Johnstown Independent

Students play key roles -- literally -- in village's bicentennial celebration

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Johnstown High School students (from left) Matt Graham, Leo Brudny, Kassidy Flora, Blaire Warner and Cameron are taking on some acting roles to help celebrate the village's bicentennial.
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Youth involvement is an important part of Johnstown's bicentennial celebration.

Johnstown Historical Society member Terry Priest explained how Johnstown's teachers and students are keeping the bicentennial alive for the village's young people.

"Already students in the kindergarten classes have had a coloring contest of the mastodon," he said. "First-graders have colored the Monroe Township Hall; third-graders have drawn and colored their impressions of various sites; and middle school students have done their own artistic renderings of Johnstown."

Priest said the Les Miserables youth cast members, who presented the play at the Performing Arts Center in February, signed a program and banner for posterity.

"More involvement at each level assures that this year will be a memorable one for Johnstown's youth," he said.

On March 1, Searfoss Elementary School fourth- and fifth-grade teachers met to discuss more ways to involve students with Johnstown's history. They created such activities as student word searches, focusing on Johnstown's streets, buildings and history.

Priest said writing assignments would focus on impressions of Johnstown's logo, students' impressions of life in Johnstown and lessons about the past by interviewing their elders and creating a family tree.

"Research and organization and writing are useful lifelong skills," he said. "A folder of this year's events will make it even more memorable."

Priest said students learned a few facts about the word bicentennial itself, such as "bi" meaning two and "cent" referring to hundred.

"Since the logo involves a bison, that means that 'bison-tennial' is in hiding," he said. "A hands-on approach to bicentennial activities will keep them aware of this year's importance. Their initial job is to become bison hunters. Be on the lookout for events throughout the year."

Five high school students earlier this month introduced Oregon Elementary School first-, second- and third-graders to Johnstown's early history.

"The mascots of the bicentennial (featured on the bicentennial page of the Downtown Johnstown Inc. website) had already performed their skit at the 'B-ICE-centennial' kickoff, and now, after a successful production of Les Miserables, were able to get back to their task," Priest said.

He said Johnnie Raccoon (played by Leo Brudny) talked about how he came to this area and lived by Raccoon Creek and how his life as a raccoon has been challenging. He said younger raccoons Wy (Matt Graham) and Dot (Kassidy Flora) told of how life as Wyandots near Raccoontown was special.

"The students enjoyed their bushy tails tales and were introduced to Flint Ridge as a peaceful gathering destiny, and that Raccoontown itself figures into the life of Billy Dragoo, first white in this area," Priest said. "At that time, the raccoons turned the program over to the pigs."

Priest said Oliver Pigelow (Cameron West) and Miss Monroe (Blaire Warner) were not quite sure how their roles as pigs would be relevant.

Oliver Pigelow is a play on Dr. Oliver Bigelow, who founded Johnstown. Miss Monroe represents Monroe Township.

"They found admirable traits on their intelligence, love of sport eating habits and sociability that made them believable representatives and positive role models," Priest said. "The banter between them dealt with the founding of the town and township and how the logo of the green hills, crowned by a cupola and surrounded by tusks of a mastodon, was a good way of remembering local history."

Priest said the students would visit Searfoss Elementary School and Adams Middle School in character for similar events in the spring.

Priest said Johnstown's bicentennial activities are displayed online at downtownjohnstown.org. Mascot porch pets are available for purchase at Split Ends or by calling 740-967-8721.

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