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Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Walking through history, fall colors

By Amy Kronenberger

Hikers walking from St. Marys to 40-Acre Pond during the 43rd annual Walk With N. . .

ST. MARYS - Area residents enjoyed a blend of exercise, nature and history Sunday afternoon as hundreds turned out for the 43rd annual Walk With Nature in St. Marys.
Coupled with the hike along the Miami Erie Canal towpath was the fourth annual Fall Festival in Memorial Park. The festival has grown from offering free hot dogs and water to walkers to offering historic displays, a farmers market and craft booths.
The Walk With Nature took hikers from Memorial Park in downtown St. Marys along the canal towpath 3.3 miles to 40-Acre Pond and Glynwood Road. At Glynwood Road, hikers could continue north another two miles to Lock 14, walk back to St. Marys or return via shuttle bus.
Hikers could stop along the path just north of St. Marys and learn about life along the canal before 1840. The Girty's Town Rendezvous, a local group headed by Michael Grove, Wapakoneta, dressed in costumes of the time when the Girty brothers first established a village in St. Marys. They also gave cooking and general chore demonstrations and competed in a tomahawk- and knife-throwing competition.
As walkers continued down the path and enjoyed the fall foliage, they could take a tree-naming quiz, read about the history of the canal and learn about the Heritage Trails Park District, which maintains the towpath and sponsors the annual hike. The events were organized by the St. Marys Kiwanis and St. Marys Chamber of Commerce.
"We want people to get involved with nature. Get out, get active and enjoy your life," park district director Allison Brady said while at 40-Acre Pond.
Back at Memorial Park, eight members of the 40th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Civil War Reenactors set up camp and demonstrated life during the war for soldiers, women and children.
"We're a living history reenactment group," member Barb Moore of Columbus said. "Many of us are distant relatives of soldiers."
Local members of the group include Jared Springer of Coldwater; Eric Weisgerber, a Celina native now of Columbus; and Celina law director George Moore.
The group demonstrated building a camp fire and firing weapons while the children played a game called Graces.
"Everybody is a closet teacher, I think," Barb Moore said of the volunteers. "But it's also a personality thing. We get along really well together; we're like a family."
The men pitched a small canvas tent that could sleep three people.
"Body heat is big," Springer said of sharing a tent, "We don't mind ... If it's a cold event, you find ways to stay warm."
George Moore said the group is always looking for more volunteers.
"I went to Celina High School and it was Bill Sell (high school civics teacher) who told me about it," he said. "It's nice to have local events to be a part of."
Also at the festival, people could learn about canal history and the electric train system that once ran along Spring Street, view a collection of historic photos of St. Marys and the canal and take a historical St. Marys train tour through downtown.
Kiwanis board member Stan Davis said the idea for the festival came five years ago when they offered free hot dogs and water in the park for walkers.
The following year, Agape Ministries joined the event and sold the hot dogs with proceeds going to purchase food for the pantry. They also offered chili, which this year quickly sold out.
"We try to get nonprofits here to make money and have a community event," Davis said.
This year Dannon donated yogurt, Green Thumb farmers market donated apples and Joint Township District Memorial Hospital donated water, all free to walkers and those attending the festival.
The Kiwanis Aktion Club, which is an organization for adults with disabilities, handed out refreshments to walkers.
The St. Marys Arts Council sponsored the Vernon McIntyre Bluegrass Band and Paula Schumm, a strolling minstrel, for entertainment. Children participated in pumpkin painting, crafts and bouncy toys.
"It's just an excellent, excellent festival and walk event," said Kathy Bayless, Agape executive director and Kiwanis secretary. "It started out as a walk, and it has simply grown leaps and bounds. It's a great way for the community to give back to the community."
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