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Published: Thursday, 11/22/2007

Christmas in Pemberville: a journey back in time

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Haley Rossman of Pemberville decorates a Christmas tree in Becker's General Store. Haley Rossman of Pemberville decorates a Christmas tree in Becker's General Store.
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PEMBERVILLE - Members of the village's historical society are stepping back a hundred years or so to re-create Christmas from simpler times.

Christmas in the Village, the annual start of the holiday season for this Wood County village of 1,344 people, takes place tomorrow in Pemberville.

Members of the Pemberville-Freedom Area Historical Society will appear in period costumes at the Opera House, the Pember-Furry House, a blacksmith shop, a smokehouse, and on carriage rides.

The restored Opera House, Pemberville's crown jewel, provides the focal point for the day's activities between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The Opera House will be decorated with 14 Christmas trees under the theme, "There's no place like home."

Each tree will represent the decorator's interpretations of the theme.

"If you're looking for a bit of nostalgia and old-fashioned fun, you should come to Pemberville for the day," said Todd Sheets, the historical society's spokesman.

Cindy Ohrbach, at left, and her daughter Katherine trim one in the town hall. Cindy Ohrbach, at left, and her daughter Katherine trim one in the town hall.
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"It's a fun way to kick off the holiday season," said Mr.Sheets, proprietor of Beeker's General Store on Front Street and organizer of the holiday festival.

Other points of interest include the circa-1840 Pember-Furry House, with vintage Christmas accents throughout the home.

The one-room school will be decorated with primitive Christmas accents and candles, and the historical society's blacksmith shop will offer demonstrations, Mr. Sheets said.

Fresh baked goods and pastries will be available for a donation to the historical society. For meat lovers, the aroma from the old smokehouse is expected to draw some of the visitors to buy a piece of sausage, and the scent of freshly popped kettle corn will add to the holiday atmosphere, Mr. Sheets said.

In addition, pianists, vocalists, and a bell choir will perform throughout the day at the Opera House.

Admission to the Opera House during the festival is $5, which the historical society uses to offset building maintenance costs.

"We don't receive any funding from local governments. It's all private donations," Mr. Sheets said. "We also rely on fund-raisers."

Along with admission to the Opera House, ticket-holders will be treated to coffee and pastries and be given a ballot to vote on the best-decorated tree. A prize will be awarded to one ticket-holder.

The Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Bicentennial Commission have placed a historical placard outside the Opera House, which was built in 1897 and restored in 1999.

The Opera House is part of an auditorium-town hall combination, with the city offices on the first floor and the performance stage and seats for 250 upstairs.

When the restoration was completed, members of the committee estimated the value of their labor was close to $200,000.

The society received $40,000 from the state of Ohio, while $80,000 was raised from donations and fund-raising projects.

The Opera House's magnificent stage and sliding scenery apparatus, both preserved, have been home to many productions and full houses.

Although the restoration is complete, the old building requires maintenance. Fund-raisers such as the Christmas in the Village contribute to that effort, Mr. Sheets said.

"We're now faced with spots of peeling paint. It's become an ongoing continuing restoration, so we have to raise funds to maintain it," Mr. Sheets said.

"It's never really totally finished," he said.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168



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