CHRISTIANSBURG — For its bicentennial, the village is throwing a party unlike any in recent memory.
With scores of musical performances, a parade, a frontier-era encampment, and an exhibit of an original Congressional Medal of Honor, organizers say this Christiansburg celebration will be one to remember.
“No matter where you walk, there’s going to be some kind of entertainment,” said Tim Milligan, a member of the bicentennial planning committee.
Bluegrass tunes will resonate from Troy-based Rum River Blend, Larry Lyons, and the Muleskinner Band. Other live performances include country artist Ashley Martin, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Band of Flight, Chris Baldwin and the Faded Hipsters.
Village Mayor Charles Lyons confessed his longtime wish has been to see a bluegrass concert in the village. But he proudly attests even bluegrass isn’t the best part of this weekend’s party.
“We’ve done this without any taxpayer money. It’s strictly been self-funded,” said Lyons, giving thanks to volunteers who organized dinner auctions and fundraising efforts throughout the year.
The festival required funds for insurance, a permit for the beer garden, lights for the stage, money for entertainment and numerous supplies. Lyons said that’s why he is impressed with the planning committee’s resourcefulness in bringing this event to Christiansburg without a dime from taxpayers.
“This small village has so much to be proud of,” said Jeanette Gretzinger, co-chair of the planning committee alongside Lyons, her brother.
Gretzinger said she is especially excited to see local people and organizations showcase their talents and hard work. It is what she sees year-round.
“During the year we have an annual Christmas Card Delivery, a community flower fund for our citizens that pass, and have had flower swap/give-aways for many years,” she added. “Our volunteer Fire Department and EMS are unrivaled. Another great asset for our village are the wonderful businesses: Miller’s Quality Meats, Christiansburg General Store, Loretta’s Country Kitchen, Karen’s Pizzeria, David’s Flower Shop, Sparkle Clean, First National Bank and Countryside Market.”
The fun kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. when the frontier-era encampment opens to attendees. Guests can expect to find tradesmen in period clothes demonstrating their skills: a blacksmith making horseshoes, a clock-maker repairing watches, and artisans crafting brooms and homemade soap. Those items and more are available to purchase.
Also on Friday, a bonfire with grilled hot dogs will be offered free to the public in the park as Rum River Blend performs.
The Masonic Temple’s history museum will open Friday on the second floor and will remain open all three days. Located on North Main Street, the three-story lodge was built in 1854 and has been home to the Freemasons ever since. A historical artifact in its own right, the building officially goes by the name Mount Olivet Lodge and will house a treasure trove of interesting mementos of Christiansburg’s past.
Those mementos include the original Congressional Medal of Honor bestowed upon the village’s own Marion Ross.
The tale of Marion Ross
An early citizen of Christiansburg, Ross was among the first recipients of the prestigious award. Due to its symbolic value, the medal will only be displayed 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The Champaign County Historical Society is giving the village temporary access to the medal, and the Sheriff’s Office will have a deputy on hand. Ross, a sergeant major for the Union Army, was hanged in 1862 by the Confederacy for his part in an undercover mission to cut supplies and communication lines to Confederate troops by stealing a train. This was known as the Great Locomotive Chase. Ross and his confidantes successfully stole the train and raced ahead of their pursuers, but later were captured.
Mike Sullenberger, a Freemason at the Masonic Temple since 1971, said Ross embodies courage and honor in the face of adversity. From the beginning, Ross knew the mission he signed up for would likely end in his death, Sullenberger added.
According to records, Ross told his executioners he was proud to die for his country. He was only 29 years old. The medal was given to him posthumously.
“You’ll be able to read a resolution (at the festival’s display) which was quite moving upon his death,” said Sullenberger, referring to old meeting minutes of Christiansburg’s Fraternal Order.
Ross was a Freemason in Christiansburg. He was also a graduate and professor at Antioch College in nearby Yellow Springs, instantly gaining him promotion to sergeant major upon joining the Second Ohio Volunteer Army. College educated men were rare back then, said Sullenberger, and Ross was well respected. His father, Levi Ross, was a charter member during the founding of Christiansburg’s Masonic Temple in the early 1850s.
Friday through Sunday, the lodge will have ice cream and corn on the cob for sale. At least two Freemasons will be on hand at all times during the exhibit to help attendees, describe exhibits and answer questions, said Sullenberger.
Craft vendors, antique sellers and additional exhibits will be featured on First Street. Those include various types of period clothing, jewelry, a horse-drawn buggy, and sports trophies won by student-athletes at the Christiansburg-Jackson schoolhouse.
The parade, spearheaded by the Christiansburg Fire Company, starts Saturday at 11 a.m. on the corner of Main and state Route 55. The beer garden also opens at 11 a.m., closing at 10 p.m.
Soon after, the food truck rally opens at noon. With 10 food trucks ranging from barbecue to pizza to burgers, the rally will take up two blocks of First Street. Free parking will be offered in an open field nearby.
Five bands and solo musicians will perform Saturday. A quilt show and art auction are slated as well.
Both shows are hyper-local, with each showcasing local artists and locally-inspired art.
“Our ladies that quilt have out-shone themselves this year. The quilt to be raffled has additional embroidered depictions of our landmarks,” said Gretzinger.
At 7 p.m., a graveyard walk will take place at Honey Creek Cemeteries. The village was also host a cornhole tournament at a time to be determined.
On Sunday, live music, the beer garden, demonstrations and a free bean-and-ham soup dinner are on the schedule. Lyons, who operates his own catering service, will be carving a pig for feasting. He is accepting free-will donations for those who partake.
Craig Shirk is a regular contributor to this newspaper.