Ohio Chautauqua has come and gone once more. Crews will begin taking down the tent and the Kinsman House will be returned to its usual appearance - the performances of Oliver Hazard Perry, Margaret Blennerhassett, Johnny Appleseed, York and Chief John Logan a fond memory for the audiences who attended.
Warren is one of only two Ohio communities to have hosted Ohio Chautauqua twice, sharing the honor with Gallipolis, and residents again showed why as they set attendance records for this year's tour.
On Tuesday's opening night performance, 704 packed the Kinsman House's south lawn to see Jeremy Meier as Perry, shattering attendance numbers from Marietta, Urbana, Burton and Gallipolis. Wednesday followed with a virtually identical 703 showing up to watch Dan Cutler as Logan. Thursday's storms threatened to flood the tent but 338 packed in anyway to see Debra Conner's portrayal of Blennerhassett. On Friday, about 480 were on hand for Marvin Jefferson as York, and some 524 attended the final night to see Hank Fincken as Appleseed.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Jeremy Meier performs last week as Oliver Hazard Perry on the opening night of Ohio Chautauqua. The traveling history event played to large crowds during its five-day residency in Warren. The final performance was Saturday evening.
Ohio Chautauqua Director Fran Tiburzio said Warren's repeated applications to be selected as a host city and its consistently high turnout are just two of the reasons why the city has played host four times.
"That's how we know you're willing to put the level of commitment into the program that we need," she said. "I think it demonstrates that the community has a level of commitment to cultural programs and education and a love for history."
Creative Services Manager at the Tribune Chronicle Beky Davis said the community has always had a unique affinity for history.
"I think it has a lot to do with the local groups that have a very vested interest in the history of our community, and that always translates to this venue as well," she said.
Stephanie Sferra of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau said Warren's population is filled with people who love history, and this year's theme ties into the local history of the Connecticut Western Reserve, a cornerstone of Ohio's frontier history, creating a natural appeal for the program.
Warren Trumbull-County Public Library public relations manager Cheryl Bush said the turnout for youth and adult workshops was strong as well. The scholars each held two workshops over the five days. Children's workshops averaged 40 people, while the adult workshops packed in anywhere from 50 to 70.
Bush said the workshops have been good for the program, residents and the library.
"The youth workshops really combine a little bit of history with fun activities for the kids. And the adult workshops go more in depth into the time period and also tell something about the characters. We've had great audiences for those, and we can tie in some of the books that we have here at the library," she said.
Ray Cline of Vienna is among the faithful fans who attended each performance this season.
"I come every year they're here," he said. "It's a really good program. They're informative and entertaining at the same time. It really is a good time. I'm looking forward to them coming back."
Gina Clark of Youngstown said this season marked her first, but she could easily become a repeat attendee.
"I heard about it from a friend who said I really should come, that I would enjoy it," she said. "It really is a lot of fun. It's amazing the information that they have about their characters and how they portray them so convincingly. It really is something that's worthwhile. I hope they come back. I'd like to see this again."
Tiburzio said this year's theme, "When Ohio was the Western Frontier," will be repeated in 2013 in Bexley, Coshocton, Lakewood, Madison and Rossford.
She said there is no theme yet chosen for 2014, but she is preparing materials for a presentation to the state committee this fall. As for when Ohio Chautauqua returns to Warren, Tiburzio said it is up to the city to apply again.
Asked if Warren plans to apply for 2014, Sferra responded with a resounding affirmative:
"Is the Pope Catholic?! What do you think?"
Tribune Chronicle reporter Virginia Shank contributed to this report.