Russ Kent: Can Galion become a tourist attraction?

Galion needs an identity.

Crawford County needs an identity.

North central Ohio needs an identity.

Perhaps more than an identity, we need a vision.

And I have one.

It’s not original idea. It’s been successfully done in other parts of the country.

Galion needs to become a tourist attraction … a planned, organized, seriously-marketed tourist destination.

Don’t laugh.

The beginnings are already here. Other aspects are in the planning and development stage but perhaps have not been part of an overall strategic plan.

Galion has a lot of great, old buildings. Most of the ones in the downtown area retain their original look and charm.

But you need something more than buildings.

You need a reason to get more people into those buildings. We need more people to visit the community that has those types of buildings.

Frankly, Galion’s downtown area may as well be closed after 8 p.m. on most nights.

There is not a whole lot going on.

Don’t get me wrong. There are people working to change that.

Already, 1803 Taproom has proven to be a lure for younger and older in Galion and beyond. College kids, when they come back to Galion, hang out at the Taproom. Millennials hang at the Taproom.

Fox Winery opened last year and is making plans ready to provide more services.

We have good restaurants, a coffee shot and a new bakery. But they don’t really have much reason to stay open into the evening, considering the little traffic in the area.

Most of these businesses cater to niche markets. A whole bunch of niche businesses packed into a single community can draw tourists.

The Longstreth Memorial building was purchased last month. It’s new owner hopes to capitalize on another niche market.

Mansfield businessman John Bassett plans to open Iron Vault Distillery by Oct. 1 Check out the businesses website: It says: “We are a new microdistillery located in North Central Ohio. We intend to produce Bourbon, Vodka, Single Malts, Rum, Gin and other specialty infusions and macerations. We will keep you posted as to when we open our doors.”

Bassett’s wish is to make Iron Vault Distillery a destination place. Folks who like craft spirits will come to Galion, taste the product and take something home with them.

It would be nice if there were a few other things going on in town to keep those tasters here for a few hours, or overnight.

Visitors tend to spend money when they are visiting. They’re looking to have a good time, and most of the time then have money in hand and a carefree attitude on their minds.

But they need something else to do in Galion.

We’ve got a taproom and a winery.

We have two art galleries.

We’ve got a great coffee shop and a new bakery.

Artists and galleries and shops and drinking establishments — if marketed correctly — can draw tourists.

New restaurants and new businesses have started to call Galion home.

We have stores and plenty of businesses in this community that have things to sell, but not a lot of people with a new reasons to come to town to check them out.

More visitors means more money and more business for local businesses.

Check out the website for Taos, New Mexico: It’s rated by many as the No. 1 artist community in the United States. Artists live and work and have opened galleries there. Tourists come to town and spend money there … lots of money. The lure is the art, and great food. There also are a lot of good bars in Taos.

Take a look at Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg has about 30 wineries in the area. Streets in Fredericksburg often are filled with tourist buses and visitors. That community’s streets and hotels are filled to the brim with drinkers and tasters and eaters and shoppers.

The tourists come to town, they tour a winery, or two — or 30 — and they eat and shop and spend money. Then they leave. If they had a good time, they return …. to spend more money.

And guess what, Neither Taos nor New Mexico started as the thriving tourist destinations they’ve become. Both are in one of the hottest parts of the nation. But they still draw tourists … thousands of tourists who spend millions of dollars.

Fredericksburg, by the way, is the No. 2-rated artist community in the United States, according to an article I found on the Internet.

Wineries and bars and distilleries and restaurants take time to grow and prosper. I know that.

But this is a vision. And it’s for long term. Nothing happens overnight.

The distillery thing has worked pretty well for Lynchburg,Tenneseee. Check it out at

Throw in a bunch of art studios and galleries and that means more people, with more money in their wallets.

We have plenty of shops in Galion with antiques and bargains galore.

What we don’t have is a coherent plan to market everything we have to offer.

Taos and Fredericksburgh started small.

And so must Galion.

Taos and Fredericksburgh had people in town who had an idea and ran with it.

I’m sure there are a bunch of those people in Galion, too.

Galion is less than three hours drive from Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Wheeling and Indianapolis.

Galion has parks that are being made better each day. There are plans for a multi-purpose sports facility in Galion that could draw hundreds of athletes and their wallet-carrying parents to Galion during the weekends.

We have a great park with lots of softball fields.

We have tons of potential.

But families that come to Galion for the sporting events are going to need something to do when they get here. Would it not be better to give them something to do in Galion …. and not Mansfield or Bucyrus.

Still, my vision incorporates surrounding communities.

But right now, the focus is Galion, a community I’ve called home most of my life.

This is a vision for the future of the Galion community. That’s all.

I’m planting a seed. Maybe it will grow. Maybe it will wither and die.

Galion has made great strides in the last few years. But we can do better.

We need to keep riding that momentum.

Galion is no longer a railroad hub. But we have a great looking depot. If marketed in the right way it could be a lure for tourists.

Although Galion remains a town that relies on manufacturing, it is never going to be what it was 50-75 years ago.

But what remains is one of the great manufacturing histories in this nation.

And that calls for a great, big museum in which to tell our manufacturing story, complete with graders and more..

Manufacturing will always be part of Galion’s history. We should showcase that history even more than we do now.

Throw all those things together in one place. Market it the right way. Add to the mix buses filled with tourists coming to town to visit art studios and drinking and brewing and fermentation sites and that adds up to even more people with even more money in their wallets.

Add the parents and families of athletes playing in tournaments at our softball fields and at a multi-pronged athletic facility and that means more people and more debit and credit cards.

Tourism could be our salvation.

Galion has one new hotel. Why not more?

Galion has entrepreneurs looking for ways to build a better community.

Why not tourism?

There is a new spirit in Galion. I see it. I feel it. It’s real and legitimate.

This is my vision. Do with it want you wish.

But we’re not alone. Mansfield is trying to change its identity. So is Bucyrus.

Why not join forces for the good of all?

Mansfield has the Shawshank Trail and more, including one of the best skiing spots in Ohio. Mansfield has its Carousel District. It gets better each year. But those changes for the better have taken years.

Bucyrus, like Galion, has a downtown area with lots of charm and attractive buildings and they already have some tourist attractions over there.

Nothing is easy, but the possibilities are endless.

The only thing needed is a beginning, and a cohesive, all-encompassing plan.

But first, it needs a beginning.

Here’s an idea. It’s a start.

Improve it, refine it, add to it.

But we have to start somewhere.

Why not in Historic Uptowne Galion?


Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer



Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email [email protected] with comments or story ideas.