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Toledo - Hidden Gem in Northwest Ohio

I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, a mid-sized city on the western shore of Lake Erie. Toledo was a good place in which to be raised. Having spent four years as an adult in Los Angeles, I learned to appreciate the benefits of smaller city life. For example, it's fairly common to spend no more than 20 minutes driving from one end of Toledo to the other. Try doing that in Los Angeles—an impossible challenge.

Surprisingly, Toledo has some world class amenities. The Toledo Zoo is consistently listed as one of the top ten zoos in the country and it boasts large, open areas in which the animals are free to roam. This is becoming more common in zoos everywhere but the Toledo Zoo was an early adopter of this new style of animal exhibition.

My city is also home to an amazing art museum. The Toledo Museum of Art, founded by an early industrialist who made his fortune in glass manufacturing, is considered one of the best museums in the world and is often the sole or one of just a few museums in the country to have the honor of exhibiting important works. For example, in late 2012, the Toledo Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of the artist, Manet. This was the only exhibition of this artist's work in the United States.

Toledo has other more simple delights as well. For many years, we were known as the American city with the most restaurants per capita. If you were a fan of the television show, M*A*S*H, you very likely heard 4077th resident and perennial Section 8 candidate Max Klinger talk about Tony Packo's hot dogs. Packo's is a real restaurant, tucked away on the city's east side, where one can enjoy a delicious Hungarian hot dog with homemade sauce, a delicious bowl of chili, and maybe even a steaming plate of chicken paprikas, another Hungarian delight. The actor who played Klinger, Jamie Farr, is a Toledo native who spoke often on the popular TV show of his love for all things Toledo.

Anyone who is a fan of professional baseball has heard the name The Toledo Mud Hens. It’s a minor league team that is a part of the International Baseball League and is the Triple A farm team for the Detroit Tigers. The Mud Hens have been around since 1896 when they were known as the Swamp Angels. And Jamie Farr, the M*A*S*H star I mentioned earlier, has been a long-time fan and promoter of the Hens. In fact, along with Tony Packo’s, Farr often mentioned the Mud Hens while playing Klinger on that popular show.

Toledo received dubious accolades in the 1970s when Randy Sparks wrote a song called Saturday Night In Toledo, Ohio. While Sparks was never the musical name that a song like this needed to gain national notoriety, John Denver was more than happy to oblige. He recorded this homage to my hometown. In it, Denver explained that a Saturday night in Toledo was like being “nowhere at all. They rolled up the sidewalks precisely at ten and the people who live there are not seen again”. On several tour stops in Toledo in the 70s and 80s, Denver gently chided the residents of this “sleepy” town, and always to howls of delight.

Since graduating from high school, I have spent a fair amount of time away from Toledo. I spent two years attending college in Cincinnati and another three years completing my degree in Bowling Green, Ohio. I also spent several years in Los Angeles pursuing a show business career. But despite living far from Toledo, this city on the tip of Lake Erie will always be my home.


​Thomas Hofbauer - © 2017

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