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Published: Sunday, 3/2/2003

Proud Clyde pulls together own bash without state cash

Lorraine Mackey, Clyde High School choir director, leads the a cappella choir in `Beautiful Ohio' during the opening ceremony for festivities in Clyde. Donations helped the town put on the event. Lorraine Mackey, Clyde High School choir director, leads the a cappella choir in `Beautiful Ohio' during the opening ceremony for festivities in Clyde. Donations helped the town put on the event.
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CLYDE, Ohio - It was like 1976 all over again in this charming little Sandusky County town, except of course that the locals were ringing in Ohio's Bicentennial and not the 200th anniversary of America's Declaration of Independence.

Clyde is a slice of small-town Americana, a place so enamored of its roots that no visitor's guide is complete without mentioning the city's historical hotspots and its favorite son, author Sherwood Anderson.

Mr. Anderson died 62 years ago, but his famous short-story collection, Winesburg, Ohio, is still revered for putting Clyde on the map.

So it seemed only natural, after Clyde heard about the hoopla planned in Chillicothe, Ohio, that the townsfolk here would have a companion ceremony.

The cash-strapped Bicentennial Commission gave Clyde its blessing, but no money. City leaders, undaunted, turned to local corporations and other donors, Brenda Stultz, co-organizer, said.

The town's stately municipal building on Main Street - a historic brick structure with a clock tower - was decked out with bicentennial flags. Its sidewalks were adorned with bells that would be rung shortly after noon.

Four hundred people huddled inside the firehouse an hour before that portion of the ceremony. The bleachers were packed. Standing room was at such a premium that 60 people shivered in the cold and watched through the firehouse's open garage doors.

When politicians were not at the podium talking about economic development and civic pride, high school bands were playing. Choirs were singing. Flags were presented.

The air was thick with patriotism, with one key difference from 1976: A vastly different world.

Call it a subtle - perhaps even unintentional - touch, but the atmosphere was heightened by the sight of firefighter jackets and helmets hung from a wall. A rack of neatly rolled fire hoses was nearby.

The symbolism of Sept. 11, 2001, was not lost on Ken Pierce, a Clyde resident who said the world's instability contributed to his desire to have his family at the event. A daughter, Jennifer, 17, was one of Clyde High School's choir singers.

“With all the turmoil in the world, it's important to understand how other countries see us,” Mr. Pierce said. “I think we should be proud of who we are.”

Former state Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont), who grew up on the outskirts of Clyde, told The Blade he had similar thoughts.

“The country is in a time of crisis. The world is in turmoil. I think everyone's cognizant of that fact,” he said.

Dozens of red carnations and hand-held flags were distributed. Images of Ohio's heritage, such as its eight presidents and some of the state's astronauts, were on display. Slices of bicentennial “birthday cake” were served.

A brief history of Ohio's flag was presented by newly retired Judge Margaret Weaver of Sandusky County Common Pleas Court in a humorous way, in that she pretended to be one herself.

Mr. Pierce's wife, Sharon, said she was proud of the small-town charm exuded by Clyde's event. “It's what we do,” she said.

Or, as Ms. Stultz said in explaining why she helped push for Clyde to have its own ceremony: “We want our children to be proud of where they live.”

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