By Susan Hartley
PIQUA — Saturday turned out to be a busy day for several Piqua area organizations. From an early morning Pack the Path bike ride and walk to the first of three planned evening Rock Piqua! concerts at Lock Nine Park, there was something for everyone to enjoy a summer day.
One of the main attractions was the dedication of the new Education Center at the John Johnston Farm & Indian Agency, which also included a car show hosted by the Miami Valley Corvette Club and, in honor of Flag Day, a flag retirement ceremony conducted by local service orations.
The Education Center dedication ceremony was attended by about 100 people inside the new addition, which since its opening in early April, has already seen nearly 2,500 students, teachers and parents from many local school districts.
“It is very humbling to realize so many people have made this project possible,” said Andy Hite, site manager for the farm. “Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem enough.”
Also speaking during Saturday’s dedication ceremony was Jim Oda, president of the Johnston Farm Friends Council and director of Piqua Public Library.
Oda welcomed those who came to the dedication and noted what a “wonderful room we’re in.” Oda mentioned the need for such a facility for area children to come to learn local history and how much work went into the fundraising, planning and preparation of exhibits and artifacts for the new space. He also inserted some humor, noting that the new Education Center space was now home to “Bob, the fiberglass horse” — a life-size horse the historical site has had on hand for years and that the new space also was available for community or family-type activities. For example, Oda said, those who are planning a wedding should consider the new Education Center. “We can do something no other wedding site can do — we can offer a ride on the canal boat.”
Sen. Bill Beagle also made a few remarks, calling the dedication a “fabulous event. There’s a couple great things here: a great history surrounded by the canal and John Johnston’s life. It’s right we spend some time capturing that history. There’s a great asset here.”
State Rep. Richard Adams said he’d been looking forward to the completion of the Education Center, calling the new space “a delightful addition to what already is a great facility.”
Adams presented a plaque from the Ohio House of Representatives to be put on display in the center.
Two other speakers noted the importance of the farm, its volunteers and dedication to preserving history.
Assistant Piqua City Manager Justin Sommer said he was proud of the “willingness of the Piqua community to invest” in the project.
“When I think about the Piqua community and what we have to offer, I think about Johnston Farm. The Education Center is such an opportunity for our future.”
Bert Logan, executive director of the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, also was on had to say a few words, congratulating those who participated in a fundraising effort for the construction project. In January 2013, a goal was set to locally raise $100,000. The group went beyond that goal, raising $112,000. Other local donations included a $25,000 grant from the Duke Foundation. The building project began in December 2013, with the goal for completion set for April 1.
Besides Bob the fiberglass horse, currently on display in the new space is a history of the Miami and Erie Canal, including a carved stone 112-mile mile marker, which told canawlers they were 112 miles north of the Ohio River, a replica of the General Harrison canal boat, a display of tools used on the canal locks and canal boats.
“This is a dream come true,” Hite said.