Kinsman, Ohio, is a sleepy little hamlet centered on the village square. It is the birthplace of famed lawyer and orator Clarence Darrow. His octagon house still stands as a testament to his humble beginnings.
The square in Kinsman boasts what you would expect from a long-established Western Reserve town; a gazebo, a drug store, a soda fountain and a bank, a doctor's office and a food store. On the roads leading out-of-town one can see examples of Western Reserve architecture, white clapboard frame houses, many with Ohio historic markers on them. It is also a place where you can get a great piece of pie.
So what can a community like this do to get the attention of the county and raise funds for worthwhile projects? The Kinsman Rotary had a bright idea.Why not sponsor a barbecue. They started small. That was 20 years ago. This year, on July 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Kinsman Rotary will hold its annual barbecue at Kinsman Park, located off state Route 5, near the Ohio Edison substation on Burnett East Road. The event has continued to grow and now has become an occasion that the whole community looks forward to. Just last year they set an all-time record. "We prepared for 950 people and we sold out," said Joni Woofter, outgoing Rotary president.
All of this is pretty remarkable when one considers that the Kinsman Rotary Club boasts a total of 12 members. "It takes a lot of cooperation but everyone in the club is like family," Woofter stated. "We all know that this means a lot of work, but we are very organized and start to prepare early in the week for the big day."
The menu for the barbecue has remained the same: One-half of a chicken, coleslaw, baked potato, roll and a beverage. The cost is $7, which in today's economy is a bargain.
The community has gotten behind this event in a big way, too. There will be yard sales that day with more than 100 families participating. Maps to the yard sales will be available at the Market Square bookstore / soda fountain. Dan Sutton, owner of Market Square, said "People started out having flea market stalls the day of the barbecue. For about 12 years now, we've been having yard sales on the day of the barbecue. We thought having a map available would help people. There will also be families who are not on the map but will have signs in their yard. There will be a number of Amish families selling baked goods that day on the village square as well." The Market Square claims to have 100,000 used books for sale, but I am sure there are many more than that. Spend some time browsing and, if you are like me, you are bound to come home with a few books that you cannot live without. You can also get an old fashioned ice cream soda at the soda fountain there.
The Times Square Restaurant, a venerable Kinsman landmark just off the square, joins in that day by helping to prepare the baked potatoes for the barbecue. Owner Carol Wilson puts aside all thoughts of competition and pitches right in to help. If people come into her restaurant that day, they are likely to order a piece of pie. Former owner and legendary baker Mrs. Allen was featured in Ohio magazine as baking the best pie in Ohio. When she sold the restaurant, she made sure her recipes remained. My personal favorite is coconut cream, made with homemade custard and toasted coconut, just like Mrs. Allen used to make.
The Kinsman Rotary barbecue is an event where you should come hungry and early. Take time to visit the various yard sales. Who knows, you might find something for the Antiques Roadshow. Stop on the village square and visit the Amish bake sale, to pick up loaf of bread to take home. Stop at the Times Square for a piece of their scrumptious pie. All in all, it is a lovely way to spend a Saturday in a sleepy little hamlet in Trumbull County. I hope to see you there.
O'Connor is a resident of Brookfield.