Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s new attraction offers insight into a time when mule-drawn boats helped drive our nation’s growth.
July 2014 Issue
July 2014 Digest
The Canal Exploration Center opens in Valley View, the Ohio State Fair kicks off once again, and Jeni Britton Bauer gives us the scoop on her booming ice cream business.
The Ohio & Erie Canal era didn’t last long, beginning in 1825 and reaching its peak three decades later. Like the rest of America’s canals, this “Big Ditch” ultimately fell prey to floods and railroads. But during its heyday, it helped open the West and brought goods from the East. It also took its toll on the locals and immigrant Irishmen who built it, due to severe weather and malaria-carrying mosquitos.
“In the canal era, people began to realize that the future could be different from the past,” says Jennie Vasarhelyi, chief of interpretation, education and visitor services at Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s new Canal Exploration Center in Valley View. “But there are consequences of progress. Progress doesn’t benefit everyone equally.”
Located at Lock 38, the center features interactive exhibits, artifacts and photographs. It challenges visitors to ponder the changes the canal era brought by examining a range of pros and cons. One display shows a young girl’s dress made from locally spun fibers during the days before the canal opened. It’s presented next to a second dress woven after the canal’s completion and crafted from cotton grown by southern slaves.
The new center was made possible with $1.3 million in grants and is located at the site of the former Canal Visitor Center. It’s believed the oldest part of the building was constructed in the 1820s and used as a residence, store and tavern. These days, its interior offers a look into the past (“Roast muffin and steamed livers – 50 cents”) with hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to envision life during the time period.
When you hear giggles, you’ll know kids have found the exhibit of a two-seater wooden toilet from an 1800s canal boat. A sign asks guests to ponder what it was like to share such a boat with as many as 40 other people on a hot summer day. (No, thank you, we’d rather not.) Kids can try on canal-era clothing and learn that children as young as seven once brushed and fed the mules that pulled the boats up to 25 miles a day.
The former visitor center’s wooden canal model with its little functional locks has been moved to make way for new exhibits. But don’t worry, it’s safely stowed away. “We couldn’t bear to get rid of it,” says park ranger Karen Kopchak. “It will still be great to use with school kids.” — Jill Sell
Open daily 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. through August (limited fall hours); free; 7104 Canal Rd., Valley View 44125, 330/657-2752, nps.gov/cuva
From pig races to a Lego-brick version of Columbus, the Ohio State Fair promises a full slate of intriguing attractions when it opens July 23.
Barnyard animals and fried foods are great, but there’s much more to the Ohio State Fair than livestock judging and midway eats. Whether you have a crew of kids to entertain or simply want to grab a genuine made-in-Ohio meal, Columbus’ annual celebration of life in the Buckeye State has plenty to offer. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. — Shay Trotter
Young and old alike will get a kick out of the elaborate Lego cityscape, which includes recognizable Columbus skyscrapers and the Ohio Statehouse. “Kids are naturally drawn to this and most adults nowadays remember playing with [Legos]… so it kind of takes them back,” says Paul Janssen, president of the Central Ohio Lego Train Club. “It’s just fun to look at.” Kids can also watch as artists sculpt more than 40 tons of sand into a massive, fair-themed creation or get a picture with the 8-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex that strolls the fairgrounds.
Kangaroos, llamas and zebras are a few of the more exotic animals visitors will find at the fair’s free petting zoo, which features more than 50 animals from around the globe. The fair’s Kiddieland Pavilion is also home to camel rides ($7, $5 ages 12 and under) and an unusually popular event: pig races. Fairgoers are invited to cheer on the four-legged contestants as they race to the finish. “People just go absolutely wild for it,” says Alicia Shoults, marketing and public relations director for the Ohio State Fair. “It’s such a fun thing to see.”
Local flavor abounds at the Taste of Ohio Café, which features meal options from our state’s agricultural commodity groups. Ohio wines and Utica’s Velvet Ice Cream Co. are featured here, as are more unusual options such as pig wings (rib meat shaped like a chicken wing) and deviled eggs on a stick. Keep an eye out for the Pork Parfait — barbecued pork and mashed potatoes topped with cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and a cherry tomato. “It kind of looks like an ice-cream sundae,” says Ken Stiverson, co-manager of the Ohio Pork Producers Council. “You’ve got a whole meal in a cup. We tried it one year and it just kind of took off.”
The Ohio State Fair runs July 23–Aug. 3. For more information and a full schedule of attractions and entertainment, visit ohiostatefair.com.
Fascinating Objects from our Past
Marble Furnace Co. Fat Lamp
Dates back to around 1825
At the beginning of the 19th century, Adam County’s Marble Furnace Co. was one of three Ohio businesses turning out a variety of ironware. Founded by Duncan McArthur (Ohio’s 11th governor) and Thomas James of Chillicothe, Marble Furnace was named for its large and beautiful limestone smokestack, which from a distance resembled a marble column. The company grew so successful so quickly that the small town of factory workers and miners became known by the same name. But by the late 1830s, the coalmines of West Virginia, which had more economical access to iron ore, overshadowed the relatively modest production of plants such as Marble Furnace and ultimately shut them down. Today, objects produced during Marble Furnace Co.’s short run are highly collectible, including this small fat lamp that dates back to around 1825.Candles weren’t readily available and were often lost to rodents or heat. An alternative was iron lamps filled with liquid animal fat. They could fuel a homemade wick for a few hours. And because animal fat congeals at room temperature, the lamps could be transported with ease, making them vital for our state’s early pioneers. — Amelia Jeffers
Sold at Auction:
Amelia Jeffers is owner of Garth's Auctioneers & Appraisers in Delaware.
Jeni Britton Bauer gives us the scoop on her booming Columbus-based ice cream business.
Concoctions such as Brown Butter Almond Brittle and Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet are just a couple of the reasons Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams have become such a hot choice for a cold summer treat. Jeni Britton Bauer and her team, who have been devising surprising and delectable flavors from their home base of Columbus since 2002, frequently release limited-edition tastes to complement the company’s longtime favorites such as Salty Caramel. “All of the flavors were really fun to create,” says Britton Bauer, “and every one of them has a story.” — Felicia Brower
Smell of Success:
Britton Bauer never envisioned a career concocting specialty ice cream. “I was actually studying art and art history at [The Ohio State University], working at a pastry shop in Columbus and thinking about becoming a perfumer,” she recalls. “I was very interested in scent and how it affects people and it weirdly came together for me when I started making ice cream.”
She created her first ice cream flavor for friends — a cool twist on hot chocolate — by dressing up store-bought chocolate ice cream. “I had a vial of cayenne essential oil, and I had the idea to mix it in chocolate ice cream,” Britton Bauer says. The response from those who tried it prompted her to make the leap into her own business. “I quit [the pastry job], and I opened up my first ice cream shop six months later using ingredients from the North Market.”
After seeing her friends’ reactions to that first flavor, Britton Bauer was hooked and hasn’t looked back. “People talk about having epiphanies, and for me it was truly a moment when the sky opened up, and I knew for sure that I was never going to do anything else for the rest of my life,” she says. “I was and still am completely obsessed with it.”
Ice cream lovers can currently find Jeni’s Scoop Shops in Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, South Carolina and Georgia. Pints are also available in grocery stores and can be ordered online for home delivery. With new locations on the horizon, there’s one place in particular Britton Bauer would like to set up shop. “New York — it’s been a dream for a long time,” she says. “I spend a lot of time
there, and we send almost as much ice cream to New York as we sell in Ohio.”
“I start by gathering things that inspire me,” Britton Bauer says. “I come up with a list of about 20 flavors, and then we go into the test kitchen and develop the recipes. Our team starts making them, comparing them and narrowing down the list to about four or five flavors that we’ll release, usually around some type of theme.”
For more information about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams or Jeni Britton Bauer’s new ice cream cookbook,
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, visit jenis.com.