24. May 2011 19:58
In the mid-1990s, Charley Trudeau was remodeling houses and playing vintage baseball on the side. One day, since he had all the woodworking tools, someone asked him to make them a vintage bat. The bat was so popular other orders followed. Soon Charlie was out of the remodeling business and into the bat-making business full time.
Today, the Phoenix Bat Co. in the Columbus suburb of Plain City turns out a wide range of wooden bats, from softball to baseball, from high schools to the pros. It is one of some two dozen companies that are approved by Major League baseball to make bats for major leaguers.
Seth Cramer, the general manager and majority owner of the company, gave us an abbreviated version of the hour-long tour he gives groups. "I enjoy doing bus tours," he said. "They are seeing something here they will not see anywhere else."
Seth showed us the computer where the minute details of a bat are calculated. The information is fed into a large state-of-the-art lathe in the back, which spits out maple or ash bats at the rate of one every two minutes. It can work on a dozen kinds of bats at once. Seth also showed us the stacks of squared billets that will be turned into round bats, and how the finished bats are carefully dipped in stain and hung to dry.
Then is was off to the new Huntington Park in downtown Columbus, where some of the bats are used. The park, now in its third season, is the home of the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A farm team of the Cleveland Indians. Joe Santry, the team's public relations man and resident baseball historian, gave us a tour of the park, which not only has many fan-friendly designs — including openings in the outfield wall where fans on the street outside can view the game for free — but is a veritable baseball museum.
The concourses are lined with glass cases with a wealth of baseball memorabilia, such as a glove that belonged to Lou Gehrig. The walls of a second-story bar behind the left field wall are covered with bats, uniforms, gloves and other equipment of former Clipper players. An exhibit case has the uniform jersey Derek Jeter wore while playing in Columbus when it was a Yankees farm team. Numerous baseball cards, programs, photos, ticket stubs and other printed material are displayed under glass on the 110-foot-long bar's counter. An open-air rooftop on the third level has bleachers that are reminiscent of Chicago's Wrigley Field.
Bats at the Phoenix Bat Co. hang to dry after being dipped in a distinctive stain. Seth Cramer shows one of the bats made by the Phoenix Bat Co. Huntington Park is the charming home of the AAA Columbus Clippers.
24. May 2011 00:55
Columbus native George Bellows always had a talent for drawing, even at a young age. And he also had a talent for baseball. When a choice between the two arose, Bellows chose art. He played baseball at Ohio State University in the early 20th century and was offered a pro contract by the Cincinnati Reds. However, he left school early and headed to New York City to study art under Robert Henri.
"George wanted to be an artist," his Aunt Fanny told us at the Columbus Museum of Art."He could draw from an early age." Aunt Fanny, actually a docent who did an amazing job staying in character, took us back to 1915 when Bellows was at the peak of his career and one of the best known artists in the United States. The real Aunt Fanny lived with the Bellows family when George was young.
"I was there to tuck him in at night. I taught him to whistle. I liked the idea of George drawing," she said. Aunt Fanny is part of the museum's innovative Artist for a Day program for groups. After meeting with Aunt Fanny, we were taken to the archives for a rare look at some of Bellows' etchings and drawings, including some early sketches. "it's an opportunity the average visitors doesn't get to do," said Ann, another volunteer. Then it was upstairs to try our hand at duplicating Bellows. However, Ann explained that the brief and basic drawing lesson was really intended to get us to slow down and look more thoroughly and thoughtfully at art.
"We ask you to use drawing as a way to see art," she said as we were handed a small easel, pad of paper and plastic bag with pencils and an art gum eraser. "We are not teaching you how to draw, but a new way to experience art." Sitting on small portable stools, we practiced drawing the motion in a contemporary sculpture of dozens of oblong glass pieces. Then we focused on lines. Finally, moving to a gallery filled with Bellows work — the Columbus museum has the largest repository of his work in the world — we took at stab at copying one of his paintings.
I found myself really focusing on the details in the painting, a wintery 19th-century scene of a tugboat on the East River in New York with workers removing snow in horse-drawn sleds from the river banks in the foreground. Nobody is going to confuse me with Bellows or Picasso, but I did come away from the experience with a heightened appreciation of the intracacies of art.
Aunt Fanny tells about her nephew George Bellows.
23. May 2011 22:23
It's like Main Street comes to the mall. Easton, about 10 minutes from downtown Columbus, was one of the forerunners in lifestyle centers, mixed use developments that combine shopping, dining, entertainment, hotels, office space and residential units in an area designed more like a small town than a suburban shopping mall. The 90-acre Easton Town Center features nationally known chains and specialty stores along tree-lined streets with pocket parks, fountains and benches. Tenants include Nordstrom, Macy's, Crate and Barrel, Apple, Tiffany & Co., Burberry and Henri Bendel.
"A lot of thought was put into every corner," said Bethany Braden, marketing manager for the center.
Our day sampling hands-on experiences for groups began with breakfast at Nordstrom's Bistro Cafe before the high-end store opened. "Personal stylists" Kevin Bailey and Maria Kontomerkos gave us a look at the latest styles in men's and women's fashions, including apparel, accessories and shoes. Flowery-pattern swim trunks are in for men. We then had the run of the store before it opened.
Our next stop was Archiver's, a scrapbooker's paradise filled with anything you could possibly want to save your memories in a scrapbook. Although we didn't have time for a full-blown demonstration, the staff explained how groups can take classes in making greeting cards, calendars or scrapbooks. "It is a very social experience," said staff member Courtney. "You can learn something you can apply to your own crafts or learn what is going on in the world of card making."
Groups can also have a cooking demonstration at Sur La Table with chef Brad Kovak.
20. May 2011 20:53
When Allison Chapman was young, she would help her grandfather demonstrate old-fashioned printing on a letterpress at living-history festivals and events. When he died, he left 14-year-old Allison his 1892 press. Chapman moved to Worthington, a Columbus suburb, two years ago from Minnesota and set up Igloo Letterpress in the historic downtown, turning out post cards, invitations, posters, books and all sorts of other printed material with the hand-made quality her grandfather taught her. And she is glad to share her profession with others.
She has several class options for groups, and she let us try a hand. I pulled a slot-machine-like handle to raise an impression on a business card and cranked the handle on a press that rolled red ink on a card to spell thank you — the sentiments I felt for Allison taking me back in time. We then walked over to the Candle Lab, where we got to make a natural soy candle. After sampling more than 110 fragrances from almond to yuzu, we picked out three we wanted to combine to make a candle. The choices also included everything from bubble bath and campfire to morning dew and summer lawn.
I chose dark chocolate, whipped cream and burnt sugar for a desert-style candle. Seated at a fragrance bar, owner Steve Weaver helped us mix fragrance oils in varying doses into a 170-degree base oil until we got an aroma we were satisfied with. It takes about an hour for the candles to set up, so we put the time to good use by walking next door to the House Wine to sample some of its large collection of more than 250 labels from an unusual wine-dispensing machine and then across the street for a delicious gourmet dinner at the historic Worthington Inn.
17. May 2011 19:21
I almost expected to see David Letterman walk in next. There I was, petting a seven-month-old cheetah when in walked Jack Hanna.
“There are only a couple of zoos where you can get this close to a cheetah,” said Hanna, who has gained a worldwide following with his advocacy for wild animals on his own television shows and by regular late-night appearances on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and other national television shows with a fascinating retinue of animals in tow. I was at the Columbus Zoo, where Hanna is the director emeritus, on the first stop of a four-day press trip to the Ohio city to sample some of the many creative experiential opportunities the local CVB has developed for groups. The CVB is so dedicated to making group trips hands-on it has changed its name to Experience Columbus.
The trip got off with a bang at the zoo, where we got to pet Moyo, a runt of the litter who had been abandoned by his mother at the Wilds, the wild animal sanctuary in southeastern Ohio that the Columbus Zoo helps operate. Moyo will probably spend his life at the zoo as an educational cheetah, although this was one of the last chances people will have to touch him. We met Moyo and Hanna at the Polar Frontier area, the zoo’s newest addition, which opened last spring.Hanna exhibited his famous infectious energy as he told about his more than 30 years at the zoo helping build it into a world-respected facility, his efforts to preserve animals in the wild and his philosophy for the zoo’s operation.
“It’s just as much for people as for the animals,” he said. “People have fun here and go away loving the animal world.” Hanna helped rescue the zoo, which was on the verge of being closed when he arrived in 1978, jumping in to help paint and clean the buildings. He gradually built public support, and today the zoo, the third largest in North America, is considered one of the best in the world. “The zoo is my life,” he said. “I come in here at night and walk around. It is beyond a dream. It was a dream I got to live.”