April Archives

Catch Some Colorful Catfish

(And More) In Steubenville

Situated on the Ohio River in eastern Ohio, Steubenville boasts of its history, music, and culture…and now, giant painted catfish can be added to its list of assets.

Created by the Steubenville Cultural Trust (the same people who made the popular Steubenville Nutcracker Village), the Catfish Crawl is a display of ten five-foot-tall fiberglass catfish uniquely painted by local artists and placed around the downtown. Each has a theme and special features with details that people will be asked to find as part of a contest. It is the second year of this river-themed attraction, and it will run from July 1 to September 1, 2024. Maps, information, and tasty treats will be available at Leonardo’s Coffeehouse on N. 4th Street.

The Ohio River is part of Steubenville’s history and appears in one of the City of Murals’ 23 public artworks depicting important American and Ohio events and people. Besides the huge River Reflections mural, you’ll see Fleetwood Walker (the first professional African American baseball player), Edwin Stanton with President Lincoln, and Ohio’s own “Sloopy” as you stroll through town. Many people like to stop at the nearby Antique Warehouse to reminisce through displays of vintage collectibles and possibly purchase a well-crafted treasure.

Steubenville was named for Fort Steuben, an 18th-century American military base that housed the 1st American Regiment as it protected the surveyors of the Northwest Territory at the beginning of the country’s westward expansion. The reconstructed Historic Fort Steuben on its original site welcomes visitors to tour the eight fully furnished buildings, the adjacent First Federal Land Office, and the exhibits and programs that are part of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.

The Fort is participating in the Ohio 4th Grade History Pass program, allowing 4th-grade students to have free admission when visiting their families. It also is a Blue Star Museum inviting active-duty military personnel and their immediate families to tour free of charge. Be sure to visit June 1 and 2 for the annual Ohio Valley Frontier Days festival, where people, stories, music, and crafts of the early Ohio frontier come to life.

Another popular Steubenville summer event is the Holy Trinity Greek Fest, a reminder of the many ethnic groups that settled in the area. From June 12-14, the sounds of Greek music and the aromas of traditional foods – spanakopita, domaldes and loukoumades – fill the air. Tours of the magnificent church are an added attraction.

Music lives on through the summer with performances by local and regional artists at the Berkman Amphitheater on Thursday evenings at the Fort Steuben Summer Concert Series. And more melodies fill the downtown on First Friday on Fourth where music, art, food, crafts, and activities take over several streets one evening a month. The season opens on May 3rd with a Roaring 20s theme and continues with a medieval theme on June 7th with fencing, folk dancing, and fun, while July 5th celebrates freedom. New eateries and unique shops on 4th Street offer specials for First Fridays as well.

So, if you’re fishing for family fun, be sure to include Steubenville in your summer plans. For more information on these and other attractions in Steubenville and Jefferson County, go to VisitSteubenville.com or call 866-301-1787.

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Brave the Bigfoot GeoTour

Spring is officially here!  After the winter weather has kept us cooped up, it is time to get outside again!  Belmont County offers a free, family-friendly, fun activity with a cryptid twist to get you outdoors and explore the unknown…with the Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour.

Believe in the unseen, discover the mystery, embrace the adventure, and join an epic quest to find Bigfoot-themed geocache containers, of course! There’s nothing like a good sasquatch hunt – and odds are you’ll have something to show for it with the Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour. From the scenic Ohio River to a Longhorn cattle ranch, from beautiful parks to historic landmarks, you just never know where you might encounter sasquatch-sized fun as you explore Belmont County. The Bigfoot-themed geocache containers could be hidden anywhere and will allow you to explore the surroundings of Belmont County, which you might have never experienced before. The Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour (GT4DD) has 20+ geocaches just waiting for you to find and earn a trackable geocoin for those who complete the challenge.

What is Geocaching? It is an outdoor scavenger hunt using GPS-enabled devices, like a smartphone, to locate hidden treasures in plain sight. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache hidden at that location. Geocaching is fun for everyone: families, retirees, sightseers, outdoor adventurers, tech-lovers, and explorers. You never know what you might find hiding in the woods in friendly, beautiful Belmont County!

Want to play? The first thing to do is visit www.geocaching.com or download the official Geocaching app and register for a free account to search for active caches near you. Search by “GeoTour” and enter “GT4DD” to see all geocaches hidden as part of the Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour. Once you have decided which cache you want to find first, use the coordinates to navigate to the hidden treasure. When you have found the cache, add your name to the logbook inside and copy the unique code. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where you found it.

Looking for even more adventure? While you are out exploring, also complete the Belmont County Bigfoot Adventure Lab and earn a Bigfoot t-shirt, too! Unlike traditional geocaching, Adventure Labs do not require a physical container but can be completed in tandem with the GeoTour. The Adventure Lab app guides players through the process of finding clues, solving puzzles, and completing adventures one location at a time. Learn local trivia, uncover hidden gems, and discover landmarks while exploring around the county. If you’re already a Geocaching member, these count as caches towards your Geocaching account’s statistics and total finds.

Here’s what others who have completed the Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour had to say: 

“I thought for sure if I was going to find Bigfoot, I would’ve found him here. Dysart Woods is an amazing forest. Love the area. Spent a little bit of time looking around, enjoying the quiet solitude.”

This must be a place where Bigfoot spends considerable time – at least, I would if I were a big, hairy creature who wanted to steer clear of humans! I quickly found another of his “relaxation spots,” with a very distinct and familiar footprint.  A lot of effort was put into this for the community…or maybe, we have someone who just wants us to catch a glimpse of him.” 

“Awesome tour around Belmont County! Loved the historical points of interest. Thank you to everyone for all the hard work and cleverness put into it!”

Now is the perfect time to shake off the winter blues and embark on exciting adventures amidst nature’s blossoming beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned geocacher or a newcomer eager to explore, there’s no better time to explore and uncover hidden gems waiting to be discovered in friendly, beautiful, Belmont County. So, get outside, have some fun, and happy hunting! Seek, search, and have fun in Belmont County while completing the Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour.

To find out more about the Belmont County Bigfoot GeoTour and all upcoming events happening in Belmont County this spring, check out visitbelmontcounty.com.

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Family Bigfoot Adventures in Ohio

The shaggy mythical beast known as Bigfoot has been rumored to live in Ohio since the mid-1700s, with nearly 40 reported sightings since the mid-1980s alone at Guernsey County’s Salt Fork State Park. Because of these sightings, Guernsey County hosts a number of family-friendly events and destinations perfect for cryptozoologists and skeptics alike.

Those looking for a little nature with their local lore should check out the monthly Bigfoot Night Hikes  (facebook.com/saltforkstatepark). These events allow participants to hike the park trails after dark in search of the legendary Bigfoot. You might even get to see some of the other wildlife that calls Guernsey County home. (During park hours, the lodge gift shop also carries a wonderful array of Bigfoot souvenirs for all ages and enthusiasts!).

Since 2005, the Ohio Bigfoot Conference (ohiobigfootconference.org) has welcomed fans of the furry legend to gather and talk all things Squatch. The Bigfoot Conference takes place annually. This year, it takes place on May 4, 2024, at Salt Fork Lodge & Conference Center. Vendors are onsite (booths are open to the public, not just conference-goers) with books and merchandise for sale.

Looking for more outdoor fun? Run or walk the Bigfoot races at Salt Fork State Park this summer and winter. The Summer Sasquatch 50K, 20 & 10-mile trail races will take place on June 15-16, 2024. These races will challenge you with a 10.4-mile loop course over rolling hills. Hikers are welcome in the 10 Miler – the generous cutoff time allows you to enjoy a supported hike at your own pace. Hikers are welcome in the 10-mile race.

Can’t make it to the summer Sasquatch races? Join in the fun this winter on Dec. 14-15, 2024, for the Bigfoot 50K, 20 & 10-mile trail races. Have your family tag along for an awesome Ohio staycation! Salt Fork Lodge offers great rooms at reasonable prices. Call (740) 439-2751 and request the Bigfoot race discount when making your reservation. Learn more at westernreserveracing.com/races/.

Did You Know bigfoot sightings have been highlighted on The TODAY Show, USA TODAY, Finding Bigfoot, and Monsters & Mysteries in America?

No matter what you’re looking for, Guernsey County, Ohio, has something for Bigfoot enthusiasts – or those looking for an offbeat adventure. More information on popular local events and seasonal Bigfoot events can be found at VisitGuernseyCounty.com.

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Hocking Hills Springs Anew

As Ohio welcomes spring, the Hocking Hills transform into a kaleidoscope of vibrant flora and fauna.  As temperatures rise, the barren trees of winter begin to sprout fresh green leaves, creating a vibrant canopy that dances in the gentle breeze. Once covered in a blanket of snow, the forest floor comes alive with a carpet of dozens of wildflowers, including Trilliums, Violets, Yellow Lady Slippers, Star of Bethlehem, Blue-eyed Mary, and Showy Orchids.

The waterfalls of Hocking Hills undergo a remarkable transformation during the spring season. The increased rainfall and melting snow contribute to higher water levels, causing the waterfalls to cascade with renewed vigor. Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls are just a few iconic waterfalls that become even more mesmerizing during this time of the year. The echoes of rushing water and the spray from the falls create a sensory experience that immerses visitors in the beauty and power of nature.

Spring also marks the return of migratory birds to Hocking Hills, adding an audible dimension to the landscape. The songs of warblers, thrushes, and vireos fill the air, creating a symphony that complements the visual feast of blooming wildflowers. Birdwatchers flock to the region to catch glimpses of these feathered travelers as they make their way through the hills and valleys. The diversity of bird species in Hocking Hills makes it a paradise for seasoned birdwatchers and casual enthusiasts.

Mother Nature may be the star of the show, but don’t discount the man-made attractions. From the only Pencil Sharpener Museum in the world to the last remaining washboard manufacturer in the US, there are plenty of quirky attractions to entertain.

Need a little adrenaline rush? Fly through the tree canopy with the original Hocking Hills Zipline adventure. Climb a real rock face and rappel down. Paddle down the historic Hocking River. Try the ancient Japanese process of relaxation, shinnin-yoko, also known as forest bathing. Take a guided hike searching for mushrooms and other edibles found in the forest. Learn about butterflies along the Hocking Hills Butterfly Trail.

Visit historic downtown Logan, the hometown of Hocking Hills. Visitors will find an assortment of boutiques, eateries, and entertainment. The Logan Theater & Community Arts Center is being renovated and will host movies and live performances beginning in 2025. The new Hocking Hills Children’s Museum opened in January offering hands-on experiences for the child in all. New eateries, a boutique hotel, and family-friendly festivals are all part of the Logan experience.

Last year, the City of Logan adopted a DORA, Downtown Outdoor Recreation Area, in the historic district. Now, festival-goers can enjoy their favorite adult beverage while attending one-of-a-kind festivals. Historic downtown Logan hosts the Logan Frozen Festival in January, UrbanAir/Wake Up Downtown Airstream campout in May, the Washboard Music Festival in June, the Big Foot Festival in August, the Jack-o-Lantern Jubilee in October, and the Annual Logan Christmas Parade in December.

The quintessential Hocking Hills experience must include a stay in one of hundreds of cabins. These are not rustic cabins. They vary from elegantly appointed cabins for two to luxury lodges large enough to accommodate a group. Most come with hot tubs, and many also feature game rooms, fireplaces, and in-ground swimming pools. For a truly unique experience, rent a treehouse, yurt, or geodome. If camping is preferred, award-winning campgrounds are offering full hook-ups as well as primitive campsites. Ohio’s newest State Park Lodge opened in 2022. The Hocking Hills State Park Lodge & Conference Center is just south of Old Man’s Cave. It features lodge rooms with balconies overlooking the dramatic landscape, fine dining, indoor and outdoor pools, and breathtaking outdoor spaces to gather with friends.

As the days grow longer and the temperatures become more inviting, spring in Hocking Hills invites everyone to embrace the outdoors and appreciate the beauty that surrounds them. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through a wildflower-filled meadow, an exhilarating hike along a waterfall-laden trail, or a peaceful moment spent birdwatching, spring in Hocking Hills offers an unparalleled connection to nature’s wonders. It’s a season of renewal, growth, and awe-inspiring beauty that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting impression on all who have the privilege of experiencing it. Begin your adventure at ExploreHockingHills.com.

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2024 Sweets & Spirits Trail

To Begin Your Journey

Welcome to the sweetest and most spirited journey through Miami County! Get ready to indulge in the region’s finest treats and libations as you explore the 2024 Miami County Sweets & Spirits Trail. Whether you’re a local foodie or a curious traveler, prepare to satisfy your cravings and discover the irresistible flavors of Miami County!

This trail is a great way to explore Miami County and find some of your favorite things, like candy and cocktails, cookies and craft beer, or even brownies and bourbon and new this year, ice cream! Visit any of the 20+ locations along the trail and earn points towards amazing prizes. Earn even more points by taking advantage of discounts at select locations!

The Miami County Sweets and Spirits Trail takes visitors around the county to experience local bakeries, candy shops, and ice cream shops filled with childhood favorites, as well as local wineries, distilleries, and craft beer breweries. This trail is mobile-exclusive and tracks visitors’ visits and purchases directly on their smartphones.

This is one trail you won’t want to miss out on, so


to start your journey

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Ohio’s Only UNESCO World Heritage Site

Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks  

UNESCO named Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks as a World Heritage Site. It is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Ohio. There are only about two dozen sites recognized by UNESCO in America. Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are a multi-part World Heritage Site spread over eight locations.

Click here to read about
Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks

named as Ohio’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Ethiopia at the Crossroads

1,750 years of artistic traditions

Traverse 1,750 years of Ethiopia’s artistic traditions and experience the nation’s rich history, cultural heritage, and global impact in “Ethiopia at the Crossroads,” on view August 17  -November 10, 2024, at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA).

The first United States exhibition of its kind in nearly five decades features 220 works that situate Ethiopian art globally. It emphasizes the nation’s influence that reached east via the Arabian Sea and extended north through the Red Sea, Nile River, and Mediterranean Sea. As the bridge between Africa, Europe, and Asia, Ethiopia’s mark is vast, with a scope of artistic and religious influence that remains today.

“‘Ethiopia at the Crossroads’ invites visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty and artistry that saturated Ethiopia for centuries and permeated other parts of the world,” said Adam Levine, TMA’s Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey director and CEO. “The works on view introduce the often-overlooked cultural significance of Ethiopia and trace many current artistic and faith practices to the only African nation to never be colonized. TMA looks forward to presenting this exhibition that honors Ethiopia’s historical impact and vibrant present.”

TMA pairs over a millennium of devotional painted icons, manuscripts, coins, textiles, metalwork, and carved wood crosses with contemporary works that reflect the evolution of Ethiopian artistry. Among the works are TMA’s recent acquisitions of Ethiopian artwork from the Middle Ages to today, including an important Ethiopian icon that dates to about 1500. The icon’s exterior features a vibrant painting of Saints Anne and Joachim, the Virgin Mary’s parents. Inside, a posthumous royal portrait of Ethiopian King Lalibela and his wife Masqal Kibra appears opposite a depiction of Saint Mercurius on horseback. Such icons were integral parts of the Christian liturgy in Ethiopia.

Works that showcase Ge’ez emphasize Ethiopia’s connection to the South Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea. The classical Ethiopic written language based on South Arabian script, demonstrated by TMA’s South Arabian alabaster, appears in painted icons alongside Wosene Worke Kosrof’s “Wax and Gold X.” The contemporary artist uses the Ge’ez alphabet and the Amharic language that descended from Ge’ez as the foundation for his abstract composition.

The nation’s evolution is represented in the cloak of Haile Selassie I (1892-1975), the last Ethiopian emperor (1903-1974), who is revered as a deity in Rastafarianism. Many consider him the Second Coming of Jesus and Jah in human form, and the religion is named for Selassie’s pre-regnal title, “Ras Tafari Makonnen.” Gold and sequins adorn the black velvet garment and honor the emperor who made strides to modernize the country with political and social reform. Just one year into his reign, he introduced the country’s first written constitution. “Ethiopia at the Crossroads” marks the cloak’s museum debut.

Helina Metaferia’s work is patterned after the headdresses Ethiopian empresses wore and expresses the American fight for civil rights in “Headdress 6” (2019) and “Headdress 23” (2021). Both works feature African American women wearing headdresses, comprised of photographs from the Civil Rights Movement, including images from Black Panther newspapers. Metaferia is a child of Ethiopian immigrants who was born in Washington, D.C.

Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian’s “The End of the Beginning” (1972-1973) illustrates Lalibela and Aksum, both historical sites in Ethiopia, being destroyed by fire. While a white bird stands as a witness and survivor of the destruction, a spirit figure represents a past that wants to escape the horror of the present. Boghossian was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, studied in Europe, and came to the United States in 1970. After returning to Ethiopia once in 1972, Boghossian remained in the United States after the 1974 revolution in Ethiopia prevented him from returning.

Theo Eshetu’s “Brave New World II” is one of a handful of contemporary works that bring a digital component to the exhibition. The multimedia and video installation invites viewers worldwide with footage of John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Statue of Liberty in New York City, an Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany, an Italian insurance commercial, and dancers in Bali. Using a mirrored box, the artist ensures that the images take the form of a globe. Eshetu, born in London to Ethiopian and Dutch parents and raised in Senegal, uses the work to communicate how technology has connected people and transformed how everyone experiences the world. The work is named after Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, set in a future where technology heavily influences society.

Visitors to ‘Ethiopia at the Crossroads’ will be able to immerse themselves in the country — the place and its culture. The exhibition celebrates historic makers and objects and their impact on contemporary artists from Ethiopia and the diaspora who, excitingly, are increasingly visible on the global stage. By exploring Ethiopian artistic practice and exchange from antiquity to now, it becomes clear that many of the country’s centuries-old traditions remain alive and influential today.

Admission to the Museum is always free. It is located at 2445 Monroe St., one block off I-75, and is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm and 11 am to 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. More information is available at 419-255-8000 and toledomuseum.org.

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Cathedral of Steam

An Age of Steam Dream Turned Reality

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum is the culmination of one Jerry Joe Jacobson’s undying love of steam locomotives, the old, smoky machines of a bygone era. Mr. Jacobson caught steam in his blood at a very young age, growing up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio during the last few years of steam operations on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in that area. He would always ride his bicycle down to the local B&O railyard to see the great, black giants chug in and out, with freight cars loaded with many goods to be delivered to Cleveland and other destinations. On one particular hike through the train yard, a friendly engineer invited a young Mr. Jacobson up into the cab of their steam locomotive, and the future railroader and Museum founder held onto that memory for the rest of his life.

Mr. Jacobson went on to enter the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and was trained as a nurse anesthetist, administering anesthesia to patience for various medical procedures. He continued that practice after his military career, saving every penny he had until he could start purchasing his own railroad equipment and trackage to build his dream railroad. Mr. Jacobson’s Ohio Central Railroad started with a cast-off Wheeling & Lake Erie line, running between Zanesville and Brewster, OH, and it later grew into a larger, successful shortline system that spanned over 500 miles throughout the eastern portion of Ohio and stretched into western Pennsylvania. While the, usually, diesel-powered freight trains were what brought in the money, his passion remained with steam. Starting in 1989, summertime steam excursions began running on the Ohio Central, running from downtown Sugarcreek, OH to Baltic and return. Mr. Jacobson’s steam fleet grew and grew as his railroad brought in more revenue, amassing an already impressive collection of both operational and non-operational steam locomotives before he ultimately canceled all regular excursion operations after 2004. He later went on to sell the Ohio Central to the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Company in 2008, maintaining ownership of only his collection of historic steam locomotives, several older diesel locomotives, and a small fleet of historic rolling stock. In conjunction with the sale of the Ohio Central to G&W, Mr. Jacobson was making plans to construct a facility to house his entire collection, a structure whose kind had not been constructed new in the U.S. for decades.

A roundhouse is a railroad building that is constructed around a central turntable, and such facilities were utilized on every major and minor railroad that employed even a moderately sized fleet of steam locomotives. They were built specifically to accommodate the maintenance of steam locomotives and were used from the mid-1800s until the end of the steam era. No such facility had been constructed in the United States since the 1950s, and, at that point, some roundhouses were already being demolished as the more cost-effective and fuel-efficient diesel locomotives took over. Mr. Jacobson had always dreamed of having such a facility to house his collection but did not have the time to devote resources to such an endeavor while he was running the Ohio Central. He had a small locomotive shop built at Morgan Run, just east of Coshocton, OH, where his heritage fleet was restored and serviced. Still, there was not much room to hide his ever-expanding collection of steam locomotives from the forces of nature. With the sale of the Ohio Central finalized and Genesee & Wyoming assuming ownership of the Morgan Run shop, Mr. Jacobson could devote all his newfound time and resources to his new big project, what would later be called the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum.

After purchasing a large, vacant cornfield on Smokey Lane Road (a rather appropriate road name) in 2008, Mr. Jacobson began constructing his brick-and-mortar “Cathedral of Steam.” The track, locomotive shop, and roundhouse were completed by 2010, allowing the transport of the entire collection of historic railroad equipment to the new, 18-stall roundhouse and grounds. More construction continued, but Mr. Jacobson finally had a place where he could safely store his collection and display it to visitors. In the early days, tours were composed of just friends and family. Now, the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum, fully open to the public since 2019, offers regular tours from April through November on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The tours run approximately 90 minutes through the entire Roundhouse, showcasing the steam locomotives, the restoration shop, and the Museum’s 115ft. operational turntable.

If you want to see this amazing collection of railroad history, please visit our website at www.ageofsteamroundhouse.org to purchase tickets for a tour!

By Daniel Condo

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Meet in the Middle

Meet In Marion

Looking for the perfect location for your next getaway weekend or a simple one-day road trip? Marion, Ohio, offers a variety of activities that make it the perfect destination for a day trip or a multi-day stay. Situated in a convenient location in the heart of Ohio, Marion sits along State Route 23 just a short drive north of Columbus, making it the perfect “meet in the middle” location for friends and family across the Midwest.

If family fun is on the agenda, Marion offers putt-putt and disc golf courses. Cooper’s Bowl and Bluefusion Entertainment are the perfect hangouts to bowl a few games and enjoy some arcade fun. Let the little ones burn off some extra energy at Max Aiir, an inflatable event space, or the Lincoln Park Aquatic Center. Marion Tallgrass Trails is perfect for wandering, biking, fishing, or birdwatching, and the newly constructed Marion Rotary Club Centennial Playground offers all-inclusive access to kids of all abilities. You’re bound to work up an appetite, so grab an old-fashioned root beer float or visit one of Marion’s many ice cream shops along the Marion County Ice Cream Trail.

Rich in history, Marion is the perfect destination for the history buff. This community offers the opportunity to stand in the spot a president made famous when you visit Warren G. Harding’s renovated home and Presidential Museum.  Make your way along the Cultural Corridor to visit historic locations like Heritage Hall, home to the Marion Historical Society and Wyandot Popcorn Museum; Union Station, a unique experience for train enthusiasts; and the 1928 Eberson-built Marion Palace Theatre where you can enjoy live entertainment in a unique atmospheric theatre.

Marion’s reimagined Downtown is perfect for dining, shopping, sipping, and celebrating. Outdoor spaces offer a welcoming setting for sharing a laugh or conversation with friends. Try a taste of Marion at locally owned eateries all along the Eaterarian Trail; hop between drinkeries that offer various adult beverage options; shop in unique retail stores and boutiques; and enjoy a hands-on art activity or try your hand at throwing axes.

While in downtown Marion, stroll the streets to experience Marion’s public art display, The Cardinal Project. Celebrate Ohio as the seventeenth state to join the Union by featuring 17 statues throughout the downtown area. Each State Bird is uniquely designed and hand-painted with a story to tell.

Golf enthusiasts will enjoy a round of golf with beautiful views, including the picturesque King’s Mill Covered Bridge. Marion’s County Parks provide additional outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, kayaking, or wandering the woods.

Experience the celebration of the all-American apple at Lawrence Orchard’s Applefest and Harvest Weekends.  Visit in September to experience the Popcorn Festival, a street fair celebrating Marion’s history as the popcorn capital of the world. Enjoy the Blues & BBQ Festival in August.  Be sure to bring your appetite and pack your lawn chair for a full day of fun. Hang out on Third Thursdays from May to September and “take it to the streets” with live entertainment, food trucks, a kids’ zone, and more.

It’s all here waiting for you in Marion, Ohio. For more information on these exciting opportunities, visit the Marion Area Convention and Visitors Bureau website: www.visitmarionohio.com.

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Boutique and Sweets & Spirits Trails

NEW Boutique and Sweets & Spirits Trails Open in Miami County

The Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau just launched the Miami County Boutique Trail and the Sweets & Spirits Trail.

Boutique Trails are popular!  They provide a fun way to explore an area of interest for visitors and even residents of the region. And as those destinations are discovered and experienced, it helps increase visibility for the venues along the trail.

Creating a boutique trail was a natural fit for Miami County since its communities have many locally owned boutiques. Shopping across the county in this unique fashion expands awareness of the diversity of the area to new a new audience.

The Miami County Boutique Trail features 20 boutiques, with more likely on the horizon. Half offer a discount or free gift for those participating in the trail. Make sure to show the Boutique Trail website or brochure when shopping. Brochures can be picked up at any of the participating shops.

Sweets & Spirits Trail pass holders are sure to find some of their favorite things or combinations of delight like candy and cocktails, cookies and craft beer, or even brownies and bourbon. Along the trail, visitors experience wineries, distilleries, breweries, bakeries, and candy shops filled with childhood favorites.

Visit any of the 15+ locations along the trail to earn points towards amazing prizes. Earn even more points by taking advantage of discounts at select locations! The mobile-exclusive trail tracks your visits and purchases directly on your smartphone. Trail participants must be 18 or older, and minors are not permitted at certain locations, so please check before visiting. Click here to sign up for the Miami County Sweets & Spirits Trail.

So, whether you’re looking for that perfect dress or want to satisfy that sweet tooth, these Miami County trails can take you on a fantastic adventure. Visit www.homegrowngreat.com to learn about other experiences throughout Miami County and where you can eat and stay while visiting.

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Mom And Pop Amish Shops

Walmart, Lowe’s, and other big box stores have squeezed out mom-and-pop shops nationwide for decades. But one last outpost of retail is making a stand – Amish merchants.

If you ever heard the line, “They don’t make it like they used to,” it certainly wasn’t muttered by Daniel Miller’s customers. Nor would you hear Mr. Miller say, “We don’t have that.” It’s because if they don’t have it, they’ll make it, and when they do, it will be every bit as good as it used to be.

For this reason, “Mom and Pop” Miller’s modest rural outpost in Adams County, Ohio, has grown to include a bakery, bulk food store, and bustling furniture store, all of which attract people from Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and beyond.

Not much has changed since Daniel’s parents, Harry and Lydia Miller, settled here and started baking with their six children in their modest farmhouse in the 1970s. Once they shared their goods with neighbors, a business was born. Harry often visited Holmes County, Ohio, to bring back furniture to sell, too. The more they provided, the more word spread, and the business grew. So, the Millers’ farming days—raising cattle, hogs, sheep, and such—were over.

For decades, the Miller family has provided friendly service, lively conversation, and quality goods. Nothing’s changed except the size of the family working behind the counters to help their patrons. No wonder their reputation has grown, floating across the land like the aroma of freshly baked pies cooked in the farmhouse kitchen.

Today, the 300-acre farm has 34,000 square feet of furniture under one roof, plus more outside, and a separate building for the bakery and another for the bulk food store. The cash registers are powered by solar and wind-generated energy. The Amish have excused themselves from modern conveniences, believing that a life of simplicity and hard work brings them closer to God.  Families and travelers come from miles around to visit their friendly shops and to get a glimpse of the Amish way of life as they travel Wheat Ridge Road and the Wheat Ridge Amish community, which even features a historic covered bridge.

Throughout the year, Miller’s will show customers appreciation with special events and discounts to reward their loyalty. They know in modern times, it’s easy to go to an “all-in-one” store around the corner to save time. However, they also know that many are tired of narrow selections and lack of customer service, so Miller’s is a destination shopping experience. People look forward to taking a pilgrimage to a place with a wide selection of unique offerings you won’t find anywhere else.

Visitors through the years come back, time and again because Miller’s helpful workers believe in honesty and humility, which are the bedrock of their small community. People across the counter often made the product they were selling, like Larry Miller at the bakery (Daniel’s brother). It’s the quality assurance that’s hard to find at a shopping mall.

They may be the last outpost of Mom & Pop shops, but they’re thriving on a business model built the old-fashioned way – they aim to please!

To plan a visit to Millers Furniture, Bakery & Bulk Foods and a genuine Amish community dotting the countryside of rural Adams County, call 937-544-8524 or visit www.WheatRidgeAmish.com.

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Home of the Mity Nice Hamburger

“Hamburger Pickle On Top!
Makes Your Heart Go Flippity Flop!”


When we looked to stop at this staple of Lima, Ohio, we knew they had three locations. We wanted to go to the one with the iconic naked baby on the roof (11 N. Elizabeth St. in Lima, Ohio). When we read about the restaurant, there was a catchphrase: Kewpee Hamburgers – Home of the Mity Nice Hamburger!

The line of cars outside wrapped around two sides of the building. Inside, the line was from the counter to the door. I read the menu repeatedly, looking for the “Mity Nice Hamburger.” I couldn’t find any mention of it, so I asked some teenagers next to me if they were local. I caught them off guard, and they didn’t seem too chatty. A guy, my age next to me said he’s lived here his whole life, and that was the first time he heard of the “Mity Nice Hamburger.” We debated if it was a “Mitty” or “Mighty” nice burger. I asked a younger person behind the counter, but they looked at me like the teenagers. Then a kind lady my age smiled and said, it’s “Mighty” spelled “Mity” and refers to all the burgers there.

Sometimes, it’s nice to chat with strangers. You can learn things even Google, Siri, or Alexa can’t tell you.

The first Kewpee hamburger shop opened in Flint, Michigan, in 1918. It’s one of the oldest hamburger chains still in existence, albeit not many Kewpees are left. The Lima, Ohio, location downtown opened ten years later thanks to Hoyt F. “Stub” Wilson and his wife Julia M. “June” Wilson. It only cost a nickel to order a “Mity Nice Hamburger” back then.

We ordered the daily special and grabbed an orange chair booth to dig in. I started with the fries. They were perfectly goldened and crispy. I must say, those were “Mity Nice” fries! The meat patty was so juicy and soft that it melted in my mouth. And the tomato on top was ripe-soft delicious.

With all the gourmet burger joints today, this classic stop beat any burger I’ve tasted in years. And the price was extremely reasonable!

Oh! Don’t leave without getting a shake or malt for the road.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Living The Amish Life

The Miller’s Family Story

Amish folk like any other seek greener pastures to stake a claim in the pursuit of happiness.

Harry Miller’s family went from Kansas to Iowa, and that’s where he met the love of his life, Lydia. Together, they started a family and added to it after moving to Wisconsin and, from there, Indiana.

The Indiana Amish community was significant. Sometimes, Amish adventurers like to start smaller communities and keep things modest. When they find suitable land to begin a community anew, they work together to erect their schools.

An Amish friend and carpenter said to Harry, “Let’s check out Ohio.” …For the rest of the story, CLICK HERE.

for the rest of the multimedia story

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Best Dude Ranch in Ohio

KD Guest Ranch
Bringin’ The West to the East!  

There’s a dude ranch east of the Mississippi – in Ohio – that rivals the best in the west.

Ohio was once known as the “Gateway State” to the Wild West because its trails, rivers, canals, and railways connected the eastern states to the open plains of the west.  So when people today look for an authentic experience living, working, and vacationing all at the same time on a real dude ranch, they naturally think they must go west. That is until their search for the best dude ranches in the country uncovers a golden nugget known as KD Guest Ranch in Adamsville, Ohio where they are Bringin’ The West to the East!  

So plan now for a getaway close to home that’ll seem like another time and place. You’ll have lots of space so social distancing is pretty much built into this escape. KD Guest Ranch is family-run so if you want to help support a family-operated Ohio business once we are free to roam this summer, reserve some time here. The memories will last a lifetime.

Trip Advisor.com features 5-star reviews for this rare experience. In fact, all 54 reviews on the site are rated “Excellent.” There is nothing less than that. Here are some quotes from past visitors: “The food is amazeballs!” “Most memorable vacation ever.” “We are now cowboys – kinda.” “Extreme hospitality.”

So if you want to make sure this year’s family retreat is money well spent, consider that. And in a time of concern over what we come in contact with, know that many of the reviews emphasize the cleanliness throughout the facilities on the ranch.

This all-inclusive “breath of fresh air” vacation is perfect for families, friends, and small groups. But no matter what family you come from, you are going to be a part of the Burkey family during your stay. From the get-go, Kari (K) and Dave (D) Burkey turn on the charm at KD Guest Ranch. It is nestled in rolling hills untouched by man as far as the eyes can see, spanning hundreds of acres of family land. There, they lasso up trail rides, team penning, dude rodeo, evening entertainment, BBQ, and a whole lot more! The first thing that takes hold of guests is the serenity of it all. It is vividly colorful with wood lines, green pastures, and valleys with watering holes.

The best part is, you never have to cook or decide where to eat. Three hearty squares a day are served up with great conversation. When the metal triangle dinner bell is rung, there won’t be any stragglers. That’s for sure. The enormous dinner table is loaded with hot from the kitchen appetizers, bread, mouth-watering entrees, and plenty of salad, fruits, and veggies, compliments to the Burkey family chef.  Throughout the stay, whenever you find yourself parched, no matter where on the ranch that may be, there are pitchers of lemonade, iced tea and water served up. Fruit, ice cream bars, and other snacks may accompany it. The main meals are served in a variety of ways from family-style to buffet-style, and of course cowboy-style. Bacon, eggs, and grits may greet you in the morning, followed by a tasty lunch only to be topped by a lip smackin’ dinner with BBQ ribs or a thick juicy steak, not to mention fresh vegetables and mouth-watering homemade desserts. Common words you’re bound to hear meal after meal are, “I need that recipe.” You may be surprised that Kari and Dave are more than happy to give it to you. If someone has special dietary needs, no worries, your menu will be prearranged.

Some guests find the lodge life is just their speed and get lost in a novel on a comfy sofa in the rustic library flush with natural light. It’s where Kari permanently sealed a chest of Dave’s old rodeo gear from his bull-riding days.

The saloon has plenty of table space to spread out, billiards, fireplace, and on some evenings, a cowboy pluckin’ away at the guitar singing the night away while card games, conversation, and laughter echo throughout the lodge. When it’s time to retire to your guest quarters, you hit the trail and land in your cozy cabin done up special to make sure you never leave “the west.”

Once everyone is settled in and strangers become friends, you are matched with your horse for your 2 – 6-night stay. During orientation, you will observe a round pen demonstration and see how horses are trained. This lesson teaches horse psychology, how to ride and tack your horse. Pay attention because you will be responsible for grooming and saddling your horse.

When the dusty trails come to a calling, you’ll enjoy nature’s vistas, riding the fence lines and driving cattle. Each day, guests get to enjoy two horseback riding activities. The trail rides wind through more than 800 acres of rolling hills, creeks, and woodlands.

Afterward, it’s time for some cowboy fun. Enter the arena for rodeo games where you can learn to pen calves by separating three at a time from the herd and heading them into a small pen. With experience, you may partake in timed team penning. The sorting and penning of cattle originated from the open lands of the west when ranchers needed to sort their cattle from their neighbors.

Each night offers something different. There’s bonfire night, poker night, movie night, and saloon night to name several. There’s also live music or just a chance to kick back and relax on the porch. Other amenities include a game room, hot tub, massage, and exercise space, and conference rooms. Activities may include roping lessons, horse painting, arena games on horseback, or riding a mechanical bull.

KD Guest Ranch usually entertains smaller groups so that everyone feels like they’re part of the extended family. Just a stone’s throw from the lodge, there are several cabins. The cabins are spacious with rustic ranch decor but also include modern amenities. Watch the sunrise or set from the sprawling porch sipping a drink or passing time in a rocking chair.

Dave takes special care in putting together his groups. When families, couples, or individuals want to book 2 – 6 nights, they are matched to optimize camaraderie when possible. In addition, there are opportunities to book exclusive family reunions, corporate retreats, and team-building groups, as well as church, scout, and other groups.

Again, it’s clean as a whistle anywhere you go on the grounds. Located in the Southeast Ohio foothills of Appalachia country, KD Guest Ranch is ideally located for folks to mosey on over from any corner of Ohio, the surrounding states, and across the Midwest.

Learn more about KD Guest Ranch and available specials by calling 740-796-0099 or visiting www.kdguestranch.com/.

By Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler, your Tour Guide to Fun

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VW Bug Tower

Volkswagen Bug Tower In Defiance, Ohio
is at the corner of Hwys 18 & 281

The VW Bug Tower is a fun little stop in Defiance, Ohio. Five colorfully painted vintage Volkswagen Beetles rise to the telephone wires.  There’s a large parking lot at the corner to park and walk around the tower to check out the artwork and subtle touches. I gasped looking through my camera lens in the high wind and rain when I saw a man climbing out of the windshield of the fourth car up. My wife’s laugh said, “I told you about the mannequin when we first pulled in. See, you don’t listen to me.”

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Drive-Thru Safaris

at African Safari Wildlife Park

You’ll want to visit African Safari Wildlife Park this season, featuring the Drive-Thru Safari, the largest area of African Safari, where guests drive their car through and interact with hundreds of exotic animals.

African Safari’s Walk-Thru Safari, the Park’s traditional zoo setting, has also seen an addition of new animal exhibits. The new Giraffe Encounter allows guests to get up close and personal with giraffes and feed them!  The Walk-Thru Safari is scheduled to open around Mother’s Day weekend, weather permitting.  

“We are beyond excited to welcome new and familiar faces to the Park for African Safari’s new season!  Everyone can enjoy the newer Park amenities and continue to make memories here for seasons to come,” said African Safari Wildlife Park’s Director, Kelsey Keller. “We have so much more in store, and we encourage everyone to stay tuned for more zoo news and updates…coming soon!”

The Park is open daily, rain or shine, from 10am to 5pm with the last car admitted at 4pm for the Spring Season. Summer Season begins the last week of May.

The Midwest’s Original Drive-Thru Safari Park, African Safari Wildlife Park, is at 267 S. Lightner Rd. in Port Clinton, Ohio.

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Float Troy: Tents on the Water


This is a past feature story from OhioTraveler.com

Float Troy, Where Floating on the River
and Tent Camping Collide

Ohio’s first and only public floating-tent experience!

Thousands of people spend time on the Great Miami River, one of only 22 national water trails, every year…canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to camp on the river? In Troy, Ohio, outdoor enthusiasts can experience Ohio’s first and only public floating-tent experience.

Located at Treasure Island Park, in Troy, the Float Troy experience, uses Shoal floating tents manufactured in Miami County by Smithfly. A first of its kind, the Shoal Tent is an inflatable, floating raft with a tent topper that allows campers to sleep out on the water. The tents come inflated, anchored, and ready to use with several amenities to provide an enjoyable experience. In addition to the tent, each rental includes a kayak or raft to travel to and from the shore, oars, and life vests. Do not forget to bring the Smores supplies…there are four floating fire pits located in the river near the tents and are available free of charge. In addition, there are two grills, a shelter, and restrooms on the shore for all Float Troy guests. To learn more about Float Troy or request a tent, visit www.float-troy.com.

Along the Great Miami River is the Great Miami Recreational Trail, which is part of the nation’s largest paved trail network. Campers should bring their bikes and running shoes because they will want to take advantage of having the bike path so close. It’s okay if you don’t own a bike, J & D Bicycles is located right across the street from Treasure Island Park and offers bike rentals. To round out your outdoor adventures, in addition to the river and the recreational trail, Miami County is filled with fantastic parks, waterfalls, and Brukner Nature Center where you can hike, bird watch, and learn about a variety of animals. Brukner also has some very special animal ambassadors that love to see visitors.

If you prefer to sample the local fare rather than roast hot dogs over the fire, downtown Troy, and Miami County, offer a variety of local restaurants to fit anyone’s taste buds. From tacos and steak to burgers and milkshakes, everyone in the group will be happy. And, make sure to check out the local shops while in any of the nearby historic downtown communities…you never know what treasures you will find.

Often, if the timing is right, an overnight in the shoal tent coincides with one of Troy’s summer concerts. When this happens, visitors can enjoy the music or watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July right from the tent or in a kayak on the river. In addition to summer concerts, there are events happening all summer long throughout Miami County. Before visiting, check out the current list of events on the visitor bureau’s website here.

For additional information on places to see, things to do and where to eat and shop while in Miami County, visit www.homegrowngreat.com and start planning your adventure today.

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Bring Back The Family Roadtrip

Save the day with a love-restoring getaway

Here, you decide your story. Every hill and curve promises adventure. You pass the county line sign and sense that buggies are near. Do you: follow the dirt road down the driveway with a hand-painted sign for baskets and eggs? Follow the sporty AWD complete with kayaks and “trees-are-friends” bumper stickers? Follow your nose to discover the origin of that intriguing aroma reminiscent of apple? Every route leads to a new adventure. Which road will you take?

There are no wrong choices in Ohio Amish Country. Pursue your day with a vigorous spirit and know that you’ll make a memory. A turn down that drive to find baskets takes you to a chat with an Amish family weeding their produce patch. That sporty AWD leads you to the tree-tops for a zip-lining trip you’ll never forget. And the nose knows it’s apple pie. That smell carries you straight to the source of deliciousness where you sample the day away on pastries and pies. There’s a tale here for you.

There are vacation horror stories and vacation heroes. One fun-filled trip to Ohio Amish Country and your kids will suddenly see that secret superhero cape tucked into your mom jeans or trailing your dad bod. Load the kids onto a horse-drawn wagon ride through the hills to feed potbellied piggies and even giraffes. Pick your own berries and pumpkins. Watch a magic show or tour a one-room Amish schoolhouse and country barn. Sample fresh-made chocolates or rank your favorite fry pie flavors.

Bring your bikes for a ride along the rails-to-trails. You will probably spot cool critters and kid smiles on the route. Fish, tube, or float your way through summer afternoons. Drop into town for a double-dip of ice cream, the hallmark treat of true superhero parents. After a day of adventuring, you deserve that hug from your teenager.

Do your senior folks need a break from retirement? There is plenty of entertainment for them, too. Hike through the day or find a bench along the wetlands for birdwatching. Museums dedicated to Amish history tell the fascinating story of the area. Or tour an Amish home and learn how some of the locals really live.

A family-style dinner and a stop at one of the theater shows are a perfect end to the day. Amish Country has experiences for night owls but caters to the early birds. Your folks have earned the right to simmer down and cozy up in their B&B by twilight.

Gal pals or bromance. Best friends or new friends. Kids, partner, or pet. An Amish Country vacation — long or short — will bring about a bonding experience. Some adventures are constructed from adrenaline. Others are woven together through the easy moments experienced with dear companions. This place is about escaping the mundane and embracing the life you have with the ones you love. In Amish Country, you will never be asked to see your superhero credentials.

Looking for inspiration as you plan your next stay? Go to https://www.visitamishcountry.com/ and see all that awaits you in Amish Country.

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The Pastry Factory

North Market in Columbus is pleased to announce the addition of The Pastry Factory, the newest merchant to join the community of “best-in-class” businesses at North Market Downtown.

The Pastry Factory’s owner Allyson Blackwell began baking as a child. Her passion for baking brought her to obtain a culinary arts degree from Sullivan University, which led to a career in the restaurant industry as a Sous Chef, Pastry Chef, and Head Baker. Outside of the kitchen, Blackwell also has experience as a restaurant manager and as a retail manager.

The Pastry Factory was founded in 2012 and, what started out as a part-time home-based bakery, allowed Blackwell to combine and build upon her vast experience in the culinary arts. When the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns caused Blackwell to lose her position as a café manager, she decided to take the leap and make The Pastry Factory a full-time gig. The Pastry Factory participated in the North Market Farmers’ Market downtown last summer, followed by winter pop-ups inside the Market. The Pastry Factory is dedicated to making delicious, unique desserts. Everything is made from scratch with the finest ingredients available to ensure the best quality and taste come through.

“We’re excited to be joining the diverse family of merchants at the North Market downtown,” said Blackwell. “When we were welcomed with open arms last summer at the farmers’ market, we knew we had found a great place to call home.”

The Pastry Factory specializes in delicious gourmet desserts & pastries for sophisticated palates. The Pastry Factory’s products include gourmet cupcakes, tarts, French pastries, cookies, cookie sandwiches, brownies, pies, and cakes. Flavors rotate regularly, and seasonal and holiday items are also available. Customers can choose from gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free options as well.

“Allyson has gone from farmers’ market to pop-up vendor, and now permanent merchant,” said North Market’s Executive Director Rick Harrison Wolfe. “We can’t wait to have The Pastry Factory’s unique treats on a regular basis. Allyson a natural fit for the Market!”

The Pastry Factory will occupy the stall between Stauf’s Coffee Roasters and Green Olive Company, across from Barrel & Boar. The Pastry Factory will begin construction on their new space in the coming weeks with plans to open this Spring. An announcement will follow when an opening date is finalized.

In operation since 1876, North Market has made it its mission to provide an authentic Columbus, Ohio experience with local merchants, farmers, and makers serving the community and its visitors. As central Ohio’s oldest public market, North Market highlights the diversity and vibrancy of the community, both economically and culturally by promoting and incubating “best-in-class” local, independent businesses.

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Tour Air Force One

Climb aboard Air Force One at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The museum’s Presidential Gallery features 10 historical aircraft representing more than 70 years of dedicated presidential service. Visitors can walk through four of the aircraft, including those that carried U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt through Bill Clinton.

Presidential aircraft featured at the museum include the VC-54C Sacred Cow, which was first used by President Roosevelt in 1945. The aircraft features a one-of-a-kind battery-powered elevator that was installed at the rear of the aircraft so that Roosevelt could board it easily while in his wheelchair. This aircraft was also the location where President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act on July 26, 1947, establishing the Air Force as an independent service. The pen used by Truman to sign the Act is displayed nearby.

Another popular presidential aircraft on display is the VC-118, which was the second aircraft built specifically to transport the President. A military version of the Douglas DC-6 commercial airliner, it was used by President Truman from 1947 to 1953. At the suggestion of the aircraft’s pilot, Truman named it The Independence in recognition of his hometown of Independence, MO.

Climbing a nearby flight of stairs leads visitors through the only Lockheed VC-121E ever built, which served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal airplane from 1954 until he left office in January 1961. A military version of the famous Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation commercial airliner, its fuselage “stretched” 18 feet longer than earlier versions, and with more powerful engines, greater fuel capacity and greater speed, these aircraft became popularly known as “Super Connies.” Eisenhower named this aircraft, his third Constellation, Columbine III, after the official state flower of Colorado in honor of his wife Mamie.

Finally, visitors can walk through one of the most important aircraft in aviation history – Air Force One (SAM 26000). Over its 36-year career, it served eight presidents – Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. However, the aircraft is most widely known for flying President Kennedy to Dallas, Texas, where he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 – and it was on this airplane that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president. SAM 26000 then carried Kennedy’s body and President Johnson back to Washington, D.C.

For more information about these and six other Presidential Gallery aircraft on display, click here.

Other resources related to the presidential aircraft collection are available online:

  • Fifteen high-definition panoramic interior photos of SAM 26000
  • An interview with former Presidential Flight Steward
  • Former Air Force One crewman speaks about his experiences
  • Interview with former White House pool reporter

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.

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Secret & Lost Amusement Parks

The Secret, Private, and Lost Amusement Parks of Ohio

What can be better than going to an amusement park to ride roller-coasters? How about going to a park with coasters but it’s rarely open to the public. Ah, anyone getting an image of golden tickets to enter the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory?

Well, it’s kind of like that.

Stricker’s Grove in Hamilton, Ohio is open to the public only four times a year: Fourth of July; Family Day, which is always the second Sunday in August; Labor Day; and Customer Appreciation Day, which is in October.

Ralph Stricker is the only person in the United States to build his own coaster. Construction was started in November 1990 and completed in June 1993. The Tornado is a wooden roller coaster. The second roller coaster at this little-known amusement park is the Teddy Bear. The original Teddy Bear was located in kiddie land at Coney Island in Cincinnati. Ralph Stricker obtained the blueprints and rebuilt the Teddy Bear at Stricker’s Grove.

The park also has a train, Ferris wheel, Merry Go Round, Scrambler, Tilt A Whirl, pirate ship, flying scooters, and other rides, including kiddie cars, boats, and rockets.  In addition to the rides, Stricker’s Grove also has an 18 hole miniature golf course, arcade with video games and skeeball, shooting gallery, horseshoes, and more.

Stricker’s Grove is a family-owned and operated private amusement park available to rent to groups, organizations, and churches for family picnics, wedding receptions, meetings, etc. for groups of 500 or more from mid-May to early October. Unlike most other parks, Stricker’s Grove only rents to one group most of the time, therefore, guaranteeing complete privacy without the hassle of sharing the park and picnic facilities.  For more park information, click here.

Stricker’s Grove maybe Ohio’s best-kept secret as far as amusement parks go but some parks of its nature are forever lost to time.

* * *

Chippewa Lake Amusement Park was located at Chippewa Lake south of Cleveland. It operated for 100 years, finally closing in 1978 due to the lack of attendance. After the park died, it birthed renewed interest but for all the wrong reasons. Although it closed for good, its rides remained largely intact but neglected for the next 30 years. It became a stunning site as nature grew around the fun park’s once colorful rides. Perhaps the most picturesque scene today is the Ferris wheel that still stands but with an enormous tree that grew up from the ground, dead center, and now shoots through the top, towering over the rusted metal frame. Much of the decay began to pose such safety issues for trespassers that over recent years, rides such as the old wooden roller-coaster were turned to rubble. Here is a video of what was still left behind as recently as just a few years ago.

LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park was located in Middletown, Ohio where signs of its past are still there. The park dates back to 1922 when it was a family retreat for picnicking, mostly. It added rides in the 1940s and became a regional amusement park that served up summer memories for generations. In the 1970s it changed its name to Americana Amusement Park. But in 1990 a freak electrical fire did millions of dollars worth of damage. It struggled afterward. Nearby Kings Island contributed to that. Finally, it closed its turnstiles in 1999. It came up for one last gasp of air in 2002, reclaiming its original name but this rebirth was short-lived. Since then, its rides were demolished and sold off.

A more recent casualty of the amusement park world is Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio. It was one of the big-3 amusement parks in the state and was also one of the oldest. It had major roller-coasters that competed with Cedar Point. But with Cedar Point’s world acclaim, perhaps the northern part of Ohio just wasn’t big enough to support the two major parks. However, it wasn’t the first major park to shutter its doors at Geauga Lake. There was a time in the 1970s when one side of the lake hosted the amusement park and the other was home to Sea World. Sea World Ohio lasted from 1970 to 2000. The site later became a water park. As for Geauga Lake Park (which was renamed Six Flags Worlds of Adventure for a time), its rides were auctioned off and the park stripped down to its skeleton leaving modern-day ruins still awaiting new development.

One survivor of the small and regional amusement park mass extinction that has occurred over the past several decades is Memphis Kiddie Park.

Memphis Kiddie Park in Brooklyn, Ohio is an amusement park for toddlers and preschoolers. Here, you hope that you’re shorter than the height stick! There are about a dozen rides, including North America’s oldest steel kiddie roller-coaster. Other nostalgic favorites include the train ride, airplane ride, boat ride, a little Ferris wheel, Merry-Go-Round and more. It’s a survivor of a bygone era when kiddie parks thrived. This one remains family-operated. Located in an old Cleveland neighborhood, it is a delight for generations of tiny thrill-seekers and parents alike. But this decades-old secret is getting out and folks from afar are making the trek to this little amusement wonder for their toddlers to enjoy. For park information, click here.

And then there are the two modern-day mega amusement parks thriving to this day in Ohio – Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.  Cedar Point Amusement Park is the reigning “Roller Coaster Capital of the World!”

There’s no secret about that.

Click here for over a dozen more thrilling attractions in Ohio.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!

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Sweet Tooth Tours

Ohio has a confections trifecta that will satisfy any sweet tooth! Unlike Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, you don’t need a golden ticket to see candy galore at Spangler Candy Company, b.a. Sweetie Candy Company and Anthony Thomas Chocolates.

Spangler Candy Company in Bryan, Ohio makes millions of sweets daily. Hop on a trolley tour to see the museum, factory and store. This is the place where all of your Dum Dum Lollipops come from as well as candy canes. Did you know that the stripe on a candy cane has to be done by hand? They also make marshmallow candies and a variety of bulk candy. Learn how a paperboy turned $450 into the purchase of a factory and launched his own candy empire. For tour information, click here.

b.a. Sweetie Candy in Cleveland is the largest candy store in the country. It features over 4,000 different kinds of candy totaling about 400,000 pounds of candy under one roof with nearly 2 million pounds in stick. They have everything from old-time favorites to the latest craze. There’s even an old-fashioned truck full of candy just inside to greet customers as their jaws drop upon entering this sweet store. For visitor information, click here.

Visitors to Anthony Thomas Chocolates in Columbus can walk along a glass-enclosed suspended catwalk to see candy made at this 152,000 square-foot state-of-the-art candy factory. In one shift, 25,000 pounds of chocolate are produced. Even Augustus Loof would be left satisfied (sorry, no chocolate river here). To plan your tour, click here.

Ohio, it’s sweeeet to be here!

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Wild Orphans: To Rescue Or Not?

“Mommy, look what I found!”

Children have a knack for finding wild orphans, whether they are baby birds, squirrels, bunnies, or other wild animals. Across the United States during the spring and summer months, thousands of young wild animals are picked up; some need to be rescued, but most do not.

“At Brukner Nature Center, we care for more than 1,400 animals each year,” said Becky Crow, Curator of Wildlife.  “They are brought to us by well-intentioned individuals, but many of them did not need to be rescued,” Crow added.

Baby bunnies, also known as kits, are one of the wild animals rescued most often but usually do not need human help.  Mother rabbits are only at the nest to feed their young twice daily for about five minutes—at dawn and dusk.  And, yes, they put the nest in the middle of your backyard!  One reason is that Mama Rabbit can see predators approaching while nursing her young.  Kits are in their nest for only two to three weeks, a pretty short time before they are independent.  Leave the nest alone unless you find cold, limp babies or injured ones.  Brukner Nature Center has more advice for you on keeping the young safe in the nest until they are ready to live independently.

There is a myth that once a baby bird is touched by a human, it will not be cared for by the parent birds.  Not true!  First, birds, except those in the vulture family, have a poor sense of smell.  They cannot even tell that you touched the nestling when returning it to the nest.  However, if you put a cold baby bird back in the nest and it cannot beg for food when the parent arrives, it is in trouble.  It is always best to call Brukner Nature Center for help and advice.

Did you know that mother deer forage for food, leaving their camouflaged, spotted fawns alone for several hours?  People who come across these vulnerable-looking fawns in the woods, their backyards, and roadways always assume they need help.  Unless the fawn is injured—broken leg, open wound, flies buzzing around it—it is most likely perfectly fine.  Its mom intends to return soon and expects to find the youngster right where she left it after the last feeding.

“It is illegal and unwise to keep wildlife as pets or even to try to raise orphans unless you are trained and have the proper permits from state and federal wildlife agencies,” said Crow. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators have the knowledge and experience to care for wild orphans who need help. They know how to raise orphans to be healthy and wild. When you find a wild animal you think needs help, it is best to call for advice so you and the wild animal remain safe.

In this area, you can call Brukner Nature Center at 937-698-6493. Please make certain the wild animal in question needs to be rescued. Even with Brukner Nature Center’s best efforts, there is no substitute for Mother Nature.

Brukner Nature Center is a non-profit, privately funded organization that promotes appreciation and understanding of wildlife conservation through preservation, education, and rehabilitation. For more information, call 937-698-6493, email info@bruknernaturecenter.com, or visit www.bruknernaturecenter.com.

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Dennison Depot is a Standout!

Dennison Railroad Depot Museum is a standout in tourism and in history. This is one heck of a whistle stop! The depot is incredible. It’s like buying a ticket to a bygone era. And then you wander through the museum which is housed in one train car after another stretching down the track in what has to be one of the longest museums around. But that’s not all, this depot is special. The G.I. generation saw 1.3 million servicemen stop at the track side canteen in Dennison, Ohio. This town earned its friendly service offering a free cup of coffee and a sandwich to all the servicemen. At the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, you can find a great mix of WWII Canteen stories and tales of the railroad in an area where the trains made the town! Click here for more information.

This award recognizes Ohio’s standouts in tourism. More details about the award and all award recipients are at ohiotraveler.com/standouts-in-ohio-tourism/.


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Spend a Day or Night in Space


A Day or Night at the
Armstrong Air & Space Museum

In the dark vacuum of space, no one can hear a scream. At the Armstrong Air & Space Museum though, the stillness of the night is often broken by the sounds of Scout troops camping at the museum. This program, offered since 2011, allows groups of Scouts a more in-depth museum experience and a chance to spend the night with spacecraft, a moon rock, and other extra-terrestrial artifacts.

Christopher Moynihan has seen the overnight program expand during his years working for the museum. Now, Director of Programming and Education, he describes a typical overnight experience as starting soon after the museum has closed to the public. “The kids are always excited when they first get to the museum.” Scouts are let in and unpack before taking an extended tour of the museum, its artifacts, and the stories behind those artifacts. A moon rock, space suits, and the actual capsule that first took Neil Armstrong to space illustrate the Cold War, Space Race and, of course, the life of the first man to set foot on the moon. A short film in the museum’s unique domed theater further captures the excitement of that historic day in July 1969. Following the tour and film, Scouts can work on requirements for astronomy and engineering badges, complete challenge activities, or learn more about any particular aspect of space exploration.

New in 2016 is the Astronaut Training Program, where campers simulate exploration of the moon’s surface. One group of Scouts are helped into heavy, replica Apollo spacesuits to look for geological evidence of life on the “lunar surface”, while other Scouts act as mission control monitoring the astronauts’ health and mission status. Astronauts must quickly find the rocks, evaluate their scientific potential, and bring the best sample back to their base. Mission control communicates with the astronauts, alerting them to remaining time in the mission, oxygen use, and lunar environment dangers. The Scouts have to work together to make smart decisions quickly. Will the mission find evidence of life? Will the oxygen run out or spacesuits fail? It is really up to mission control and the astronauts themselves as to how the mission ends.

When the evening activities are over, everyone is ready for snacks (no campfire inside!) and sleep. “Even though the kids are all wound up when they get here, by bedtime they are tired out,” says Moynihan. The background noise of exhibits and flight simulators in the Modern Space Gallery replaces the more typical camp sounds of crickets and owls. This unique indoor camping area allows Scouts to sleep among the artifacts, resting in their sleeping bags next to a space shuttle tire, pressure suits, and astronaut food.

Morning brings a light breakfast and packing up. One final activity and yet another group of Scouts end their overnight visit to this unique campground, the Armstrong Air & Space Museum.  

Programs and tours of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum may be scheduled through the Education Department at 419-738-8811 or education@armstrongmuseum.org.

Click here for more information about Scout Overnight programs.

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Rare Oceanic Mask

Saibai Island, Torres Strait (Northern Islands, Australia), Mask, 1870, wood, human hair, shell, seedpod, fiber, pigment, melo shell and coix seeds, Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 2015.

Saibai Island, Torres Strait (Northern Islands, Australia), Mask, 1870, wood, human hair, shell, seedpod, fiber, pigment, melo shell and coix seeds, Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 2015.

This masterwork of Oceanic art has been added to the collection at the Toledo Museum of Art. The extremely rare oceanic mask is one of four known distinguished examples from Saibai Island in the Torres Straits and has been heralded by scholars as the most notable. The Saibai Island Masks are among the rarest and most spectacular works of art created by the artists of the Torres Straits.

The earliest written record of a Saibai Island mask was in 1606 when Spanish explorer Don Diego de Prado y Tovar wrote of a turtle shell example while on exploration voyage with Luís Vaz de Torres, for whom the region is named.

Masks in this style are called “mawa,” meaning “face,” and are believed to represent mythical heroes whose appearances signal important events and rites of passage. The “mawa” ceremony was held to celebrate the ripening of fruits and other crops around the month of September. The masks were carved from wood and distinct because they do not have sight apertures for the wearer, meaning that they were likely worn on the top of the head by a dancer wearing a costume of coconut leaves. They could also have been used as a kind of architectural ornament. There are only three other examples in this style, two in the Australian Museum in Sydney and one in Barbier Mueller Museum in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Brian Kennedy, president, director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art, commented that “This is an extraordinary, spectacular example of the sculptural tradition of mask making in the Torres Strait Islands. We have rarely seen such a striking and memorable mask. We are thrilled to have acquired an object of such rarity which expands the global range of the Toledo Museum of Art’s celebrated art collections.”

This example, from the Jolika Collection, demonstrates the powerful proportions used in Torres Strait Islander art. It is revered as the best and most remarkable example of an extremely rare body of Torres Strait art. The mask measures almost three times the size of a human face and the trapezoidal shape combined with shell eyes glowing against the dark brown wood create a haunting expression and make this one of the most memorable among masks from the South Seas.

Wooden masks in the Torres Straits are particular to the Western island of Saibai, unlike the more typical turtle shell masks of the South Seas. This is attributed to the proximity of Saibai Island to the sculptural wood tradition of New Guinea.

About the artists of the Torres Straits

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have the oldest continuous culture in the world, with a legacy of tens of thousands of years. Their art is often referred to as the oldest in human history.

What began as rock carving and body painting evolved to ritual and ceremonial objects carved from wood to modern art forms today such as ceramics and glassware.

The story behind individual works of indigenous art is often a direct tie to a sacred ceremony, historical traditions and geographic landscape. Works of art show the cultural diversity among communities, differences in language and what material resources were available for making objects.

More about Saibai Masks


Admission to the Museum is free. The Museum is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m.; and is closed Monday and major holidays. Thursday evening hours are sponsored by Huntington Wealth Advisors. Friday evening hours are made possible by Fifth Third Bank.

The Museum is located at 2445 Monroe Street at Scottwood Avenue, just west of the downtown business district and one block off I-75 with exit designations posted. For general information, visitors can call 419-255-8000 or 800-644-6862, or visit toledomuseum.org.

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Ohio Butterflies Found in Mexico



From a past edition of OhioTraveler.com

The Toledo Zoo made it to Mexico. Well, at least nine tagged monarch butterflies released by the Zoo’s conservation initiative, Wild Toledo, completed the 2,200+ mile migration to their historic overwintering grounds south of the border. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus plexippus) are easily recognizable because of their orange and black coloring. However, monarchs are also a declining species because of loss of habitat and food sources, making this recorded migration a true success for biologists and butterflies alike.

Nine Toledo Zoo tags were recovered in El Rosario Butterfly Reserve, located inAngangueo, Michoacan, Mexico. Data shows that the recovered tags were from seven males and two females that were released on Zoo grounds between August 30 and September 7, 2015. The recovery of these tags means that at least those nine butterflies completed the entire journey from Toledo to Mexico, which if one were to walk the believed route would take almost 700 hours! However, as Wild Toledo coordinator, Ryan Walsh, hypothesizes, finding these nine tags together in an area probably means that the monarchs stayed together throughout the migration and that a lot more actually made it but were not recovered. He went on to point out that it is still early in the typical recovery period, so more tags may be located.

Tag recovery rates vary year to year but are typically quite low due to the incredible density of monarchs in the protected land and the small groups of locals and eco-tourists collecting the tags. Reports and pictures from the area show huge Cozumel fir trees completely covered in butterflies with branches drooping from the weight of the humongous monarch colonies. In 2014, the Zoo released 280 tagged monarchs and no tags were recovered. In 2015, 760 monarchs were tagged and released, meaning 1 in approximately every 85 butterflies were recovered. That is an incredible increase from when tagging began and only 1 in 1,000 tags were recovered! Walsh chuckled: “We’re not sure exactly why we had such a good year, but that doesn’t take away from how incredible it is to have these tags recovered.”

All monarch butterflies reared at the Toledo Zoo are raised from eggs collected in the native prairies on Zoo grounds and feed on milkweed grown from seed inside the greenhouse to control the possibility of disease. Before release each monarch butterfly is tagged by hand with a small sticker indicating an individual identification number from Monarch Watch, a dedicated group of students, scientists and citizen scientists committed to the conservation of the iconic butterfly species. Each tag displays three letters and three numbers along with an email address to report the finding. Each identification number corresponds to a record entered into the database that contains information such as sex, captive or wild-reared and the release date. Once recovered, tag numbers are recorded and the results released online so contributing institutions may track their own progress.

The increase in monarchs being reared in the greenhouse at the Toledo Zoo is thanks in part to the Zoo PAL (Proud Animal Lover) sponsorship program that enables the public to symbolically adopt a monarch for a nominal fee. Walsh assures that he is emailing the “monarch parents” from 2015 to relay this exciting news and that the Zoo is already preparing for another release this summer. “We will definitely do it again. We are very excited and encouraged by our results and can’t wait to continue sharing this incredible natural wonder!”

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Bear’s Mill is a Standout!

Bear’s Mill is to the art community what flour is to baking. This standout in Ohio tourism has been around since 1849. And it is still operational today. The four-story grist mill stands strong with its weathered look wearing its history in plain sight. Its photogenic features, inside and out, have drawn national attention. Its shop – the Mill Market – and special events have drawn fans from near and far. Visitors are treated with history, food, and art. Exhibits rotate photography, paintings, pottery, and sculpture. Tours and demonstrations are available year-round. Complete information is available at http://bearsmill.org/.


This award recognizes Ohio’s standouts in tourism. More details about the award and all award recipients are at ohiotraveler.com/standouts-in-ohio-tourism/.

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Camp & Canoe Capital


Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler.

The Camp & Canoe Capital of Ohio Is Ready for Spring! 

Spring is right around the corner and that means it is time to Discover Mohican! The Camp & Canoe Capital of Ohio is ready for the warm weather and events to continue throughout the year. Campgrounds are opening, canoes, rafts and kayaks will soon float down the Mohican River, sporting events will begin and the horses will be out on the trails.

Spring also means the Annual Mohican Wildlife Weekend. Mohican Wildlife Weekend is a celebration of wildlife, heritage, habitat and natural history. There are seven sites with over 30 programs available. Visit mohicanwildlifeweekend.com for more information.

It is also time to put that training to use and join in on the sporting events taking place in Mohican. Forget the PR Run, in April, will take 300 runners for a scenic and challenging run through Mohican State Park; crossing rivers and more. The month of May is the world renowned Mohican Mountain Bike 100. This race will crisscross four counties along a single loop, climbing more than 11,000 feet and go toe-to-toe with the top pros on this legendary ultra-endurance loop in Northeastern Ohio. After those exciting events, take a rest and then challenge the Mohican Trail 100 Run. Often referred to as the MO100, the race has become one of the nation’s premier ultra-marathons. It is reportedly the fifth oldest ultra-running race across the Nation.

History is alive with the museum showcasing a rare 34 star American flag on display, as well as one of the oldest motorcycle sidecars. Enjoy sponsored hikes along Mohican State Park and Mohican-Memorial State Forest. These hikes, with the help of the Mohican Trails Club, will showcase some of the hidden gems of the park; that few only get to see.

Make sure to make time to venture out to the Wolf Creek Grist Mill opening in April. Considered to be one of the oldest working mills in Ohio, they also host many worthwhile events. Join in on the fun of a nature scavenger hunt, take a tour of the mill and its cabins and start making plans for the International Wine at the Mill Festival.

Plan to stay for the week or weekend. With over 4,000 campsites, private cabins, a castle, resort, historic B&B and more. Take a stroll through downtown Loudonville for shopping and dining. There is plenty of room to discover the best of Mohican. Visit DiscoverMohican.com for more information or find them on Facebook, twitter and Instagram – Discover Mohican.

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Ohio Motorcycle Takes Another Spin in History

thor-motorcycle-allen-musExcerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler

Several years ago, Dean Edward, a local motorcycle enthusiast, was amazed to discover that the Allen County Historical Society owned a vintage Thor motorcycle. Excited by the rare bike’s discovery, Edward contacted Dale Walksler, CEO of the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

The 1912 Thor motorcycle belonged to Ralph Marshall, former Allen County Sheriff, board track racer, 1936 Olympian, and Marshall Sporting Goods store owner.  As a young man, Marshall raced the bike locally and in surrounding counties.  His donation to the Historical Society included the original bill of sale and the bike’s travel case.

Later, Walksler contacted Allen County Museum director Pat Smith to request permission to enter the Thor into the highly prestigious, world-class Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance car and motorcycle show in Florida. The theme for the class was “Orphan American Motorcycles,” allowing the world to see America’s lesser-known brands. Ten rare machines, ranging from a 1904 Yale to a 1914 Flescher Flyer, were then displayed. All machines were at least 100 years of age.

The award for preservation and provenance, going to the original machine with the best-documented history, presented by Concours Board Member John Duss, went to the stunning 1912 Thor Board Track Racer.  Walksler stated that “the 1912 Thor is among the world’s most original early racing motorcycles.  It is preserved in original paint, with original racing saddle, “Blue-Streak” racing tires, chains, and number plate.”

The bike soon returned to the Allen County Museum with its original racing crate, shipped from the factory to its owner and from race to race.

The Thor was also featured in an episode of “What’s in the Barn.”  The television series can be seen on the Velocity Channel and on the Discovery Channel.

Click here to learn more about the Allen County Museum’s many unique relics.

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