MARIETTA - Hundreds of residents from all across Ohio gathered to take a trip back in time Tuesday for the opening day of the 2012 Ohio Chautauqua series in Marietta.
Beginning with a youth workshop Tuesday morning and wrapping up with a presentation by Margaret Blennerhassett on the campus of Marietta College in the evening, the series brought history alive.
"It just seems like this is a real privilege for Marietta to have something like this," said Marietta resident Steve Parlin, who attended the opening day of Chautauqua with his wife, Melissa, and their two daughters.
Photo by Robb DeCamp
Debra Conner portrays Margaret Blennerhassett as she talks to a crowd at Chautauqua on the campus of Marietta College Tuesday.
The historical series continues today and concludes Saturday with a presentation by Johnny Appleseed at 7:30 p.m. in the lawn on the corner of Fourth and Putnam streets in Marietta.
"This really gives people a reason to get back into our local attractions," said Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitor Bureau Executive Director Jeri Knowlton. "A lot of times people forget about those hidden gems."
Ohio Chautauqua offers a living history presented by scholar-actors who assume the role of historical characters. In Tuesday's case, Margaret Blennerhassett was portrayed by Debra Conner.
Schedule For The Week
Today: 10:30 a.m. Youth Workshop, "Inspired by Margaret Blennerhassett" at the O'Neill Center, 333 Fourth St.; 2 p.m. Adult Workshop, "John and Johnny: Past, present and future" at the O'Neill Center; 6:45 p.m. music at the main tent at Marietta College; 7:30 p.m. York, Lewis and Clark expedition program, main tent.
Thursday: 10:30 a.m. Youth Workshop, "Telling a tall tale" at the Betsey Mills Club, 300 Fourth St.; 2 p.m. Adult Workshop, "The American Indian Perspective" at the Betsey Mills Club; 6:45 p.m. music at the main tent at Marietta College; 7:30 p.m. Oliver Hazard Perry, main tent.
Friday: 10:30 a.m. Youth Workshop, "A Star Spangled Banner" at the Valley Gem, 601 Front St.; 2 p.m. Adult Workshop, "Women on America's Western Frontier" at the Valley Gem; 6:45 p.m. music at the main tent at Marietta College; 7:30 p.m. Chief Logan, main tent.
Saturday: 10:30 a.m. Youth Workshop, "Adopted by Indians" at the Ohio River Museum, 601 Front St.; 2 p.m. Adult Workshop, "York, William Clark, Slavery and American History" at the Ohio River Museum, 601 Front St.; 6:45 p.m. music at the main tent at Marietta College; 7:30 p.m. Johnny Appleseed, main tent.
"How well I remember the scene - all of that unbroken wilderness," Conner said, describing Blennerhassett's trip to the Ohio River valley, where she and her husband, Harman, settled.
Linda Lander, of Bowling Green, happened to be in town Tuesday on her way back from visiting a friend in West Virginia. She said she had always wanted to attend a Chautauqua event, but never had the chance.
That all changed as she traveled home this week.
"I thought I'd spend a couple hours here (in Marietta) and then be on my way up to Amish country. I'm just looking at how many days I could spend," Lander laughed, pointing to the Ohio Chautauqua schedule. "It's absolutely delightful. I can't believe my good luck."
Tuesday Jeremy Meier portrayed Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in an adult workshop, providing perspective on the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Early in the morning, Hank Fincken portrayed folk hero Johnny Appleseed in a workshop for children at Campus Martius Museum.
Steve and Melissa Parlin took their two children to Fincken's presentation, and said it was an impressive blend of history and fun.
"It's nice to support an event that promotes the history of the area," Melissa Parlin said.
Despite the warm temperatures that greeted the valley, the 60- by 90-foot tent erected on Marietta College's campus was filled to capacity with a few more people standing outside for Tuesday's living history presentation. There were 500 chairs inside the tent, and few were unoccupied as Conner told Blennerhassett's tale.
Conner, speaking as Blennerhassett, told the crowd of how she and Harman moved to America after selling the castle Harman inherited from his family in Ireland.
Moving to the Mid-Ohio Valley, the couple bought half of Backus Island from Elijah Backus for $4,500. The Blennerhassetts received about 180 acres for that price, only to learn that Backus had bought the entire island a few years earlier for $800, Conner said.
Those misfortunes didn't stop the couple from living their dream, at least for a time.
"We worked to build the most beautiful, the most elegant home that had ever been seen," Conner said.
The Blennerhassett Mansion was eventually burned in 1811 after Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett became involved with former Vice President Aaron Burr, who was accused of treason.
The 2012 Ohio Chautauqua continues today with the youth workshop and adult workshop at the O'Neill Senior Center, 333 Fourth St., and the living history presentation of York, who traveled with Lewis and Clark as members of the Corps of Discovery to the West Coast.