Two very unique and different events to be held in November in Berlin
by Denice Rovira Hazlett
In late November, when the last of the turkey is making its way into yet another late-night snack, and folks are sketching out their Black Friday plan of action, the residents of Berlin will be preparing to welcome visitors from near and far on Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24 for two very different and unique parades--one filled with camels and zebras, donkeys and sheep and a handful of wise men, and the other drawing a brand of zealous humans looking for a rigorous challenge among the hills and valleys of Ohio’s Amish Country.
“When we did the live nativity parade last year, we had wall-to-wall people holding candles and following along behind the parade from the first light in town to the second,” said Eli “Small” Hochstetler, owner of the Gospel Book Store and a representative of the Berlin Main Street Merchants. “It was a beautiful sight.”
Hochstetler said one of the reasons the parade draws such a crowd is because it focuses on the true meaning of the Christmas celebration, the birth of Jesus.
“We don’t have a Santa Claus in this parade,” Hochstetler said, “and a lot of people come for this event just because of that.”
People also come, Hochstetler said, to see what life in the village of Berlin is really all about.
“Our area is the largest Amish settlement in the world,” Hochstetler said, “but we also have a unique culture not matched anyplace else. People come here to figure out what’s going on in our community, to find out if we really believe in living a Christian life, if we really help one another. They see that we do, and that’s what it’s all about.”
This year, in addition to the live nativity and the merchant sales and events, a parade of a different sort will wind its way along the country roads of eastern Holmes county. Mark Fowler, Hiland High School’s track coach and marketing manager for Zinck’s Hotel, said this will be the first year for the Berlin Amish Country Half-Marathon and 5K Race, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 24.
Fowler said the half-marathon will not be for the faint-of-heart, calling it one of the most challenging courses in the state, if not in the entire region. The last four miles, he said, will be a climb out of the valley resulting in a 500-foot incline.
“This is a serious course,” Fowler said. “We like to say it’s going to be a run that’s as tough as the Amish.”
This half-marathon, sponsored by Subway, will pass right through the Amish community, utilizing a handful of Amish schoolhouses for some of the eight water and bathroom break stations, giving runners the opportunity to experience the full authenticity of life in Amish Country.
Fowler said this race will also likely bring out a curious and supportive group of spectators along the backroads.
“With some half-marathons,” Fowler said, “you get out in lonely places, but I don’t think there will be a single lonely place on this route. There are Amish homes all along the way, and I’m sure the kids will be out watching and offering lots of encouragement to the runners.”
Fowler said race organizers have been contacted by Runner’s World Magazine, which is planning to feature the race in their November issue.
“Other than some of the mountain races,” said Hochstetler, “we hope this one will be the toughest race east of the Mississippi.”
Registration for the race can be completed at runinamishcountry.com with fees increasing as the race date approaches.
For information on Christmas in Berlin, contact Eli Hochstetler at the Gospel Book Store at 330-893-2523. To find out more about the Berlin Amish Country Half-Marathon, call Mark Fowler at 330- 466-2705 or visit runinamishcountry.com.