Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for December, 2021

Storybook Christmas in Muskingum County

Santa enjoys “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at the Muskingum County Library.

Children and adults look forward to favorite Christmas stories year after year. Muskingum County has taken those favorites and turned them into window decorations, paintings, and outdoor displays that make you want to pick up a book and read those stories again.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” decorates the lawn of Park National Bank

Nearly 100 businesses in Zanesville, New Concord, and Dresden have developed displays of favorite storybooks. It’s the perfect time to take a ride or walk to see how creative they have become. The displays can be seen until Jan. 1. It’s fun to look for them along the way!

All this is possible due to the combined efforts of Muskingum County Community Foundation, the Muskingum County commissioners, and Zanesville-Muskingum County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. When groups combine their efforts, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.

“The Polar Express” arrives at New Concord’s Village Hall

This Christmas Storybook adventure began in 2014 when it was decided to add a musical light show to the courthouse. Then over 50 businesses in Dresden, New Concord, and Zanesville picked a favorite holiday storybook and decorated their places to match the theme.

This rustic manger scene, “The Very First Christmas,” at First Baptist Church in Dresden explains the real meaning of Christmas.

You’ll probably find all your favorite stories and characters someplace along the way as today there are even more. Some of my favorites were Rudolph by the new Santa house at Secrest Center, the Charlie Brown window paintings at Community Bank, and the old, rustic manger scene at the First Baptist Church in Dresden.

Window displays at Goss Supply have been a special attraction for many years.

Once the Storybook Christmas began, ideas began to form for added decorations and events throughout the season. Everything expanded and Goss Supply added a Coloring Contest with teddy bears for winners. That contest continues to this day with two winners being chosen from each age 4 – 12.

Santa’s House is a new addition to Storybook Christmas this year.

By 2016, horse and carriage rides were added at Zane’s Landing and many additional Christmas lights were placed there. The Storybook Christmas Parade began that year also with Santa welcoming in the holiday season.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” brightens the corner downtown.

During all this time, the committee had wonderful assistance from students at Mid-East Career and Technology Center. They continue to construct decorations for the storybook themes and help hang lighted pole decorations to this day.

Take a selfie with the Elfie.

While this all began six years ago with the courthouse light show, Christmas activities have expanded dramatically since that time. This year they added the Santa house and a 5K Run and a 1 Mile Walk. It will be exciting to see what the future holds.

“Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” stands near Santa’s home at Secrest Center.

Children will want to visit Santa at his new home by Secrest Auditorium. He is there Thursday through Sunday when he has time to visit. Check the schedule on www.VisitZanesville.com for accurate times.

Mail letters to Santa at North Pole Express mailboxes throughout the county.

If Santa’s not home, you might want to drop off a letter to Santa. There are eleven North Pole Express Mailboxes throughout Muskingum County where letters can be mailed. They will then be read on WHIZ-TV and also posted on the website.

Visit “A Special Place for Santa” at White Pillars Christmas House in Norwich.

If you happen to be in the Zanesville area in the evening, there are several places that have very nice light displays. Zane’s Landing’s Holiday Trail of Lights is filled with Christmas cheer as well as the Lemmon Family Christmas Light Show at 909 Lindbergh Avenue.

“The Nutcracker” stands at the door of Smore Baskets in Dresden.

Of course, you’ll want to end your evening in Zanesville with their Courthouse Music and Light Show, which should certainly put you in the Christmas spirit.

Windows at Community Bank are painted with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

When you return home, perhaps you’ll enjoy finding an old Christmas storybook you have enjoyed over the years. Sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and read one of those classic tales that will never grow old.

Wishing all my readers out there a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with precious memories.

Jerry Thompson Portrays Civil War Santa

Jerry Thompson overflows with the Christmas spirit as he enjoys portraying the Civil War Santa as well as today’s traditional Santa Claus. Usually, it is the adults that enjoy his Civil War stories while the children prefer the modern Santa.

Jerry participated in a Dickens Marathon Reading dressed as Civil War Santa.

While Jerry majored in history at Miami University, his interest in the Civil War began with his great-great-grandfather, Sgt. Major Alfred Weedon. Alfred was born in 1845 on a farm just outside of Liberty, (now Kimbolton) Ohio. In July 1861, he enlisted in the 26th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Inspiration was received from a Harper’s Weekly cover by Thomas Nast.

One day, Jerry saw the cover of an old Harper’s Weekly magazine, where they did a story about the Civil War Santa on January 5, 1863. Thomas Nast drew a Civil War Santa distributing gifts to the Union soldiers. It was his first Santa Claus cartoon and the only Civil War Santa he ever drew. From that one publication in Harper’s Weekly, the troops jumped on the idea and it ran through the camps of the Union soldiers.

Jerry then jumped on the idea of portraying Civil War Santa to honor his great-great-grandfather. A seamstress from Claysville looked at the picture and designed a costume for Jerry. She used red and white awning material for the pants, and a navy-blue sweatshirt with white stars sewed all over it. The finishing touch was a red hat encircled with holly.

These Civil War historians presented a program at Roscoe Village.

Jerry had been a member of the Southeastern Ohio Civil War Roundtable for many years and served as president. So, it seemed only natural to begin presenting programs at Civil War Roundtables and various Christmas outings. There he told the story of Christmas during the Civil War and especially shared the story of the Civil War experiences of Alfred Weedon, his great-great-grandfather.

You might find interesting some of the highlights he tells. After Alfred enlisted, he fought and was captured in Perrysville, Kentucky, and in 1862 was exchanged and paroled to home for one year, as was a custom at that time. Every week, Alfred had to go to Camp Chase in Columbus by train from Kimbolton to report in.

When his year was up, he was sent to Chatanooga, Tennessee where he participated in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Even though weak and sickly, Alfred crawled with the rest of the troops to the top of that ridge for a Union victory. Seven months later, during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Alfred was shot in the leg, discharged from the service, and limped through the rest of his life.

Jerry stands by the house on Madison Avenue, where his great-great-grandfather lived a hundred years ago.

When he returned to Ohio, he first went back to his original home in Kimbolton but later moved to Cambridge on Madison Avenue. Mr. Weedon taught school at Birmingham and built the first house at Guernsey Station. He served as Clerk of Courts in Guernsey County, was a member of the Methodist Protestant Church and the Cambridge G.A.R. Post. He’s buried in Northwood Cemetery in Cambridge.

Often Jerry joins other Civil War historians to share stories at libraries and festivals. Roscoe Village held a special Civil War Tree Lighting program, which included many historians from around the area who sang and spoke about the Civil War. Jerry appeared as Civil War Santa.

This image by Thomas Nast helped create our modern version of Santa.

Thomas Nast, born in 1840, is also credited with being the man who invented Santa Claus as we know him today. When he changed the color of Santa’s coat from tan to red, his Santa became the inspiration for the Coca Cola Santa we know so well.

Jerry has also portrayed the traditional Santa at many venues for over 40 years. He’s made thousands of children happy in his Santa appearances at places like Lazarus and many malls. Being Secret Santa for Cassell Station was a pleasure for 25 years.

After 9/11, Santa wore an Uncle Sam hat during the Christmas Parade in the bucket of the firetruck.

In the Cambridge Christmas Parade, that was Jerry that waved as Santa from the bucket of the fire truck for about 20 years. One special year was 2001 after the event of 9/11 when he wore Uncle Sam’s hat instead of the traditional Santa hat.

Santa rode a motorcycle to help promote Christmas in July.

A motorcycle has even carried Santa on a couple of adventures. At Colony Square Mall, he participated in the Motorcyclists for Kids Toy Ride. Then Mark Dubeck from Moore’s Jewelers asked him if he would advertise their Christmas in July sale by riding around town on a motorcycle. Jerry knows how to have fun even if that July day reached 97°.

Santa and Moose the Wonder Dog posed for pictures at Pound Partners.

Pets with Santa sponsored a fundraiser for Pound Partners where people could get their pet’s pictures taken with Santa. Moose the Wonder Dog, the Pound Partners’ mascot, received a lot of special attention.

Of course, Santa only takes up a small portion of his life. Activities in the community and with his family fill his schedule these days.

In 2019, Jerry managed the Heritage Tent for the Salt Fork Arts & Crafts Festival. There was a large variety of local talent displayed in that tent from potters and weavers to quilters and fabric designers. Local organizations also took part such as Guernsey County Museum, Cambridge Amateur Radio Association, and The National Road/Zane Grey Museum. In 2021, Jerry managed both the Heritage Tent and the Marketplace.

Jerry won the 2019 Muskingum County Hospitality Award.

The Muskingum County Hospitality Award was awarded to Jerry in 2019 for his dedication as a staff member at the Old National Road/Zane Grey Museum. His friendly manner as tour guide and host makes guests feel welcome as soon as they enter the door.

Acting has been something that Jerry has done for years as part of the local Cambridge Performing Arts Center. He played a variety of roles there for around 40 years. Some of his favorites were William Jennings Bryant and Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace.

In 2020, Jerry took part in Macbeth at Zanesville Community Theater. Its themes of greed, corruption, violence, and fear seem to have reappeared in 2020. He shook his head when he admitted that learning the lines is harder these days.

Motorcyclists gathered at Colony Square Mall for a Toy Ride.

During the past few years, Jerry has participated in the Dickens Marathon Reading held during the Dickens Victorian Village season. This year Jerry will be in charge of that event and is moving it downtown so more people can enjoy the readings. He always seems to find a way to help the community.

Jerry has led an interesting life locally from radio announcer to dyslexia instructor at Muskingum University. However, one of his favorite activities has been portraying Santa Claus and especially the Civil War Santa in memory of his great-great-grandfather, Alfred Weedon.

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