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Introducing Happy Days Lodge

2/14/2008 - West Side Leader
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By Jennie Vasarhelyi

CVNP — On Jan. 1, Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) changed the name of Happy Days Visitor Center to Happy Days Lodge. The new name reflects the new function for the building as a special events site only. The information desk at Happy Days has been discontinued so we can focus on presenting events and programs.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park changed the name of Happy Days Visitor Center to Happy Days Lodge Jan. 1.
Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Events are not new to Happy Days, which is located at 500 W. Streetsboro Road in Peninsula. Its 275-seat Great Hall has been the venue for the Cuyahoga Valley Heritage Series and other events for many years. This year represents the beginning of expanded public programming at the building. We plan to restore the Lyceum Distinguished Speakers Series and launch a summer day camp.

The change in function reflects the value of the building as an events venue. The atmosphere of the building, which reflects its history, provides an excellent backdrop for events.

Happy Days gets the beginning part of its name from the “Happy Days Are Here Again” theme song of Roosevelt’s New Deal political platform. It was built in 1938-39 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a cornerstone program of the New Deal that employed young men in public works projects in forestry, erosion and flood control, as well as park development. During the 1930s, more than 3 million men worked on thousands of projects around the country. CCC structures are common in national and state parks. Locally, Northeast Ohio benefited from several CCC camps, including Camp 576, which built Happy Days Lodge.

Happy Days started as a camp for the Akron Board of Education and Recreation Commission summer playground program. The Great Hall served as the dormitory. It became the first visitor center for CVNP in 1978. At the time, the park was just 4 years old and had few choices of locations for visitor centers. Since 1978, the park has expanded its inventory of facilities, including additional visitor centers.

The architecture of Happy Days speaks to its history and provides the atmosphere for events. The CCC subscribed to rustic “parkitecture” design developed by the National Park Service in the early 1900s. This style emphasizes horizontal lines, low silhouettes and choices of color and materials found in the local surroundings. Happy Days is constructed of wormy chestnut, wood from the American chestnut trees killed by the early 20th-century blight that devastated this once-common tree. The sandstone floor and fireplaces, made from locally quarried sandstone, complement the wood.

But it’s the events that bring the building to life. The Cuyahoga Valley Heritage Series is an ongoing music series that celebrates cultural heritage. Concerts usually occur twice each month from fall through spring. The next concert, which will take place Feb. 16 at 8 p.m., features Jackie Tice, who performs in a style that mixes her Native American and old European roots.

The Lyceum Distinguished Speakers Series will kick off with a three-program sampler this spring. The full series will begin in September. The word “lyceum” comes from ancient Greek and was the name of the school where Aristotle taught. At CVNP, we use it to describe our lecture series featuring national speakers who stimulate the heart and mind with compelling stories of our natural and cultural world.

Junior Ranger Day Camps will be offered at Happy Days Lodge during the summer weeks of July 14-18 and July 21-25. This new program will emphasize learning, personal growth and fun. Campers will base from Happy Days but spend their days outdoors exploring the magic and beauty of the park. The day camp is for children ages 6-11 and will include before and after care.

While Happy Days is no longer a visitor center, CVNP operates others in close proximity. The Boston Store Visitor Center is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located on Boston Mills Road in the Village of Boston. Stop by to talk with our knowledgeable staff and volunteers who can help you plan a visit to the park tailored to your interests.

Additional program information can be found at www.dayinthevalley.com.

Jennie Vasarhelyi is chief of interpretation, education and visitor services for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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