and pies, diced up for salsa, dipped in chocolate, and, of course, spooned atop shortcake.
Another signature event in Troy is the annual Festival of Nations.
At this year’s festival on Aug. 15, the featured country is Bosnia, but the town square stands brimming with a variety of ethnic food and goods, creating a lively and educational atmosphere filled with singing, dancing and children’s crafts. The international gala kicks off with a parade, where each participating country’s flag is carried to the stage in Prouty Plaza.
On Sunday, stick around as the town square fills up for Troy’s Mayor’s Concert, now in its 17th year. Music lovers bring lawn chairs and line the square to hear the Dayton Philharmonic Band and Summer Chorus, which perform every year.
But if you miss the Festival of Nations, the Taste of Troy is held a month later on Sept. 19. Sample food from area restaurants and enjoy live music and artist demonstrations.
While in Troy, be sure to visit the WACO Aircraft Museum.
This hangar-style museum houses a 1902 Wright Brothers glider replica along with WWII combat glider artifacts, historical photographs and interactive models.
The planes were also represented in the last “Sculptures on the Square” exhibit, held in downtown Troy. This year, visitors can see a variety of themes at “Sculptures on the Square IV,” through September 20, showcasing 22 works from local and national artists in a variety of mediums, including metal, fiberglass and stone. The exhibit extends to the historic Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, a 1914 Romanesque mansion that now houses art exhibits, classes and workshops. Delicate sculptures are on display at the center June 28–Aug. 16.
In warmer months, residents and visitors alike explore the great outdoors in Troy with a trip around the Great Miami River Trail.
Hike, bike or skate along the path, or take a three-hour themed canoe trip to learn more about the history and natural habitat of the river.
Tours include the Great Miami River Canoe Trip on June 20, and continue in July with the Full Moon Canoe Trip (July 8) and the Nature Canoe Trip (July 11).
Nature lovers will also appreciate the Brukner Nature Center, a 165-acre preserve with six miles of trails. The shady, peaceful terrain offers views of owls, foxes, raptors and even a bobcat.
To plan your trip to Troy, log on to www.troyohio.gov