Historical Society deals with COVID cancellations



SIDNEY – In 2020, the Shelby County Historical Society completed its 27th year since its 1993 reorganization and 21th full year in the Ross Historical Center. This year SCHS efforts were focused on planning, and implementing educational programs that would celebrate Sidney’s 200th Anniversary.

Tilda Phlipot, director, has submitted the following report:

The year stated normally with the Just for Kids Committee installing the Coming to America exhibit in January with all Shelby County fifth graders visiting to enrich their school curriculum. The interactive event shared the hardships that Shelby County’s immigrants faced from their homeland departure through Ellis Island to their arrival in Shelby County.

The Society hosted its annual Car Show in Tawawa Park the week before COVID-19 hit Shelby County. Cars from all over the state attended. For the first time, we held a Power Wheel Drag Race, which surprisingly featured entries even from Columbus.

The Traveling Vietnam Wall Committee went to the Career Center to work with students to create the 1,000 wooden crosses to be used in the Field of Crosses. Shutdowns forced the committee to move all materials to the Annex where the project had to be completed within Covid-19 guidelines. Forced to close by Covid, the staff worked from home sorting, organizing, and labeling the dog tags in preparation for the Field of Crosses. Our curator Jane Bailey transcribed oral histories, collected by the Society over several years. She also finished the update for the Discover Shelby County History App for 2020.

The director dealt with COVID-19 cancellations, the first being The Traveling Vietnam Wall due to arrive in May 2020. Reluctantly, that event was moved to September 2021. The Civil War Living History Weekend scheduled for September 18-19, 2020 was moved to September 17-18, 2021. The Graceland Cemetery tour and annual Ladies Summer Tea could not be rescheduled.

By mid-April, one creative volunteer suggested the public be organized to cruise downtown Sidney, a popular practice in his youth. On April 30, 2020, the Society invited the public to cruise, and even though a torrential rain came, few went home. The Sidney Police Department rerouted the cruising route for safety, and the community enjoyed seeing their friends socially distanced regardless of the rain. By June, a Downtown Cruise was held every month through November.

Another group of volunteers installed the new exhibit at Ross on a schedule limiting access but making it possible to build the exhibit by June.1. How Sidney Changed in 200 Years was opened to the public communicating growth from a pioneer town with no electric, inside plumbing, or paved roads to an industrial power house. Even though few could visit, narrated tours of the display were on Facebook.

In September the Society held shotgun start tours for 80 people in Downtown Sidney highlighting Sidney’s changes since our founding. Sadly, our always-popular Ghost Tour was only virtual but was viewed by thousands on Facebook.

In October, we were honored with an Award of Excellence by the Ohio History Connection for our extensive programming during the Shelby County Bicentennial.

Christmas of Yesteryear highlighted the year. Volunteers created 300 Christmas in a Bag totes containing the supplies for a graham cracker gingerbread house and candies to decorate the house, a wooden ornament and its paint, and a wreath with supplies for the child to decorate. Santa sat in the doorway of the Ross Center behind plexiglass to talk to the children and for a photo. On the side yard, volunteers roasted chestnuts and popped pop corn over the open fire. Volunteer Richard Bailey created a train exhibit in the Annex window that mesmerized its visitors. The volunteers cleaned the Ross Center then immediately took our Shelby County Vietnam Wall replica to the Fairgrounds for the Reverse Parade. Even though these men had been outside cooking since 9 am, these Vietnam veterans manned their wall until the Reverse Parade ended.

The SCHS volunteers have continued to write the daily Out of the Past Column for the Sidney Daily News as a free public service.

This next year of change and growth for the SCHS will start with the renovation of the SCHS’s Annex. In the first phase, Ferguson Construction will bring the building up to code including updating the electrical system, the HVAC systems, along with adding insulation, and creating a humidity-controlled area for fragile artifacts. The second phase will be to create a STEAM Learning Center. The location of this building in the downtown historic and DORA area will permit your Shelby County Historical Society to make a huge contribution to the revitalization of our beautiful and historic downtown.

Because of COVID-19, we cannot publish an accurate calendar of events for this year. But we invite participation on the third Saturday of every month from April through October to Cruise Downtown Sidney. We hope to install the Field of Crosses on September 12, 2021. The Traveling Vietnam Wall will be escorted from the Wapakoneta VFW to Custenborder Field on September 15, 2021. The Traveling Vietnam Wall will be installed at Custenborder Field on September 16, 2021, and remain until 3 p.m. September 19, 2021. On September 18, 2021, the Society will host a Car Show in Tawawa Park. Christmas of Yesteryear will be held on Saturday, December 4, 2021. We will announce dates for our annual Graceland Cemetery Tour, Sidney in the 50s Tour, our Ghost Tour, and Summer Afternoon Tea as soon as we know participants will be safe from COVID-19.