One of the largest collections of "Honest Abe" re-enactors will descend upon central Ohio next month when the Association of Lincoln Presenters brings its annual convention to Columbus.
The Association of Lincoln Presenters will host its 19th annual convention at the Ramada Inn East Columbus, 4801 E. Broad St., April 11-14.
The event -- which also will feature a series of local stops, including at the Ohio Statehouse, Chase Cemetery and Westgate Park in Columbus, Encore Academy in Reynoldsburg and the Ohio Historical Society -- represents the first time the convention has come to Columbus.
It's taking place here because of Lincoln's ties to the area, as well as the efforts of this year's convention cohosts: Bob Brugler of Worthington, John Cooper of Liberty Township near Pickerington, and Jerry Payn of Wooster.
"It's the 19th annual convention and it's the only time this has been in Columbus," said Cooper, 62, who has been portraying Lincoln for more than 25 years.
"It moves all around and I volunteered to host it this year," Cooper said.
"I convinced the group Columbus would be a good location because of the importance of the area to Lincoln and his generals."
The association has about 150 Lincoln presenters who live throughout the United States.
As of March 21, Cooper said, 35 Lincoln presenters -- including eight from Ohio -- had signed on to attend the convention. The number is expected to increase as the convention dates draw near.
"We try to hold conventions in places Lincoln visited or that were significant to Lincoln because of the Civil War," Cooper said. "The purpose is to help educate ourselves and others about Lincoln.
"For us Lincolns, it's a reunion," he said. "It's like networking. We share experiences in our slow time, but there's not much slow time."
Those interested in attending this year's convention can register at lincolnpresenters.net.
The site also has a full itinerary of convention activities, including some that are open to the public.
Headquartered at the Ramada Inn East Columbus, the convention will kick off with an April 11 dinner for attendees, followed by a presentation by Lincoln's secretary of the treasury and former Ohio Gov. Salmon Chase, portrayed by Columbus resident Monty Chase, his descendent.
April 12, the group will travel to the Ohio Statehouse, where Payn will re-enact a speech given there by the former president in 1861 on his way to his inauguration.
The group also will journey to Camp Chase Cemetery on Sullivant Avenue in Columbus, where 2,200 Confederate soldiers are buried.
The traveling portion of the convention also will make visits to the Civil War mural in Westgate Park in Columbus, which is on the former Camp Chase site; the William Tecumseh Sherman house and museum in Lancaster; and Motts Military Museum in Groveport to view the Lincoln and Civil War memorabilia on display.
Additionally, the group will travel to the Encore Academy of Reynoldsburg High School for dinner prior to the production of the play Our American Cousin, the play that was performed at Ford's Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated.
"The play is a key event of the convention and it is open to the public," Cooper said. "On April 12, all of (the convention's) Lincolns will be there.
"We're encouraging re-enactors to come to this play in period dress ... so the audience is almost a part of this play."
Cooper said another highlight of the traveling portion of the convention will be April 13, when the Ohio Historical Society hosts each of the convention's Lincoln presenters.
During performances at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., around eight different Lincoln presenters will cover different periods of Lincoln's life.
"This is an opportunity for people to see all the top Lincoln performers appear at one location," Cooper said. "These are the top Lincolns in the country."
After the historical society closes at 5 p.m. April 13, there will be a special "Dinner with Lincoln," during which each table will have at least one Lincoln. After dinner, Cooper said, guests will hear from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass.
"This is by special ticket that must be pre-ordered from the Ohio Historical Society," Cooper said.
The final convention event will be a worship service April 14 at Pickerington Church of the Nazarene, 11775 Pickerington Road. The service will begin at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.
"One of the Lincolns will be preaching at the church service," Cooper said.