Friday, March 04, 2005

Crawford County: The Way It Was

Looking off in the distance she smiles to hide the pain

Another storm rolled in her life and the weather is not the same

Then she posed the question could they never be again


“Change” by Myopia off Radius


Crawford County is one of those quiet counties that people will drive through, and outside of butchering the pronunciation of Bucyrus, they won’t even know they passed through it.

Which is quite a shame as the county is rich in heritage and tradition – and corn and bean fields.

One of my finest memories occurred in Crawford County, New Washington to be more exact. I was a high school freshman and we traveled to take on the Buckeye Central Bucks in my first game ever as a high school football player. The Blue Devils varsity handled duties well enough that a slow freshman got a chance to play in his first varsity football game.

The football field is located just off the railroad tracks that intersect State Route 602 in this small town. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how important the railroad still is in present day Northwest Ohio.

Growing up in the “hills” of Eastern Knox County, we watched them take out the stretch of track that ran between Danville and Brinkhaven on a summer morning. I thought the railroads were dead, I mean if they weren’t in my corner of the world then why would they be any where else ... ahh the blissful ignorance of youth.

But as you head into the open farm country of Western Ohio, the long trains stretch for miles. In Crawford County, you are introduced to it quickly as you pass over a set of tracks in as you enter the county from the East on U.S. 30. The county has three cities, Crestline, Bucyrus, and Galion and each is intersected with Conrail and Norfolk and Western rail lines. All three of these cities are situated in the southern portion of the county and are either located on or within ten miles of U.S. 30.

Downtown Galion has a lot of charm that is very similar to a lot of the old towns across Ohio. The community has a quaint charm that makes it feel like Silvertown from Joe Dirt. Get away from downtown and Galion becomes a typical small town, and the south side has a nice stretch along 98, but the majority of the community is struggling.



Downtown Bucyrus is even more interesting than Galion. The town has several murals that have been painted on the sides of buildings and are so amazingly life-like. The stretch of State Routes 4 and 98 that makes up downtown Bucyrus is a historic treasure. Would be wonderful for someone to reclaim the old theatre in town and bring back in a fashion like Tiffin did with the Ritz Theatre. The city has a theatre but it is a rather small venue and when I went to see “Fiddler” there a few years ago the community theatre had to perform it at one of the schools. The square is another neat part of the community with a fountain in a small park. The community isn’t wealthy, and it shows once you get off downtown especially in the community’s North side. On opposite side of the square from the park is the bar formerly known as the Mad Bull (the building on the far side of the square in the picture below). This may have been the most famous thing associated with Bucyrus for a few years -- and that is not a good thing.



Crawford County seems to have less of the small towns than other Ohio counties. But there are a couple that jump out at you.

Chatfield and New Washington are in the northern section of the county. Chatfield sits of State Route 4 and was probably a happening place when the railroad was carrying people across the area. The size of homes on the community’s single street shows at least a level of wealth in the community, unfortunately, many of the homes have fallen in disrepair. New Washington is very similar and has that same level of architecture, but is a larger community than Chatfield.

Oceola sits along Sward Creek on U.S. 30 in the western section of the county. I remember making the trip from Mt. Union to Bluffton in college and driving through Oceola. I promptly annoyed my passenger by repeating it over-and-over-and-over again until we reached Bluffton. It is still one of my favorite little communities, and I can’t really tell you why. These type of towns dot the Ohio landscape and many have more charm than this community.

The last is one that I’ve only been to once, Tiro. My wife keeps telling me that Tiro is home of the Testicle Festival. I didn’t believe her so I did a little Internet research…

When writing a story on bizarre Ohio festivals, one need no more than utter these four words: The Tiro Testicle Festival. Held annually at the Tiro Tavern in Tiro -- in the middle of nowhere between Columbus and Cleveland -- the fest's motto is "You'll have a ball," and who wouldn't? Pig and bull testicles are breaded and deep-fried to within a short hair of perfection. (Hot Spots: Weird Food Festivals , CityBeat, June 6, 2000)

In case you thought it was a one-time thing…
All I'm saying is stay away from The Tiro Tavern in Tiro, Ohio during the annual - I swear, this is true - Tiro Testicle Festival. This is the one festival in the world that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have completed depleted the world's non-renewal supply of festival themes. ( FOOD - IT'S ENOUGH TO MAKE BETTY CROCKER CRINGE, Oct. 2, 2002, Welland Tribune)


If that wasn’t enough…
This biker-bar-based festival has been going strong for 29 years, usually in April but call ahead to be sure; the supply of good balls is erratic. Non-gonadal food is provided by the Tiro-Auburn Volunteer Fire Department. (Attu Sees All, Web blog, Nov. 24, 2004)


How do you come back from that? I don’t know either, so until next time I bid you happy trails.

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