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ˇFeliz Cumpleańos, Lorain!

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent 

Lorain, the city with the highest concentration of Latinos in Ohio, celebrated its 175th birthday July 16, 2009 with a cake-cutting ceremony and plenty of music.

Several political leaders described the city’s rich industrial and culturally diverse history to those gathered at the Veterans Memorial Park, in Lorain.

Lorainites Eric Stout, Rene Dore and Jane Baran hold the cake celebrating Lorain’s 175th birthday.

Kenneth Shawver, Lorain chief deputy safety service director, spoke on Lorain’s founding and early days.

“We are fortunate because this city was built on hardworking, trustworthy people,” Shawver said “And [that] is what’s going to bring this city back.”

The town, first called Charleston Village, was born July 16, 1834 when settlers near Lake Erie drew and submitted a 40-acre plat to the Lorain County recorder. Among the settlers was Conrad Reid, Lorain’s first mayor.

Shawver said the borders of Charleston Village included the Lake Erie front as the northern border, 4th Street as its southern border, and stretched from Oberlin Avenue on its western border to Broadway Avenue on its eastern border.

Lorain has grown to include more than 15,000 acres today, and is the tenth largest city of the state in terms of its population size.

In 1874, the name Lorain was chosen in honor of the county, after a city in France, and because another Charleston already existed in the state.

By the mid-1890s, Lorain was radically changed in just two years. From a sleepy town with dirt roads and swamps, Lorain would be transformed into a booming industrial city upon the construction of the steel plant and the shipbuilding industry on its lakefront.

Mayor of Lorain Anthony Krasienko and Lorain City Schools Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson were not present at the Thursday anniversary. They were in China on a school-related trip.

Director of Public Service Robert Gilchrist, speaking on behalf of Krasienko, praised the city’s industrial past and present natural and historical resources including its parks, the Palace theatre, Black River, waterfront and port.

He added the city’s cultural diversity – of more than 70 different nationalities – is a great asset for the city.

Ohio State Sen. Sue Morano, D-Lorain of the 13th District, said she chooses to live in Lorain because of its people and the lakefront. She said she believes the future of Lorain – and the potential to reach its former success—lies in green energy including wind and solar energy and geothermal sources.

Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo, a life-long Lorainite, said “Lorain is a very special place to live, to raise our families here...A lot of people talk us down but if they were actually here, they'd see it’s terrific,” he said.

Lorain City Schools board member Jim Smith said the school district and the city need to work together because “one cannot succeed if the other doesn’t,” he said.


Bottom Photo: The Black River Boys perform.

Morano, Kalo, and Mark Ballard, of U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton’s office (D-OH13), each gave Gilchrist a proclamation honoring the city.

After singing “Happy Birthday,” Lorainite Eric Stout had the honor of cutting the cake because he was born on the same day as the city’s birthday. Stout, 25, of Lorain, was born July 16, 1984, when the city celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Organizers searched for Lorain’s eldest male and female to be honored at the party but found only the eldest woman. She was 103 years old but was unable to attend the party as she died just a few weeks ago.

The Black River Boys, Silverwood and the Lorain County Golden Crescent Choir performed as some volunteers dressed up as the early villagers of Charleston Village.

Lorainite Nick Ksenich, 75, was also honored as he was born on July 16, 1934, when the city celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Ksenich said he remembers when downtown Broadway was a busy place with plenty of people, and full of hardware and grocery stores, dentist offices, and theatres.

“It was big; you had a lot of people,” Ksenich said “with the river and the lake, that’s what everybody came here for in the beginning. I still love the people, the diversity, the lake and the river,” he said.

The birthday festivities continued into Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as people were taken on trolley tours of the old Charleston Village area.

Lorainite Martha Pye said she learned so much about her city from the trolley tour.

“You think you know a lot about Lorain but you really didn’t know,” Pye said after getting off the trolley “Lorain is a beautiful city. We have so much history.”

Several Latinos of Lorain said it’s important for Latinos to know the history of the town they have come to call home.

Latinos in Lorain make up roughly 22.2 percent of the total population, according to a 2008 Census Bureau report. Latinos make up 7 percent of the total population of Cleveland, make up 5 percent in Toledo, and make up 2 percent in Columbus, according to the 2000 Census bureau.

The first wave of Latinos were mostly of Mexican descent and arrived in Lorain in the 1920s, followed by the second wave of mostly Puerto Ricans in the 1940s.

Lorain City Council president Joel Arredondo, said his parents were among those first Mexicans to arrive and his father worked at the steel mill.

“My parents came here for a reason: to get a better life,” Arredondo said “they came to work and that work ethic has continued. I like to think there are more positives than negatives. We (Lorainites) have a lot to offer,” he said.


Three young volunteers dress up in 19th century clothing and reenact what dollar stores were like in the old Charleston village.

Several members involved with the Black River Historical Society volunteered to dress up in typical 19th century clothing at Lorain's 175th birthday party. From left are: Abigail Hribar, Michael Smith, Madison Hribar, Julie Medina and Diane Wargo-Medina.

From left: Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo, Mark Ballard of Rep. Betty Sutton's office, Ohio State Sen. Sue Morano, service director Robert Gilchrist, cheif deputy safety service director Kenneth Shawver and in the back Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo. The guest speakers at Lorain's 175th Birthday party in Lorain's Veteran Memorial Park.

The Lorain County Golden Crescent Choir perform barbershop style music.



Tour guides Rene Dore (white dress) and Frank Sipkovsky (wearing the conductor's outfit) are dressed in the 19th century clothing. They gave a tour of the old Charleston Village, a small part of what Lorain is today.


People are getting on the Lorain County Transit trolley for their tour of the old Charleston Village, a small part of what Lorain is today.


Inside the trolley, Frank Sipkovsky speaks to the riders during the tour.





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