Back in the summer of ‘69, Cleveland became the butt of jokes when an infamous burning river attracted national attention. Beyond the punchline, the incident on the Cuyahoga became the precipice of the country’s environmental movement—inspiring Earth Day and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and sparking the passage of the Clean Water Act.SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
This sequence of events is just one example of the numerous (and perhaps lesser-known) ways in which our city has impacted our nation, according to Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway Partners and co-creator of the first annual Cleveland History Days—billed as “10 Days and 30 Ways to Experience Cleveland’s History” running through July 1.
The week kicked off Friday, June 22—the same day the river caught on fire in 1969—with an opening ceremony and the Share the River Ramble, a 2.5- and 5-mile run/walk along the riverfront designed to showcase areas that were recently converted to park trails and bike paths (or are being considered for conversion, such as Irishtown Bend).
Other events include the Blazing Paddles paddleboard race, a Cleveland Preservation Showcase, the Ukranian Heritage Festival, and an authors’ night at the Music Box (featuring Laura DeMarco, among others).
Donovan conceptualized the series of events along with Thomas J. Yablonsky, Executive Director at the Historic Gateway Neighborhood and Historic Warehouse District Development Corporations. The two have worked together for decades on various historic preservation and heritage tourism projects. Among the most notable is the 10-year old Take a Hike program—a series of free, guided walking tours offering an immersion into the region’s history, one neighborhood at a time.
“You’re always the worst tourist in your own hometown,” jokes Donovan, who calls Take a Hike the perfect antidote.
Take a Hike tours are a major component of the Cleveland History Days schedule, with walks planned in University Circle, the Gateway District, Canal Basin Park, Civic Center, the Warehouse District, and more. The week will conclude with a special new Take a Hike tour in Tremont where attendees can trace the steps of the immigrants who built the city.
“I can’t think of a better time—or better neighborhood than Tremont—to learn about the cultures that passed through Cleveland,” he said. “There are more than 25 churches, all emblematic of our diversity.” The Tremont tour will likely be added to the roster later this year.
Participants can complete the Cleveland History Days experience with a stay at a historic downtown hotel: Double Tree by Hilton - Tudor Arms Hotel, Holiday Inn Express Cleveland Downtown, Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade, and Residence Inn Cleveland Downtown, all of which are extending discounted room rates to guests attending Cleveland History Days events.