Some of the nation's greatest inventors and industrialists from the past will stop by Westerville next month to help celebrate the city's sesquicentennial.

Some of the nation's greatest inventors and industrialists from the past will stop by Westerville next week to help celebrate the city's sesquicentennial.

Westerville was chosen last year as one of five cities throughout the state to host the Ohio Chautauqua program, a five-day event organized by the Ohio Humanities Council. The outdoor event will take over the Westerville Sports Complex beginning next week.

Local history coordinator Beth Weinhardt said the event is like nothing she's ever experienced.

"It really is like taking a step back into history," Weinhardt said. "(The presenters) really have to know the person that they are portraying. Some of them have done other characters in past years, and they are all really excellent at what they do."

Entitled "Inventors & Innovators," the 2008 Chautauqua program explores the legacies of those who have helped shape the modern world, according to the Ohio Humanities Council. Held under a traditional red-and-white striped tent erected at the sports complex, the Chautauqua performances are free events with actor-scholars staging first-person historical portrayals of five inventors and innovators.

Following local musical entertainment, each evening will feature a different living history actor giving a unique monologue to illustrate that person's importance to American culture, according to the Ohio Humanities Council. Audience members will then be able to ask questions, and may meet the performers once they drop their personas.

"It's a really unique format. In the first part of the presentation they really are that person; they stay in character and talk about that person's life," Weinhardt said. "The night I went it was very fascinating, people were asking some really thought-provoking questions, interesting things that brought to the forefront some history that I wasn't aware of. It was very entertaining and informative."

Historical characters to be portrayed include Thomas Alva Edison (performed by Hank Fincken), Mary McLeod Bethune (performed by Dorothy Mains Prince), Andrew Carnegie (performed by George Dauler), George Washington Carver (performed by Paxton Williams) and Alexander Graham Bell (performed by Michael Hughes).

Fincken said that the audience interaction has been a key in keeping him involved with historical re-enactments. Fincken has been touring the United States for more than 20 years, and has been involved with the Chautauqua program for seven years.

"The Chautauqua audiences are the best," he said. "They appreciate all the effort we have put into our performances and ask penetrating questions that challenge our scholarship."

Chautauqua events begin Wednesday, July 2, with inventor Alexander Graham Bell presenting under the tent at 7:30 p.m. Each night of the program will feature a different presentation at 7:30 p.m., with educator Mary McLeod Bethune on Thursday, July 3, inventor Thomas Alva Edison on Friday, July 4, industrialist Andrew Carnegie on Saturday, July 5, and inventor George Washington Carver on Sunday, July 6.

As part of the five-day festivities, each scholar will also present daytime workshops for children and adults.

The Chautauqua program will be held rain or shine, and is free and open to the public. A complete schedule of presentations can be found on the Web at