It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas in Champaign County

Champaign Uncorked! hopes you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Now it’s time to begin celebrating Christmas in Champaign County. Following are a few recommendations for helping you get into the spirit in the next two weekends:

Santa’s Coming to Town – in a Caravan of Horses, Friday, Nov. 27

Santa arrives at the Gloria Theatre flor last year's Santa Land.

Santa arrives at the Gloria Theatre for last year’s Santa Land.

Santa will arrive in Urbana at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, like never before.

He’ll be escorted through town by a caravan of lighted horse-drawn carriages and horseback riders, in the first-ever Urbana All-Horse Christmas Parade.

The parade will start a 6 p.m. at the intersection of Patrick Avenue and Water Street, make its way down Patrick Avenue, turn left onto Scioto Street, and circle around Monument Square before returning to the starting point.

And Santa’s horse-drawn trolley will continue on to the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St., the official headquarters of Santa Land (see “Santa Land” below).

The horse parade, organized in memory of Jim Clark, will include at least 22 lighted carriages and 40 to 50 riders. Janice Clark, Jim Clark’s widow, will be the parade grand marshal, riding in a wagon pulled by her late husband’s team of Haflingers.

Santa Land Through December 19

Santa is expected to arrive at the theater at 6:30 p.m. to listen to children’s wishes. The Grandworks Foundation and The Depot Coffeehouse will provide hot chocolate and popcorn. The Champaign Youth Choir will sing on stage at 7 p.m.

Santa will pose for pictures with children in his sleigh and will return to Santa Land every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Christmas. Santa Land is offered free by Monument Square District and partners the Gloria Theatre, Grandworks Foundation, the Depot Coffeehouse, Security National Bank, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, Erin Patton and many volunteers.


Downtown Urbana is looking a lot like Christmas.

Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28—Shop Local for Christmas

Several downtown Urbana stores will observe Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, with special sales, door prizes, drawings, extended hours, refreshments and more.

According to Monument Square District, the following businesses will participate: H. Holding & Co., Downtown Divas, J. Michael Jewelry, Unique Boutique, Guild Gallery, Willman Furniture, Lily’s Garden, One Eleven-A Fashion Boutique, Kaleidoscope, The Green Gate, Cosmic Charlie Baking and Bread, Olde Scioto House of Design, Fruit Salad Antiques and Urban Prairie. Visit their Facebook pages for details.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Gloria Theatre, Dec. 5

Jimmy Stewart’s Christmas movie classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be on the big screen at the Gloria Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. The $5 admission will support the GrandWorks Foundation’s ongoing mission to restore the theater to enrich the community socially, culturally, economically and spiritually.

Christmas Walk, Dec. 5 and 6

This local Christmas tradition, begun in 2000, will take you on a walk through the Christmas story at Mechanicsburg Christian Fellowship, 4401 Allison Rd., Mechanicsburg. The walk features an original play written and directed by Christa Wolf of Mechanicsburg and includes nine interactive stations that depict the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Wolf has added new features to this year’s production and has collaborated with the Mechanicsburg United Methodist Church on the music. The walk will be held Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. Groups of about 20 people will begin the walk every 15 minutes. The walk lasts about 45 minutes. There is no charge. Transportation will be provided for handicapped and elderly persons unable to comfortably walk the distance of the play.

No Room in the Inn, Dec. 6

In another local Christmas tradition, Messiah Lutheran Church, 1013 East Lawn Ave., Urbana, invites the community to No Room in the Inn, 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. The event will feature displays of more than 400 nativities and angels, a chicken noodle dinner for $5, a bake sale, silent auction and concerts by the Let’s Jam Show Choir at 2:30 p.m. and Guys and Dolls at 3:30 p.m.

All proceeds will support the homeless of Champaign County and the Caring Kitchen of Urbana.


Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival: An Island Oasis in Farm Country

Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

The Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival provides guests an area to dine and enjoy live music–performed this year by 11 bands.

Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival

This couple truly picked up the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival vibe at last year’s celebration.

The third weekend each September, surf meets turf at landlocked Freshwater Farms of Ohio, a mile north of Urbana, Ohio, on U.S. 68.

Surrounded by cropland, the fish farm becomes an island oasis where fresh shrimp and fish are plentiful. And lilting strains of reggae music wash over the countryside, along with a jambalaya of folk/Americana, indie rock, funk, blues and other musical flavorings, performed over three days on an outdoor stage. (By the way, real, not figurative, jambalaya is on the menu.)

Last year, the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival drew about 5,000 visitors. Dr. Dave Smith and his Freshwater Farms crew are ready for more this year. The 14th annual edition of the festival starts this Friday (Sept. 18) at 4 p.m. and ends Sunday at 5 p.m. (The last I looked, 14,000 people had clicked “going” on the festival’s Facebook event page.)

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

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

There’s something for everyone at this festival:

  • Delicious locally grown fish and shrimp dinners and other seafood served by Freshwater Farms and other vendors (check out the complete food selection here)
  • Plenty of non-seafood menu choices, if you favor turf over surf
  • An opportunity to check out the facilities of Ohio’s largest indoor fish hatchery
  • Exhibits of native fish, turtles, frogs and other creatures
  • A chance to pet sturgeon, Ohio’s largest native fish
  • A free treasure hunt area and bounce houses for the kids
  • The shrimp peeling and eating contest
  • Fresh shrimp to buy and take home, from Freshwater Farms and other Ohio farms
  • The farm’s market, which features local seafood and other products
  • And for the second year in a row, Charlie’s Bar will feature craft beers, Ohio wines, margaritas, and new this year, a frozen drink station

Food vendors this year include local businesses like Oakview Farm Meats and Raging Bull Wood Fired Pizza of Urbana, Nanette’s Country Kitchen of St. Paris, and My Little Cupcakes & More of West Liberty. Local farmers’ market food vendors at the festival include Sunshine Gardens of Mechanicsburg (Saturday only—baked goods and flowers), Cosmic Charlie Baking and Bread of Urbana and JC Growers of Mechanicsburg (Saturday and Sunday—chemical-free spices).

And did I mention music?

Feast your ears as you savor the food. The festival’s music lineup keeps getting better and better. And three popular performers from last year are returning. Consider these videos your festival appetizer (check out the complete music schedule here):

Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons (in 2015, voted best Columbus band in Columbus Alive’s readers’ poll and#6 on PopDose’s top rock and pop album list of 2014), performing 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday:

The Flex Crew, performing 5-7 p.m. Saturday:

Fever Fever (with two songs on Billboard’s Christian rock charts this year), performing 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday:

And Champaign County’s own, Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band, which has played on the festival stage in previous years,performing 5-6:30 p.m. Friday:

For a complete schedule and information about the event, check out the Fish and Shrimp Festival website.

Festival hours: Friday, Sept. 18, 4-10 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Location: Freshwater Farms of Ohio, 2624 North US Hwy. 68, one mile north of Urbana.

General admission: $5, good for the whole weekend; $2, ages 3-12; and free, 2 and under. Includes includes access to all music and many other activities. Pay once and return free with hand stamp. Parking is free in the field on the south side of the farm.

See you there!

Disclaimer: Even if Freshwater Farms of Ohio and the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival weren’t my client through my copywriting business, Schenkel Communications, I’d give this festival my wholehearted endorsement. This blog post is just a little extra. 

Your Champaign Bucket List for August

Here are Champaign Uncorked’s picks for bringing summer 2015 to an entertaining close:

Champaign County Fair, August 7-14

Showing pigs at the Champaign County (Ohio) Fair

Junior Fair competition is at the center of the Champaign County Fair.

Summer is incomplete without Champaign County’s main event—one of Ohio’s best county fairs, if not the best. For this one week, activity gravitates to the fairgrounds. Everything else seems to slow down. And once it’s over, the start of a new school year is right around the corner.

Josh Turner in concert at 2015 Champaign County Fair, Urbana, OhioSo take time out to enjoy the food, the junior fair exhibits, livestock shows, local business booths, midway and just getting together with the rest of Champaign County.

Highlights for this year include the Josh Turner concert at 8 p.m. Friday, August 7, in the grandstand, and the crowning of the junior fair queen, awarding of 4-H boy and girl of the year and FFA boy and girl of the year, and pig and calf scrambles, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, August 8, at the grandstand. Click here for a complete schedule and details. The fairgrounds is located at 384 Park Ave., Urbana.

Madden Road Music Fest, Aug. 152015 Madden Road Music Fest

This annual micro music fest is a hidden gem that’s well worth finding—in the great wide open of rural Champaign County, Ohio, at 1791 Madden Road, about a mile north of Mutual.

Hosted by Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band—a folk group with deep local roots—the festival will include nine other folk, bluegrass and indie rock acts, from 2 to 10 p.m., including William The AccountantHebdoThe FloralsJill & Micah, Bob Lucas & Friends. The Zach Whitney ShowMatt MontaThe Great Wide Open and Trudi Kurtz and Joelle Hochstedler. Here’s the schedule.

Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band at the 2014 Madden Road Music Fest

Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band wrap up the 2014 Madden Road Fest on the Pine Grove Stage.

Last year, bands played on a stage nestled in a pine grove, by a pond. This year’s festival offers a second stage, in an oak grove.

Along with local music the festival will serve up a good helping of local food and beverages from Oakview Farm Meats, Cosmic Charlie Baking and Bread’s Pizza My Heart Pizza by the Slice, and festival partner Hemisphere Coffee Roasters.

All day general admission, $10; $25 family admission; and $5 for seniors and students.

Here are a couple of past Champaign Uncorked! posts about the Madden Music Fest in its other venue, Mutual’s former town hall:

Madden Road: A New Crossroads for Music

The Hall Was Alive with the Sound of Music

And for extra measure, here’s a link to one of my favorite Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band tunes, “Can’t Stop This Love.”

MERFI Fly-in, Aug. 21-23

Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-in, Grimes Field, Urbana, Ohio

Bird’s-eye view of the 2014 MERFI Fly-in and car show at Urbana’s Grimes Field.

The 49th annual Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-in (MERFI), will feature an air race, airplane rides, pancake breakfasts, outdoor movies, classic car and hot rod cruise-in and live music. All at Urbana’s historic and active Grimes Field airport, starting at 5 p.m. Friday, August 21 and ending at 1 p.m. Sunday, August 23.

Admission is $5 per person. Children under 12 are free. For more information, visit the MERFI website.


A Summer Challenge, through September 30 

Guided tours at Ohio Caverns.

My son Alex Schenkel guiding a tour at Ohio Caverns.

If you haven’t already, take part in the Naturally Ours, Rarely Seen Summer Challenge—and discover and enjoy some of Champaign County’s natural and recreational wonders.

The program, created by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and members of the Chamber’s Leadership Champaign program, offers prizes for visiting three, five, seven or all nine featured sites. Examples of prizes: discount admission to Ohio Caverns and Cedar Bog, a free disc golf disc and a chance to win a free night of camping at any Ohio state park.

For details, visit the Naturally Ours, Rarely Seen Facebook page.

The featured destinations include Kiser Lake State Park and Wetlands, Davey Woods, Siegenthaler-Kaestner Esker, Simon Kenton Trail, Pointe North, Mad River, Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, Ohio Caverns and the Urbana disc golf course at Urbana’s Melvin Miller Park. Only three Ohio counties have more nature preserves than Champaign County.

To participate, post your visits on the Naturally Ours, Rarely Seen Facebook page.

Prizes must be claimed by September 30 at the Chamber of Commerce, 107 N. Main St., Urbana (937-653-5764).





Your Champaign Bucket List for July

Though the Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List may be off to a late start for July, you’ll still find many opportunities to enjoy Champaign County to the fullest. And here are a few samples:

Urbana Community ParkFest!, July 10 and 11PARK_FEST_LOGO

About 55 years ago, Urbana was gifted with a 120-acre playground, which we know today as Melvin Miller Park. This weekend during ParkFest! you and your family  have the opportunity to celebrate this treasure to the fullest.

The Urbana Parks and Recreation Department, with the help of generous sponsors, has packed a day and a half, beginning 6 p.m. Friday, with fun activities and events … live music, sports tournaments (disc golf, sand volleyball, tennis and basketball, to name a few), pool parties, a fishing derby, dunk tank, rock climbing wall, inflatables, tethered hot air balloon rides…. For complete details, check here and here. And for a little history on the park, click here.

Mechanicsburg Summer Celebration, July 11

Mechanicsburg will celebrate summer with a festival Saturday that includes a parade at 3 p.m., a vintage baseball game at 4 p.m., an apple pie contest, a concert by the Average Wright Band at 7:45 p.m., and fireworks at dusk. And ice cream and cake will be served 6 to 8 p.m. to celebrate Goshen Township’s 200th anniversary. Check for more details here and on the Our Towne Mechanicsburg Facebook page.

“Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love),” July 10-12

This latest production at the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St., Urbana, is a play presented by Sansami Creative Works and adapted from three short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. Shows are scheduled Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 12 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by clicking here.

Missoula Children’s Theatre Open Auditions, July 13

The Missoula Children’s Theatre is making a stop in Urbana at the Gloria Theatre, Monday, July 13, to audition kids, grades K-9, for a production of “Blackbeard the Pirate,” to be performed at the theater Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18. Auditions will be held Monday 10 a.m. to noon. For details, call Lydia at 937-612-1651 or email

To keep up with the latest at the Gloria Theatre, visit and like the GrandWorks Facebook page.

Week of Hope, July 11-18

Week of Hope2Here’s a chance to help our neighbors. Week of Hope, coordinated by several local churches, provides a variety of opportunities to serve our community, including home repairs, meals, a pool party and a community worship service. For details, check the Week of Hope Facebook page and click here for a schedule.

Art Affair on the Square, July 18Art Affair on the Square

Celebrate Urbana’s artistic side from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 18 in historic downtown Urbana. Sponsored and organized by Monument Square District, this festival—now in its 11th year–attracts artists and visitors from across Ohio and beyond.

Artists will display and sell their works under dozens of white tents. The festival also features performing arts, children’s art activities, architectural tours, exhibits and literary arts. And downtown specialty shops and restaurants will be open to add to the festivities. For more, visit the Art Affair on the Square Facebook page.

Leading up to Art Affair, the Champaign County Arts Council, 119 Miami St., will host a reception in memory of local artist Paul Reif, Friday, July 17, 6-8 p.m. His work also will be on display in the Arts Council Gallery during Art Affair and during normal business hours, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., July 13-24.

Your Champaign Bucket List for June

We’re just a little more than a week away from the start of summer. Farmers’ markets are in full swing. And the Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List is here to recommend a sampling of the many exciting local Champaign County activities to try out in June. Some are brand new. Others are tried and true.

So, here goes…. 

Rock the Monument 4 MilerRock the Monument 4 Miler/1.5 Mile Fun Walk, June 12

Get a running start into the weekend in this new fundraiser to support Monument Square District’s (MSD) mission to develop and enhance Urbana’s historic downtown.

I’m already registered, and you can still sign up beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 12 at Urbana’s Melvin Miller Park, 731 Children’s Home Rd. Start time is 7 p.m. Registration is $25 for the Four Miler. The fun walk is free, though registration is required. Donations to support MSD will be accepted.

By the way, all participants registered for the Four Miler will receive a weekend pass to the next event on the Bucket List, the Rhythm & Foods Festival….

Rhythm & Foods Festival, June 12 and 13Rhythm and Food website

Whether or not you worked up an appetite running four miles around Melvin Miller Park, here’s another not-to-miss, first-time event.

A surefire success, thanks to the rising popularity of food trucks, Rhythm & Foods brings together more than 50 food trucks and vendors, craft beers and seven country rock bands at the Champaign County Fairgrounds, 384 Park Ave, Urbana.

Rhythm and FoodsA $5 weekend pass—covering Friday and Saturday—includes admission to all seven shows—including Urbana’s own Acoustic Justice and long-time regional favorite McGuffey Lane.  Tickets are available only at the gate, which opens at 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.

Visit the festival website for a complete band schedule, listing of food trucks and other features, including a Robert Rothschild Farm products warehouse sale.

Kudos to Dave and Darcy Bacher of St. Paris for creating and organizing this event.

For more information, read this article from the Urbana Daily Citizen.

Military Appreciation Day, June 13Mil Appreciation Day

This event at Urbana’s Grimes Field airport, 1636 N Main St, will honor veterans in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of U.S. ground troops arriving in Vietnam.  The event is co-sponsored by DAV Chapter 31 and VFW Post 5451.

The all-day tribute will feature 13 Vietnam-era aircraft, including flights in Cobra and Huey helicopters (for a fee), an air show, military vehicles, music, a beer garden, and pancake breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. The day will conclude with a 5 p.m. tribute to 10 Champaign County natives who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.

Admission is only $1 and free for veterans. Shuttle service will be provided between the airport and the Rhythm & Foods Festival.

For details, read this article from the Urbana Daily Citizen.

Champaign Uncorked! salute to Dave Millner and Jim Bob White, who conceived the idea for the appreciation day and planned it.

Volunteer at the Gloria Theatre, June 16 and 17

And here’s your opportunity for an intimate, participatory theatrical experience: Volunteer Tuesday, June 16 and/or Wednesday, June 17 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. to help prepare the stage of The Gloria Theatre for “Spotlight, Tonight” (see next Bucket List item) and other productions.

No auditions. Just show up, ready to work at The Gloria, 216 S. Main St., Urbana, and you’ll be handed a role and the tools to carry it out–perhaps a drill, a broom, a hammer.

To learn more about how you can support the ongoing restoration of the Gloria Theatre, as a volunteer and/or financial contributor, visit the GrandWorks Foundation website.

Spotlight Tonight MarqueeSpotlight, Tonight!, June 26

This original sketch comedy show will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. at Urbana’s Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St.  A production of Sansami Creative Works of West Liberty, the show is written by community members and directed by Lucas Keeran with assistance from Thoryn Johnson.

Presale tickets for the show can be purchased for $7 at the Gloria Theatre during office hours. Tickets will be available at the door the day of the show $10 for adults and $7 for senior citizens and students.

Part of the proceeds will support the GrandWorks Foundation, which is restoring the Gloria Theatre.

CCPA Historic Home & Garden Tour, June 27 and 28

This annual fund-raising event of the Champaign County Preservation Alliance enjoys a long run of success—23 years—shining the spotlight on Champaign County’s historic architectural 200 W Reynoldstreasures, including homes and business properties, as well as gardens.

This year’s tour, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, features 12 stops in Urbana, including a house currently being restored, the Johnny Appleseed Musem at Urbana University and the Market Street Community Gardens. (You can say hi to my wife, Kay, who will be volunteering at the Little Wedding Barn, 228 S. Kenton St.)

Tickets are available for $10 presale, or $12 during the tour–available at any stop on the tour or at the white tent behind the Urbana Municipal Building, 205 S. Main St. Tour is free for children under 12. Click here for presale ticket locations. Free shuttle service is available from stop to stop.

Champaign County, Ohio Farmers' MarketFarmers’ Markets

Through the end of the season, these three local farmers’ markets will offer a wide range of locally grown foods as well as locally made food products, including baked goods:

The Mechanicsburg Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market — Tuesdays, 4:30-7 p.m. at the Heritage Cooperative, 140 S. Main St., Mechanicsburg, Ohio

St. Paris Farmers’ Market – Fridays, 2:30-6 p.m., Municipal Building, 135 W. Main St., St. Paris, Ohio

Champaign County Farmers’ Market – Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Locust Street at the corner of East Market Street, behind the Urbana Fire Department.

What other events would you recommend?

Your Champaign Bucket List for February

Here’s your February Bucket List, a sampling of the many ways to enjoy the month in Champaign County – from celebrating Valentine’s Day to supporting good causes to enjoying good music. Hope you have a great month!

Champaign County, Ohio Empty BowlsEmpty Bowls, Feb. 12 – You can help those who don’t have enough to eat when you buy a handmade ceramic bowl for $15 and sample a variety of soups and breads donated by local restaurants, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Urbana University Student Center, 579 College Way, Urbana. All proceeds from Empty Bowls support the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties. For more information, contact Anna Plataniotis at 937-325-8715 or visit the Second Harvest Food Bank website.

Lions Annual Pancake & Sausage Breakfast, Saturday, Feb. 14 – Start your Valentine’s Day supporting the Urbana Lions Club, 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Champaign County Fairgrounds, 384 Park Avenue, Urbana. 

Valentine’s Day Wine & Beer Tasting, Saturday, Feb. 14 – Treat your sweetheart at Mad River Farm Market, 7538 N. U.S. 68, West Liberty, 5 to 8 p.m. And stay to enjoy the music of Above the Law,  7 to 11 p.m.

Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band, Mutual, OhioConcert featuring Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band with Aallotar, Saturday, Feb.  14 – Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a mix of American and Finnish folk music and the direct trade coffee of host Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, in HCR’s new location, 39 S. Main St., Mechanicsburg, across the street from the HCR coffee shop. Champaign County’s very own Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band welcome special guest, Aallotar, a transatlantic collaboration of Finnish-American violinist Sara Pajunen and Finnish accordionist Teija Niku. Admission by donation.

Four-Course Wine Pairing Dinner, Thursday, Feb. 19 – Savor an elegant night out, 6 to 8 p.m., at Freshwater Farms of Ohio, 2624 N. U.S. 68, Urbana. Four-course dinner prepared by The FoodSmiths Catering. Reservations required by 7 p.m. Feb. 17. Call 937-652-3701 or email  Cost: $35 per person; food only, $25 per person (plus tax and gratuity).  More information.

Peace Labyrinth, Urbana University, Urbana, OhioPeace Labyrinth: Quilting the Golden Rule, through Feb. 28 at Urbana University Walk through a labyrinth of 17 beautiful quilts that portray the common thread of the Golden Rule in 17 major world faiths and humanist philosophies. At the Swedenborg Memorial Library on the university campus, 579 College Way, Urbana. For hours and more information, click here.

Sponsored by the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund, started in 2002 in memory of Alicia Titus, an Urbana University alumna who was killed while working as a flight attendant on United Flight 175 on September 11, 2001. Group tours may be arranged by calling Bev Titus, 937-663-5360.

Gloria Theatre, Urbana, OhioMeet and Greet at the Gloria Theatre, Saturday, Feb. 28 – Stop by the Gloria Theatre (former Urbana Cinema), 216 S. Main St., Urbana, any time between noon and 3 p.m., to see how it’s being transformed into a community theater and community center by the nonprofit GrandWorks Foundation. Learn how you can help and how the theater can serve as a resource for you, your organization or your business—for community performances, meetings and special events. For more information, call 937-612-1651.

Skunk Cabbage Walk at Cedar Bog, Saturday, Feb. 28Spring can’t be far behind! Join Cedar Bog volunteer naturalist Cheryl Erwin, 1 to 3 p.m., on a search for the bog’s first bloomer of the season – the skunk cabbage.  Cost $5, adults; $4, children and Cedar Bog and Ohio History Connection members.Located at 980 Woodburn Rd., Urbana. 937-484-3744

What else do you have planned for February?

New Publication Aims to Draw Churches Together

As a husband and father of five Pat Bass of Urbana seeks out local family-oriented entertainment and activities.

Pat Bass, editor and publisher of The Road to Damascus Publication, Urbana, Ohio

Pat Bass with a copy of The Road to Damascus Publication.

He just wished he had a resource to make his search easier.

While out of town in his job as a business coach last year he found what he had in mind – a publication in the lobby of the church that hosted his seminar. “This is exactly what I want to do,” he thought.

Thus, Bass created The Road to Damascus Publication, a monthly tabloid size newspaper – his first venture in publishing – which he launched in April. The free newspaper – supported by advertising – features news and events of Champaign, Clark and Logan county churches. It’s available in print throughout the three counties, and you can read it online.

Thanks to a small business attorney that Bass works with, The Road to Damascus stretches beyond a listing of events. “When I shared my idea, he said, ‘I think you’re missing the boat. I think there’s a place for events. But what about reporting on the good that people are doing, what about the good things churches are doing in your community?’”

So that kind of news is in The Road to Damascus, too.

“I think we’re in a special time in life and a special time in our community, in Urbana, in Clark County and Logan County,” Bass says. “There are a lot of people here who have a heart for God and helping people.”

Bass, who attends Second Jerusalem Baptist Church in Urbana with his family, envisions Road to Damascus uniting churches: “How can we together further the kingdom of God?”

And that, he believes, could cause people not involved in a church to take notice – that maybe our local churches have more in common than not.

Check out the June, May and April editions and share your thoughts here – or with Pat.

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 Boston: 3 Levels of Shopping

An adventure in shopping, The Boston, at 121 N. Main St., in downtown Urbana, features a wide array of booths maintained by more than 60 independent vendors on three floors.

The store, open seven days a week, is packed with treasures – antiques, vintage clothing, collectibles, art, musical instruments and modern home décor – and is arranged in special sections, such as the Paris Boardwalk, designed as a street scape with storefronts.

It’s all managed by owner Gina Mokry, who infuses The Boston with her energy and optimism. She tells me, “When I opened The Boston (in 2010), I said to our vendors in my first meeting with them, ‘There is no recession. Urbana is booming.’” The Boston has been operating successfully since.

Linda Cheney welcomes customers to The Boston, modeling a dress she fashioned out of curtains. By the way, the antique sleigh isn’t merely for decoration. It’s for sale.

About two years ago Gina came to town from Texas to visit her daughter, Kristie Herlong, and grandson, Sam. At the time, Kristie had a store, The Green Owl, on E. Court St.

“Immediately, I fell in love with Urbana,” Gina says. “And here I am.”

An Incubator for Success

Kristie helped her mom open the business and moved The Green Owl into a room on the second floor. Kristie has since moved again to open a new store up Main Street, Dorcey’s. Another Boston vendor – Isaac Cohn, a Graham High School senior – joined her at Dorcey’s. But that’s for another blog post.

Gina considers The Boston a business incubator – an affordable way for her vendors to enter the market and grow. And it’s a great way to offer customers a broad selection of shopping treasures on three floors, under one roof.

For Christmas Shopping

Linda Cheney of The Boston says the store is all about helping Christmas surprises happen. She enjoys assisting children find presents for their moms and dads – within their budget.

She adds that they’ve also been known to pass Christmas gift suggestions left by women to their husbands (or vice versa). They’ll even put a fictitious name on the hold slip tagged to a present that’s to be picked up later – just to throw off the recipient.

About The Boston

Address: 121 N. Main St., Urbana
Phone: 937-652-0410
Facebook: The Boston
Hours:   Open 7 days a week
Mon.-Thur., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fri., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Coffee: It’s on the house!

Today’s bonus: Gina was an interior decorator when she lived in Arkansas. One of her clients was Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is commonly considered the bane of small-town retail. However, Gina says, “Wal-Mart is not our competition.” She’s confident that the locally-owned shops of downtown Urbana offer distinctively valuable merchandise and service that just can’t be compared with what the big box stores offer.

In Sympathy

I wish to express my sympathy to the family of Mr. Thomas Spurgin, who died today after the bicycle he was riding was hit by a truck at the Hickory Grove Road crossing of the Simon Kenton Trail. My prayers also are with the driver and his family.

I don’t know the particulars of this incident. As a regular user of the trail, I simply offer the following. Trail users: stop at every crossing. Don’t just slow down. If you listen to music, take your ear buds out as you approach the intersection. Motorists: always slow down as you approach bike trail crossings.