It’s Looking a Lot Like Christmas in Champaign County

Man on the Monument, downtown Urbana, Ohio, Christmas 2016You’ll find plenty of local activities to help get you in the Christmas spirit. Here’s a sampling:

Christmas Tree Lighting/Horse Parade, Friday, Nov. 25

Downtown Urbana will be the place to be Friday evening. Here’s what Monument Square District (MSD) has in store:

5:30 p.m. – The first annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Legacy Park on the southeast corner of Monument Square

6 p.m. – Urbana’s Second Annual All-Horse Parade, featuring lighted horses and carriages, starting at 6 p.m. from the 600 block of Scioto Street and traveling to Monument Square. The parade will circle around the monument and return to its starting point. Planned by Carr’s Belgians & Carriage Services, LLC and MSD

7 p.m. – Santa rides into town, escorted by the parade. He’ll stop at Santa Land, at the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St., to hear children’s Christmas wishes. Snacks will be served and the Champaign County Youth Choir will perform.

Santa will be at the Gloria every Friday, 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. leading up to Christmas (Dec. 24, he’ll be there noon to 2 p.m.).

Other Friday activities include free carriage rides, food vendors, extended hours at downtown shops, family activities at downtown businesses and carolers.

Shop Local on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26

Small Business SaturdayThis Christmas shopping season support local businesses throughout Champaign County.

Sure, there’s Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving. And Cyber Monday after that. But in between is Small Business Saturday. Local merchants offer a unique selection of gifts (don’t forget gift certificates).

And your local purchases give back to our local economy. For every $100 you spend at a locally owned business, $68 stays here. But when you spend $100 at a locally based chain store, only $43 supports our local community.

Christmas Movies at the Gloria Theatre, Beginning Nov. 26

a-christmas-story-photoSeventy-five years ago this Christmas, Warren Grimes – aviation lighting pioneer, founder of Urbana’s Grimes Manufacturing and local philanthropist – opened the Gloria Theatre. He invested $100,000 to turn the theater into a state-of-the-art movie house of its day.

This Christmas season, starting this Saturday (Nov. 26), the Gloria will show Christmas classics, using today’s state-of-the-art technology – a newly installed 4K digital projection system, 7.1 surround sound and new 38-by-16-foot screen. The screen is about two and a half times larger than the theater’s previous screen.

“A Christmas Story” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27. Doors will open 30 minutes before each show. The $5 admission will benefit ongoing renovation of the Gloria by the GrandWorks Foundation.

“Home Alone” will be shown at the same times on Dec. 10 and 11. Check for updates on the Gloria Theatre Downtown Urbana Facebook page for movies that will be shown December 17 and 18 and on Christmas weekend, to mark the theater’s 75th anniversary.

The theater also will host “Prime Time Christmas,” an original play presented twice on December 3, at 2 and 6 p.m., by the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Springfield. Admission is free. For more information, visit springfieldchristmas.squarespace.com.

Beth Macy Book Talk and Signing, Tuesday, Nov. 29

Author Beth Macy at the Champaign County Library, Urbana, Ohio

Beth Macy with her proud high school English teacher, Margaret Tabor, after her Factory Man book signing at the Champaign County Library in 2014.

Not necessarily a holiday event. But certainly a prime opportunity to treat yourself – and buy the readers on your Christmas list a bestseller that’s won rave reviews from the likes of The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews and NPR. (By the way, Leonardo DiCaprio is already negotiating to produce and star in a movie adaptation.)

Truevine by Beth MacyBeth Macy, New York Times best-selling author and 1982 Urbana High School graduate, will be back in town Tuesday, Nov. 29 to talk about and sign her second nonfiction bestseller, Truevine – at 7 p.m. in the Sara Landess Room of Urbana University’s Student Center. The event is sponsored by the Champaign County Library.

Two years ago, Beth packed to overflowing the Champaign County Library meeting room for a book talk and signing for her first bestseller, Factory Man. That book is being developed by Tom Hanks as an HBO miniseries.

Truevine is a Kirkus Awards finalist. The Kirkus Reviews says of Beth and Truevine: “A consummate chronicler of the American South spotlights the extraordinary history of two kidnapped African-American brothers enslaved as a circus sideshow act…. This first-rate journey into human trafficking, slavery, and familial bonding is an engrossing example of spirited, determined reportage.”

And I know from her Factory Man talk in Urbana, Beth tells a great, entertaining story about the sleuthing and relentless reporting that goes into creating a well-told work of nonfiction. See you there!

Copies of Truevine will be available for purchase. The Friends of the Library will host a reception following the talk and signing.

No Room at the Inn, Messiah Lutheran Church, Sunday, Dec. 4

Here’s a great way to celebrate Christmas and help the homeless. No Room at the Inn, from 2 to 5 p.m. will raise money for the Caring Kitchen homeless shelter. The event features:

  • A display of hundreds of nativity scenes from around the world
  • An angel room
  • A concert by choirs from Urbana United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and the Messiah Lutheran Church
  • Children’s activities from 2 to 4:30 p.m.
  • A silent auction
  • Homemade chicken noodle dinner for $5 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Messiah Lutheran is located at 1013 East Lawn Ave., Urbana.

It’s Strawberry Time. Get Picking!

Rachel Klingler, sister of The Berry Patch owner, Steven Klingler, gets us started.

Gretchen Klingler, sister of The Berry Patch owner, Steven Klingler, gets us started.

Local strawberry picking is upon us. Beware, the season is brief. About three weeks.

So, Champaign Uncorked! visited two local strawberry patches on Memorial Day to help blaze your trail to the sweet freshness that awaits. (By the way, I have a bowl of strawberries in front of me as I write this. Soon to be just a bowl. Good news: Plenty more in the kitchen.)

First Stop: The Berry Patch, LLC 

Location: 2451 St. Rt. 245 W., West Liberty

Hours: Mon-Sat, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. (season ends about June 18)

Product: Pre-picked and U-pick strawberries by gallon bucket or quart

Contact: 937-441-0248; TheBerryPatchLLC@live.com; TheBerryPatchOhio.com; Facebook

The Berry Patch, LLC, West Liberty, Ohio

Steven Klingler in front of The Berry Patch, the strawberry business he started four years ago.

The Story: Steven Klingler, a 2014 Urbana University accounting graduate, started The Berry Patch, LLC four years ago. It’s sort of an offshoot of a berry farm of another variety—a raspberry farm. Specifically, the Champaign Berry Farm of Mike and Cathy Pullins, just outside Mutual. Steven worked seven summers for the Pullinses, from seventh grade through freshman year of college.

By his sixth season with Champaign Berry Farm, Steven knew he wanted to go into the berry business himself. The Pullinses recommended strawberries. Raspberries take two to three years to fruit after planting. Strawberries, just 12 months. Steven has 23,000 plants in fruit. With the help of a crew of 20 he planted 24,000 new plants this spring—for even more bountiful picking next year.

Steven also has received encouragement and support from his family and Jason Wish of Wishwell Farms of Bellefontaine. His father, Scott Klingler, loaned him money for equipment and is expecting Steven to get back to work, at the end of strawberry season, to support his business, Countryside Heating & Cooling. (We have, indeed, entered the cooling season also.)

Strawberries at Folck Family Farm

Cindy and Bob Folck of Folck Family Farm.

Second Stop: Folck Family Farm

Location: 6842 St. Rt. 54, Mechanicsburg

Hours: Call the farm at 937-869-2240 for hours and updates

Product: Strawberries (pre-picked and U-pick) in season now through June 21. Other produce: peas, red raspberries (to be ready mid-June), blackberries, Vidalia onions, tomatoes and sweet peppers. Also honey, jams, as well as pork products from pasture-raised purebred Chester White pigs. (The Folcks had the 2015 Champion Chester White Gilt at the Ohio State Fair Junior Show.)

Contact: 937-869-2240; folckfamilyfarm.net

The Story: Bob and Cindy Folck have operated their family farm for about 15 years. Bob describes himself as “a stay-at-home farmer” since a job layoff. He also breeds and sells show pigs. Cindy is program manager of The Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program.  And their daughter, Amanda, studies sports turf at Ohio State. Bob said their produce business began with pumpkins, “and one thing led to another.” They’ve become one of Ohio’s largest grower of peas, picking and shelling about two acres a year.

How Sweet It Is….

Locally grown strawberries, Chammpaign County, Ohio

Some of our day’s delicious bounty.

As I wrap up this post, my wife, Kay, just set down in front of me a slice of toast spread with strawberry jam she made from some of today’s pickings. Ummm … now, what was I writing about?

Anyway, get out and discover for yourself the locally grown goodness that is all around us in and around Champaign County. We’ll be sharing more finds as the growing season progresses.

And please share: What are your favorite locally grown and produced foods?

Your Champaign Bucket List for November Fun and Giving Thanks

In this month of Thanksgiving, welcome to the third installment of the Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List. Here goes with a sampling of the ways to celebrate the season and the goodness Champaign County has to offer.

Celebrate the Season!

Holiday Open House in Urbana, Ohio's downtown Monument Square District.

A glimpse of The Boston’s window display for the Holiday Open House, Nov. 7-9, in Urbana’s Monument Square District..

 

Holiday Open House Weekend, Friday, Nov. 7-Sunday, Nov. 9 – Beat the hectic pace of Black Friday shopping. Support the local merchants of Urbana’s charming downtown Monument Square District and discover the one-of-kind presents and hospitality they keep in store. Downtown shops will be open Friday, Nov. 7, 10-8; Saturday, Nov. 8, 10-6; and Sunday, Nov. 9, 1-5.

And take a shopping break at one of downtown Urbana’s fine, locally owned restaurants. Check out Monument Square District’s Facebook page for updates on what stores have to offer.

Urban Loft Tour, Urbana, Ohio, featuring historic Monument Square DistrictUrban Loft Tour, Saturday, Nov. 8 Ever wonder what’s above the shops in downtown Urbana? Satisfy your curiosity while you’re downtown Nov. 8 for the Holiday Open House. The Champaign County Preservation Alliance (CCPA) will take you on a tour of the upper stories of seven downtown buildings, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The day of the tour, tickets will be available at the Stage Building, 38 Monument Square, and the Urbana Cinema/Gloria Theater, 216 S. Main St., which is on the tour Prior to that, tickets are available at the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, Champaign Bank, Peoples Savings Bank, Perpetual Savings Bank and Security National Bank. The $12 ticket cost will support CCPA’s historic preservation work.

For more information, visit the Loft Tour pages of the CCPA’s Home and Garden Tour website.

Make a Gingerbread House at the Library, Saturday Nov. 22 – The Champaign County Library offers children two opportunities to decorate a gingerbread house:

  • At 10 a.m., hosted by the Friends of the North Lewisburg Branch Library, at 161 Winder St., North Lewisburg
  • At 2 p.m., hosted by the Friends of the Library at the main library at 1060 Scioto St., Urbana.

Register by Nov. 19 for either program by calling 937-653-3811.

Thanksgiving Morning Walk  The Champaign Family YMCA invites the community to meet outside the west entrance to the First Presbyterian Church, 116 W. Court St., Urbana, for a time of thanks and a short walk, which will begin at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving, Nov. 27. Paul Waldsmith, CEO of the Y, and Jennifer Post, health enhancement director, will lead the walk and offer participants their choice of a 15-minute walk route or a 1-mile route.  The walk will be held  no matter the weather.  Participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for local food pantries.  “This is not a competition, just a way to give back to our community,” Waldsmith explains. For more information, call the Y at 937-653-9622.
Community Thanksgiving dinners in Champaign County, Ohio

Photo Credit: timsackton via Compfight cc

Community Thanksgiving Dinners – Community members have three opportunities to give thanks by volunteering, donating food and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together:

  • Caring Kitchen, at 300 Miami St., Urbana, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27,  needs volunteers and food donations for its annual Thanksgiving dinner for residents of the Urbana, Mechanicsburg, Triad and West Liberty-Salem school districts. Serving from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with carryout and home delivery beginning at 10:30 a.m. Call 937-653-8443 by Nov. 15 to volunteer or make donations or by Nov. 24 to schedule a delivery. Individuals planning to dine in or pick up a meal also are encouraged to call ahead to ensure enough food is available. Meals will be delivered to the sheriff’s office and local police and fire departments.
  • Graham Elementary School, 9644 U.S. 36, St. Paris, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27 – community dinner, noon to 1:30 p.m., coordinated by the St. Paris Federation of Churches. Dine-in, carryout and delivery will be available. Call the St. Paris First Church of God at 937-663-4441 to request delivery or to volunteer to help prepare the meal, serve, deliver and clean up. Monetary and food donations are welcome.
  • Mechanicsburg Community Dinner, Saturday, Nov. 15, hosted by Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools, 60 High St., Mechanicsburg, in honor of Mechanicsburg’s bicentennial celebration. Guests are to arrive 5 to 5:30 p.m. in the Commons. Pow wow dancers will perform following the dinner. 

Details for these dinners are available on the Urbana Daily Citizen website.

Music in the Air

Veterans Day Dinner and Dance, Saturday, Nov. 8 – Amid historic aircraft and World War II memorabilia, this dinner and dance at the Champaign Aviation Museum, 1642 N. Main St., Urbana, will take you back to the days of USO dances. Featuring the Bob Gray Orchestra, this dinner and dance is presented by the Champaign County Arts County with support from the Champaign Memorial Foundation. Social hour begins at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. with music and dancing to follow. Tickets $20. For information, contact the Arts Council, 119 Miami St., 937-653-7557. 

The Castros and Get in the Ark at Spotted Cow Coffeehouse, Saturday, Nov. 15 – Urbana’s newest coffeehouse, The Spotted Cow, at 927 N. Main St., will host these two popular Columbus indie folk bands in a free concert at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15. In Columbus’ (614) Magazine ColumBest readers poll The Castros were voted Best Local Band in 2013 and runner up in 2012 and 2014.

Prior to this show, beginning at 4 p.m., local musicians Scott Patrick Knies, Tayler Carpenter, Mark Blair Glunt, Samantha Sanderson and Dylan Glunt will perform. The event also will feature poet Aiyana Marcus and the photography of Dave Millner. Carmazzi’s Corner will be the featured business. Food provided by Week of Hope.

Win a Made in the USA Best Seller by a Champaign County Original

Ohio Manufacturing Month came to an end Friday. But I’m continuing the celebration, giving you a chance to win a copy of a New York Times Best Seller, Factory Man, authored by a product of Champaign County, Ohio – Beth Macy.Factory Man by Beth Macy

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below. I’ll announce the randomly selected winner here November 10.

Factory Man author Beth Macy speaks at Champaign County Library, Urbana, Ohio

Author Beth Macy with her proud high school English teacher, Margaret Tabor.

Beth, a 1982 Urbana High School graduate, returned to Urbana in August for a book talk and signing at the Champaign County Library. The library meeting room was packed with Beth’s high school classmates, family, friends, her high school English teacher, Margaret Tabor, community members, and yours truly. I was managing editor of the Urbana Daily Citizen when she interned there.

Factory Man author Beth Macy at Champaign County Library, Urbana, Ohio/

Beth signs books after her presentation at the Champaign County Library

Upon release in July, Factory Man, Beth’s first book, became an instant best seller, welcomed by rave reviews including a tweet from actor Tom Hanks: “Great Summer Reading. I give it 42 stars. No, I give it 142 stars. It’s THAT good.”

And that was no idle tweet. Hanks’ production company, Playtone, is developing Factory Man as an HBO miniseries.

Recently, Publisher’s Weekly selected Factory Man for its Best Books of 2014 list.

Well researched and entertainingly told, Factory Man chronicles the rise and evolution of the Bassett furniture dynasty and John Bassett III’s determined fight against globalization and offshoring to save his Virginia-based furniture company, his employees’ jobs and his town.

Back in Beth’s hometown, and across the country, manufacturing is on the rebound from the Great Recession. Manufacturing employment in Champaign County, at 3,700 in 2001, hit a low of 2,373 in 2010 before rising to 3,487 this year. That number could be higher if manufacturers – in Champaign County and throughout the U.S. – weren’t having such a difficult time finding enough qualified candidates for skilled, high-tech positions. (Local efforts have been launched to introduce students to manufacturing careers.)

In this video, produced by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Beth (whose mother worked for Grimes Manufacturing in Urbana) talks about the significance of American manufacturing.

For a chance to win a copy of Factory Man, don’t forget to leave a comment below – by 8 a.m. EST Nov. 10.

For instance, what is your favorite U.S.-made product? Or tell us about your experience in manufacturing (while in college I made fireplace inserts on an assembly line). Or tell us about your favorite job in any setting.

Your Champaign Bucket List for October Fun

I hope you enjoyed the first Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List in September.

More important, I hope you got out to experience the blessings of Champaign County — those I recommended or others you found on your own.

So, here goes … the Bucket List for October. Click here for your printable October Bucket List.

Get into the Spirit of October!

Champaign County Historical Society Oktoberfest, Urbana, Ohio

Painted pumpkins by Debbie Loffing one of many Oktoberfest traditions.

Oktoberfest, Sunday, October 5: A 42-year Champaign County tradition, this year’s Oktoberfest marks the 80th anniversary of the Champaign County Historical Society, the event host. Oktoberfest features arts, crafts and food for sale by 100 artisans and vendors on the grounds of the society’s museum, 809 East Lawn Ave., Urbana. While there, be sure to check out the artifacts on exhibit in the museum.

Other highlights: listen to the Gettysburg Address delivered at 1 p.m. on the museum steps by Abraham Lincoln actor Stan Wernz, pose for a photo in period costumes at the museum’s Springhills Jail exhibit, enter the hourly door prize drawing, and enjoy music by a German band and the Champaign County Dulcimer Club.

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $2 for adults and free for children 10 and under with paid adult.

Pretty Prairie Farm, Urbana, Ohio

Site of the State of the Plate Local Food Dinner, the Pretty Prairie Barn of Todd and Jill Michael, 4440 Prairie Rd., Urbana.

State of the Plate Local Food Dinner, Sunday, October 12: Discover the deliciousness and diversity of locally grown food at this professionally catered dinner, served in a restored 19th century barn that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enjoy locally grown food and meet some of the people who grow it. Call in your reservations by Friday, October 3 to the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, 937-653-5764.  Cost $15. Dinner will begin at 1 p.m., preceded by a social time and appetizers at 12:30 p.m.

Boo at the Bog, October 17 and 18: This non-scary, family-friendly celebration of Halloween will feature night walks and learning stations along the boardwalk of one of Champaign County’s natural treasures, the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, 980 Woodburn Rd., Urbana,  Also children’s activities, face painting, storytelling and food.

Admission: $6 for adults, $5 for children and free for children under 6. $1 discount for Ohio Historical Society and Cedar Bog Association members. Hours: 7-9 p.m. both days.

And plan a return trip in daylight to see this 450-acre natural wonder, formed thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers, and now home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Beggars’ Night, October 30: Get your costumes and candy bowls ready, because October isn’t complete without trick-or-treating. The Champaign County Mayors’ Association has set Beggars’ Night for  6-8 p.m. Thursday, October 30 countywide.

My Old Ohio House, Monument Square District, Urbana, Ohio

Shops in Urbana’s Monument Square District, like my Old Ohio House, are getting in the fall spirit.

Decorate for the Season!

Downtown Urbana has taken on the colors of fall as merchants have decorated their businesses. I offer you a couple of suggestions for finding your own seasonal decor:

Circle & Sons Farm, 5001 Wallace Rd., St. Paris; 937-857-9616
Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m. to dark, and Sun., 1 p.m. to dark
Natural fall decorations: pumpkins, gourds, squash, Indian corn, straw, corn shocks and mums.

Mad River Farm Market, 7538 U.S. Highway 68, West Liberty; 937-465-2030
Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.-12 a.m.
A wide range of fall decorations and…

Sip & Paint Craft Pumpkin Center Piece class, 6 p.m., Tuesday, October 7. Make a fall centerpiece. All supplies and glass of wine, $25. Reservation required.

Also check out the Mad River Farm Market Corn Maze, open daily through October 26, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Savor the Pumpkin Spice!

Get a taste of the season at these Champaign County establishments:

The Depot Coffeehouse, 644 Miami St., Urbana — Pumpkin spice latte and two pumpkin house specials — the Harvest Blend, a combination of pumpkin, vanilla and caramel, and Autumn Leaves, featuring pumpkin, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. And the Depot invites customers to come up with their own concoctions. “We’ve seen pumpkin mochas, pumpkin steamers (steamed milk with pumpkin pie sauce) and even something closely resembling a pumpkin smoothie.”

Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, 22 S. Main St., Mechanicsburg — Pumpkin chai, pumpkin spice lattes and Hemisphere’s flavored coffee, pumpkin pie spice.

Madison’s Downtown Market & Cafe, 117 Scioto St., Urbana — Pumpkin spice chai latte, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin scones.

Spotted Cow Coffeehouse, 927 N. Main St., Urbana — Pumpkin spice smoothies and lattes.

Urbana Dairy Queen, 1047 N. Main St., Urbana — Pumpkin pie shakes, Blizzards and MooLattes.

What’s on your agenda for celebrating October in Champaign County?

Please share in the comments below.

See You at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival!

A fish and shrimp festival in Ohio?

Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, OhioYes, the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival does exist — and I look forward to it every fall.

And fish and shrimp are grown locally by festival host Freshwater Farms of Ohio, just north of Urbana at 2624 N. U.S. 68.

So, the fish and shrimp are fresh and mouth-watering good. The fun and deliciousness begin at 4 p.m. today, Friday, September 19, and continue through Sunday, September 21.

Shrimp at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

Featured attraction at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival: grilled, locally-grown shrimp.

Here’s what I most look forward to:

  • The fish and shrimp dinners served at Freshwater Water Farms’ food booth, prepared by The Food Smiths catering business of Gretchen Bonasera, daughter of farm owner Dr. Dave Smith. The festival also features several other food vendors, including other locally grown and produced menu items from Oakview Farm Meats and Cosmic Charlie Baking and Bread.
  • A fantastic lineup of bands, all three days. There’s something for about every musical taste — folk, alternative rock, New Orleans jazz, reggae, rock and country. One of the performers competed on American Idol, wowing judge Harry Connick Jr. in the auditions. And a couple of the bands have released new albums that have earned excellent reviews.
  • Being out in the country

Following are YouTube links to the bands I’m especially looking forward to:

Angela Perley & the Howlin' Moons perform at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons are returning after a successful debut at last year’s festival.

Here’s an excellent review of the Fish & Shrimp Festival published in Dayton City Paper.

In the interest of full disclosure: Freshwater Farms of Ohio hired me through my freelance writing business, Schenkel Communications, to promote the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival. This blog post, however, is not sponsored. It’s an extra, over and above my paid assignment.

See you at the festival!

What are your weekend plans?

Your Champaign Bucket List for September Fun

Welcome to the first monthly edition of the Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List.

Each Bucket List will feature my recommendations of what to taste, see, hear and experience that month in Champaign County – and a printable Bucket List to check off as you go.

We’re halfway through September already, but there’s still plenty to recommend.

Get outdoors!

Kiser Lake State Park, Ohio

Serenity on Kiser Lake.

Fall is in the air, the perfect time to enjoy the wonders of nature around us. Here are a few nature loving opportunities we are blessed with in Champaign County:

Kiser Lake State Park: The center of attraction here is the 2.5-mile long lake, with 5.3 miles of shoreline. What to do? Rent a paddle boat, rowboat or kayak at the marina (enjoy the peace – no motor boats allowed). Fish for largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, perch, carp and catfish. Picnic or camp — 118 campsites available. Hike and check out the Kiser Lake Wetlands State Nature Preserve. Camping and boat rentals will be available at least through the first weekend of October — longer if weather allows. Call the marina/camp store to be sure, 937-362-3565. For camping reservations, call 866-644-6727 or go online.

For the warmer months, there’s a beach. And this winter, keep the park in mind for cross-country skiing, ice fishing or skating.

Simon Kenton Trail, Urbana, Ohio

Bicyclists ride through Melvin Miller Park on the Simon Kenton Trail.

Simon Kenton Trail:  Here’s one of my personal favorites. More than 18 miles long now, this trail – built and maintained by volunteers for bicyclists, skaters, runners, walkers, dogs on leashes and babies in strollers – extends from the Champaign Family YMCA on Urbana’s east side and heads south at the restored Urbana Station Depot, at 644 Miami St., Urbana, to Springfield. It links with the Little Miami Trail, ending near Cincinnati.

A new 1.25-mile trail branch takes off north from the depot. It currently dead ends behind Grimes Field airport. However, the “trail ends” sign will soon be taken down, as a 16-mile extension north through West Liberty and on to Bellefontaine is under construction. (Patience, please. I’ll let you know on Champaign Uncorked! when the extension is open for use. Riding on the new trail before work is complete will damage the surface.)

Melvin Miller Park:  The Simon Kenton Trail goes through this beautiful, well-maintained park. Besides ball diamonds and soccer fields, you’ll find tennis courts, a skate park, picnic shelters, a pond for fishing, dog park and a disc golf course, featured previously by Champaign Uncorked!

Savor the season!

Champaign County Ohio apple orchards

Pick a date to visit an orchard.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Plan a family trip to a local apple orchard for a fun taste of fall:

Louden Family Farm, 576 N. St. Rt. 560, Urbana; 937-653-4558
Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
28 varieties (check the link above for approximate dates varieties will be ready); apple cider made Mon., Wed. and Fri.

Remerowski Orchards, 4035 Idle Rd., Urbana
Will be open Saturdays and Sundays depending on apple availability; call ahead – 937-362-3924.

Stevens Bakery & Orchard, 7344 Thackery Rd., Springfield; 937-788-2873
Honeycrisp, Cortland, McIntosh and Jonathon now ready for picking.
Plus, fresh-baked pies – apple and many other varieties.
Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., noon-4 p.m.; u-pick and wagon rides on designated fall weekends.

Also check out local shops for apple treats:

Braden’s Café & Sweets, 115 W. Main St,, Saint Paris – fudge-dipped apples, later this month.

Dairy Corner, 1472 E. U.S. 36, Urbana – cinnamon cider smoothies, caramel apple wedges and caramel apple sundaes.

Dairy Queen, 1047 N. Main St., Urbana – Apple Pie Blizzard.

Madison’s Downtown Market & Café, 117 Scioto St., Urbana – caramel apple latte, apple cinnamon scones and autumn apple salad with red wine vinaigrette and caramel sauce.

Celebrate fall!

The next two weekends offer fun festivals for the whole family:

Shrimp at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

Featured attraction at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival: grilled, locally-grown shrimp.

Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Sept. 19-21:  Not the typical Ohio harvest festival, this outdoor event celebrates fresh, delicious, locally-grown fish and shrimp, along with three days of music performed live by some of the region’s best entertainers.

The host is Freshwater Farms of Ohio, Ohio’s largest indoor fish hatchery, at 2624 North US Hwy. 68, one mile north of Urbana. Besides music and seafood, the 13th annual festival offers many other food choices, regional craft beers, Ohio wines, a shrimp peeling and eating contest (at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20), children’s activities, the farm’s sturgeon petting zoo, trout feeding, and displays of other fish and native animals. And don’t forget to visit Fluffy the alligator.

Festival hours: Friday, Sept. 19, 4-9 p.m. (music extended to 10 p.m.); Saturday, Sept. 20, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (music extended to 8:30 p.m.); and Sunday, Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

General Admission: $4; ages 3-12, $2; and 2 and under, free. Admission good all weekend. Parking is free.

Chili Cook-off, Urbana, Ohio

The Chili Cook-off runs the spectrum from hot to mild.
Photo Credit: svenwerk via Compfight cc

Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off and Hoopla Parade, Sept. 27:  The Chili Cook-off, in downtown Urbana, has been attracting a growing number of contestants since its beginning eight years ago. That means a lot more varieties of chili – from mild to hot – for the public to sample, beginning at 2 p.m.  Check here for the full event schedule.

The always popular Hoopla parade goes through the downtown beginning at noon and other features include live music, a salsa contest, corn hole tournament, beer garden, a pepper eating contest, children’s activities, and the intriguingly named  “Suck, Chew and Blow” contest. The cook-off and parade are planned by the downtown business organization, Monument Square District.

What do you have planned for the rest of September?

 For your printable September Bucket List, click here.

 

Signs of Renewal in Champaign County

On my morning run today, I celebrated spring.

Browne Hall, Urbana University, Urbana, Ohio

Browne Hall at Urbana University

Everywhere, trees leafed and bloomed. Like the red bud that framed my view of old Browne Hall at the edge of the Urbana University campus.

Amidst the beauty of God’s creation, our community has been blessed this spring with opportunity for renewal and second chances.

Urbana University is a prime example – thanks to local banks and all who worked out the agreement announced this past week for Franklin University to buy the university.

UU has a renewed opportunity to serve students, enrich our community and energize the local economy – an estimated $30 million a year. Plus the new partnership offers the prospect for broadened impact.

Gloria Theater, Urbana, Ohio

A clear sign of renewal, with a reference to the past: the theater’s one-time name, The Gloria, named by Warren Grimes in tribute to his daughter Gloria.

My run also took me past the closed Urbana Twin Cinemas building. About 24 hours earlier I sat at a table in the theater lobby with several others. We worked on marketing and fundraising strategies for GrandWorks, a community initiative to transform the theater into a center for live and on-screen entertainment and other programming to drive cultural, social, economic and spiritual revival for the greater Champaign County community.

Visit the new GrandWorks website to learn more and support the project. (By the way, Urbana University is one of several community organizations involved in GrandWorks.)

At the end of my morning today, Jim Lillibridge, pastor of the Urbana United Methodist Church, shared in his message a bit of scripture (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) that illuminated my on-the-run musings about what I see at work around us and what we’re called to do:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

What signs of renewal and second chances do you see at work in the Champaign County, Ohio community?

The Carmazzi’s Story Continues in Downtown Urbana, Ohio

The sun shone brightly Saturday on the ribbon cutting and open house that marked the beginning of a new chapter in Urbana, Ohio’s oldest downtown business, Carmazzi’s Deli and Candy Store. I offer you a recap of the celebration in photos. And if you haven’t read it already, check out my original post on the continuation of Carmazzi’s 121-year tradition under new ownership.

Carmazzi's Corner, Urbana, Ohio

John Carmazzi, and his wife, Michelle, at left, with new owners Jeff and Teresa Donay, who will continue the Carmazzi’s tradition begun 121 years ago by John’s great uncle Sam Bianchi.

Jeff Donay cuts the ribbon to mark the store's transition to its new name, Carmazzi's Corner, a tribute to the Carmazzi family's many years of dedicated service to their customers and community.

Jeff Donay cuts the ribbon to mark the store’s transition to its new name, Carmazzi’s Corner, a tribute to the Carmazzi family’s many years of dedicated service to their customers and community.

Carmazzi's tantalizing selection of classic candies will continue to draw kids and the young at heart.

Carmazzi’s tantalizing selection of classic candies will continue to draw kids and the young at heart.

Carmazzi's Corner also introduces some new features, including Young's Jersey Dairy ice cream and sandwiches, salads and desserts make by store manager Nanette Hagan.

Carmazzi’s Corner also introduces some new features, including Young’s Jersey Dairy ice cream and store manager Nanette Hagan’s sandwiches, salads and desserts.

The Carmazzi's magnetism continues.... Visit their new website.

And the Carmazzi’s magnetism goes on…. Visit their new website.

121 Years and Counting … A Downtown Urbana, Ohio, Business Tradition Lives On

Carmazzi’s Deli & Candy Store, the oldest retail business in downtown Urbana, Ohio, recently ended a 121-year run of family ownership.SONY DSC

However, a ribbon cutting at noon Saturday, April 26 – and grand reopening celebration from 11:45 a.m. to 8 p.m. – will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the business’s continuing tradition. More about the celebration at the end of this post.

Jeff Donay, who recently bought Carmazzi’s from third-generation owner John Carmazzi, has made a few updates to the store with new store manager Nanette Hagan. New paint. Rearranged shelving and merchandise. And some new offerings that you’ll find at the grand reopening.

And Much Is Unchanged

There’s still the bountiful selection of candy that’s attracted kids and young at heart for many years. The store still offers special order fruit baskets. And the iconic gold “Carmazzi’s” lettering, seen by generations, is still arrayed in an arc on the window of downtown Urbana’s oldest building. The red brick Federalist-style structure has anchored the southwest corner of the town square since 1811. For a brief stint it served as military headquarters during the War of 1812.

John and Michelle Carmazzi of Urbana, Ohio

John Carmazzi and his wife, Michelle.

John Carmazzi is thankful to have found someone to continue the tradition. “Jeff Donay likes the history of it,” John said. “I sold it to the right person…. And it’s so good that we have so many people who appreciate our downtown and want to keep it going.”

Donay, a chiropractor who opened his practice in Urbana in 1991, had been looking for property to invest in. He thought he had found one, but suddenly it sold. “Maybe God had other plans,” he said.

Along came the Carmazzi’s building, and he knew he had found more than a property investment.

And he knew just the person to manage the store.

When Nanette Hagan came into his office for an appointment one day, he asked her what she thought of the idea. “Her eyes lit up,” he remembers.

Nanette Hagan, Carmazzi's Deli and Candy Store manager, Urbana, Ohio

Nanette Hagan, the new manager of Carmazzi’s.

Dream Fulfilled

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have a food establishment – an outlet for my different talents and creativity,” she said. She runs a catering and baking business, Nanette’s Country Kitchen, and often shares her creations with Dr. Donay’s staff. (Check out her cookbook.)

During the grand reopening celebration she’ll begin selling her sandwiches and salads at Carmazzi’s – along with ice cream from Young’s Jersey Dairy of Yellow Springs.

Hagan fondly remembers the candy store two doors from her grandparents’ house when she was growing up in Iowa. “It was the coolest thing. They would give me a quarter, and I’d walk over by myself and fill a bag. That’s the kind of tradition I want to continue here.”

Frank Carmazzi (in apron) stands proudly in the store that's become an Urbana landmark.

Frank Carmazzi (in apron) stands proudly in the store that’s become an Urbana landmark.

In Good Hands

For John Carmazzi, the transition is bittersweet. But he’s relieved the store is in good hands. At 80, he had become concerned about Carmazzi’s future. While his niece Janet Todd continues to work there, no one in the family was ready to take over the reins and continue what John’s great-uncle, Sam Bianchi, started in 1893, as Bianchi’s Fruit Store.

John’s father, Frank, and mother, Victoria, Mr. Bianchi’s niece, bought the business in 1931, giving it their name – and hours of hard work. They would clear $5, on a good day, during the Great Depression. They ran the store together until Mr.Carmazzi’s death in 1944. John, his brother, Bob, and sister, Rosemary, grew up working alongside them. Two subsequent generations have also worked in the store.

John Carmazzi and his mother, Victoria, in the store in 1974.

John Carmazzi and his mother, Victoria, in the store in 1974.

John, who started waiting on customers before he could see over the counter, acquired the store from his mother in 1952.

Now, as the tradition continues, the store will pay tribute to its heritage with a display that includes an old cash register and scales brought out of storage, as well as photos and other memorabilia.

 

Grand Reopening and Ribbon Cutting

Be sure to be in on the celebration of Carmazzi’s grand reopening Saturday, April 26, 11:45 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ribbon cutting at noon.

Grand Reopening Specials: First 100 children through the door on Saturday will receive a free piece of candy. A free small bag of chips or can of pop with every salad or sandwich purchase through May 3.

Location: 100 S. Main St., Urbana, Ohio

Phone: 937-653-7443

New Store Hours

Sunday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Carmazzi’s: A Taste of Ohio Folklore

The Ohio State University Center for Folklore Studies includes Carmazzi’s in its FolkOhio Archives. Stroll through the online archives, and you’ll find other familiar local treasures – from Freshwater Farms of Ohio to Mumford’s Potato Chips and Crabill’s Hamburgers.

For a previous Champaign Uncorked! post about Carmazzi’s, click here.