Spontaneity spices up the day

Annie Yoder.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’m a sucker for spontaneous moments. You know the kind.

You are waiting in line to check out at the grocery, shopping in a busy department store, or changing a flat tire on a lonely gravel road, and all of a sudden some little thing happens to take the steam right out of your angst.

A person you tried to reach via voice mail or email taps you on the shoulder, and says, “I’m so glad to see you. I forgot to get back to you.” And the muddle gets smoothed.

Or perhaps you are at a gathering where there are hundreds of people, and suddenly you find yourself next to a person you haven’t seen for decades. If you’re my age, there’s a lot of catching up to do.

The gazebo on the square that served as Annie’s stage.
Of course, I bring this up because I recently experienced such a spontaneous happening. After a brief early Saturday appointment, I headed to the weekly farmers’ market held on the square of Wooster. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but I did.

I really went there for two reasons. I needed to kill two hours before taking my vehicle in for an overdue oil change. I also wanted to hear a friend of mine sing.

Annie had been called on to provide the background ambiance for this in-season outdoor event. I have heard Annie sing at other more conducive venues where the acoustics would enhance her naturally beautiful voice and excellent instrumentation.

Even though benches were available, no one was seated simply to listen to Annie’s pleasing, marvelous offerings. Instead, the small gathering milled around checking out the locally grown and baked items of the various vendors who had set up in a small parking lot.

I decided to join them, which is when I purchased my locally grown plums and homemade granola. But the alluring sounds lifting from the small gazebo assigned as Annie’s stage soon drew me there.

Annie is all smiles when she sings and plays.
Despite the fact she had to compete with noisy passing traffic, dogs barking and occasional sirens blaring, I wasn’t at all surprised by Annie’s fine performance. She focused on her musical efforts, and she had my full attention.

I love music though I’m no singer or musician. I admire people who can sing and play, especially if they have written their own songs. Plus, I have known Annie since she was born, and watched with much admiration how she and her music matured.

Shortly after I sat down on the bench, a few others who also knew Annie joined me. Among them was a young man I had known casually, and whom I thought was living in Texas. I lost track of him after that.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that this young man and his lovely wife had returned to Ohio, found employment, and were reconnecting with their local roots. I haven’t spoken with his parents, who I have known a long time. But they must be thrilled.

The young man and I talked and talked, while Annie sang on. In addition to enjoying Annie’s inspiring entertainment, I got to reunite with an old new friend. Annie’s performance served a perfect backdrop to our animated catching up.

The concert ended. I said my goodbyes and arrived at the garage uplifted in ways I would have never imagined when my day began hours earlier. Even the unwanted news about the costly vehicle repairs couldn’t dent the serendipitous joy I encountered on that city square.

The Wayne Co. Courthouse looms large on the square of Wooster, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Concert in the park offers mixed melodies

The amphithearter in Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia, Ohio provides a great venue for an old-fashioned concert in the park.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For the second year in a row, my wife and I attended the last concert of the season for a local community ensemble, the Dominic Greco Band. The group performed in an outdoor amphitheater at Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia, Ohio. To say that the evening was again a joy would be an understatement.

The two evenings spaced a year apart were comparable with only a few exceptions. For one, I remembered to take my camera this year to capture all of the action that I anticipated from last year’s experience. I wasn’t disappointed.

The weather was significantly dissimilar, too. Just like the rest of summer 2012, it was rather warm at last year’s performance. This time the temperature was unusually cool for late August in Ohio. I was comfortable in a sweater and eventually a jacket, too.

Of course the band played a different set of tunes. But they could have given the identical show, and I would have been happy. The fact that we knew some of the performers and soloists made the event even more special for us.

The band was in its preconcert mood when we arrived a half hour early.

We arrived with the orchestra warming up, their squeaky woodwind sounds competing with a hubbub of other audible commotion normally associated with a park setting. Again, it was like back to the future.

The park is in the basin of an ages old Wisconsin Glacier outwash plain. The parking lot sits atop a lateral moraine, with picnic shelters, tables and barbeque grills scattered beneath a stand of giant hardwoods on the east slope of the park.

We sat at the end of one of the long rows of metal bleachers that fan across the hill in front of the amphitheater. A paved path descends beyond the stage and unfolds into the rest of the park. In that arrangement, all of the sounds carry up to the audience, and no one’s view is obstructed.

And what a mismatched, Americana landscape it was. There was the orchestra preparing to play while the rest of the park buzzed with activity. To the south the amusement park section bubbled with action.

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The concession stand sold its hotdogs and snow cones. The calliope music of the old merry-go-round played away, beckoning young and old alike. Next door the little train that could stood ready and waiting for passengers. As soon as a few had their tickets, off it went on its clackety clack oval route.

Without waiting for the conductor’s wand, the engineer sounded the horn at the approach of each pedestrian crossing. A few shouts of glee arose from the top of the Ferris wheel, too.

Just as the band got into the swing of things, the sound of aluminum bat on leather softball emanated a rhythm of its own from the batting cages situated right behind the amphitheater. Beyond that, a large flock of geese landed in the outfield grass of the baseball field. Last year, the sights and sounds of a real game competed with the music. This year, the geese got their turn.

As if time had stood still, the local high school football team again pounded their shoulder pads into the blocks during their evening practice. I was almost disappointed that the ambulance and police car that raced by last year didn’t reappear.

The clamorous pulse of the park that accompanied the band’s melodies made the harmonious concert all the sweeter. It was a symbiotic symphony if ever there was one.

The view from the top of the hill at Tuscora Park shows how the area unfolds.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Christmas walking tour planned for Millersburg churches

By Bruce Stambaugh

A candlelight walking tour of five churches in Millersburg, Ohio is planned for Friday, Dec. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The tour is designed to coincide with the Advent season, according to Kate Findley, of Millersburg, who is coordinating the event.

“We want this to be a relaxing, enjoyable evening for families,” Findley said. She is a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Millersburg, one of the participating congregations.

Findley said that the churches will be decorated for the holidays, and that each church will have representatives on hand to provide historic information about the church.

“Participants can also enjoy music and refreshments at each stop,” Findley said.

Churches participating include Faith Lutheran, 187 South Clay Street, First Presbyterian, 90 South Clay Street, Millersburg Christian, 125 North Clay Street, Millersburg Mennonite, 288 East Jackson Street, and St. Peter’s Catholic, 379 South Crawford Street.

Findley said people can begin at any church they choose, and tour at their leisure. Maps will be available at each stop to guide people from church to church.

“Everyone is invited to complete the evening at the First Presbyterian Church, at 8:15, for a time of Christmas caroling,” she added.

“This is an opportunity for people to visit church buildings that they may have never been to before. Some people might attend their own church and drive by others, but have never seen them.”

Findley said the five churches were chosen because of their close proximity.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to walk from church to church. But they also have the option to drive the tour.”

Parking is available at each location.