Bakersville Homecoming celebrating its 70th year

| August 1, 2018

BAKERSVILLE – In 1948, a group of Bakersville residents came together to celebrate Bakersville’s centennial with a homecoming celebration. That one-time event led to an annual homecoming that has been held in the small community for 70 years. Although much has changed during that time, one thing has remained the same, the coming together of friends and neighbors for friendly competition at the tractor pulls to reminiscing about old times during the chicken barbecue.

“One thing that has stayed the same is the people still come back to Bakersville from far away,” said Larry Stahl, who is in charge of the tractor pull each year. “One thing that has changed is that people are coming from further away because they’re scattered more. In the 1940s, people didn’t move away as much, or if they did, they moved to Coshocton or Newcomerstown. So the distance that people have traveled for this has greatly expanded.”

The first homecoming celebration was held at the picnic shelter and featured horse pulling, a merry-go-round, games, and other entertainment. The land that would become the community park was purchased from Frank Hawk. The picnic shelter was constructed first and various farmers from the community donated trees and cut lumber for the structure. They donated their time and labor to build the first picnic shelter at the park. The bandstand was constructed afterward and these same farmers donated lumber and time once again to construct the bandstand behind the picnic shelter.

In 1951, the homecoming had its first tractor pull and Stanley Mizer was in charge of the pull that year. The next year, the homecoming celebration had to be canceled due to the polio epidemic.

In the early 1960s, when SR 751 was built, they held the tractor pull on the new roadway. It was also in the mid-1960s that the chicken barbecue started. This year, there will be 800 halves ready to be served.

“A lot of these farmers that come today are from the same families that were here in 1948,” said Stahl.

The event starts Friday, Aug. 10 at 4 p.m. with the chicken barbecue. Each event Friday night will benefit the Bakersville Volunteer Fire Department. Cost is $10 for a meal which includes a chicken half, potato salad, applesauce, a roll, drinks, and dessert.

“We have had very strong community support,” said John Ridenour, fire chief. “That’s what keeps the homecoming and fire department going. We’re grateful that they donate or else the fire department can’t function.”

The Bakersville Volunteer Fire Department belongs to both the Tuscarawas County Fire Department Association and the Coshocton County Fire Department Association. They are self-sufficient and rely on the community and a few grant opportunities for funding.

“This is why this homecoming is so important because if we didn’t have the homecoming, we wouldn’t have a fire department,” said Stahl.

The fire department must meet the same regulations and requirements as fully-staffed, paid fire departments. Every firefighter since the beginning of the Bakersville Fire Department has been entirely volunteer-based. The department currently has four trucks and 12 volunteers and has received $250,000 in grants in the last three years.

“We are very grateful for all of the community support,” said Ridenour. “Without the community, none of this is going to happen. We’ve been very fortunate to have the community’s support.”

On Friday night, the 35th annual antique tractor pull, classes 1957 and older, will begin at 5 p.m. and is being coordinated by Stahl and Terry Mizer. At around 7:30 p.m., the pull will be honoring the fire department with a special mention to the original members of the department. There are about five or six original members left out of the 26 who originally started the department. The fire department started in 1960 and the first group tested and certified was in 1961. Cost for admission to the tractor pull is $2 for adults and $1 for those 16 and under and 65 and older.

There will also be musical entertainment from 6 – 8:30 p.m. featuring Wacky’s Country Experience at the bandstand.

On Saturday, Aug. 11 and Sunday, Aug. 12, all funds raised go to the park district.

“We’re proud of this park,” said Stahl. “A lot of communities don’t have parks like this anymore.”

Rise and shine with a hearty breakfast with friends. Serving starts at 7 a.m. Another tractor pull will be held in Bud Hawk Arena at 9:30 a.m. with classes 5500, 8500, 12,500 flat hitches only. The Saturday and Sunday tractor pull is being coordinated by the park district. A kiddie tractor pull will be held at 1 p.m. Registration for that begins at noon.

“This is like a big family reunion every year,” said Ridenour. “But the population has moved away. I remember growing up, the homecoming was crowded. It’s still crowded, but not as much as it was.”

Another reunion will also take place on Saturday as well. Anyone who attended Bakersville School is welcome to come and tour the old building, which is currently a Mennonite School and has been since 1981.

The first school opened in 1853. That building was replaced in 1868. It was eventually replaced by one built in 1884, which burned two weeks after the students left for summer vacation in 1938. It is believed that lightning struck the building and consumed it in flames. School was held at Taylor’s Church during the 1938 – 1939 school year and the school reopened in 1939.

The building will be open Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. for tours. The building has mostly remained the same over the years with very few remodels. The Bakersville School closed in 1978. At least 800 students attended that school over the years.

There will be a short ceremony on Saturday at around 2 p.m. at the bandstand featuring James George, the last principal of the school, and Sam Wyler, whose father used to teach school there. Stahl will have a display of class pictures and a list of about 700 names of students who attended.

Saturday night concludes with the Sounds of Sam from 7 – 9 p.m., at the bandstand.

Sunday, Aug. 12 begins with a combined church service at the bandstand at 10:30 a.m., which will be led this year by Pastor Jim Henniger of Renner’s United Church of Christ. Bakersville Community Church and Evan’s Creek Church are also involved. After church services, there are more tractor pulls at 1 p.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The homecoming has a list of generous sponsors for all three days. Each year, they raise about $2,500 to $3,000 in sponsor dollars alone.

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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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