Victoria Ellwood

Surfing lessons on the coast of the Great Miami River

Surf's up

Downtown Dayton is your typical urban Midwestern city, filled with blacktop and busy streets, high-rises, and noisy traffic.

But wait: There are also surfers, who are apt to be happily catching a wave out on the water.

River surfing is similar to ocean surfing, but instead of catching waves caused by the wind, it’s done on standing river waves created by flowing whitewater.

“It’s a rush,” says Shannon Thomas, a Dayton native and pro river surfer and paddleboarder. “Anyone who has surfed knows that special feeling you get when you’re on a wave. It’s amazing; very spiritual, very addictive.” 

Wine flight at Fion

Sips and swings

Drinking and driving is never a wise idea, but there is a place in Ohio where it’s, dare we say, par for the course.

The unique destination, the brainchild of Mike and Stacy McVan, is surrounded by Ohio farmland near Huntsville. How did the couple — who live in the Columbus suburb of Dublin — hit upon the concept four years ago?

“We have relatives who own a winery in northwest Ohio,” Mike says. “We liked the idea … but decided we didn’t want to make the wine.” Instead, they aimed to open a place that would spotlight wines — and other libations — from around the globe.

Renee Powell

Setting her own course

Work hard. Be twice as good. Don’t let anyone else define you. Find your way around obstacles.”

The life lessons that Bill Powell instilled in his daughter, Renee Powell, were sharpened with his boots on the ground … and his golf shoes on the course. 

Tenacity to get the job done

Working nights as a security guard, Bill would return home at dawn and get to work. Using hand tools and pulling a mower with an old Army Jeep, he transformed a former dairy farm near Canton into a nine-hole public course that he opened to all. It later expanded to 18 holes. Named a National Historic Site by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Clearview is still the only golf course in the country designed, built, owned, and operated by an African American.

Miles Gallery

Where the child things are

What are some lovable wild things, a colorful and very hungry caterpillar, and a big red dog — along with 16,000 of their friends — all doing in Findlay, Ohio? 

There, Dan Chudzinski meticulously cares for thousands of works of original art from much-loved books like Where the Wild Things Are; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Clifford the Big Red Dog series; The Cat in the Hat; Arthur the Aardvark; and many, many more.
 
“By day, I’m the curator here,” says Chudzinski, who also works as a professional artist. “I look after this amazing collection of children’s-book art and give people a reason to care about the art and experience it firsthand.” 

Coach Andrew Ruffing

Win-win

After a long, demanding day at work as part of a line crew, some of our electric co-op team members tackle a different sort of assignment. Swapping their hard hat for a coach’s cap, they’re in for a whole new ballgame.

Andrew Ruffing, apprentice lineman at North Central Electric Cooperative based in Attica, sees many similarities between his day job and coaching football. “You’re part of something bigger than yourself. That resonates in both sports and linework,” he says. “You learn to work as a team, to work toward a common goal.”

Drive-in movie theater

Retro cool

Back in their heyday, drive-in movie theaters meant parents could pile the kids in the back of the station wagon and head out to see a flick on a nice summer night, hooking the scratchy metal speaker on the car window, collecting popcorn and Cokes from the concession stand, and maybe playing a few holes of mini-golf to boot … all without making much of a dent in the pocketbook. 

Jason Duff

Renewal and restoration

Jason Duff stood in the middle of the crumbling, mostly abandoned downtown area of his hometown, Bellefontaine, and saw what everyone else saw.
 

Unlike many others, though, he was able to look past the despair and see potential. Instead of heading to the brighter lights of bigger, more prosperous Midwestern cities, Duff decided to make a difference. He enlisted friends who shared his vision and his can-do attitude — along with plenty of talents and skills — and built a team to rebuild and revive their hometown. 

Jim and Amy Duxbury of Lavender Trails

Purple reign

Lavender has been treasured for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, it was used in mummification; in medieval France, to perfume the air and ward off infection; and in 16th-century England, it was cherished by monarchs and mentioned by Shakespeare.

Lavender Trails

The idea for a lavender farm had been rattling around in the minds of Jim and Amy Duxbury — both Orrville high school teachers, of science and English, respectively — for years. In 2018, they leased a 4-acre “brownfield” (a former industrial site) that had been a concrete dumping ground, surrounded by facilities that produced pet food, packaging, and metal fabrication. 

Ritz Theater

On with the show

Ghosts in McConnelsville. Windmills in Bellefontaine. A Venetian courtyard in Tiffin. Fleur-de-lis flourishes in Marietta.

The theaters’ ornate interiors mimicked Italian piazzas and art deco architecture, Grecian ruins, and Spanish courtyards. They often created the sense of being outdoors, with painted clouds and twinkling electric “stars.”

Many of the extravagant theaters eventually fell into disrepair as downtown venues were abandoned in favor of shopping mall-based cinemas, while others met their demise in the form of a wrecking ball.

Art at John Parker House museum

Path to freedom

When Dewey Scott retired from the hustle and bustle of Cincinnati to the peaceful hillsides surrounding Ripley — an hour to the southeast on land hugging the Ohio River — he thought he’d enjoy life without much on his to-do list.

That was more than a decade ago. Today, Scott is the manager and docent at the John Parker House museum in Ripley, armed with a knack for storytelling and a wealth of knowledge about the historic home and about Ripley’s standing as a pivotal stop on the Underground Railroad.

“You were a free person once you came into Ohio at that time,” he says. “It was known that there were free blacks living in Ripley, and fugitive slaves knew they could come here and live among them.”