Jason Duff

Renewal and restoration

Jason Duff stood in the middle of the crumbling, mostly abandoned downtown area of his hometown, Bellefontaine, and saw what everyone else saw.

Unlike many others, though, he was able to look past the despair and see potential. Instead of heading to the brighter lights of bigger, more prosperous Midwestern cities, Duff decided to make a difference. He enlisted friends who shared his vision and his can-do attitude — along with plenty of talents and skills — and built a team to rebuild and revive their hometown. 

Auto race at airport

Little island, big race

Years ago, Lake Erie’s South Bass Island was abuzz with fast, exotic imports once a year for a decade.

“I certainly hope it goes forward, because we’re planning for it,” says organizer Manley Ford (who drives a 1952 MG TD). “There’s always a lot of excitement, and we’ve already got quite a few registered.”

Ritz Theater

On with the show

Ghosts in McConnelsville. Windmills in Bellefontaine. A Venetian courtyard in Tiffin. Fleur-de-lis flourishes in Marietta.

The theaters’ ornate interiors mimicked Italian piazzas and art deco architecture, Grecian ruins, and Spanish courtyards. They often created the sense of being outdoors, with painted clouds and twinkling electric “stars.”

Many of the extravagant theaters eventually fell into disrepair as downtown venues were abandoned in favor of shopping mall-based cinemas, while others met their demise in the form of a wrecking ball.

Yard sale

The world's longest yard sale

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and there will be plenty of both at the 127 Yard Sale, scheduled this summer for Aug. 6 through 9.

The “world’s longest yard sale” is held annually during the first weekend of August, with some 2,200 vendors and hundreds of thousands of people attending. My wife and I dropped by for an afternoon last summer near Eaton, Ohio, and found making stop after stop not only fun but addictive. 

Rody Walter in bicycle shop

Bicycles built for YOU

To the casual cyclist who buys a ride off the rack, so to speak, the choices available in the creation of a custom bicycle might seem overwhelming. Clipless or flat pedals? A performance saddle, or something easier on the backside? How many gears? Flat or curved handlebars? But first, the geometry of the frame, from the angle of the head tube to the shape of the fork. What about construction materials? Do you want titanium? Stainless steel? Wood? Yes, wood. We’ll come back to wood later.

People viewing Lake Erie from Stone Lab

Stone Lab: Lake Erie’s little giant

Gibraltar Island is just 6.5 acres, yet sports a castle, a fleet of boats, and a small-but-mighty lab. Though tiny, it has a huge footprint in Lake Erie conservation — and in the hearts of thousands of yearly visitors.

“I first attended as a high school student with my ichthyology class on a field trip in the 1970s,” says John Hageman. “After college, a job opened up, and they were willing to hire me up at the lake.” Hageman eventually spent 25 years there as lab manager.

Sketch of Cedar Point beach

That's the ticket

Editor’s note: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the beginning of Cedar Point’s 2020 season. As of mid-April, the park was tentatively scheduled to open for the season in mid-May. Please double-check before traveling.

Now, 150 years later, Cedar Point is Ohio’s largest tourist destination. It hosts some 3 million guests annually and boasts a record-setting 71 rides that meld tradition (a 1912 carousel, a gigantic Ferris wheel) with technology (the 93-mph Millennium Force, the 400-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster).

Alan Canfora waving flag

The Kent State shootings: Coming to terms

Every May 4, students, faculty, and others on the campus of Kent State University honor the memory of four students killed and nine others injured when the National Guard opened fire during a protest against the Vietnam War on that day in 1970.

This year marks 50 years since the tragedy, and plans had been in place to commemorate the occasion with dozens of speakers, symposia, and artistic tributes, until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the events. Still, the events they had planned are an indication of how much has changed about the way the Kent State community perceives this part of their past.

Chip Gross awards plaque

Surprise catch

If you enjoy fishing in the Buckeye State, that next tug on your line just might be a new record fish.

Her father, Galen, explains. “We had gone fishing a few days previously, and SueAnn caught a very large green sunfish that we released,” he says. “That got me thinking as to what the state record might be for that species, so I looked it up and told her that we had likely released a state-record fish.”
The Newswangers were fishing again a few days later in the same area of the same pond when Galen heard his daughter squeal with delight, “Daddy, I caught it again!”  

Farm safety demonstration

Safety mission

While watching RFD-TV one night, Russ Beckner saw a segment that showed a California mom driving a tractor around with her two young kids in the tractor bucket.

When he retired from P&G, that safety mindset carried over as he started helping his son, Jason, on Jason’s farm. People tend to associate farms with peaceful fields, fresh air, and contented cows, but as all farmers know, agriculture can be a dangerous way to make a living — and a farm is a dangerous place to live.

Between eight and 12 people, on average, are killed on farms every year in Ohio. Thousands more sustain injuries. “I became aware of farm injuries locally, statewide, and nationally, and I thought we could make a difference,” Russ says.