The Sour Mash String Band (pictured) provided appropriate musical entertainment for last Saturday’s Buckeye Furnace Fall Festival. (Telegram Photo by Pete Wilson)
The Sour Mash String Band (pictured) provided appropriate musical entertainment for last Saturday’s Buckeye Furnace Fall Festival. (Telegram Photo by Pete Wilson)

Thanks to the efforts of the organizers in setting the agenda -- and blessed by what could be described as perfect fall weather -- the Buckeye Furnace Fall Festival enjoyed one of its best editions ever this past Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Buckeye Furnace State Memorial.

The Friends of Buckeye Furnace, a support group of local volunteers, plans and conducts the annual event, to bring visitors and positive attention to Buckeye Furnace -- which is home to a restored charcoal iron furnace that honors an industry, which helped to develop and economically sustain Jackson County in the middle to late 1800s.

While the state-owned property is historically significant and tucked away in a beautiful rustic setting surrounded by rural homes and woods, Buckeye Furnace’s remote location forces potential tourists and visitors to travel off the beaten track and go a little farther to get there. The State Memorial is located on Buckeye Park Road in Milton Township, approximately 10 miles east of Wellston off State Route 124 and Buckeye Furnace Road.

As it turned out, the Friends of Buckeye Furnace were very pleased with the participation and attendance of last Saturday’s Fall Festival.

“We were extremely happy with the number of people we had and the fact they hung around, relaxed and spent the day with us,” Friends of Buckeye Furnace President Jim Meacham commented. “Our goal was to get more people out here, especially the younger people.”

Meacham reported that one point of emphasis in planning this year’s event was to attract more and new vendors. That effort was successful as 43 vendors were on site selling their various wares.

The Sour Mash String Band was present to provide live entertainment and there was a host of wide-ranging, family-friendly activities to draw visitors. There were Little Miss and Little Mister Contests for the young kids and their family members and there was an area designated for several kids’ activities, including pumpkin-decorating.

Other scheduled activities geared toward the adults and older youths included a Pie/Cake-Baking Contest, a Cornhole Tournament, a Skillet Toss, a Hog-Calling Contest and a Pie-Eating Contest.

In both cases, the judges named all the entrants as the winners of the Little Miss and Little Mister Contests. The Little Miss winners were: Bonnie Collins, Lilly Cales, Kayleigh Saunders, Abigail Graves and Raclyn Bruce. The Little Mister winners were: Wyatt Rawlins, Zaydon White, Jaydon Vickers and Lincoln Stevens.

In the Pie/Cake-Baking Contest, Mina Saunders of Gallia County took first place with her Norwegian Apple Cake. Sheila Woolum was awarded second place with White Pineapple Cake. There was a tie for third place between Catherine Saunders (Cupcakes) and Janetta Collins (Apple Walnut Cake).

There was no admission charge and parking was free, but the Friends were able to raise some money through food sales, a Chinese Auction, vendor fees, and a Pie/Cake Auction. Food items included soup beans and cornbread, hot dogs, beverages, chips and similar snack items and beverages.

The historic white-clapboard Museum/Store was also open, allowing visitors to see the merchandise and the historical displays. The historical site structures and exhibits were also open for viewing.

Jan McKibben and Tammie Mash serve as the residential site managers/caretakers and also play leading roles with the Friends of Buckeye Furnace. McKibben coordinated and announced the activities as the festival unfolded on Saturday while Mash supervised the large section of vendors.

McKibben explained that some of the funds generated from the festival are used to help finance an annual Family Day, in which families come to Buckeye Furnace to spend a day participating in various enrichment activities that are designed to be both fun and educational.

Due to funding shortages in its own budget, the Ohio Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection) set up partnerships in past years with local groups for the operation of some of its historical sites around the state. As it turned out, both the Buckeye Furnace State Memorial and the Leo Petroglyph State Memorial in Jackson Township fell into this category. To assure its continued operation, the Friends of Buckeye Furnace was formed in 2007 and was granted a contract to operate the Buckeye Furnace although the state retained ownership. The Friends of Buckeye Furnace also has a similar contract to oversee and operate Leo Petroglyph. While the state is responsible for covering the cost of needed maintenance projects, there are limited state funds available for this purpose and projects are often delayed.

Meacham told The Telegram that one of the major needs of the Friends of Buckeye Furnace is to attract more volunteers to help with local events and projects. Those interested in learning more about becoming a member of the Friends of Buckeye Furnace can contact Mash by calling 740-384-3537.

As for prospective visitors, Buckeye Furnace State Memorial charges no admission and the grounds are open for daylight hours all year round. The Museum/Store is open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from the first weekend in May through the last weekend in October.