Record-Courier: Chautauqua week commemorates Brimfield Bicentennial celebration

Record-Courier: Chautauqua week commemorates Brimfield Bicentennial celebration

As published in the Record-Courier, on April 8 2016

By Kelly Maile

The Brimfield Historical Society and Kelso Museum’s free Ohio Chautauqua Preview Event Thursday evening at the Kent American Legion’s Underwood Hall allowed residents a glimpse of what’s to come during Ohio Chautauqua week June 7 to 11, to commemorate Brimfield’s Bicentennial.

Actor Hank Fincken portrayed American inventor Thomas Edison in his one-man show “Almost, Mr. Edison.” The show told the story of Edison, who was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847, went on to publish a weekly newspaper, “The Weekly Herald,” and obtained his first job as a telegraph operator.

Fincken incorporated the audience in his performance, asking them questions and teasing them while also bringing to light what some might not know about Edison, like his first wife was from the Akron area.

Wearing a white suit, top hat and walking with a cane, Fincken told the audience his journey to inventing the telegraph, the carbon telephone “button” and the phonograph. Edison in his lifetime accumulated 1,903 patents.

Fincken, who tailored his performance to his audience similar to how the performers will at Ohio Chautauqua, has performed for more than 20 years, touring as a living history performer in Europe, South America and the United States. He has performed in more than 14 Chautauqua events, but will not perform at the one in June.

Judi Allen, curator of the Kelso House, said the board began attending Chautauqua events two years ago to plan the week in June, and they agreed the event was “really special.”

“Last year, the board applied for it and being it was Brimfield’s bicentennial it gave us a better chance,” Allen said. “There’s an application process. At the time, there were 13 different communities to do it and we won.”

The program schedule includes youth programs in the morning, adult programs at Kelso Museum in the afternoon and evening live music and historical performances by Mary Shelly, President Theodore Roosevelt, Dian Fossey, Chief Cornstalk and Marie Curie. Allen is also planning more events throughout the week and year.

This is the first time Ohio Chautauqua will come to Portage County. It’s is a five-day community event that combines living history performances, music, education and audience participation, according to its website.

Ohio Chautauqua is sponsored by Ohio Humanities Society and The Brimfield Historical Society and Kelso Museum.

For more information, visit