July 11, 2008

Kids Show Mettle for Making Steel; Fest Features Hands-on History

By Gabe Nelson, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Jul. 11--PORT CLINTON -- Making steel is hard work.

Just ask the children who learned about the American steel industry yesterday at an event presented at the 10th annual Ohio Chautauqua historical festival.

Led by George Dauler, a dead ringer for steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, the youths chopped and shoveled, stirred and scooped.

A girl worked the bellows; a boy pounded away on an anvil.

Though their tools were imaginary and they didn't produce any steel, the roughly 30 children learned how much labor goes into the iron and steel used in everyday products.

"You were all good workers," Mr. Dauler told the children. "It's a big job to make steel. You can't do it by yourself."

Mr. Dauler, a retired pastor from the Cleveland suburb of Wickliffe, has traveled across Ohio with the Chautauqua festival impersonating Mr. Carnegie, who rose from poverty to create the largest U.S. steel company in the late 19th century.

The free festival, presented by the Ohio Humanities Council, continues tonight and tomorrow at Lakeview Park in Port Clinton with speeches by inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison -- or rather, people impersonating them.

Port Clinton is the third of five Ohio cities to host the festival, which began June 17 in Lebanon, stopped in New Concord and Westerville, and will end in Gallipolis July 19.

It started Tuesday in Port Clinton.

Frank Dunkle, a program officer for the humanities council, said about 500 people attended the historical re-enactment speeches during the stops in Westerville.

He said the festival, which includes nighttime concerts and daytime workshops like Mr. Dauler's steel demonstration, aims to make history fun and accessible.

"It's meant to be educational, but we don't tell people that," Mr. Dunkle said.

Amey Park of Hudson, Ohio, traveled with her family to Port Clinton for the festival and brought several of her children to the library yesterday.

She said her family of history buffs has enjoyed the festival, which selects new performers and travels to different Ohio locations each year.

"We think it's a great way to learn history," Mrs. Park said. "It doesn't cost us anything, and it's wonderful."

Mr. Dauler said libraries often invite him to present his Carnegie impression.

Mr. Carnegie, an immigrant from Scotland, had little education and wanted to make information accessible to the public, so he donated millions of dollars to libraries and colleges late in his life.

For that reason, Mr. Dauler said, as if channeling Mr. Carnegie, "that's exactly where I should be."

Contact Gabe Nelson at: [email protected] or 419-724-6076.


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