NEW PARIS — The Village of New Paris turned its annual Apple Fest into a bicentennial celebration on Saturday, Sept. 23.
The small village previously celebrated its 200th birthday on the actual date, which was Friday, Aug. 18, however, the New Paris Chamber of Commerce and New Paris Bicentennial Committee wanted to hold a bigger celebration.
They decided the annual Apple Fest would be the best opportunity for it, since the village would already be gathered and in a celebratory mood.
Apple Fest ran from Friday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 24, and while the bicentennial was on everyone’s minds the whole weekend, it was Saturday the village took a second to stop and reflect back on when the community was founded.
Following the parade, everyone gathered in the entertainment tent for the ceremony.
“An ice cream social was held on the evening of Aug. 18 of this year to commemorate that day. Today we have some special guests with proclamations, once again recognizing the significance of this event for New Pairs,” Applefest and Bicentennial Chair Lori Gatland said.
The first of those guests was New Paris resident Linda Ray, who read a brief history of the village, which was written by Joan Steinberger.
“In the 1800s early pioneers recognized the beauty of our valley as soon as they crested the big hill south of the area. They realized the potential for a perfect spot to establish a new home. The lush valley surrounded by hills on three sides and a sizable water way was just what they were looking for,” Ray read.
“Four or five families made a hazardous journey from Paris, Kentucky. They drove their covered wagons and their worldly goods down the hill and proceeded to build homes for their families. In 1807, Jefferson Township of Preble County was established.”
She added it seemed “natural” to name the town New Paris, given the origins of the settlers. “The plat of 20 lots with a main street and several cross streets was acknowledged on Aug. 18, 1817. The founders offered a free lot to anyone who would build the first home,” Ray read.
By 1835 several homes had been added to New Paris. By 1865 the population was 650 residents. Now, the population is 1,601.
Next, Ray read several proclamations from government officials. The first she read was from State Senator Rob Portman, who wished the village a memorable celebration. She then read one from United State Representative Warren Davidson.
“It is with great pride that I recognize the celebration of New Paris’ 200th anniversary. The Bicentennial Celebration is a historical benchmark for New Paris and the State of Ohio,” she read.
Governor John Kasich also sent a proclamation. “On behalf of the State of Ohio we are proud to recognize the 200th anniversary of the Village of New Paris,” Ray read. “This milestone is an opportunity for the residents of New Paris to celebrate the rich history associated with our community. We should use this anniversary to reflect on the people, places, and events of this historic past.”
State Senator Bill Beagle sent his regrets that he could not make the celebration, due to a previous engagement he had. However, State Representative Jeff Rezabek was in attendance.
“It is great to be here again in New Paris. I came out here about three and a half years ago. It is a great honor to be out here again to celebrate your 200th anniversary,” he said. “On behalf of the State of Ohio as well as the House of Representatives and the Speaker of the House, we have a proclamation to celebrate you on your 200th anniversary.”
The Preble County Commissioners could not make the celebration, as they were in Washington D.C. on a veterans’ trip, but they also sent a proclamation to be read by Ray.
New Paris Mayor Rick VanWinkle read a proclamation for the village.
“I want to thank every one involved on council and the Applefest committee. We work all year long to make this possible and they do a great job. Special thanks to our guests from Paris, Kentucky for coming up. We appreciate that very much. They have a festival on Dec. 2 that they invited us to, so looks like we have a road trip coming up.”
He proclaimed Aug. 18 as “a day of thankfulness for all those who came before us” and “a day of celebration.”
The city manager, assistant city manager, and clerk of Paris, Kentucky also attended the celebration and read a proclamation.
Following the proclamation ceremony, the village was visited by its most famous resident: “Benjamin Hanby.”
The real Hanby wrote the Christmas song “Up on the House Top” in 1864 for the children of New Paris. At the time he composed the song he was operating a singing school in the village. Hanby died in 1867 at the age of 33.
Following the ceremony the National Trail cheerleaders performed and the regularly scheduled Apple Fest activities continued.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH