Let the good times roll! On March 1, 2003, the Ohio Bicentennial Commission <www.ohio200.org> kicked off an eight-month celebration in honor of the state’s 200th birthday. The months-long party will occur in conjunction with a series of ongoing, countywide programs that the commission spearheaded. These spirited commemorations of Ohio’s history can be seen throughout the state — hop in the car and get a glimpse firsthand.
A visit to Ohio this year will have you hearing (and seeing) bells. The Bicentennial Bells initiative began in 2001 to create a symbol of Ohio’s industrial roots. The Verdin Company, based in Cincinnati, will visit each of the state’s 88 counties and handcraft a personalized bell during a two-day, public event. Each bell features the county’s name, the forging date, the Great Seal of Ohio and the bicentennial logo. That logo can also be seen on barns across the state. Artist Scott Hagan completed the Bam Painting program last September. Hagan spent five years painting the bicentennial logo on at least one barn in each Ohio county. A list of these colorful barns’ locations is available online at <www.ohio200.org/bams/locations.asp>.
Once you’ve completed your bicentennial sightseeing, it’s time to get in on the action at one of the signature events that aim to highlight Ohio’s rich heritage:
- The Path to Statehood: Bicentennial Wagon Train <www.muleskinner.com>: When Ohio became a state, many settlers traveled on wagon trains. You can witness a re-creation of this journey as a wagon train travels from the Ohio River along US 40 to the Indiana state line. This event runs from June through July. Check the Web site for schedule updates.
- Inventing Flight The Centennial Celebration <www.inventingflight.com>: Dayton, Ohio, was home to the Wright brothers when they successfully achieved airplane flight 100 years ago. The city will host the centennial anniversary celebration of that aeronautical feat. An air show, international blimp competition and other activities take place downtown July 3-20, 2003.
- Celebration of Lake Erie Heritage: Ohio Bicentennial Tall Ships <www.tallshipstoledo.com>: Trek to ports along the coast of Lake Erie to witness the largest gathering of tall ships in Ohio since the 19th century. Toledo and Cleveland are the designated fleet ports for this event, which takes place July 9-20, 2003.
- Tall Stacks on the Ohio River <www.tallstacks.com>: Nightly fireworks displays, hot-air balloon races and musical entertainment keep this river festival flowing in downtown Cincinnati. Civil War encampments and paddle-wheel steamboats give visitors a dose of living history Oct 15-19, 2003.
For more information on the activities and events surrounding the bicentennial celebration, visit <www.ohio200.org> or call (888) OHIO-200.
If you travel to Springfield, Mass., this year, look for the spinning sphere. You can’t miss this enormous structure right outside the entrance of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s new quarters. The 93-foot sphere has hundreds of lights that flash in sequences, giving the basketball-shaped object the appearance of spinning. The 80,000-square-foot facility opened in September, at the museum’s third location in the city where Dr. James Naismith invented basketball more than 100 years ago.
The Hall of Fame’s mission to honor basketball’s greatest players hasn’t changed. Honors Ring, located on the top floor, pays tribute to legendary players and coaches. Exhibits that focus on the sport’s history and provide an interactive experience for visitors can be found throughout the building. Wherever you are in the museum, you’ll be able to view Center Court — a full-size basketball court for events and performances. What else does the Basketball Hall of Fame have to offer? Watch a movie in the 200-seat theater, catch up on some reading at the library, or peruse the film archive.
The Hall of Fame’s new home is at 1000 W. Columbus Ave. Call (877) 446-6752 or visit <www.hoophall.com> for more information.
Billy Crystal, Maya Angelou, Carlos San-tana, Joe Torre, Michelle Kwan and other well-known entertainers, artists and athletes are uncovering their family histories in a new exhibit. Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles <www.wiesenthal.com/mot> opened Feb. 11, 2003. The exhibit, the largest the museum has hosted since it opened 10 years ago, will run for one year.
Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves offers visitors a multimedia journey into each celebrity’s family history. The well-known participants discover their heritage by connecting with past generations. Billy Crystal, who is also an executive producer of the project, greets visitors in a welcome video and leads them through four personal histories:
- “A Place Filled with Hope” tells the story of Maya Angelou’s grandmother. Visitors view a virtual image of Angelou in her grandmother’s general store, where she learned to read. The famous poet discusses her relationship with her grandmother and the influence her grandmother had on her.
- “A Family Gathers to Explore the Past” highlights Joe Torre’s Italian heritage. Images of Torre and his family at the dinner table in their Brooklyn, NY, home reveal the baseball manager’s past.
- “Watercolor Memories” paints a picture of the life of Crystal’s father, who died when the actor was only 15. As Crystal uncovered his father’s past, he formed a relationship with his dad’s brother, who captured Crystal’s father’s apartment in a watercolor painting.
- Carlos Santana can trace his family history back nearly 300 years. In a presentation called “Celebrating the Sacred Grace Within Ourselves,” the musician talks about teaching his children and grandchildren about their heritage.
Museumgoers end their journey in a resource room. There, they’ll learn how to start tracing their family trees and discovering their roots. For more information about Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves and the Museum of Tolerance, call (310) 553-8403 or visit the museum’s Web site.
From Family Tree Magazine‘s May 2003 Heritage Travel.