The Mount Vernon News, May 5, 2012

MOUNT VERNON — Downtown Mount Vernon was the place to be Friday evening when the Heritage Centre Association’s First Friday festivities resumed after a winter hiatus. The downtown streets, shops and Public Square were lively in the early part of the evening as streams of visitors turned out for a stroll and some fun in spite of threatening clouds and a sprinkle or two. The inclement weather did close everything down earlier than scheduled.

The Old Time String Band provided musical accompaniment in the Buckeye Candy Building as visitors scanned the exhibit exploring public life in Knox County, “The Place to Be.”

The exhibit was produced under the guidance of Kenyon College professor Howard Sacks.

“’The Place to Be’ is part of a larger initiative called Rural by Design which is designed to promote the sustainability of this rural community, Knox County,” Sacks said. “We tend to think of sustainability as natural environment, which of course it is. If you want to have a sustainable community you have to have a sustainable economy and you also have to have a vital social life, a vital public life that brings people together. This exhibit is about public life in Knox County and how it has changed over time, the continuities and the different ways in which we gather together and why that’s important to our community.”

The Kenyon College students involved in the project went out and interviewed over 100 people, collected historical materials and took documentary photographs. Fourteen particular places in Knox County are featured, but serve as representatives of the larger picture. One restaurant, for example, represents other restaurants in the county.

Several Kenyon college students were on hand to guide visitors through the exhibit and answer questions about their research findings.

Kenyon College senior Sarah Bush, an American studies major from the Baltimore area, said she enjoyed working on the public life project.

“I loved going out into the community and getting to meet people and getting to know them. You feel like you are connected to this place.”

Sociology major Rebecca Katzman, a sophomore from the St. Louis area, studied the Owl Creek Produce Auction.

“I’d never been to an auction before, but now I think I could even go to an auction now and place bids for stuff. I also definitely learned a lot about Mount Vernon and Knox County and diversity. At the produce auction you have both the Amish and the English and it was interesting to see how well people in this county get along with one another. … I feel more like a member of the community now.”