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A celebration of history and art on Put-in-Bay

John Benson • Sep 9, 2010 at 10:09 AM

WHAT: Put-in-Bay Historical Weekend

WHEN: Fri.-Sun.

WHERE: Put-in-Bay

COST: Free

Put-in-Bay may be known as the Lake Erie Island’s party headquarters but there’s one weekend a year where the islanders celebrate its history through patriotic activities and community events.

The Put-in-Bay Historical Weekend, which takes place Sept. 10-12 on South Bass Island, features a family-oriented schedule ranging from 18th century re-enactors to a massive parade and the popular Art in the Park.


“I think it’s important for us because we commemorate the peace between Canada, Great Britain and the United States,” said Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maggie Beckford. “Sometimes that’s a little bit more important than say a New Year’s Eve party. And it’s really an enormous weekend for us. It’s in the fall after what we would call our peak season but it’s commemorating the battle of Lake Erie, which was on Sept. 10, 1813. So the closer we get to the bicentennial, the more important it is.


“This is the time of year we probably have 1,200 to 1,300 boy scouts here. We have representatives of the U.S.S. Lake Erie that fly in. So it’s a pretty big deal for the island to have these guys here. And it’s our biggest parade of the season, with a couple of area high school bands that come over.”


While the Saturday afternoon parade through downtown features antique and classic cars and dignitaries, musket and cannon firing demonstrations take place all weekend long at the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. Beckford said the latter is a familiar site.


“That’s something where we have re-enactors every weekend who dress up in period costume at Perry’s Monument,” Beckford said. “They have a very interesting 25-minute program they give on a daily basis that talks about life in the 1800s and the type of weaponry they had and how it wasn’t very accurate. They also have a military encampment here where they actually stay on the grounds camping in tents.”


Something else that draws a lot of folks to the island is Art in the Park, which features regional artists, photographers, potters, painters, silversmiths and more on Saturday in DeRivera Park.


“When we first sat down in 1991 and formulated this historic weekend, we wanted to do a celebration of music, history and art,” Beckford said. “So the chamber had Art in the Park on Saturday and we invite these artists. We allow them to show and sell their artwork, but it has to be original. So you’re not going to find anybody in there selling something they purchased.”


With crowds expected in the 6,000-8,000 range, Put-in-Bay Historical Weekend has become one of the more popular events of the summer on South Bass Island. Finally, Beckford hopes visitors take away the significant history that took place during The War of 1812 and its ramifications to the Lake Erie Islands of today.


“Many people don’t realize how important that war was for America,” Beckford said. “The fact is, if the U.S. had lost, these islands would be owned by Canada right now and most of Michigan and down into Ohio would be Canadian.”


Hmm, there’s probably a good amount of Ohio State University fans that already consider Michigan to be a foreign territory.


Laughed Beckford, “There ya go.”

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