Takin#039; it to the streets

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 20, 2003

LINNVILLE - Nevermind the low-hanging clouds that seemed to hover just above the tree tops Saturday.

Lawrence Countians came out anyway for a series of neighborhood outings that centered on the tour of the county's bicentennial bell.

From its starting point at the Proctorville VFW Post 6878 hall all the way to Getaway and the Collins Career Center campus, area residents came to see the bell and chat with neighbors.

Email newsletter signup

The bell made stops at the Scottown Covered Bridge and Symmes Valley High School before feasting at a picnic at the Doris Higgins farm at Linnville, the home of the county's bicentennial barn. More than 100 people showed up at the farm to eat hot dogs and be part of a community event.

"I just wanted to be a part of history today," said Leland Keeney of Scottown. "I like it that the whole thing is about history - and I like it that its not raining."

The bell tour brought out new neighbors David and Tootie Howard and Theresa Preston, who moved to Lawrence County in November 2002.

"I think people are so much more friendly in the country," Tootie Howard said of her new neighbors. "They just welcome you."

Four generations of the Charles Johnson family of Wilgus came out to ring the bell and take part in the horse and wagon train from the Higgins farm to the hoedown at the career center.

"We've been preparing for this all week," Patty Johnson said. "This is our first outing since we bought the horses in April.

"We didn't get to be in the Memorial Day Parade, so we're just excited to go with our horses."

The bell tour brought Christina Wilkinson all the way from Lake County to Lawrence County. The free-lance writer has written a book about the barns that were chosen to represent each county in the state's bicentennial barn painting. The Higgins' barn is on the cover of Wilkinson's book.

Wilkinson spent three months last fall touring the state and talking to barn owners about their farms, logging 7,400 miles in the process. Wilkinson said the book has given her a new sense of respect for Ohio's agrarian history and the people who have chosen farming as a way of life.

"The project started to be just about the barns, but it wasn't long before I realized the real story wasn't the barns but the people who owned the barns. This project symbolizes 200 years of Ohio's agricultural tradition. It's definitely been a learning experience."

Wilkinson said she has been most impressed by Lawrence County's natural beauty and friendly people, an opinion that squares with the sentiments of Lawrence County Commission President George Patterson.

"Really, to be able to do what we're doing, to see friends we haven't seen in a while, to meet old friends and make new ones and see Lawrence County come together, that's what I like," Patterson said.

"This is an outstanding place to live as far as I'm concerned. God's blessed us to live here, and to be able to associate like we are today."

Late in the afternoon, the bell tour proceeded to the Collins Career Center for a hoedown. The people on horseback and riding on wagons accompanied the bell.

The equestrian escort was reminiscent of the early days of statehood when horsepower meant horses.

"I'm tickled to be a part of this," said Andrea Kirkpatrick, of the Lawrence County Chapter of the Ohio Horseman's Council. More than 15 members of that organization, plus 30 of its horses and seven wagons were among the seven-mile cavalcade to Getaway.

"This is great," fellow member Angela Todd agreed. "It's history, and it's (the bell tour) something we won't be able to take part in again."

The campus was transformed into a mall of activities for the evening. Live music emanated from the main stage. Children were treated to horseback rides and a short distance away square dance caller Ken Parsons led Lawrence Countians in a two-step.

"Square dancing is easy," Parsons said. "If you can walk, move around a little and hear, then you can dance." Parsons is a Kitts Hill native now living in Dayton.

On the sidewalk in front of the school, vendors set up table-sized shops, selling everything from espresso to home interior items.

"This is really great," said Paul Adkins of Panchetto Coffee and Pizzeria in Proctorville, as he watched the bicentennial activities. "The bell is gorgeous and the ceremony they had was nice. And everyone knows someone who went to the Collins Career Center."

After an interdenominational church service this morning, the bell tour will stop in Proctorville, Chesapeake, Burlington, South Point and Coal Grove before it is finally put on permanent display at the Lawrence County Courthouse this afternoon.