Features

Tracy Elder (left) poses with chaplains Debra Homegun (center) and Jenn Buckley and Buckley’s daughter, Hayley, of the Native Nations Chaplaincy Alliance during a recent visit.

First responders for the soul

When people are dealing with natural disasters, loss of loved ones, addiction, or any of a number of traumatic life events, they often find themselves in need of spiritual guidance.

Elder lives in Knox County, where she’s a member of The Energy Cooperative of Newark. She leads a worldwide team of nearly 1,000 board-certified volunteer chaplains trained to provide mental, emotional, and spiritual support, counseling, addiction and recovery services, and critical incident support wherever they’re needed. They might once have been victims themselves, or they could be first responders — law enforcement, fire, and emergency services personnel.

97-year-old Harry Niswonger shows off his Abrams tank (shown in detail in next image).

Toy story

Santa’s elves come to Ansonia Lumber each December bearing wooden toys they fashioned for underprivileged children throughout Darke County.

“This is like Christmas to me,” Phillips says. “People get so carried away with presents as the holiday season approaches. Those in need do not have the luxury of buying or receiving lots of gifts. These woodworkers — old and young alike — give of their time and talent to make sure some youngsters don’t go without a gift under the tree.”

According to McCabe, the lumber company started sponsoring the wooden toy contest in 1993 as a means of making sure underprivileged children received holiday gifts while giving area woodworkers an opportunity to showcase their handiwork. 

The display at Ormandy’s Toys and Trains delights visitors during the Candlelight Walk and throughout the season.

Merry and bright

Candles have symbolized the Christmas season for centuries, but how many places become merry and bright because they’re the home of a company that produces millions of candles every year?

Featuring traditional Yuletide activities such as a parade and visits with Santa, the Candlelight Walk attracts about 50,000 people every year. With genuine candlelight charm and a picture-perfect setting, the event exemplifies the glad tidings of small-town America, and it’s easy to imagine George Bailey shouting “Merry Christmas!” to folks on the square or the Gilmore Girls joining in the caroling at the gazebo. Indeed, says Sam, “Visitors often tell us, ‘I feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.’” 

Bess Paper Goods & Gifts, Cincinnati

Ohio Cooperative Living's 2022 Holiday Gift Guide

Granted, Santa’s workshop is at the North Pole. But we think his helpers must live in Ohio. Why?

Bess Paper Goods & Gifts, Cincinnati

At her West Benson Street shop, Kristin Joiner not only designs the artwork and composes witty messages — for example, “Happy Ugly Sweater Season” — for her Christmas and Hanukkah cards, but she also prints them one at a time on an 1882 letterpress named Bess. Joiner uses paper sustainably made from recycled cotton, and her repertoire of handmade goods includes ornaments and miniature paper trees. 
kristin@besspapergoods.com; 513-748-6955

McPeek’s Mighty Maze is part of the annual fall festival at the Colonial Campground in Coshocton. Here, Lane, Rowdi and Sylvie Mullett reach the exit of the maze (photo by Marissa Mullett — @keenecreekfarmandmakery on Instagram).

Corn mazes

As viewed from above, some corn mazes are complicated labyrinths of intricate, themed designs. Whether they’re looking for a challenge or just an autumn atmosphere, enthusiasts of all ages are attracted to corn mazes. 

McPeek’s Mighty Maze and Fall Festival 

Located at the Coshocton KOA Holiday in Coshocton, the Mighty Maze is a part of the fall festival held by Ryan and Camille McPeek. Employee Amy Hamilton says they plant the corn like normal, and the maze is cut with a tractor and a GPS device.

Do mazers ever get lost?

“Some do need help,” she says, noting that guides are always available. Before closing each evening, employees sweep through the maze, looking for stragglers.

“We leave no man behind,” Hamilton jokes.

Malabar Farm hosts free, two-hour Haunted Hikes at dusk that take visitors along the lanes by the park’s restaurant, the Big House, the cemetery, and the Ceely Rose House (Photo courtesy of Malabar Farm).

Things that go bump in the night!

Just over a rise in scenic Richland County, Malabar Farm appears in the distance — a stately, historic (and sprawling) main house, rolling hills and fields, and an inviting white barn with horses grazing nearby.

The rural setting conjures up plenty of other eerie lore, cemented in long-dead legends and myths. As a matter of fact, Malabar Farm — now an Ohio state park — has been called one of the 10 most haunted places in America. That’s why park naturalists are resurrecting the popular Haunted Hikes this month: creepy, outdoor explorations of ghostly tales and whispered legends shared on three autumn Sundays. 

Owners Mike and Sharlene Montgomery stay in character while manning the saloon.

Back in time

Mosey down a dirt street, browse through old-time shops, watch a Wild West shootout, or belly up to the saloon bar for a cold sarsaparilla. You can do it all at Dogwood Pass near Beaver in rural Pike County.   

The saloon came first in 2010, and today more than 30 buildings occupy a 2-acre tract at the Montgomery farm. There’s a general store, a jail, a bank, a photography studio complete with vintage costumes, an undertaker, a shooting gallery, a blacksmith shop, a combination church/school, Boot Hill cemetery, and the Montgomery Mining Company, where young and old alike can mine for gems on certain days.

The stadium is affectionately nicknamed “the ’Shoe” for its original horseshoe-shaped outline.

The 'Shoe at 100

These days, as we watch more than 100,000 fans pack Ohio Stadium for Buckeyes football, weekend after weekend each fall, it’s impossible to imagine Ohio State University without it.

“We think, in 2022, that this stadium was inevitable — that it was inevitable it was going to be a double-decker and that it was going to be built for more than 60,000 people [its original capacity]. And of course, we inevitably enclose it because we knew we would fill it up so much, right?” Chute says. “Those assumptions are just not true.”

Wildlife Officer Reid Van Cleve is a veteran of the survey.

Counting the dead

Mostly in life, possums, skunks, groundhogs, and racoons don’t get much respect. That’s especially so for the ones who spend their last earthly moments on Ohio roadways, just before they get hit. 

Katie Dennison is a research biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife. At the Olentangy Research Station in Columbus, she oversees the annual Furbearer Roadkill Survey. And yes, that’s the official name.

LEAKOIL invites its members and other owners of classic Volkswagen buses to gather, gawk, and gush over the classic cultural icons often associated with road-tripping, hippies, and the peace movement.

Kombi nation

Love of kombi is an affliction that runs deep and can span decades — ask anyone who suffers. Specifically, ask those who assemble at the Kelleys Island 4-H campground each autumn for LEAKOIL’s annual weekend camping event, Kombis on Kelleys.

Esquivel said there are disadvantages to owning an old bus, including the “old rust-bucket” itself (as she describes her 1972 camper) and the constant attention it requires. 

“People are always saying, ‘I love your car!’ and ‘Can I look inside?’” she says. “Of course, I always let them. And people offer to buy it all the time, too, but I would never sell it.”