DEARBORN, Mich. When a posse of bull riders hit the Henry Ford Museum recently, they had a hard time agreeing on what they liked best.
The chair in which Abraham Lincoln sat before his assassination got one vote. The limousine exhibit got another. The baseball exhibit captured one rider s heart, and the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man got another vote.
But they did agree on one thing: They had never seen a collection of Americana quite like this, one of several historical attractions an easy drive from Toledo.
It s the entirety of the history, said Sean Gleason, 41, of Colorado Springs.
A comprehensive view of America was what Henry Ford had in mind when he created the museum in 1929. He envisioned a collection ranging from the commonplace to the noteworthy and notorious. Seventy-seven years later, that sums up the collection.
In the museum, you can find the car in which President John F. Kennedy was shot, plus a photograph of JFK waving to the crowd shortly before the 1963 assassination in Dallas. It stands near 100 other vintage automobiles, plus a 1940s roadside diner. Other featured exhibits include machinery, airplanes, plus kitchens, and pop culture. (Duran Duran s Rio video, anyone?)
Outside in Greenfield Village, a living history park attached to the museum, stands a replica of Thomas Edison s workshop from Menlo Park, N.J. Historic presenters demonstrate on original equipment how Edison s 1878 tinfoil phonograph worked, making recordings as visitors watch and listen.
And at the Wright Brothers bike shop a short distance away, visitors can see a replica of the framework of one of the original fliers wings. Model Ts driven by obliging staff tour the grounds, as do horse-drawn wagons.
Other attractions on the grounds include the Henry Ford IMAX Theatre, the Ford Rouge Factory tour, and the Benson Ford Research Center.
This is an amazing place to come and see, said Eileen Allen, a Detroit-area resident who was visiting with her grandson. They have not just the pictures, but the real things.
Inside the museum, Rochelle and Chris Roseman of Curtice, Ohio, watched as their young children, Alyssa, 2, and Trent, 4, explored a 1917 Overland automobile, built in Toledo.
My husband just loves this place, Mrs. Roseman said. We come every two years. Last year, we went to the village.
The rail exhibits are a particular draw, with the enormous Allegheny locomotive No. 1601, which traveled 407,000 miles during its time on the C&O railroad.
The size of it! Mr. Roseman said, clearly impressed.
As with the bull riders, the family likes the scope of the place. Recent reorganizations have made it easier to use, they said.
We ll be back, said Diana Roseman of Grand Rapids, Ohio, grandmother to Trent and Alyssa.
Guaranteed, her daughter-in-law said.
Historic presenters also figure into Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio. Founded by Erie Sauder in the 1970s, the village celebrates farming of a bygone day. The village is composed of dozens of hand-built structures, which were moved from sites throughout northwest Ohio.
The village remains a family affair and includes an exhibit and performance center, Founder s Hall, a 350-seat restaurant, bakery, campground, and inn.
As with the Ford complex, people who visit Sauder Village tend to be repeat customers. The agricultural nature of the place keeps people coming back, said spokesman Kim Krieger.
In the spring, they can plant sunflower seeds and put a stick with their name on it by the seed, then come back in the summer and see how it s grown, and harvest the sunflower in the fall, she said.
The village has evolved with the times.
Thirty years ago, when Erie Sauder founded this living history village, he wanted a person in every building telling a story, Ms. Krieger said. He didn t want it to be press a button and hear a story. ... Nowadays, people don t want to just listen; they want to experience history. So we re making it much more of an experiential exhibit.
Activities people can try vary by the day and the season.
They can churn butter, use a washboard, build a wigwam, and string green beans to dry for winter, Ms. Krieger said.
But you don t have to wander far afield to find historical re-enactments.
Several will be held this year at Fort Meigs State Memorial in Perrysburg, built in 1813 to defend the Ohio territory. The fort has been rebuilt on its original site.
Fort Meigs highlights this year include battle re-creations, holiday celebrations, and even a ghostwalk set for October.
In May, 1813, British, Canadian, and Native American forces under Gen. Henry Proctor and Tecumseh laid siege to Fort Meigs. On May 27 and 28, a living history encampment and battle re-enactments will re-create some of the battles that took place on May 5, 1813.
The event ties in with the site s May 29 Memorial Day commemoration, which includes a 2 p.m. ceremony to honor the men and women who served Fort Meigs and the American forces in the Northwest Territory during the War of 1812.
Muster on the Maumee, held June 17 and 18, is one of the nation s largest and most diverse timeline events.
Costumed interpreters from throughout the United States and Canada will demonstrate weapons, skills, trades, and camp life activities from the time of the Caesars to the Vietnam War.
On July 22 and 23, Drums Along the Maumee will bring martial music, including fife and drum corps, to Fort Meigs. Siege 1759, to be held Aug. 19 and 20, will bring the French and Indian War to northwest Ohio. And the fort s special events calendar ends with the Garrison Ghostwalk, set for Oct. 20, 21, 27, and 28. The tour features the fort s spooky side but is family friendly.
Some historical sites in the area celebrate and commemorate the people and events associated with them.
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont was the home of the nation s 19th president. Webb C. Hayes, second son of Rutherford and Lucy Hayes, started a drive to build a lasting memorial to his father, who died in 1893. He deeded the president s estate, Spiegel Grove, to the state of Ohio and the president s personal papers and possessions to the Ohio Historical Society.
The house has been expanded twice, and a capital campaign is being undertaken to help fund its renovation.
Of note are the home, library, museum, tomb, and 25-acre estate, plus original gates from the White House.
The center also has an excellent genealogical library, which allows researchers to work and even occasionally offers classes. During the summer, old-fashioned entertainment, such as ice cream socials and concerts, are held on the grounds.
A Civil War encampment and re-enactment is set for Oct. 7 and 8.
Special events for this year include a history mystery contest on June 17. Teams of eight people will investigate sites throughout the Hayes museum, seeking solutions to a series of history-related mysteries. Participants can assemble their own teams or join other teams.
The Art of the Stamp, an exhibit of postage stamps and original artworks from the Smithsonian Institution, begins July 1 and runs until Sept. 24. It includes 100 original works of art.
Contact Vanessa Winans at: email@example.com or 419-724-6168.