MOUNT VERNON — The 2009 Heart of Ohio Tour covered 10 stops in Eastern Knox County. Most hosts reported a good, steady stream of visitors.
Charlie Bratton of Bratton Poultry Farm said he had had a steady stream of visitors by 1 p.m. the official starting time for the drive-it-yourself tour.
“They’ve been pretty steady,” Bratton said. “They actually started coming around noon.”
Visitors received an explanation about the chicken operation from Bratton, with a little help from his grandson, Dominic.
“What we’re showing them is this phase of agriculture and production. They see where the broiler birds come from, this being the breeder inside the poultry production facility,” he said.
Bratton said visitors were asking many good questions about the operation and how it works.
“They are especially interested in the economics of the operation,” he said.
The tour featured more than just agricultural sites. Another stop near Brinkhaven was actually a two-for-one for visitors. Stop No. 4 was the Tourist Information Gallery and Country Furniture.
The Tourist Information Center has a wealth of information and maps for the Eastern Knox County and Western Coshocton County Amish Country area.
“People have been very surprised to find us here,” said Denny Rawson, who was on hand to answer visitors’ questions. “We’ve only been open for two months and we have had folks visit us from all over the world. We have had people from New Zealand and Slovenia, I noticed in the guest book today. So we have had folks in the area who want to know more about Knox County and more about Amish Country. We’ve had a lot of people come in here for the tour, and eventually we want to have self-guided tours so people can get on their computers and see what’s in Knox County, see what’s here and actually plan their tour from home.”
Don and Elaine Freer were taking in what the information center had to offer.
“This is our first stop on the tour,” Don said. “We’re probably not going to do the whole tour because we have a dairy farm to take care of. But we’ve been doing the tour for a number of years and really enjoy what it has to offer.”
At Country Furniture, Marvin Keim and Raymond Weaver were on hand to answer questions and show visitors around.
“We’ve got a fair amount of people coming through,” said Keim. “We show them everything.”
JoAnn and Dale McDermott were looking at some of the hand-crafted furniture on display.
“This is our second stop,” Dale said. “It’s terrific. The drive from the white house [White Oak Inn] was just beautiful.”
“And the house was great,” JoAnn added.
The McDermotts said they planned to do about four or five stops on the tour.
At The Bridge of Dreams at Brinkhaven, Kim Marshall of the Knox Parks District was on hand to answer questions.
“So far it’s been a great day,” she said. “We’ve actually had a lot of horsemen on the trail and people with their dogs. And there have actually been some people from out of town, some people from Toledo. Obviously the focal point is the bridge, which is the longest covered bridge for trail use in Ohio. And there’s just a spectacular view from the bridge looking either way.”
Ruth Truex and Gerald Farmer, both of Mount Vernon, were taking in that view from the bridge. This was their second stop on the tour.
“We started on the last one and are going backward,” Truex explained. “I think it’s very interesting.”
“We’re going to do about three stops, maybe four, something like that,” Farmer added. “I want to go down and see the arch on Tiger Valley. Even though it’s not on the tour.”
Dick’s Wicker and Buggy Shop, owned by Dick Craven, repairs and/or rebuilds buggies and other period horse-drawn vehicles. It also does wicker work on furniture and the aforementioned vehicles.
“I’ve been learning this from my boss,” said Mike “Preacher” Rogers, who was showing visitors how some intricate wickerwork was done. “He’s been coming to my church for a few months and I come down for a few months and watched how it was done. I did a little sweeping and stuff and then he put me to work.”
“We’ve had a real good turnout today,” Craven said. “We’re showing them everything and anything. We’re showing them the wickerwork. We show them chair caning and we restore buggies. We build new buggies, furniture, sleds. Right now I’m restoring a sewing machine.”
The 2009 Heart of Ohio Tour is a joint venture between the Knox Soil & Water Conservation District and the Knox County Parks District.