Trees and wreaths filled the renovated Convoy Opera House. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Trees and wreaths filled the renovated Convoy Opera House. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – A large segment of the crowd of onlookers that visited the Festival of Trees and Wreaths at the renovated Convoy Opera House this past weekend paused and reminisced of childhood memories inspired by trees, names, toys and the open stage that had once danced with music and joy in the village of Convoy.

Harold Rosendahl made the walk up the steps of memory lane. As his eyes fastened on the old stage, he immediately started sharing memories of times when he performed on that stage.

“I played in the band here 80 years ago,” said Rosendahl. “Walt Zimmerman was our leader. He was a custodian at the high school. Can you believe a high school custodian leading the band in the opera house?”

An old-fashioned electric train set navigated a track that had been a special Christmas gift to many children in the 1950’s. An old aluminum tunnel represented a passageway for the train in those days.

Vicki Saylor, former long-time clerk-treasurer of Convoy, joined with Fran Neiswander in initiating the first steps for the renovation of the opera house and eventually this year’s Christmas tree event.

“My goal was to have 20 trees this year,” said Saylor. “In the end, we had 35 trees and seven wreaths. The crowd was waiting at the door at 11 a.m. on Saturday to get in and there was a steady group all day.”

Saylor still remembers that day in 2015 when Larry Webb gathered a committee to start working on the re-organization of a Convoy Historical Society.

“The first project they talked about was the renovation of the Convoy Opera House,” said Saylor.

Saylor said that it is believed that the opera house was constructed over the original Convoy Fire Department in 1901 or 1902. Committees that were organized to pull together the renovation included decorating, planning, and sound system. Funding them came from a grant from the State of Ohio, a grant from Avangrid Renewables, a gift from the Convoy Ministry Center and various donations from businesses and private individuals.

“We have it pretty well completed,” said Saylor. “We need to get a stage curtain. The second Sunday of every month we are going to meet on Sunday afternoon. Everybody is so willing to help out. We all work well together.”

Saylor said that the hope is to utilize the building next door for restrooms, an elevator to the Opera House and a facility to prepare meals and snacks.

“People started asking, ‘what are you going to do with it,’” observed Saylor. “The idea of a Christmas tree festival was brought up. Eventually, we got a committee together and started putting together this festival. We are happy with the way it has been supported. It has been well attended."

“'Sharing the Convoy Christmas Spirit’ has become a reality,” said Saylor.