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Remember, celebrate heritage and history

History is important because it connects us to specific times, places and events that were significant milestones in our collective past.

Sometimes, there are historic buildings, structures, or landmarks that serve to define our communities. As the summer season begins and our fairs and festivals are planned, I am reminded that so many of these events take place to celebrate and promote our rich history in Belmont County.

Since Wednesday, many have traveled the historic National Road, once called National Pike. The annual Historic National Road Yard Sale happens from dawn to dusk each day through this weekend. The event features approximately 824 miles of bargains, antiques, fresh produce, furniture, and other treasures, from Baltimore, Maryland to St. Louis, Missouri. Locally, vendors can be found from Bridgeport to Hendrysburg along the scenic byway, U.S. 40.

If you are traveling along the route on Saturday and Sunday, you may get to see the National Road Wagon Train. This is an annual activity sponsored by the tourism office. Authentic wagons pulled by horses and mules re-enact the mode of travel during the development of the National Pike. The event also displays how the road played a key role in opening the West to our nation. During the heyday of the National Road, traffic was heavy throughout the day.

Stage coaches and wagons designed to carry heavy freight became popular. Travelers, known as drovers crowded inns and taverns along the road. The Black Horse Inn, located on Main Street, Morristown, was a popular stop for many. The building still stands today in this historic downtown district and is being restored by the Morristown Historic Preservation Association.

Located along the Ohio River stands a bridge structure that is a physical link to our past. To me, this structure is a great display of strength. On June 21, 1871, the first train traveled over a new stone arch bridge connecting Bellaire and Benwood. Today we know that bridge as the Great Stone Viaduct. On June 25, 26 and 27, 2021, 150 years after its opening, The Great Stone Viaduct Historical Education Society will celebrate this magnificent structure and its importance to Bellaire and Belmont County. This three-day celebration will be held on the grounds surrounding the Great Stone Viaduct in Bellaire.

For me, these events also bring to light the importance of locating and saving buildings, structures and landmarks of historic significance, because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever. Preserving the Great Stone Viaduct, the Black Horse Inn and the history of the National Road, which has many historic structures and landmarks along the way, is very important. There is no chance to renovate or to save a historic site once it is gone, and we can never be certain what will be valued in the future. There are 27 properties and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Belmont County, including one National Historic Landmark.

We have events in our area that celebrate our heritage. Epworth Chautauqua Days, Flushing Heritage Day, Barton Polka Festival and the Shadyside Loop Festival are just to name a few. There are also events that celebrate heroes and famous people from our area, such as Betty Zane Days.

Our history and heritage are important. The events that celebrate these give our communities a strong identity. They connect our residents and keep old traditions alive. Many of the events attract visitors, by showing off what makes our communities so unique, which helps build a strong sense of community pride.

For a year, we have been told to stay home. Do not leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary.

Today, I tell you to get out! Get out and celebrate the history and heritage of Belmont County. For more information about our events and attractions, call the tourism office at 740-695-4359.

Barb Ballint, executive director of the Belmont County Tourism, provides information about the tourism office, local attractions, upcoming events, online resources and other local finds in Belmont County. Each month she shares information about the travel and tourism industry and its impact on our local economy.

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