The 52 page program was full of recognizable names including Mercer, Roseberry, Herrick, Bishop, McGhee, Chamberlin, Karabec, Bissell, Kollman, Richner, Percy, and others as well as area businesses and locations.
In 1930 Twinsburg’s Homecoming was a Township wide event that celebrated all aspects of its history and culture. The program itself featured a history of the Township, Congregational Church, Samuel Bissell Memorial Library, schools, and many local business’. The thirty-two page program is sprinkled with names such as Bishop, Rylander, Herrick, Bissell, Dodge, Richner, Chamberlin and Doubrava.
The volunteer Fire Department Christmas party was held for both children and adults. The Gant, Richner, Watson, Davet, Bissell, Maulis, Hedgedish, Jewell were in attendance and many of them can be seen in this home movie.
Home Movie Courtesy of Ret. Fire Chief Daniel Simecek
The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.
Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.
No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.
When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.
With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.
The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.
Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.
The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.
One of the nearly forgotten events of Twinsburg’s past is the annual Horse Show. First staged in 1957, the show was conceived as a means for the Twinsburg High School Boosters to raise $2000 needed to purchase new uniforms for the football team. Co-sponsored by the Boosters and the local Saddle Club, the show was held at Curry Farm on Route 82, west of the Chrysler Plant. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the first show featured over one hundred and fifty horses from three states and “scores” of riders.
Ultimately, the venture proved unprofitable and was short-lived, with the final show being held on September 5, 1960 (Labor Day) at the Curry farm location. There were twenty classes in the final Central Ohio Saddle Club Association event. Ann Stueber served as the judge and Shirley Nowak was the steward.
Great Expectations, formed in 1978, is the pride of Twinsburg High School and the entirety of the three communities. The nationally ranked show choir has won over 150 trophies and performed in competitions across the continental United States, spanning the country from New York to California. In 2014, they competed in their first formal national event, the Fame National Show Choir Competition in Chicago, finishing third out of fifteen accomplished companies. (In 2013 they participated in a competition against fifty-seven of the top show choirs in the nation, at which they also finished third.)
More often than not, Great Expectations emerges victorious in “Glee-style” contests featuring elaborately choreographed dance routines. Few, if any local show choirs can rival them, with possibly their greatest adversary being Solon High School’s Music in Motion. On occasion, Music in Motion has even managed to topple Great Expectations from its lofty perch.
The current directors are Randall Lanoue and Scott Hamler, but it was Nancy Slife who put Great Expectations on the choral map. Slife directed the show choir for nearly twenty extremely successful years before Lanoue took command. Under his artistic direction and the musical guidance of Hamler, Great Expectations has continued to soar above all other local show choirs and should continue to do so well into the future.
A monumental, spontaneous, and continuously intensifying horse-drawn sleigh competition unfolded in Twinsburg in February of 1856. It started semi-innocently enough as a group of young Solon residents embarked on a procession through Twinsburg composed of seven sleigh teams drawn by four horses apiece. The Solonites brandished a homemade banner depicting a nose-thumbing youth and the challenge “You Can’t Come It” (Meaning you can’t beat it).
The next afternoon, Twinsburg residents retaliated by loading fourteen sleighs and went to Solon with their banner “Who Can’t Come It?”, and stole the original Solon banner. A few days later, Bedford sent twenty-one decorated sleighs and returned the banner. Other communities got into the contest and more and more sleighs and banners were brought and stolen. A contest was decided upon between three counties. Almost 10,000 people turned up in Richfield to watch it. Four hundred and sixty-two bobsleds competed and Summit County won with one hundred and seventy-five sleds (Cuyahoga sending one hundred and fifty-one and Medina sending one hundred and forty). They proceeded to paraded through Akron, where the banner was given to Hudson Twp. for having the largest number of teams from Summit County. Later, Medina sent one hundred and eighty-four sleds to steal the banner, but on their way back home, the snow melted and the sleighs had to be hauled through the mud back home. The poem “The Great Sleigh Ride” by John Greenleaf Whittier was written about this unique event.
One of the shining jewels in the crown of Twinsburg’s Director of Parks and Recreations is Rock the Park. The successful concert series has been delighting attendees of all ages since 2009. Local musical luminaries, the Cleveland Orchestra, and Michael Stanley (along with many others) have graced the Perici Amphitheater stage, one of Twinsburg’s hidden gems, tucked away in the far reaches of Glen Chamberlin Park. The amphitheater, which resembles a miniature Blossom Music Center, can accommodate 1,500 attendees and often is filled to capacity for these popular performances.
As is often the case, the series started on a much smaller scale: in the summer of 2009, a concert geared exclusively toward adults was scheduled at the community outdoor pool, but with the murder of Officer Josh Miktarian it quickly morphed into a benefit for the fallen hero. The outpouring of support from the community was tremendous and the following year three concerts were planned at the amphitheater, a mere two hundred yards from its original locale. At present, the event offers not only musical acts, but a wide assortment of edibles and beverages, including some that are courtesy of food trucks. Arguably 2015 was the event’s most successful year to date as six concerts drew seven thousand attendees during the sultry summer months.
Twinsburg’s annual Twins Day Festival was created to commemorate the legacy of the city’s founding twins, Moses and Aaron Wilcox, and was kicked off with a flag raising and dedication of the Wilcox Monument. A comparatively inauspicious beginning (to the current incarnation), it launched in August of 1976 on a rather humble scale, as only 37 sets of twins participated in the inaugural event. It was an byproduct of the local bicentennial celebration, intended initially as a one-off event. In the years that followed, expansion was steady, so much so that today’s version bears little resemblance to the first iteration.
The first festival, held on the square, was “very rural, very Mayberry/ RFD type of event.” (Andrew Miller). Attractions ranged from sack races to a firefighter battle of the barrels. A children’s parade was held, with the wee little ones riding their colorfully decorated bicycles in a pint-sized procession. There were a few food and arts and crafts vendors peddling goods. Most notable may have the appearance of the world’s only skydiving clown, Thunder Chicken. After he landed, a magic show was performed for the children and then he was whisked away in a Wizard of Oz themed hot air balloon.
The festival may have been diminutive in scale, but proved a huge success leading to plans for a second festival the following year. By the second installation of the event, the locale was moved to the park.
In 1967, to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Twinsburg, the schools put on a production to commemorate the region’s anniversary. The production, coordinated by Richard T. Sunderland who was the Director of Music for Twinsburg Schools, featured children from virtually every grade.
1917 marked the centennial of Twinsburg Township. Numerous committees worked feverishly to put together a celebration worthy of the area, its inhabitants, and the founders. The week-long festivities commenced on Sunday, August 4th with church services held in both the morning and early evening on the pageant grounds and concluded the following Saturday with the highly anticipated Pageant. Other activities and events included a dramatization of fifty year old pranks pulled by schoolchildren attending Bissel Academy, family reunions, log rolling, band music, and old time Virginia reels.
One of the highlights of Twinsburg’s Centennial was it’s pageant. The Pageant was a faithful portrayal of the highlights of the area’s first hundred years from the earliest settlers right up to the modern day (or at least what passed for modern at that time). Over a third of Twinsburg’s populance (350 of 900) participated in the pageant, with 1,200 others in attendance.
Billed as a history of a town, in dramatic form, for many it was the high point of the celebration. The Independent, which was the newspaper of Northern Summit County in 1917, reported that many people “pronounced it the finest pageant they had ever seen.”
The production was so popular it was produced in Cleveland during the following month. It was directed my S. Gertrude Hadlow.
The Township of the time was fiercely religious and so was the Centennial. Opening festivities were imbued with a spiritual fervor. Both the Congregational and Methodist churches had hour-long services to kick off the festival. An excerpt from The (Hudson) Independent sums up the religious tone: “Let us come to this service with a keen realization of the meaning of the hour and let the whole community, young and old, render unto God, their Captain, their deepest allegiance and pledge their unfailing loyalty to the great cause of humanity, and show that with malice toward none and charity for all we enter this struggle reluctantly, but as true Americans, obedient to the stern daughter of the voice of God—DUTY.”
According to an article published in the Akron Beacon Journal: “No town in Northern Ohio has greater unity and loyalty among its people.” Unity and loyalty was on full-display for the duration of the preparation and subsequent festivities.