June 2008 Issue
Tour Ohio’s Best Hometowns - Independence
With picnic baskets and blankets in hand, they begin congregating at 6 p.m., scoping out that special spot where they’ll spend the evening: For some, it will be in the shade of one of the magnificent oak trees that have become city landmarks. Others will opt for one of the half-dozen park benches that dot the town square.
For more than a decade at this time of year, Thursday nights in Independence have been reserved for fellowship with friends and neighbors at the summer band concerts that begin like clockwork at 7 p.m. rain or shine. (When the occasional cloudburst does occur, the show is moved into the civic center nearby.) This year — as always –– the music will span a noteworthy gamut, ranging from a selection of polka favorites to traditional ballads and rock standards, much of it performed by the community’s barbershop quartet and town band.
This side of Independence –– encompassing a slate of year-round events that include the Home Days festival (August 1 and 2), and holiday tree-lighting (December 6) –– is a revered slice of life that’s the antithesis of the city’s bustling Rockside Road business district, comprised of more than 1,400 companies.
Residents aren’t the only ones smitten by the town’s charm. Visitors, too, are attracted to the ambiance that includes public buildings architecturally reminiscent of Monticello, and idyllic neighborhoods rivaling those in TV Land’s Mayberry.
No visit to Independence would be complete without a stop at Brielle’s Coffee & Tea Room, billed as “a cup above” the rest. The eatery’s impressive selection of teas is complemented by an array of summer dishes (a favorite is the grilled chicken spinach salad with mandarin oranges and strawberries) and a selection of smoothies, including blueberry pomegranate and banana kiwi.
There’s nothing like riding the rails to discover an integral part of our country’s past. Visitors to Independence have the opportunity to do just that on the vintage Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which stops at the city’s Rockside Road Station. Take a sentimental journey while spending an evening sampling wines from around the world on themed Friday night trips. The schedule includes “Wines from Ohio” (June 20) and “Wines from Italy” (October 10). Experience the unparalleled beauty of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with a “Summer in the Valley” excursion (June 19) that spotlights wildlife and picture-perfect vistas. Each year as the holiday season approaches, revelers board the train and head to Heritage Farms in Peninsula, where they can find the perfect fir, cut it themselves and take it home on the train. (This year’s “Christmas Tree Adventure” takes place November 29 and 30 and December 6, 7, 13 and 14.)
For 116 years, history has also flourished at the William Tricker Inc. greenhouses. Billed as “America’s oldest water garden specialist,” Tricker’s has become a mecca for aquatic plant enthusiasts in search of exquisite water lilies. Must-haves include the vibrant Rio Rita, known for its brilliant red hue enhanced by a neon yellow center, and the spicy Blue Beauty, which towers 8 inches above the water’s surface.
The hands-down favorite: A rich pink viviparous hybrid introduced in 1927. It’s name? Independence.