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Published: Wednesday, 7/10/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

ROSSFORD DRAWS CROWD DESPITE RAIN

Chautauqua history anything but dry

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Root Cellar String Band performs during the OHIO Chautauqua event at Veteran's Park in Rossford, Ohio. The Root Cellar String Band performs during the OHIO Chautauqua event at Veteran's Park in Rossford, Ohio.
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It might have been a little rainy Tuesday night, but that didn't stop about 500 people from filling up most of the chairs in a red and white big-top tent at Veterans Memorial Park to see Ohio Chautauqua 2013.

Presented by the Ohio Humanities Council, opening night of the five-day traveling tent show started with old-time dance music, the smell of hay in the air, and periodic raindrops.

The rain also didn't stop Ricky Bienvenu, a 15-year-old Perrysburg Township resident who attended with his family. He took pictures with several of the characters before the show started, and recorded the event with his camera.

The free show, which is in Rossford until Saturday, features nightly performances by historical re-enactors.  Rossford is the third stop on the statewide tour. The word Chautauqua originates from the late 19th century and started as an educational movement; the tent show, which opens at 6:30 p.m. nightly, is a variation of that movement.

The city was selected as a site last year by the Ohio Humanities Council. Chautauqua performances have already taken place in Lakewood and Madison this month, and will be held next in Bexley and Coshocton.

Beth Genson, marketing consultant for the Rossford Convention and Visitors Bureau, said having the show visit Rossford is an honor.

"Being a smaller community, we're trying to create a presence here in Ohio. We're trying to create interest,: she said.

Ms. Genson said attendees even traveled from Dayton to watch the performance.

Hank Fincken performs as Johnny Appleseed during the OHIO Chautauqua event at Veteran's Park in Rossford, Ohio. Hank Fincken performs as Johnny Appleseed during the OHIO Chautauqua event at Veteran's Park in Rossford, Ohio.
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As the 15th annual tour, this year's performance features characters like Johnny Appleseed, a folk hero; Margaret Blennerhassett, a frontier aristocrat; Chief John Logan, an Iroquois leader; York, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition team and Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

Each night features a different character. Tuesday night, the performing character was Johnny Appleseed, who gave a 30-minute presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session by the crowd.

Hank Fincken, of Indianapolis, the performer who played the character, said his performances are a mixture of historical accuracy and entertainment.

“We try to do accurate history,” Mr. Fincken said, adding that the reality of his portrayal is that Johnny Appleseed had a funny side and a serious side.

There was also overwhelming support by volunteers for the event.

Lindsy Gwozdz, a volunteer who was passing out programs and fans on one side of the tent, said she encouraged friends to help: "“I said, 'come on, ladies. It's good for the soul."

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @KMcBlade.



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