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Rossford picked for chautauqua

City to be 1 of 5 sites in Ohio for '13 performances on history


Jeremy Meier, who teaches theater at Owens Community College, performs as Oliver Hazard Perry during a chautauqua in a large striped tent. His performance will be part of the 2013 chautauqua.

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Rossford has been selected as one of five sites next year for the Ohio Chautauqua Program, which tours with actors playing characters who figured in the Buckeye State's history.

For the 2013 tour, the Ohio Humanities Council picked Rossford as a stop along with Bexley, Coshocton, Lakewood, and Madison.

The date, in June or July, is confidential. It will be released on Sept. 10 at Owens Community College at a special performance of Jeremy Meier's Oliver Hazard Perry: Hero of Lake Erie at 7 p.m.

Rossford City Council has shifted its regular Sept. 10 meeting to Sept. 11 so its members could attend Mr. Meier's 35-minute solo act and hear the announcement.

Mr. Meier teaches theater at Owens and toured this summer with the chautauqua as Commodore Perry, who defeated the British navy in the the Battle of Lake Erie during the war of 1812. He uttered the famed words "We have met the enemy and they are ours."

Beth Genson, marketing consultant for the Rossford Convention and Visitors Center, said landing the chautauqua program is a coup for the city.

"I attended four of the five chautauquas held this summer across the state," she said. " 'Chautauqua' is an Indian name and it's a traveling tent show. They put up a giant red-and- white-striped tent. That's the signature."

She said the tent accommodates 500 chairs and draws overflow crowds. "There were over 900 people in Warren the first night I was there. People bring their lawn chairs and sit outside if they can't get inside the tent."

A Rossford site for the tent has not been decided on, she said, but "we're leaning toward Veterans Memorial Park by the river."

The chautauqua also includes historical workshops that will be held in the Rossford Public Library, she added. The theme of the tour is "When Ohio Was the Western Frontier."

The other historical characters portrayed in the chautauqua are Johnny Appleseed, Margaret Blennerhassett, an Englishwoman who lived in an estate on an island in the Ohio River, Iroquois leader Chief John Logan, and York, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The 2013 performances will be the same as this year's.

Fran Tiburzio, director of public relations for the Ohio Humanities Council and the chautauqua coordinator, said the application process to become a tour stop is competitive. She visits the communities, then returns to Columbus and makes a recommendation. She said Rossford stood out among the contenders when she visited last winter.

"I was impressed by Rossford. They had a committee together already and they had already contacted their local media. They gave the impression that they had been really serious. They had thought about their facilities and that made me think they were going to be conscientious," she explained.

She said she'll meet with Rossford officials in September to work out details. The chautauqua, which is aimed at smaller communities, has never stopped in Wood County.

Mr. Meier said his portrayal of Commodore Perry should have special resonance northwest Ohio in 2013, which is the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie near Put-In-Bay.

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