The roasted cashews smelled delicious and the crafts looked festive, but the real attraction of yesterday's festival in Marblehead was the lighthouse.
Hundreds of people waited to climb the structure's 77 steps and peer out at Lake Erie, Cedar Point amusement park, and the festival booths from the 65-foot-high platform. Waves crashed along the rocky shore, and fishing boats spread out below.
Three generations of the Muench family, from Romeo, Mich., were in one of the early afternoon groups to visit the Marblehead Lighthouse.
“Do you think I can do this?” Shirley Muench joked before following her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters into the lighthouse's brick entranceway and up the spiraling stairs.
After a rest stop on a landing partway up, she joined her family. “It was worth it,” she said.
People signed up as much as 90 minutes in advance to get inside the historic structure, said Scott Doty, manager of the Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, where the festival took place.
“We expect to be busy all day,” he said.
It was the last day till spring for visits inside the lighthouse. During the summer it's open weekday afternoons and one Saturday a month for tours and visits.
Theresa Hollis, of Delaware, Ohio, has made countless trips to Marblehead, the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. She began coming long before the festival started six years ago.
“I came to this lighthouse when I had to clean cockleburs off my pants' legs. It was all in such disrepair here,” Ms. Hollis said.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources took over maintenance of the site in 1972 after a last-minute court order prevented burning of the adjacent keeper's house, now a museum. Marblehead became a state park in 1998.
The original green beacon on top burned whale oil. It was replaced with a kerosene lantern and magnifying lens in 1858. In 1923, electricity began powering the light.
The six-second flashing green signal was automated in 1958 and is visible for several miles on Lake Erie.
Kaye Simonson, who works in historic preservation in San Francisco, played hooky from a conference in Cleveland to visit Marblehead after seeing the lighthouse labeled on a map.
“I got out here and, surprise, there was a festival,” she said.