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'Ghosts' share local history

May 14, 2010
Jenn Brookens — Staff Writer

FAIRMONT - On a cold, rainy Thursday morning, it seemed that ghosts of Fairmont's past had come back to life.

Well, just enough to give a history lesson.

An idea that caught on with the sesquicentennial celebration in 2007 lives on as a special event for area fifth-graders each year, with a Downtown Plaza ghost tour.

Article Photos

Fifth-graders listen Thursday as Tom Dodge describes the history of Fairmont while dressed as Frank E. Wade, first president of Fairmont Railway Motors, during the Ghost Tours of Downtown Plaza.

Volunteers take on prominent citizens from Fairmont's past to describe how Fairmont became the town it is today.

"This is the third year we've done this for the kids," said Lenny Tvedten, director of the Martin County Historical Society. "In the past, we've invited students to the museum for age-appropriate activities, and allowed older kids to do research. But with the tour of Downtown Plaza, the kids get to learn of the significant individuals in the past who shaped Fairmont and Martin County."

Volunteers for Thursday's presentation were Loren Dunham as Frank Day, one of the founding editors of the Sentinel; Tom Dodge as Frank E. Wade, first president of Fairmont Railway Motors; Bill Busse as Capt. Jeremiah Rusk; Harry Brumbaugh as Henry Rippe; and Dan Kehrberg as businessman Robert J. Wallace.

"We are fortunate to have a lot of good volunteers and people willing to help," Tvedten said. "Without them, it couldn't be done."

Jim Marushin, curator of the Pioneer Museum and coordinator of the Ghost Tours, helped research the roles and then gave the information to the volunteers.

"They're a great group of retired teachers and such, so they've dealt with kids for decades," Marushin said. "I researched the parts, and they developed their own spiel for the kids."

"Since I moved here in 1968, I've always had an interest in Frank Day," Dunham said of his role for the day. "He was one of the first pieces I researched. I started out in journalism, so it was just a natural interest to me."

Teachers native to the area also lend a helping hand during the tour.

"As they walk through downtown, they talk about the buildings and what they remember downtown looking like," Marushin said.

While the Ghost Tours only occur for the students once a year, there are some other ghost tours coming up for Interlaken Heritage Days this summer.

"This year, the IHD is doing a ghost tour of the local churches, called the Holy Ghost Tour," Tvedten said. "The churches are providing the local history and we're making a booklet. One thing that will be different is that people are able to come and go as they want, and it's not a structured schedule as it was in the past."

It's the personal touch of history that seems to make it connect, according to Marushin.

"The more you know about the place you live, along with knowing who started it and the dynamics of those people, the more you tend to become attached," he said.



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