SIDNEY — ollowing a year of wonderful events highlighting Shelby County’s bicentennial, Sidney’s celebration began rather modestly on Feb. 12, 2020. Amidst a howling snowstorm, a group of city and county officials gathered at The Bridge Restaurant for a toast to celebrate the anniversary of the Shelby County Commissioners first meeting in Sidney on that date in 1820. At the time of that first meeting, Sidney was little more than a couple of log cabin homes, with the commissioners meeting in one of the homes, something they would do until the construction of the first courthouse was finished in 1822.
“Our 200th anniversary gathering even had an international flavor, as Ralph Inforzato and Kikuko Hanashiro, representatives of the Japan External Trade Organization, joined in toasting Sidney’s Bicentennial. Foreshadowing the cancellations that would follow, the February 12 gathering was cut short by one of the heaviest snowstorms of the season,” said Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, who was co-chair of the bicentennial celebrations.
His report continues:
Not knowing that a pandemic storm was already spreading across the country, the Bicentennial Committee was in full agreement that there would be no major Sidney events until after the conclusion of Shelby County’s celebration. That celebration culminated with the Shelby County bicentennial ball on Feb. 22.
The event, held at the Shelby County Courthouse, was an affair to remember. The planning committee, chaired by Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann, organized an event that utilized all three floors of the historic building. With the cooperation of the county’s judges, live music helped transform the first floor into the dance floor. The building, refurbished in time for the Bicentennial celebration, had not seen such gaiety in decades.
News of the impending health crisis began to emerge just days after the ball. Out of a sense of caution, it made postponing Sidney’s opening ceremonies, scheduled for the Cameo Theatre on March 14, relatively easy. The US Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors’ Concert, scheduled for April 3 at the Historic Sidney Theatre, was the next domino to fall.
In fact, the US Army Field Band would cancel all of their performances for the year. That cancellation was one of my greatest disappointments, as I knew how difficult it was to get on the schedule of one of the country’s premier military bands and how hard Sub-committee Chair Nancy Steinke had worked to secure the band for our celebration. Tickets had been printed, posters distributed, and the venue secured all well in advance.
There were more disappointments to follow. More than five years ago, we had negotiated to host the Tree City USA Regional Celebration in Sidney. That event, scheduled for April 17, would have brought communities that have achieved Tree City USA status from 19 counties in southwest Ohio to Sidney. Although we have been a Tree City since 1989, we have never hosted the annual celebration, and this was to be our opportunity to showcase Sidney and among other things, highlight some of the beautiful trees in Tawawa Park.
This was another event that required extensive pre-planning. Retired City Arborist Joyce Reier and Tree Board Chair Ann Asher co-chaired the event, and along with their committee, worked for months to plan the event. Current City Arborist Brian Green invested a great deal of time hand-crafting favors for those planning to attend. Communities had already forwarded funds to pay for tickets. The event was first postponed and ultimately cancelled. The gold shovel, presented by the mayor of the host city to the mayor next in line to host the event, remains at City Hall, waiting for the next event, whenever that may be.
Any thoughts of celebrating Water Week (April 25-May 2) and Wastewater Week (May 3-9) were flushed down the drain as well.
Another event, more than a year in the planning, was the first-annual Mayor’s Breakfast to benefit the Boy Scouts of America. Scheduled for May 6 at The Bridge Restaurant, the event was canceled and the funds contributed in advance were forwarded to the Boy Scouts District Office. Any plans to make the event an annual one were put on hold indefinitely.
The celebration of Police Week (May 10-16) was limited to the presentation of a mayor’s proclamation. This year’s presentation was done virtually, enabling officers on each shift the opportunity to observe the event.
More than two years in the planning, the Vietnam Traveling Wall was another event that is paid for at the time it is scheduled. Fortunately, we were able to reschedule the event for this year in September, in the hope that the pandemic will be in retreat and community activities allowed to resume. The Vietnam Traveling Wall is scheduled to return Sept. 15, 2021. It will remain in Sidney until Sept. 19, 2021.
Another disappointment was the cancellation of the musical salute to Sidney, scheduled for June 14. “Beautiful Sidney,” a piece of music originally composed by Frank Lucas, a local musician and member of the Klute Band and later the Reed Band, was scheduled to be performed by the Upper Valley Community Orchestra at Christian Academy in a concert that would have featured a variety of music.
Other events that were canceled included the Shelby County Historical Society’s annual tour of Graceland Cemetery, scheduled for June 18, the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, scheduled for June 21-27, the Sidney Music and Arts Festival (June 26-27), the Sidney Airport Fly-in featuring World War II era aircraft, scheduled for Aug. 22-23, Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend, scheduled for Sept. 19-20, the quilt show (Nov. 4 – Dec. 4), and the Charter Day celebration (Jan. 2, 2021).
The Fourth of July fireworks display, perhaps the largest fireworks show in Shelby County’s history, went off as scheduled. The Sidney Civic Band also performed their only concert of the season, socially distanced on the tennis courts at Sidney High School.
An event that was postponed indefinitely was the dedication of the statue of Shelby County’s namesake, Gen./Gov.Isaac Shelby. The bronze statue, sculpted by Ohio sculptor Alan Cottrill, is complete and ready for installation.
Distinguished guests invited to the ceremony, originally scheduled for July 18, 2020, included former Ohio Govs. Dick Celeste, Ted Strickland, and Bob Taft (all governors who had visited Sidney during their time in office), Gov. Mike DeWine, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Ohio Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson, State Sen. Matthew Huffman and State Reps. Susan Manchester and Nino Vitale. Most of the invitees had indicated their plans to attend, making the forced postponement all the more frustrating.
An event that was rescheduled was the rededication of the statue of Sgt. Baker, the lone sentinel that stands in the niche atop the Monumental Building. Originally cast by the prestigious New York firm J.W. Fiske, the statue was repainted and readied for the unveiling. Originally scheduled for May 25, the Sept. 19 ceremony was well-attended. Those attending received a specially-minted coin marking the occasion. The 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment Band played, several re-enactors participated, and retired Municipal Court Judge Donald G. Luce delivered the principal address.
Two final events in the waning months of the year drew sparse crowds. The Oct. 10 planting of Sidney’s Bicentennial Tree saw a small group gather for the planting of a red oak tree on the lawn of the Shelby County Courthouse. The red oak, Sidney’s official bicentennial tree, stands within eyesight of the Shelby County’s bicentennial tree, also planted on the south side of the Courthouse. Eventually, it is anticipated that the statue of Gen. Shelby will be located there as well, looking south toward the state of Kentucky.
The tour of historic Sidney churches also drew small numbers. Because of the pandemic, few churches chose to participate, and they saw just a handful of visitors.
Children attending the Christmas of Yesteryear celebration had the opportunity to see Santa, seated strategically behind a plexiglass barrier, pick up goodie bags from the Shelby County Historical Society, and look at a display of model trains, chugging along the tracks inside the window of the building across the street from the Shelby County Historical Society, currently being reconfigured as an annex for that groups burgeoning collection.
The year was not celebrated as originally imagined, but a half-dozen other things occurred that were tremendous successes. Under the watchful eye of Nick Moeller, Moeller Brew Barn produced Sidney 1820 Export, a pilsner that was well-received.
Rocky Mountain Firearms owner Brian Nesby produced a series of Sidney bicentennial commemorative .22 caliber Henry rifles. The rifles were engraved with images from Sidney’s history, including those of Sir Philip Sidney, People’s Federal Savings & Loan, The Spot restaurant, the Monumental Building and the Big-Four Bridge, among others.
Creative Marketing Strategies President Mary Beth Monnier designed the sterling silver commemorative coin for Sidney’s Bicentennial, just as she had for Shelby County’s celebration the year before. One side of the coin includes the bicentennial logo and the other, the Big-Four Bridge.
Bicentennial post cards were created, and through the efforts of Kendra Hamaker, Christi Thomas and Mary Beth Monnier, the Sidney Post Office created a special postal cancellation that was able to be used on the cards on the City’s birthday. In addition, a special postage stamp, featuring the image of Sir Philip Sidney, was also created.
Printed and distributed by the Sidney Daily News, a coloring book featuring images from Sidney’s history was also created. The book featured many images for children to color, along with descriptions beneath each that helped to relate the image to Sidney’s history.
When we first began meeting nearly four years ago, we discussed a legacy project, and ultimately decided upon an app that could be downloaded onto a cellphone and provide coordinates as well as a brief description of historic locations throughout Shelby County. Shelby County Historical Society Director Tilda Phlipot and Archivist Jane Bailey worked closely with Chris Meyer and his staff at the SMS Group to create the app, which currently contains 434 Shelby County sites including 149 in Sidney.
The ‘final act’ was the production of Sidney’s annual calendar. The 2021 calendar featured verbiage and art that was produced for the Bicentennial celebration, but unfortunately, because of the cancellation of the events for which it was originally produced, was left unused.
The heavy lifting for Sidney’s Bicentennial was carried out by a committee of “worker bees” who toiled diligently behind the scenes, even when it became obvious that many of the events we had worked so hard to make happen would have to be cancelled. I can’t say enough about the efforts of co-chair Bob Guillozet, who devoted hundreds of hours and attended nearly every one of the 39 monthly meetings. Alongside Bob was Mary Beth Monnier, who served as secretary producing meeting minutes in near-record time and Shelby County Treasurer John Coffield, who served as treasurer.
While some of us will still be here when Sidney celebrates her 225th birthday, fewer will be present for her 250th birthday and I feel safe in saying that none of those who worked on Sidney’s bicentennial will still be here for Sidney’s tercentennial! Even so, we wish them well as they plan for what we hope will be a truly joyous occasion.