Circleville Pumpkin Show

For the past one hundred and eleven years come October in Circleville, Ohio something magical happens – the streets fill with happy people and pumpkins of unusual shape and size (and a lot of other cool agricultural stuff too!).

The Circleville Pumpkin Show is one of those things that feels like it could only happen in small town America. And like so many great ideas the Pumpkin Show started with it began simply with one person. This person, George R. Haswell – Mayor of Circleville, got it into his head to decorate his place on West Main Street with Corn leftovers, pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns. This unusually ornate display was immediately dubbed “the pumpkin show”. The next year Haswell was joined by neighboring merchants. More and more joined in each year and, well, now Circleville has a festival that draws some 300,000 people in the span of four days.

Later a permanent organization was created to maintain and promote the Pumpkin Show. The organization was also tasked with public relations and to encourage agricultural pursuit and to award outstanding displays of grain, fruits, vegetables, school displays – anything that bettered Circleville and Pickaway County.

These days the Pumpkin Show boasts the slogan: Greatest Free Show on Earth – and they have stuck by that. The show is entirely free to enter and enjoy.

The Pumpkin Show organization took things a step further in 1946 by creating an NPO, Circleville Pumpkin Show, Inc. to operate the show. Profits from the show are used to better Circleville. Thousands of dollars have been donated to the city for use in community projects. Amazingly Pumpkin Show, Inc is entirely self sufficient. The operate solely on donations and self generated income. They even reimburse the city for use of services such as extra police duties.

While America ideals often seem to prefer individual success, the spirit of community and giving inherent in the goals of the Circleville Pumpkin Show seem to best represent the greatest qualities of our country – community and self sufficiency allowed by people helping people.

Jody Victor

Famous Ohioans: Harvey Samuel Firestone

Born on a farm in Columbiana, Ohio, Harvey Firestone would rise from humble beginnings to become on of the great industrialists of the United States and create one of the world’s first global rubber tire companies—the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.

Firestone attended Columbiana local schools, graduating from the area high school. He spent a brief period of time at Spencerian Business College in Cleveland, Ohio but soon took a job as a book keeper at a coal company. Firestone next worked as a salesman for the Columbus Buggy company, but they went out of business in 1895.

Based on his experience as a buggy salesman, Firestone began his foray into the world of rubber. His idea was to replace the bare, steel rims of buggies with rubber tires believing they would provide a more comfortable ride.

Firestone’s first attempt at selling the tires was a success—he had purchased a factory in Chicago and created the Firestone Rubber Tire Company, however he quickly sold the business for 45,000 dollars and moved back to Ohio after only four years.

In Ohio he created the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company he is so famous for today. Initially, the company relied on others to manufacture the rubber, while Firestone Tire and Rubber merely fastened the rubber to steel rimmed carriage wheels. In its first year the company made 100,000 dollars profit. In 1903 the company started making its own rubber and a year later was in the business of making air-filled tires for automobiles. 1905 may have been the most important year for Firestone and his company as Henry Ford placed an order with them so large they had to hire additional workers. Taking the company from a humble 12 to 130. By 1910 the company had produced more than one million tires and was taking in millions in profit.

Firestone remained a part of the company until his death in 1938.


Jody Victor

Native Ohioans: The Shawnee

We are continuing our series on Native Ohioans. This week we are finding out more about the Shawnee Tribe.

The Shawnee were a nomadic tribe of Native Americans who often chose to live in the Ohio River Valley. History remembers them most notably for their Colonial Era involvement with the French in Ohio before the French and Indian War and also for one of their chiefs – Tecumseh – who became a beacon of hope that the Shawnee might one day reclaim their lands after being forced away by the U.S. Calvary.

Some scholars believe that the Shawnee may have descended from the Hopewell or Fort Ancient mound building cultures, however this is not accepted unilaterally.

The Shawnee spoke one of the Algonquian tongues and so had dealings with the Delaware, Miami and Ottawa natives, but had a special relationship with the Wyandots who they had a special name for; they called them “uncle”. They were kinfolk of the Lenape Tribe who all Algonquians and the Shawnee called “grandfather” as the Lenape homeland was considered the birthplace of the Algonquian Tribes.

As with many Native American tribes, men were expected to be hunters and sometimes warriors. While the women tended to child care and cooking; however Shawnee women were also farmers and participated in storytelling, artwork, music, medicine and politics. Though “principle chiefs” were always male, women could be village chiefs.

Today the Shawnee reside on trust lands (which are legally different than reservations) in Oklahoma.


Jody Victor

Keep Your July Green!

The middle of July begins that sluggish bit of summer before kids and parents both start thinking about school starting again in August. Many of us have already had a summer vacation and it may seem as if there is nothing left to look forward to for quite some time.

Thankfully, Ohio is a state filled with hidden treasures available all year round. From July 18th to July 20th your family can enjoy the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival at the Berea Fairgrounds. The festival includes a variety of Irish cultural performances and exhibitions including Irish dance, pipe bands, and theater.

The Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival is the brain child of John O’Brien who wanted to preserve Irish culture and share it with the community. Along with a steadfast group of volunteers John and his helpers were able to put on the first of many festivals in 1982. During the two days of the festival, the first event drew more than 3,000 visitors. Not too shabby for a first effort!

After the dust settled (literally!) the festival committee met to discuss further development of the event for the following summer. The festival committee’s continued dedication has led to the ongoing creation of one of the premier Irish festivals in the entire United States. The incredible expansion of the festival, which took on a whole extra day in 1985, stands as a monument to the dedication of the festival committee members over the years and especially to John O’Brien’s vision. Just short of a decade after it’s inception, the festival outgrew it’s original venue and moved to the Berea fairgrounds where the it now draws over 30,000 visitors each year.

All the information you need to attend can be found here:

Jody Victor

Spring is Sweet in Ohio

When I think of March in Ohio maple syrup isn’t something that naturally comes to mind. However, it is just about that time of year that many Ohio-based syrup manufacturers begin gearing up for Maple Season. Most of them have been tapping trees since February.

The tradition goes back to the Native Americans. Early settlers observed that they would collect the sap and boil it down in hollowed out logs using hot stones to heat the sap . The science behind making maple syrup hasn’t changed much over the years.

Syrup can be made from any kind of maple; however the Sugar Maple is prized for its high sugar content. Small holes are drilled into the maple, usually about three, and the sap is collected in buckets and can then be rendered down into a variety of sugary, maple-y products.

The tapping doesn’t harm the trees as long as the number of taps is appropriate to the size and health of the plant.

Unlike its high fructose corn syrup based cousins, consuming real maple syrup may even include health benefits! The Ohio Maple Producers Association considers maple syrup is a “super food,” containing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

You can find out more about maple syrup production in Ohio and information about visiting a maple product producer near you at their website.

~ Jody Victor