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.


Celebrate Seafood and Covered Bridges

I’m looking forward to a festival-filled fall weekend in Champaign and Union counties.

I invite you to join me at the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival at Freshwater Farms of Ohio, just north of Urbana, and the Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival in Union County – both Friday through Saturday, September 20-22. Click on the links for details.Ohio Fish & Shrimp Frestival logo

Both feature a hearty selection of live music and good food — and lots of family fun.

Not Your Average Harvest Festival

An unusual fall harvest celebration for Ohio, the Fish and Shrimp Festival marks Freshwater Farm’s annual freshwater shrimp harvest with lots of mouth-watering locally grown shrimp, as well as trout grown on the farm, too.

Shrimp at Ohio Fish and Shrimp FestivalMusic on the outdoor stage includes folk, blues, country, rock, reggae — and steel drum. Other features include a shrimp peeling and eating contest, games, self-guided tours of the farm, displays of native aquatic creatures, a chance to pet Ohio’s largest native fish, the sturgeon, and the debut of a new habitat for the farm’s resident alligator, Fluffy, who made a surprise appearance at the festival three years ago, delivered by sheriff’s deputies after they caught her in a local pond.

A Festival That Has It All Covered

Covered Bridge and Bluegrass Festival

The Muleskinners Bluegrass Band will perform at the Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival.

Union County’s historic covered bridges set the theme for the Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival. One of  the bridges, the Pottersburg Bridge at 17141 Inskeep-Cratty Rd., North Lewisburg, will serve as the festival’s centerpiece and the setting for an elegant sunset dinner, a breakfast and a church service. The bridge also will serve as  the stage for a variety of bluegrass bands and folk musicians.

Other festival features include guided bridge tours, a pie baking contest and auction, a marketplace of antiques and local artists’ work, painting classes, a vintage fashion show, old-fashioned games for kids, horse drawn wagon rides, appearances by folk artist Billy Jacobs and a concert by Nashville bluegrass band the Banjo Cats.

See you out and about this weekend.

The Hall Was Alive with the Sound of Music

Ever wonder what it would be like to crash a reunion of the family von Trapp?

OK, probably not.

Daniel Dye and his niece Carrie Miller, nephews Thomas and Andrew Miller and sister Sarah Kelly help bring the first Madden Road MusicFest to a close.

But if you’d had the pleasure, as I did, to attend the Madden Road MusicFest Saturday, September 3, the thought may have at least fleetingly entered your mind as Mutual, Ohio’s one-time town hall and schoolhouse was brought back from decades of suspended animation, alive with the sound of music—thanks in large measure to a very talented family.

Local singer-songwriter Daniel Dye orchestrated the festival with a chorus of family members. His mother, Janet Dye, owns the Town Hall Emporium on the building’s first floor. He credits his sister Sarah Kelly, visiting from Massachusetts (check out her blog about her happy reacquaintance with Urbana), as the driving force behind the festival. She had the vision of a music festival as a way to begin raising money to restore the building and turn it into the Madden Road Music Hall, a permanent music venue.

The Dye Family Singers, with Daniel and sisters Jenny, Amy and Kelly, brother Steve and father David continue a tradition of singing together.

Between bands at the MusicFest, Daniel, Sarah and other members of the Dye Family Singers – father David, sisters Amy Blanton and Jenny Miller, and brother Steve – harmonized gospel arrangements.

The next generation of the Dye clan got in on the act, too, as Andrew, Carrie and Thomas Miller (children of Jenny) joined their Uncle Daniel, backing up his vocals, guitar and harmonica with fiddle, cello, banjo, mandolin and accordion as the Miller Road Band*.  Here’s a video of them performing “I’m Gonna Let You Go” as the final act of the Madden Road MusicFest.

The second floor of the old Mutual town hall—used in recent years to hold an overflow of antiques from the downstairs emporium—formed the perfect backdrop for the day’s celebration of roots music—from folk and Americana, to bluegrass and gospel, and even some acoustic indie rock.

The Muleskinner Band opened the festival. Other performers included The Kurtz Trio, Dr. Chris Bingman, Like A Child and Andolino.

The scene could have been lifted from the brittle, curled page of an album found in a trunk in the attic: bare, sepia-toned plaster walls, sunlight streaming through tall arched windows, four ceiling fans churning through the hot, damp late summer air.

In restoring the building, the Dyes hope to preserve much of its frozen-in-time charm – maybe even down to this scrawled notation they found when cleaning years of grime from a wall:  “Lewis Rodman … Mutual Ohio … Jan. 5, 1901 at the Show.”

Fast forward a century and decade later … from babies to grandpas and grandmas, people filled the hall again on wooden chairs and benches, feet tapping the worn floorboards.

Guitarist Johnny O of Urbana, far right foreground, was joined by several other musicians for an impressive jam session outside the town hall.

And the feeling of a bygone era before the age of social media, a traditional family reunion, a church gathering, spilled outside the old brick hall to a tent where people conversed over food and musicians gathered, one calling out a song title and all joining beautifully, in community.

* You have two chances to see Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band live this weekend at the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival at Freshwater Farms of Ohio, north of Urbana – at 6 p.m. Friday, September 16 and 2:15 p.m. Saturday, September 17.

Sticking Close to Home

In my last post I divulged my Labor Day weekend plans: to stay in Champaign County, Ohio, and enjoy a day of homegrown music at the Madden Road MusicFest in Mutual, Ohio, on Saturday, September 3. (There’s still time to visit the site and buy tickets.)

Seems I won’t be alone in limiting my travel, according to the AAA.

Considering all that we have going on in Champaign County in the next few weeks, I figure why go elsewhere. Of course, if you’re reading this blog from outside Champaign County, Ohio, I –as a friend of the Champaign County Visitors Bureau – encourage you to do a little traveling in this direction.

Here’s a sampling of what’s on tap:

September 10-11The Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-in, one of the nation’s leading fly-ins of experimental aircraft, at Urbana’s municipal airport, Grimes Field.

Simon Kenton Pathfinders Bike Ride

September 11 —  The 12th annual Simon Kenton Pathfinders Bike Ride to raise funds to extend the Simon Kenton Trail bike path.  Registration 8-10 a.m. at the Urbana Station Depot, 644 Miami St., Urbana. Your choice of a 15-mile ride on the bike trail or 31- or 62-mile rides on country roads in beautiful Champaign County.

September 11 – Dedication of a new World Trade Center memorial—in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11—at Freedom Grove, a memorial park developed by the Urbana Rotary Club through private donations. The memorial, designed by renowned local artist Mike Major, features a beam from the World Trade Center.

September 16-18The Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival, three days of mouth-watering, locally-grown seafood and other fare, live music, games, carnival rides, a shrimp peeling and eating contest and tours of Freshwater Farms of Ohio, the state’s largest indoor fish hatchery, just north of Urbana.

October 8-9 – The Champaign County Barn Quilt Tour, one of the largest such tours in the country, creatively weaves together a celebration of Champaign County’s agricultural heritage and the folk art of quilting. Eight tour stops are planned this year including the historic Piatt Castles, a dairy farm, maple sugar camp, the Mad River Farm Market and Robert Rothschild Farm. The stops feature everything from displays of quilts and antique farm machinery, kids’ activities, a wine tasting, an antique car show,  farm and garden tours, artists, a farmers’ market and more. Year round visitors can take a driving tour of the county to see more than 70 vibrant quilt squares mounted on barns and other structures.

And off in the horizon… I see a squadron or more of B-25s approaching. I’ll leave that for another time.

Madden Road: a New Crossroads for Music

I was looking forward to hearing my favorite living musical legend over the Labor Day weekend, at the Detroit Jazz Festival. But then I read online that Dave Brubeck’s “medical team” (mere mortals have doctors) advised him to cancel. Although still a virtuoso of the keyboard, he is, after all, a few months shy of 91.

While concerned for him, I’ve overcome my disappointment. Now I’m looking forward to my new Labor Day weekend destination: Mutual, Ohio (population 129).

More specifically, I’m looking forward to a brand new music festival, the Madden Road MusicFest, which will debut in Mutual’s old town hall (5854 E. St. Rt. 29, at the corner of S. Mutual-Union Road), Saturday, September 3, noon to 9 p.m.

Mutual, situated at the intersection of State Routes 29 and 161 and surrounded by farmland, is a mere six and a half miles from my house in Urbana and 170 miles or so separated from the distractions of the Motor City (though just 40 miles from Columbus or 45 from Dayton).

Old town hall, Mutual, Ohio

For the old town hall of Mutual, Ohio, the writing's on the floor, marked in dust: The building will debut in its new role, music hall, September 3 at the Madden Road MusicFest. Daniel Dye, at right, with his wife, Yasmin, and brother-in-law Scott Blanton take a break from getting the building ready for showtime.

The Madden Road MusicFest is all about the music—a mix of folk, bluegrass, rock, gospel and Americana, performed by talented central Ohio musicians, including the coordinator and headliner of the whole affair, local singer/songwriter Daniel Dye. Dye, who recently completed a solo European tour, wants to restore the building to become a regular, intimate concert venue.

Tickets for the Madden Road MusicFest (at a reasonable $10 for the day or $6 for a half day) will support the restoration.

Performances will be on the second floor, above the Town Hall Emporium, an antique shop that Dye’s mother, Janet Dye, has run for the last several years. The building also served as a school with a scaled-down basketball court (a slate scoreboard, marked “Mutual” and “Visitors,” still hangs on a wall on the second floor).

On September 3, the lineup will be The Muleskinner Band, Andolino, Rockin’ Chairs, Like A Child, the Kurtz Trio, and Daniel Dye’s own band featuring two nephews and a niece, Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band.  Also featured is jazz guitarist Johnny O, who will be holding court outside the old town hall, inviting guests to bring instruments and join him in some pickin’ and grinnin’.

If you like your music up close and personal and want to have a part in preserving history, the Madden Road MusicFest is the place to be. See you there!

One more thing: food will be available for purchase – also to help support the cause – along with coffee from Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, the subject of a previous Champaign Uncorked! post.

For more, visit the Madden Road MusicFest website and Facebook page (and “like” it).

And here’s a little bonus: a bit of Mutual history that parallels my abbreviated Labor Day journey, more or less….

Mutual, incorporated as a village in 1869, traces its roots back to William Lafferty, a Union Township farmer.  In 1840, he told his neighbors he was leaving for Texas. A few miles into his journey, at Old Post Road, now State Route 161, one of his wagon wheels snapped. Near that spot he built a cabin. Others settled around him. They named their new haven Little Texas, a name that was ultimately rejected, apparently by mutual agreement. (Never fear, citizens of Mutual. I will never refer to your home as Little Detroit.)

This Parade Doesn’t Pass Carmazzi’s By

For many decades parades have passed by one of historic downtown Urbana, Ohio’s most beloved landmarks: Carmazzi’s Delicatessen and Candy Store. The family-owned business—now in its fifth generation—started out in 1893 as Bianchi’s Fruit Store. It became Carmazzi’s in 1931, firmly ensconced in history—in a Federalist-style building that served as a military headquarters during the War of 1812, in the southwest corner of Monument Square.

Carmazzi's Deli and Candy Store, Urbana, Ohio, at Mercy McAuley Center Christmas Parade

After the Mercy McAuley Center Christmas Parade, Grand Marshal John Carmazzi stands next to a replica of his store, made for the parade by Melinda Thackery of Sysbro Design of Urbana (and I took the photos of the store, which has stood for 117 years on the southwest corner of Urbana).

On Tuesday, though, the Carmazzi’s building was in a parade. Actually, it was a 3-D model of the building, accompanied by store owner John Carmazzi, grand marshal of the 15th annual Mercy McAuley Center Christmas Parade.

Held at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of December, the parade, which marches to the sounds of Christmas through the corridors of the Urbana nursing home, is the brainchild of Tonya West, McAuley’s director of social service and admissions.  The parade actually was birthed from her heart, the result of a conversation she had with some of the nursing home’s residents. They lamented they could no longer get outdoors to celebrate the Christmas season. And for them, part of the tradition included Christmas parades.

Community Mercy Hospice at Mercy McAuley Center Christmas Parade in Urbana, Ohio

The first year, with the help of Bob Jenkins in plant operations and Sondra Williams in environmental services, who continue to be involved, the parade included 20 units. This year’s edition featured 61 units and involved more than 400 people—including Urbana High School marching band members, athletes and cheerleaders, church groups, carolers, staff members and volunteers from McAuley and other Community Mercy Health Partners facilities, a unicyclist,  soloists, veterans, dancers, elementary school musicians, Scouts, clowns, businesses and Urbana Mayor Ruth Zerkle. Plus, several dogs, Buckeyeman and a Jim Tressel look-alike.

In much the same way as Carmazzi’s packs a vast array of general merchandise, candy, newspapers (including The New York Times) and a deli in a tiny two-aisle store, McAuley Center manages to fill and deck its halls with an ever-growing, moving celebration of Christmas, teeming with men, women and children who look forward to sharing their talents and brightening the season for McAuley’s residents. Recruiting participants is no problem, as individuals and organizations now call Tonya.

As you prepare to fill Christmas stockings with candy and other goodies, stop by Carmazzi’s —which also offers special order Christmas fruit baskets.  And take some time to visit people in our local nursing homes.

Here’s a little background on Carmazzi’s from The Ohio State University Center for Folklore Studies.

A 21 Homecoming Salute

Does your neighborhood have a theme song?

Here on Washington Avenue in Urbana, Ohio,  it would have to be “Fight on, Urbana,” or maybe “Hang on Sloopy.” One Thursday evening of the past 21 Octobers my family has stopped whatever else we were doing as these songs pealed past our house through the crisp autumn air.

In all that time we’ve lived two blocks from Urbana High School, in the home stretch of the school’s homecoming parade.  We’ve watched a lot of kids pass by on hay wagon floats, in the homecoming court’s caravan of convertibles, and, of course, in the band.

Backed by a driving drum cadence, it’s been a favorite fall tradition that’s helped us keep time. And it has offered an opportunity for family and friends to gather at our house.

While we’ve watched the parade together, time has marched on. As evidence, the photo above is of our son Alex and his friend LeAnn Harrigan (with Alex’s cousin Becca and Uncle Paul in the background) watching the big kids have their day in the homecoming parade. The photo at left, from a couple of weeks ago, is of Alex escorting LeAnn, this year’s homecoming queen.

What are your neighborhood favorites?

Get Ready to Ramble … in Champaign County!

Just a warning. In today’s post, I’m going to wander. Not aimlessly, mind you. But do try to keep up.

Champaign County, Ohio Barn Quilt Tour

The Champaign County Barn Quilt Tour combines into one event a celebration of folk and fine art, agriculture and history.

Though we haven’t reached the autumnal equinox—September 22—I’d just like to put in a good word for fall. It’s my favorite season. The colors, the crisp air, the crunch of leaves underfoot as I run. (Come on, stay with me.) It’s an ideal time to celebrate God’s creation.

Last Saturday I ran 10 miles on the Simon Kenton Trail—from home to Woodburn Road and back. I finished surprisingly refreshed. A week earlier, I would have ended a mere puddle.

Fall. It’s the perfect time to ramble.

Champaign County, Ohio, offers plenty of opportunity to do just that—and

Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival in Urbana, Ohio

Diners enjoy a little bluegrass with their seafood at the 2009 Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival.

close to home so you can save gas money.

Take a look at the following list and plan your own fall ramblings through Champaign County: