WEST LIBERTY – While the summer thunderstorms played havoc with the first two days of West Liberty’s Bicentennial plans this past weekend, organizers of the 200th anniversary celebration of the village’s founding ran into another problem that had nothing to do with the weather.
The villagers found and opened a time capsule that was supposedly buried in 1967 — during sesquicentennial celebration of the village of West Liberty’s founding — which was to be opened 50 years later at the this weekend’s bicentennial celebration. The buried capsule was located on the grounds of the recently restored village building and grounds and was duly opened at a Saturday ceremony as planned.
But there was a small hitch discovered after the contents of the time capsule were inspected. A nine-year hitch to be exact.
“It was the wrong one,” said West Liberty Bicentennial committee chair Tami Wenger said Sunday, with equal parts humor and disappointment, of the capsule that was actually located and opened with pomp and circumstance Saturday morning. “The one we found was actually buried in 1976 (the year of the Bicentennial of the United States) and wasn’t supposed to be opened until 2026.”
A honest mistake to be sure. Before they cracked it open, organizers had no reason to believe that the capsule wasn’t the one buried at the sesquicentennial 50 years ago. It’s not like they’re digging up time capsules on a weekly basis in West Liberty. When the reality of the situation sank in, the decision was quickly made to honor of the spirit of ’76. New items will be added with the old and the capsule will be re-interred with the intention of having it re-opened 50 years from now.
But that still leaves one big question: What happened to to the time capsule that was buried in 1967?
“We don’t know,” Wenger said with a wry smile. “They tore up every inch of the sod (during the restoration of the village property) and this is the only one we found.”
Despite the snafu with the time capsules (“We’re putting the word out,” Wenger said. “If anybody has ideas where the 1967 capsule is, let us know.”), and some typical mid-summer weather Thursday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday broke open with blue skies and low humidity, perfect conditions for the 5K run, the Patriotic History Parade, the Car & Motorcycle show, and acts on the stage at Lions Park featuring everything from the Green Hills Kitchen Band to God’s Children Choir, all of whom received warm receptions from the West Liberty crowd.
Also on hand throughout the weekend were the Mad River Muzzleloaders, who set up a camp much like one that John Enoch first pitched when he chose to to pan for gold at the confluence of the Mad River and Mac-O-Cheek in 1815. Living historians with a eye for authenticity camped on the grounds at Lions Park, wearing period costumes and giving visitors a few lessons on how to hunt and cook over an open fire.
Piatt Castles joined in the festivities, conducting old-fashioned games all four days and inviting visitors to explore the manicured grounds. A hot-air balloon launch from Mac-O-Cheek scheduled for Friday evening was moved to Sunday morning because of the thunderstorms, but other than that — and the small matter of the missing time capsule — the West Liberty Bicentennial was deemed a great success with Rev. Ron Irick leading a Old Fashioned Tent Meeting at Lions Park Sunday evening to close out the celebration.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.