Looking for something to do this weekend?
You don't have far to go. There's always something happening around northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
Even during the relatively slow months between Christmas and Memorial Day, family activities can always be found.
The area loves to celebrate its heritage - it's impossible to keep track of the ever-increasing number of ethnic celebrations, festivals, and events.
Musical and theatrical performances can be found nearly every weekend at the Stranahan Theater, Toledo Museum of Art and its Peristyle, the Valentine Theatre, SeaGate Convention Centre, the Franciscan Center, Sports Arena, and other venues throughout Toledo. Performing arts can be found in regional theaters such as the Croswell Opera House in Adrian or the restored Ritz Theater in Tiffin.
And don't forget the circuses, auto, boat, outdoors, and home improvement shows.
The Blade's weekly calendar each Friday is a good tip-off that the area is humming with things to do and places to go.
Toledo activities also are publicized on billboards and Internet web sites such as www.toledocvb.com or www.cityfest.org.
Our region is home to several major events that have developed well-deserved reputations nationwide.
Where else, for example, will you find national events that celebrate our agriculture heritage, such as the National Threshers Association's annual reunion in Wauseon.
For the last 55 summers, steam engine enthusiasts have gathered in northwest Ohio to show off the old time machines that have been lovingly restored.
"It's kind of been a sleeper thing," admitted Shirley Brodbeck, who with her husband, Marvin, have helped direct the gathering that attracts 10,000 people to the Fulton County fairground for the last weekend of June.
"It's the oldest organized steam show in the United States," she said.
While that annual event draws hundreds of steam engines and vintage tractors, another roaring event with roots in agriculture takes place in August in Bowling Green.
There the National Tractor Pulling Championships fill the Wood County Fairground. Souped-up engines unleash clouds dust and ear-throbbing horsepower as the drivers attempt to pull a weighed sled down a 300-foot strip of dirt.
The championship, the pinnacle of truck and tractor pulling that's held in mid-August, draws an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 spectators and participants from as many as 23 states.
A third national event is the Kenton National Coon Dog Trials. The event, which attracts 150,000 people to Hardin County each Labor Day weekend, is referred to as the Kentucky derby of coon dog racing. With its thousands of hounds and hundreds of exhibitors, the 1,000-acre site six miles south of Kenton is part dog show, part side show, and good part flea market.
Speaking of rural life, early rural life is the focus at the 80-acre Sauder Farm and Craft Village on State Rt. 2 in Archbold, O. The recreated living history village, filled with crafts people and indoor agriculture exhibit dating to the mid-1800s, attracts an estimated 100,000 people during its six-month opening.
Looking for something a little more active?
Roller coaster enthusiasts know where to turn. And this year, a much taller and faster coaster at Cedar Point will turn a lot of heads.
When it opens this spring, the 310-foot Millennium Force will break 10 world records, including being the tallest, fastest, and having the longest drop. Not bad for the nation's second-oldest amusement park, located in Sandusky.
The new ride brings to 14 the number of roller coasters within its 364-acre compound that juts into Lake Erie.
This year Cedar Point is spending $48 million, with nearly half of that going toward the new coaster.
A little farther afield for this area's amusement park enthusiasts are the rejuvenated Geauga Lake in Aurora, O., and the nearby Sea World, and Paramount's Kings Island, north of Cincinnati.
Some of the year-round attractions are as diverse as the Toledo Zoo, with its new polar bear exhibit, to the Center of Science and Industry, the hands-on science museum in downtown Toledo. The Willis Boyer lake freighter museum just across the river from COSI offers a nautical perspective of the city.
If museums are on your list of places to go, don't forget the Wolcott House in Maumee, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, O., the Monroe County Historical Museum in Monroe, Mich., and the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky.
History buffs can experience early American military life by visiting Fort Meigs, a reconstructed outpost overlooking the Maumee river west of Perrysburg.
The history of railroads is retold at the Mad River and NKP Railroad Society Museum in Bellevue or through the collection at the Allen County Museum in Lima, O.
Our region's impact on history can be viewed at the Thomas Edison Museum and birthplace in Milan, O.; at Auglaize Village near Defiance; Lyme Historical Village near Bellevue; the Great Lakes Museum in Vermilion, and at a restored 1861 Indian Mill in Upper Sandusky, O.
In addition to rails, transportation on canals played a significant role in developing northwest Ohio. Visitors can see the restored sections of the 1800s-era canals that once connected the region to the rest of the developing country in Grand Rapids, O., Defiance, and Delphos, O.
Bicycle enthusiasts are discovering new bike trails to ride every year. In Toledo, the most popular trail has to be the 6.3-mile-long University/Parks Trail that connects the University of Toledo with Sylvania Township. Other trails include the Wabash Cannonball Trail that begins near Maumee. Trails also can be found near Bowling Green, Findlay, Port Clinton.
If you enjoy being around water, southeastern Michigan and parts of Fulton and Williams counties in Ohio contain hundreds of lakes that offer recreational opportunities.
Outdoor enthusiasts who prefer flowing water gravitate toward the Maumee and Sandusky rivers. Both are popular among anglers each spring during the annual walleye spawning.
Other rivers that draw recreational users include the Auglaize, Blanchard, Huron, St. Joseph, and Tiffin.
From Defiance to Waterville, the Maumee River attracts boaters, skiers, anglers, and swimmers.
Interested in learning more about enjoying the water? The Toledo Rowing Club will teach you how to dip your oars, while sailing organizations, such as the Western Lake Erie Sailing Club, among others, welcome beginning sailors.
The city-sponsored Community Boating Education center at Walbridge Park Marina is dedicated to bringing the fun of recreational boating to everyone.
If you prefer a more leisurely approach, check out a three-hour cruise aboard the 77-foot Red Witch, which docks at International Park in the summer.
Boaters who prefer broader horizons are tempted by the vastness of Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is home to several wildlife refuges, including the Magee Marsh, Crane Creek State Park, and the Ottawa Wildlife refuge.
Migrating birds flock to the lakeshore areas between Oregon and Port Clinton for some of the most rewarding bird watching in the nation each spring and fall.
Other prime bird watching areas are found at Oak Openings west of Toledo, and the Galpin Memorial Sanctuary and Milan Wildlife Area, both near Milan.
From spring through the Christmas holidays, hardly a weekend passes without a festival or special event.
In Toledo, the Spring Home Improvement show in March, followed by the Fishing, Sports & Boat Show in April, help break the winter doldrums.
Once spring arrives, outdoor events gear up with the start of Toledo's Rally by the River parties each Friday evening. The Rock, Rhythm & Blues Festival on Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of summer.
Metcalf Airport in Millbury hosts the Experimental Aircraft Association's festival each May.
In June, the Old West End Festival celebrates the heritage of Toledo's mansion district. Around that same time, the Drum Corps Mid-West All-star Review is held at the University of Toledo, and the Springfield-Holland Strawberry Festival provides a tasty sample from the area's fields. If you're really hungry, there's the annual Taste of the Town along downtown Toledo streets in June.
The July 4th weekend is the traditional time for the LPGA Jamie Farr Kroger Classic. A little farther afield will be the 41st annual Ann Arbor Street Art Fair in July.
Each summer Sunday evening, the Toledo Zoo hosts Music under the Stars. Year-round, the Toledo Museum of Art offers It's Friday! a series of late-evening activities in the galleries and café.
Toledo loves its festivals, including the German-American Festival in Oregon in August, and the Greek American Festival in downtown Toledo in September.