Neil On The Road

Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland with Bonnie and Neil Zurcher at Governor's Residence

Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland with Bonnie and Neil Zurcher at Governor's Residence

On Saturday, May 10th I was invited to particpate in the Third Annual Ohioana Library Book Festival at the state library in Columbus.  It was a day-long event that brought seventy nationally known Ohio authors together to talk about their books.  The event was hosted by Ohio’s First Lady, Frances Strickland, wife of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.  Many of the authors, which included historians, children’s authors and poets did readings from their works. 
The Ohioana Library was founded to preserve the work of Ohio authors, artists and musicians.  It was created by another First Lady, Martha Kinney Cooper, wife of then-Governor Myers Cooper in 1929.  It has been carried on by First Ladies ever since.
At the end of the festival Mrs. Strickland invited the authors to a reception at the beautiful Governor’s Residence near downtown Columbus. Where Bonnie and I got to meet Mrs. Strickland as well as chat with some other old friends and wander around the gardens of the state’s executive mansion. 
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On Wednesday, April  15th I had the pleasure of speaking at the 33rd Annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet in Carroll County at the beautiful Atwood Lake Resort.  Bonnie and I drove down in a misty, rainy afternoon but even the weather can’t dampen the beauty of this part of Ohio that used to be called “The Edge of Paradise”.  The rolling hills, the long stretches of woods and, of course, Atwood Lake, Ohio’s largest inland sailing lake.  While we ate dinner in the refurbished lodge we could witness a beautiful sunset over the lake.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Wayne Chunat, a former naturalist with the Cleveland Metroparks and now an artist living in Caroll County presented me with one of his lovely paintings of bluebirds.  Chamber President Bill Wohlwend gave Bonnie and I a very useful hand-made bluebird house with a plaque on it to remember the evening.
I also had a chance to meet and greet some people who stopped to have me autograph copies of my books after the dinner was finished.   All in all a very pleasant evening with some wonderful folks in Carroll County.
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On Saturday, May  16th Neil was the speaker at the Friends of the Mayfield Heights Regional Library annual meeting.  Over a hundred members turned out for a luncheon at the beautiful Villa di Borrally in Richmond Heights. It was a fun afternoon with a wonderful crowd and a chance to see old friends Marcia and Ralph Taristano, who are both involved with the Friends of the Library group.  Ralph, like Neil is a veteran of WJW-TV in Cleveland and  Ralph also worked for WKYC-TV3 after retiring from Fox 8.  Ralph was kind enough to take the photos that we are using in the blog this week of the Mayfield Heights meeting.  (see the photos below, just click on each picture to enlarge it.)
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Tuesday May 19th appearance and speech at the Stow, Ohio Friends of the Library Annual Meeting at the Stow Library.  We had a full house.  They even had to set up extra chairs.  The “Friends” prepared some wonderful cookies and punch.  We also sold out of my books that were available at the meeting.  Some of the best audiences I have had this year have been similar library functions around the state.  It’s a great way for me to meet some of my readers and to hear from them what they would like me to write about.  We are posting a couple of pictures below of the Stow meeting today.  Just click on the photos to enlarge.
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Tuesday, May 26 Neil was a guest on “The Sound of Ideas” on WCPN Radio in Cleveland, the PBS station.  Host Dan Mouthrop had a panel of guests, including Tom Mulready of Cool Cleveland; Jennifer Coleman of City Prowl Walking Tours, Michael Gill, arts editor of The Scene,  Tamara Brown of the Ohio Travel and Tourism Division and Neil to talk about “Staycations”, places close to home that folks can visit this year and still feel like they have had a vacation.
you can listen to the program by going to WCPN’s website: http://www.wcpn.org/WCPN/soi/
Below are some pictures taken by WCPN Producer Paul Cox just as we finished the show.
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Thursday, May 29 Bonnie and Neil took a day to check out the Holmes County Amish area for new attractions.  We tried out a new restaurant there called “The Berlin Hickory Smokehouse”.  It is replacing Troyer’s Amish-style restaurant on the west side of Berlin.  Troyer’s closed several months ago.  Before that the restaurant was part of the Schrock Family holdings, then known as  Dutch Harvest Restaurant.  In it’s latest reincarnation it has new owners and the management has previous experience running a steakhouse in the New Philadelphia-Dover area.  It might be a great addition to the fastest growing tourist area in the state.  There had been no steak houses, in the Berlin area before.  Since it was only their second week in business when we stopped it probably isn’t fair to review the place.  I will say that Bonnie enjoyed her grilled chicken sandwich, and I had the beef brisket sandwich with fire-grilled vegetables.  The beef was stringy and dry and the accompanying coleslaw tasted as though it had just come from Costco.  But every new place deserves time to work out the kinks.  We’ll go back the next time we are in the area and try them again.  Other new things we noticed the former Amish Flea Market at Walnut Creek, as we noted earlier this year has been replaced by a “Holmes County Expo Center”.  The flea markets have split and one new operation is now located just west of Sugar Creek and the other on the East side of Berlin.  Neither were open the day we were there so I couldn’t judge how well they were doing or how many of the former occupants have moved with them.  Perhaps some of our viewers will have some information on this.  Below is a photo of the new restaurant sign in Berlin.
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Saturday, June 13.  Bonnie and I were invited to the Howe Family Reunion in Birmingham,  Ohio.  While we are not members of the family, the gathering is more like a community reunion.  Hosted by retired Cincinnati businessman Roger Howe at his family country home, “Breeze Hill” in Birmingham, over 100 Howe Family members from across the country were there as were former neighbors and friends from the Firelands area of Northeast Ohio.  It was a chance to see many of my former classmates from Henrietta High School as well as long-time friends.  The picture below is of Roger Howe welcoming the crowd at Breeze Hill.
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Saturday, June 20.  I went to WVIZ at Playhouse Square to be taped reading from two of my books, “Strange Tales From Ohio” and “Ohio Oddities”.  I was invited to be part of the Ingenuityfest, Cleveland’s Festival of Art and Technology that will be held on Playhouse Square on July 10-12th.  This is the fifth year they have held the festival and it was an honor to be asked to read from my books for  an interactive exhibit at WVIZ.  You can learn more about the festival by visiting their site at www.ingenuitycleveland.com
I have also posted two pictures from the taping session this morning.  It shows me sitting in the studio with all of Playhouse square visible through the huge windows behind me.
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On Friday, June 26th Bonnie and I went in search of the “World’s biggest wooden match.”  We think we found it in the center of Wadsworth, Ohio in Medina County.  The twenty-foot tall wooden match is erected each year in front of the gazebo in a park downtown to mark the annual Blue Tip Match Festival.   At one time Blue Tip Matches was a leading industry in Wadsworth and while the jobs are gone they still mark the business each year with an annual festival.  I have posted a picture of Bonnie standing beside the match.  You can learn more about the festival by going to www.bluetipfestival.com
Sunday, July 19th.  Bonnie, Craig and I attended a party to honor my colleague at Fox 8 TV, Danny Coughlin.  Elsewhere on this page you will see a picture of the stage where other coworkers, like Stacey Frey, Bill Martin and John Telich put on a program to show Dan how much everyone will miss him.  However, Dan is not retiring, just quitting the day to day routine.  He’ll be back at Fox 8 doing free-lance high school sports.  You can see other pictures of the party on my other blog, www.neohiotvmemories.wordpress.com
Friday, August 7th, I traveled to WKYC-TV3 in Cleveland to tape an appearance with Ohio House Speaker, Armond Budish, on his show “Golden Opportunities”.  We are not sure when it will be broadcast, probably in the next week or two on a Sunday Morning.  I talked about my book, “Ohio Oddities” which was recently reissued in a new updated edition.  You can see a picture of Budish and I on the show in the gallery below.
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On Tuesday, September 8th Bonnie and I traveled to the Mentor Library in Mentor to speak.  We had a wonderful crowd. (in fact Librarian Steve Haas told us that it was a new record and had exceeded the rooms capacity).  We talked about Ohio Road Trips and shared some stories with the folks then stuck around afterwards to sign books the Friends of the Mentor Library were selling.  You can see some photos below that the library took during the event.
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On Saturday, September 12th the 40th annual National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, lower Great Lakes Chapter Emmy Awards were held at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Cleveland Clinic.  As one of the founders 40 years ago I was invited to be a presenter along with fellow Silver Circle Award winner Del Donahoo from WKYC-TV and Dee Perry of WVIZ-TV.  It was great to see old friends, like Martin Savidge of PBS, Virgil Dominic, Stefanie Schaefer and a host of folks from TV8.  Below is a photo of Del, Dee and I presenting Emmys in the public service category.
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Sept. 20th, 2009.  Bonnie and Neil took part in the 37th annual Dick Goddard’s Woollybear Festival in Vermilion.  We rode in the parade in Bill and Bonnie Cutcher’s beautiful 1956 Buick Convertible.  It was so much fun to see so many old friends both from Fox 8 as well as the Vermilion area.  You also meet some strange folk at the festival.  Check out several pictures picture below of the festival and one of Neil with General Ulysses Grant,played by Kenneth Bach of Lakewood and Abraham Lincoln portrayed by Gerald Bestrom of Hastings, Michigan.  The estimates of the crowd at this year’s festival ranged between 70 and 100 thousand people.  A good reason it is considered Ohio’s largest single day festival.
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On Monday, September 21, 2009 Neil was the featured speaker at the Union Carbide Retiree Annual Luncheon in Olmsted Falls.  We had a great time chatting with folks during the lunch at the German-American Cultural Center and getting to meet some of the folks at a book signing following my talk.
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On Tuesday, September 22 Neil is slated to be a guest on Robin Swoboda’s “That’s Life” on Fox 8 TV.  He will be talking about some of his favorite spots to see great fall color around northern Ohio.
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Saturday, October 3rd, Neil was one of several authors from around the country asked to autograph books at the 20th Annual Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show held this year in Cleveland at the Renaissance Hotel.  There were book store owners from all over the midwest, as well as publishers and others related to the book selling industry. 
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On Sunday, November 15th Neil was honored to be the speaker at the northeast Ohio Council of Hostelling International.  The event was held at the beautiful Canalway Visitor Center in the Cleveland Metroparks in Cuyahoga Heights.  He signed copies of his newly released book, Ohio Road Trips, second edition, as well as copies of his other books, “Strange Tales From Ohio: and “Ohio Oddities.”  Introducing Neil to the gathering was old friend, Steve Bloomfield, who worked with Neil for many years at Fox 8 TV.  Steve is an offical with the Council of Hostelling International.
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On Friday Dec 4th, 2009, Neil and Bonnie attended the reunion of Fox 8 TV folks at John Q’s Restaurant on Public Square in Cleveland.  You can see pictures from the evening at our other web site, www.neohiotvmemories.wordpress.com
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On Saturday, Dec. 12, Neil had booksignings at Border’s stores in North Canton and Fairlawn, near Akron.  At the Akron-area store I was joined by my former TV8 colleague Chuck “Big Chuck” Schodowski who was also signing his memoir, “Big Chuck”.  Thanks to John Beers, the Manager of the Fairlawn store we have a couple of  photos to add to our gallery below.
2010 On the Road
I have been neglecting this page for several months because we have been finishing up my latest book, a memoir, that will be published sometime around Father’s Day.
“Tales From The Road” is not a biography, but a collection of stories that I have been telling my friends for years.  Now we have gone back and checked dates and places and talked with people who were involved to make these stories into a memoir that I can share with everyone. 
Some of the stories are, I hope, funny and a few brought tears to my eyes as I was taken back in time to relive some painful and tragic times.
As I say in the book, my life is no more interesting than anyone else but I had the privilege of being an ordinary person living in some extraoridinary times.
A lot of the book is a behind the scenes tale of my long-running “One Tank Trips” series that was seen on Fox 8 TV for 25 years and continues to exist today on this blog and monthly in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 
For those that grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s the book, I hope, will be a window on those times and the way we were.
If you have followed my adventures over the last quarter of a century and more I hope you will read “Tales From The Road”.
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It has been a busy time lately, getting ready for the promotion push for my new book, “Tales from the road”, a memoir.  Also getting some cataracts taken care of.
Bonnie and I this past week had the chance to appear on the Robin Swoboda Show on Fox 8 and that evening we attended the annual reunion of the Press Club of Cleveland’s Hall of Fame at their headquarters at Nightown in Cleveland Heights.
I have attached a photo from the event of OHio Magazine’s Rich Osborne and I sharing a laugh.  Former Colleague, Stephen Bellamy is standing in the background.
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12 Responses to Neil On The Road

  1. Walter A sell says:

    Dear Neil,

    Not only did we buy the “Superhost” Freeway, we bought one of the first ones made and drove to Burnsville MN in our ’67 Mustang to pick it up. It was a holiday week-end and we really slowed traffic between Burnsville and South Amherst. The car drew a crowd at each rest stop, and we finally put all the info (FAQ) on the windshield! Unfortunately, the vehicle was ahead of its time and the company went out of business. Yes, indeed, I do “remember when”!
    Thanks, Neil

  2. It was our pleasure to dine with you & Bonnie Wednesday evening. We were nervous about where to sit and we found two open seats at a table. It was our plesant surprice that we were dining with the guest speak. As the evening evolved we had the pleasure of hearing about Bonnie’s part in the Bras for a Cause. What a fun time. Thank you

  3. Neil says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write. It was our pleasure. I hope you will visit Bonnie’s site, http://www.brasforacause.wordpress.com
    and take a look at all the wonderful artwork for charity.

  4. ceishaw says:

    Fantastic website, Neil.

  5. Hello Neil,
    It’s great to hear that you have stopped in here at The Berlin Hickory Smokehouse. I could only wish it had been a few months later than it was. Our first couple of months were a little rough, however I believe we have worked out most of the kinks and come a long way since then. I do hope that you will stop in again sometime so we can show you what we are truly about. I appreciate the comments as we all know you can’t fix it if you do not know it is broken. We all work very hard every day to provide excellent service with our extraordinary food, and I hope to see you again soon.
    Thank you!!

  6. Dan says:

    Neil
    Thanks for all the great stories and photo’s. It is so much fun to check out you site and see what new things you have highlited. It is a great reminder of places I want to go back to, and places I still want to go to.

  7. joyce lafray says:

    Neil:
    Are you still broadcasting? Where can we get your
    books? Joyce

  8. Neil says:

    Joyce,
    Thank you for asking. I retired from Fox 8TV in 2004 and have been doing free-lance travel writing since then. First for the Ohio Motorist Magazine and for the last year a monthly colummn in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on the last Saturday of each month. I also have written one new travel book, “Ohio Road Trips” and my memoir, “Tales from the road” will be published on June 1st.
    The books are available at any major book store or through Amazon.com or from my publisher. Just follow the link on the advertisement for the book on this website.

    Neil

  9. peggy says:

    I am looking for train rides I work in agroup home for the elderly Thankyou Peggy

  10. Charles says:

    Hi Mr. Zurcher,

    Have you heard of End of the Commons General Store in north east Ohio? We just recently came upon this unique stop and it is a wonderful surprise! It is in fact an old fashioned general store just the way I remember it when I was young in the 1940’s. They have added a cafe recently and expanded their retail selection. Its a terrific little stop and only 40 minutes from Lakewood, where I live. Also, there is a gigantic wooden horse and buggy in the town too that may be of interest to you.

  11. Neil says:

    Thank you for the suggestion, however on January 12 of 2009 we visited the End of Commons General Store as well as the giant horse sculpture in Mesopotamia. You can see the story in our archives.

  12. Ted Driscol says:

    It is good to know that Neil Zurcher is still out there finding and writing about interesting people and places. His creativity as a writer is a great benefit to all of us who enjoy adventurous travel …. thanks, Neil!!!!

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