See Ohio First

In 1940, the Federal Writers Project produced a massive book detailing the scenic treasures and everyday life along Ohio’s roads – roads that went through the big cities as well as through farmland and tucked-away places. 70 years later, the roads have changed and the pulse of the people is different – in some places. The Ohio Humanities Council has launched The New Ohio Guide Audio Tours at

“Long before Ohio had an interstate system, the Federal Writers Project staff traveled the state’s main roads to compile a history of Ohio,” said Pat Williamsen, Executive Director of the Ohio Humanities Council. “But the New Dealers also wanted to use tourism to spark the economy during the Great Depression – so they included driving tours as part of The Ohio Guide.”

OHC has updated eleven itineraries from the original Ohio Guide to encourage motorists to get off the interstate and enjoy Ohio’s small towns and scenic beauty. This new guide takes those older routes and gives them a 21st century twist — as free downloadable audio tours. Recorded by independent producers and public broadcasting partners, the tours highlight Ohio’s history, culture, and geography. Each tour on is accompanied by maps, photographs, and other information.

Save gas; buy local – See Ohio First!

With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 just around the corner (on June 1, 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain), it’s a good time to read up on the war. In my search for books about Ohio’s role in the War of 1812, I came across a delightful travel memoir by Craig J. Heimbuch — Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry: Travels in the Footsteps of the Commodore Who Saved America, (Cincinnati: Clerisy Press, 2010).

Acting on a lifelong fascination that began as a youngster visiting the Perry International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay, Heimbuch set out to learn all he could about the young naval commander who won the Battle of Lake Erie during the summer of 1813. Stirred by Perry’s brief report of victory – “We have met the enemy and they are ours” – Heimbuch wanted “to see if I could call upon Perry’s … spirit and do something brave.”

Doing something brave involved mimicking Perry’s “swagger,” at least in part. After a year of research, trip-planning, and pinching pennies, Heimbuch took off “to chase Oliver Hazard Perry to the ends of the earth – or all the way around Lake Erie, whichever worked better with my schedule.”

Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry is as much about the writer’s aspirations as about his inspiring hero. During the course of his journey, Heimbuch visited historical sites, boarded a replica of the Niagara, and contemplated his literary ambitions. Heimbuch has written an excellent history for non-historians, outlining the war on the western frontier in layman’s terms.

Craig Heimbuch is an award-winning journalist who lives and writes in Cincinnati. He is currently the editor-in-chief of, an on-line magazine “for the man who wears a dozen hats and worries about losing his hair.” Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry makes me hope that he finds time to write second travel memoir about another Ohio hero. Perhaps Mad Anthony Wayne?

A different kind of tourism than I might normally write about, but too interesting not to pass along — Miami University is offering a learning experience for sophomore level students, Journeys to Freedom: The Underground Railroad.

This 3-week workshop will provide students an immersion educational experience that will explore the various journeys into freedom of several different cultural groups important in Ohio history. This workshop will allow students to reclaim the Ohio histories associated with the journeys into freedom during some of the most important periods of the US history. Students will walk in the paths of runaway slaves and abolitionists, Native Americans and immigrants, Hispanics and women.

Team-taught by Rodney Coates,, and Nishani Frazier, Additional information about content, requirements, and fees can be found at


Behind these doors at the Westerville Public Library …

Ken Burns came to town today to premiere his  latest  documentary, “Prohibition.”
First stop on his itinerary was the Westerville Public Library for a luncheon with civic leaders and library employees.

What? Ken Burns in Westerville? Why the great civic pride?

Besides the fact that Ken Burns is a great filmmaker — and who wouldn’ t want to have lunch with him? — behind those doors, Ken Burns and his research team poured over the

Burns raised a glass of iced tea in a toast to the library for its stewardship of the history of the Anti-Saloon League.

Anti-Saloon League Museum collection.

“Here’s the story of Prohibition – not the gangsters or the flappers” of popular imagination,   Burns said. In the local history collection at the Westerville Public Library, Ken Burns found the story of “ordinary people” who created an extraordinary national movement that led to the 18th amendment and the prohibition of alcohol production and consumption in the United States.


Directors Lynn Novick and Ken Burns with Beth Weinhardt, WPL Local History Coordinator

The Anti-Saloon League was founded in Oberlin in 1893. The organization moved to Westerville several years later, which earned the town distinction as “The Dry Capitol of the World.” Westerville remained dry until just a few years ago, but the local history collection at WPL is a favorite stop for temperance-loving historians.

What’s in your library?

The weather in Central Ohio is beginning to hint of Autumn – cool, crisp mornings, a slight change in the light that will become more golden as the season progresses, the aroma of falling leaves.  It’s a good time to take a drive, to gather up late fruits and vegetables to stock up for winter.

So gas up the car, load in the kids and head down to Albany for the 12th Ohio Paw Paw Festival!  The Festival begins Friday evening on September 17 and runs through Sunday, September 19.

And just what is a Paw Paw?  Native to Ohio’s Hill Country, paw paw trees dot the hillsides, producing clusters of oblong fruits. Called the “poor man’s banana,” the fruit offers the flavors of banana, mango, and melon.  In 2008, it was designated Ohio’s official native fruit.

The Ohio Paw Paw Association partners with the Ohio Hill County Heritage Area to hold the annual festival at Lake Snowden, on the Appalachian Highway, just west of Athens.  As with the many food festivals in the state, this one features everything paw paw – art work, ice cream, chutneys, jelly — even microbrews!

Don’t expect a midway carnival – the Paw Paw Festival has an emphasis on sustainable agriculture and cuisine.  So do take advantage of several workshop offerings about growing paw paws or outlining the health benefits of the fruit.  Several cooking demonstrations are scheduled throughout the weekend.  A kids’ activity tent will help the youngsters enjoy the trip, too.

For more on the Festival, including a schedule of events and directions, go to


With a trip to the Civic Tourism III conference coming up this week, my thoughts have been focused on helping conferees from other states think about Ohio as more than a fly-over state. But it seems to me that Ohioans don’t always remember that our home state is chock-full of perfect places to visit and linger during the hot days of August.

A trip to the bookstore, virtual or real, offers bunches of trip ideas; there are guides for ghost chasers, antique collectors, butterfly buffs. One of my favorite Ohio travel writers is Neil Zurcher. A Cleveland personality, Neil has compiled the best of his TV series, “One Tank Trips,” in a three-volume collection of driving tours. The last one of the series should appeal to everyone – One Tank Trips: Road Food. Organized by food stuffs – diners, ice cream, the best hamburger – thirty-five close-to-home tours cover the range of Ohio’s culinary delights. Hungry for a perch sandwich? Go to Tour 98. Hankering for potato chips? Tour 109 highlights Ohio’s best, with factory tours and warm samples. Along the way, Neil tells us a bit about the history of potato chips, fishing in Lake Erie, and cheese-making throughout our dairy regions.

A great booster of Ohio places, Neil has written several guides to help you explore the state. Neil’s tours will take you away from the interstates to experience the charms found only on our byways. Whether you favor aviation, fine art, or artisan food, Neil’s guides are sure to suggest some memorable trips just a short trip away.

You can follow Neil’s rambles at http://onetanktrips/

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