November 2006 Issue
Longtime and new residents alike say this town "just pulls you in."
The numbers are important, but they're cold: all those statistics and rankings, tax rates and census records.
If you really want to know why Marysville is so beloved - why, while in the middle of describing the town's warmth, restaurant owner Liz Meeder's eyes puddle with tears and she smiles sheepishly - you need the people.
They're why Rorie Dingey is still around. Although she moved here from New York more than 20 years ago, the owner of the Fifth Street Deli is still tickled by her cast of regulars who arrive like clockwork every morning to hunch over small tables with 25-cent cups of coffee and discuss "the local news" (or gossip, some would say). And she knows that you can't find someone like Gene Wright just anywhere. The fact that the 77-year-old still works as a cobbler in Marysville after half a century, in this era when such a profession would seem nearly as obsolete as that of typewriter salesman, speaks to the town's authentically old-fashioned air. But throw in Wright's habit of strolling the streets clad in a cowboy hat and boots and doling out big hugs to passersby - he insists there are healing properties in giving and receiving one each day - and you've got a place so charming that visitors stay for decades and families mark their time in generations.
"You can't help it," says Dingey, "Marysville just pulls you in."
She's not the only one under its spell. Marysville is the seat of one of the fastest-growing counties (Union) in the state, and its ability to accommodate those newcomers while still holding fast to its colorful personalities, pastoral ambience, and the sort of Victorian architecture seen in the striking 1880 Union County Courthouse, is precisely what continues to draw more people. In fact, whether it's the top-performing school district that's perfect for relocating young families, the proximity to Columbus (30 miles) for occasionally nostalgic big-city transplants, or the reliable industries that have turned long-time residents into loyal employees - the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which began life here as a hardware store in 1868, and Honda of America Manufacturing Inc., which has grown from 70 employees in 1979 to 10,000 today - Marysville seems the result of some city planner's magic wand, conveniently offering something for everyone.
Of course, welcoming eager new residents while preserving an intimate, country setting is a balancing act.
"We all know places in Ohio that have exploded with nothing but new homes and commercial development, and traffic that's a nightmare," says Eric Phillips, CEO of the Union County Chamber of Commerce.
However, he points out that local officials are taking steps to select specific sites in Marysville for new development - 87 percent of the land in Union County is still for agricultural use - while hosting festival-like events such as Third Fridays every month to draw people into the longstanding heart of Marysville: its historic downtown (called "Uptown"), which features 65 19th-century buildings that house locally owned businesses, including Gene Wright's cobbler shop.
"We can't forget about what is the essence of this community," says Phillips. "It's in the history and values and people that have always made us special."
Year founded: 1819
Location: In Union County, 30 miles north of Columbus
Size: 15.5 square miles
Type of government: Mayor/seven-member city council
April: Taste of Marysville: The town's best food vendors showcase their mouth-watering offerings.
May: Historical Health Walk: Residents lace up their sneakers and improve their health with this brisk walk through Marysville's scenic historic neighborhoods.
June: Ohio Aerobatic Open: Skilled pilots show off their stunts at this free aerobatic plane competition held at the Union County Airport.
July: Union County Fair: One of the oldest and largest county fairs in Ohio, featuring harness racing, tractor pulls, bull riding, demolition derbies and livestock shows.
Honda Homecoming: More than 10,000 bikers descend on Marysville for this three-day event that includes Honda Motorcycle Pant tours, a custom bike show, light parades and an ice cream socials.
August: Balloon Rally: Visitors look skyward and bask in the whimsy and wonder of colorful hot-air balloons.
September: Festifair: Marysville closes downtown streets for this gathering of more than 100 arts and crafts booths, as well as plenty of food vendors.
October: Fall Frolic: A lively Halloween event for families. Kids trick-or-treat at more than 40 stores and participate in pie-eating and pumpkin-decorating contests.
November: Christmas Walk: Held on a weeknight, residents stroll downtown shopping for holiday gifts amid live music and entertainment.
December: Elks Christmas Parade: Includes a "Lunch With Santa" for younger children.
Ongoing Event: Third Fridays: Large crowds gather on the Union County Courthouse lawn the third Friday of June, July and August for live music, food and games.
For more information on some of the fun attractions and activities in Marysville, contact the Union County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 937/642-6279 or visit www.unioncounty.org.
Two-Day Visit Itinerary
Before beginning your jaunt around town, unload that overnight bag at the Hampton Inn Marysville (16610 Square Dr., 937/642-3777). The 78-room hotel includes Executive King suites, Jacuzzi suites and high-speed Internet, plus in-room amenities such as microwaves and mini-fridges mean you can bring food back later on for late-night noshing.
Speaking of food, grab a bite to eat and a bit of conversation at the 5th Street Deli (123 E. 5th St., 937/644-2030). The hoagies, homemade salads and cheesecake are delicious, but the atmosphere is just as delightful, with a steady stream of locals coming in to catch up on the latest news.
Get to know the area with a walking tour of historic Uptown Marysville. The Union County Historical Society Museum (246 W. Sixth St.) includes war relics, rare china, and silver and glass collections that reflect a lifestyle from long ago. Head to the stately Union County Courthouse (215 W. Fifth St.) for a striking example of 19th-century Victorian architecture, not to mention a unique tourist attraction: The courthouse still has the original doors from John Dillinger's jail cell. The lovingly refurbished Veterans' Memorial Auditorium (233 W. Sixth St.) features photo displays and colorful murals paying tribute to the efforts of past residents. And be sure to stop at all the locally owned shops -- from the Marysville Antique Mall (117 S. Main St.) to Primitives & Porcelain (118 N. Main St.) -- in between the historical attractions.
Marysville officials have worked hard to maintain 87 percent of their land for agricultural use, so immerse yourself in the area's many agri-tourism activities. Prepare to make the perfect fruit salad by picking your own peaches, pears, plums and more at Fruit Full Acres (19817 Raymond Rd., 937/642-6961, April-November); stock up on everything from soybeans to gourds at Detwiler Veggie Farm (11471 Watkins Rd., 937/642-4843, July-November). If you're in town at the right time, follow the crowds to the bounty of homegrown goods available at the Union County Farmer's Market (corner of Sixth St. and Main St., 937/644-8117, June-October)
Dine at the mansion-turned-eatery Doc Henderson's Restaurant (318 E. Fifth St., 937/642-6661). This building on the National Register of Historic Places underwent a 15-month renovation to transform it into a restaurant offering a rich American-bistro cuisine - from the almond-crusted sea scallops to the white truffle au gratin potatoes. The result: gourmet food and historic surroundings that are equally sumptuous.
End the evening with some local arts and culture. Check the schedule of the Spotlight Theatre Company (937/246-4440): You may get a chance to watch Marysville's talented thespians-in-training putting on one of their beloved performances. Plus, make a call to the Union County Community Concerts Association (937/644-4539) to hear about any special musical performances during your stay. The association is committed to encouraging music appreciation in town, and they've done so with acts such as The United States Air Force Band of Flight.
Enjoy a hearty morning meal, such as the Hampton Inn Marysville's complimentary hot-breakfast buffet, to prepare for a day spent in the great outdoors.
Hit the links at the place Golf Digest awarded four stars: Darby Creek Golf Course (19300 Orchard Rd., 800/343-2729). The 204 rolling acres used to belong to the Ohio Orchard Company - four cherry trees still stand at the facility's entrance - but now attracts Ohioans for its challenging and attractive course: "The Links" of the front nine were designed to with the look of a wind-swept course in Scotland; while "The Woods" of the back nine features the fairways, lakes and bunkers of a traditional American design.
Marysville boasts more than 300 acres of parkland. Enjoy nature's beauty with a scenic walk along the three-mile trail in Schwartzkopf Park. Have kids in tow? Make a beeline for the new Golf Frisbee Park at Mill Valley Parks, or the fun Skateboard Park built in Eljer Park.
Indulge your green thumb with a trip to Burpee Bulb Co. Dutch Mill Greenhouse (18443 St. Rte. 4, 937/642-0511). The Burpee name is well-known among gardening enthusiasts, and at this 12,500-sq.-ft. facility that features a retail center, greenhouse and gift shop, visitors can stock up on everything from pottery to every kind of bulb, including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses.
Before heading home, find out why people travel all the way from Columbus just to eat at Benny's Pizza (968 Columbus Ave., 937/644-0881). The homemade root beer and menu items like "garbage pizza" (pizza with 14 toppings) have made Benny's a beloved spot for the past 25 years.
- Marysville is the county seat of Union County.
- Marysville Schools have earned an "Excellent" report card rating from the State of Ohio for the past three years.
- Marysville is the North American headquarters of Honda of America Manufacturing, which employs approximately 10,000 people. That's roughly the same number of people who flock to Marysville on their motorcycles every year for the Honda Homecoming.
- Marysville's town slogan is, "Where The Grass Is Greener." While that speaks to the charming atmosphere of the place, it could just as easily apply to the fact that Marysville is the world headquarters of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.