Wednesday, February 21, 2001

RADEL: Can't find a darned barn in the county

        Ohio's Bicentennial Commission needs your barn — if it's in Hamilton County.

        The need is urgent. And the pickings are slim.

        The barn-painting season is fast upon us. Yet, the commission lacks a suitable candidate within Hamilton County.

        This is a chance for someone to show some pride — and for a local barn to be a part of history. The state's Bicentennial Barn Project links Ohio's past to its present and reaches out to its future.

        The project promises to paint one side of the barn for free. One color — white — fits all. As does the design: the red, white and blue logo of Ohio's Bicentennial, plus the dates 1803 and 2003.

[photo] Warren County's official Bicentennial barn is at Sugar Hill Farm.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        With 53 brush jobs already completed, the project calls for a barn to be painted in every one of Ohio's 88 counties.

        So far, the call has gone unanswered in Hamilton County.

        Time is tight. A barn summit is slated for Friday in Columbus. Bicentennial commission officials will plot the summer's schedule with barn painter Scott Hagan.

        The list of Hamilton County barns with potential for painting is too short for Meredith Yankow. She's the commission's Southwest Regional Coordinator and the area's unofficial barn owl.

        Since June 1999, she has scouted, by her count “between 350 and 400 barns in my 12-county region.”

        She had hundreds of barns from which to choose in Clark, Butler and Warren counties.

    To nominate a Hamilton County barn for Ohio's Bicentennial Barn Project, call or e-mail Meredith Yankow, the Southwest Regional coordinator for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission.
    “If there's a barn out there in Hamilton County that I'm not aware of,” she said, “I'd love to hear about it.”
    Call Ms. Yankow at 287-2425 or 218-0131, or e-mail her at
    She is also seeking barns on which to paint the state's Bicentennial logo in the Ohio counties of Clermont, Clark, Greene, Miami and Preble. Plans call for the barns in Clark, Greene and Preble to be painted this summer.
        In Hamilton County, it's 17.

        “Hamilton County is so urban,” she told me. “There aren't many farms or barns left. That's why people have only nominated or volunteered 17.”

        She's visited 10. So far, none qualifies.

        Requirements are:

        • Material — Wood. Metal barns or wooden barns covered with siding need not apply.

        • Condition — Upright. Must stand throughout 2003.

        • Location — Heavily traveled road nearby. The barn scout would like Hamilton County's representative “along I-74, 75, 71 or 275. But, so far, nothing fits.”

        • Hospitality — Expect visitors. Welcome them. Expect surprises, too.

        Scott and Tari Spurlock's Butler County barn was painted for the Bicentennial project in September 1999.

        “People started coming out here when it was being painted, and they haven't stopped,” Scott said.

        Tari makes a point of chatting with the visitors. “That's how I met a guy making a quilt using every barn in the Bicentennial Barns Project. Another old-timer just wanted to talk about farming.”

        Cars stop at the intersection of Ohio 73 and 177, site of the barn on the Spurlocks' Presidio Pines farm. Occupants tumble from their autos to stare at the manger for the couple's goats, lambs and llamas.

        “Every weekend morning, you hear car doors slam,” Tari noted. “Somebody's getting out to take a picture right as the sunrise hits the barn.”

        They're photographing a structure that has seen generations of farm animals born, tons of hay bales stacked. The Spurlocks estimate the barn was built in 1816, when the state of Ohio was just 13 years old.

        Fire destroyed the Spurlocks' house in May. Since then, they have discovered the untold benefits of having a Bicentennial barn.

        “People drive up and tell us they came here earlier to see the barn,” Tari said.

        “Maybe we helped them out with a gallon of gas or fixed a flat tire. Maybe we just talked.

        “These people show up and just hand us money. We don't know them. But they know us. And our barn.”

        Three generations of Brenda Neeley's family have played and worked in the 81-year-old barn at Sugar Hill Farm in Warren County.

        Sitting just 75 yards from Ohio 48, the barn doubled as Brenda's playhouse when she was a little girl. Her parents bought the Clearcreek Township farm in 1953.

        Today, she shares that barn and her memories with her husband, Tom, and their 8-year-old son, Russell.

        She remembers the peaceful sound of “rain falling on the barn's roof” and the unmistakable perfume of animals in the stalls and hay in the loft.

        Russell walks the same fields his mom walked at his age. He plays around that old barn. He's happy about its new Bicentennial sign.

        “This old barn is really wonderful,” Russell said. “Lots of people come out to look at the sign.

        “Any farmer would be happy to have something like that on his barn. Having people come by to take the barn's picture makes you feel proud.”

        Now's your chance, Hamilton County. Show some pride. Nominate a barn.

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