PERRYSBURG, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic made 2020 a challenging year for Fort Meigs, but that adversity led to innovation and creativity, and a reason for optimism in 2021.
Executive Director Kelly Beattie said the fort had just one-fifth of its normal amount of visitors last year. Staff at the Perrsyburg attraction came up with other methods to teach people about the historic War of 1812 site.
"We started to do some other things that have been successful and reaching people in different ways, and not always on-site," Beattie said. "We really want to figure out what’s relevant to people today and what gets them excited about history."
Fort Meigs launched a podcast called the Foot of the Rapids, which is available on Spotify. The production uses diary entries, letters, poems and music to tell stories from the war.
The show won an award last year from the Ohio Academy of History.
The fort also has a vast bookstore and opened an online store to continue to sell merchandise.
"This taught us a lot," Beattie said. "We’re excited to involve the community when we get back to normal and looking at what we can do the next 10 or 20 years instead of the same thing over and over."
New this year is an after-dark lantern tour led by guides in costume. Guests will tour the fort, witness a nighttime musket demonstration, and get a feel for what it was like to be inside the fort during wartime.
The tour is available May 14, July 16, Aug. 27, Sept. 24 and Oct. 8. Call 419-874-4121 to purchase tickets.
Groups will be limited to about 10 people.
"Each guide will take the visitors around the fort and really talk about what’s going in the soldiers' lives after dark at Fort Meigs," Beatie said. "Your duties here in an active military post during the war are really the frontlines in northern Ohio, and it’s a little bit different than what you’re doing during the day."
Other upcoming events include a reenactment of the first siege over Memorial Day weekend in May, and Muster on the Maumee in June that showcases the evolution of the common soldier.
Fort Meigs is estimating a 22 percent reduction in visitors this year, which is still an improvement over last year. Just 5,000 visited the site in 2020, compared to 30,000 in a normal year.
The fort was able to secure funds through the Paycheck Protection Program, relief grants and U.S. Daughters of the War of 1812.
Fort Meigs is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students.
The first fort was constructed in February of 1813 overlooking the Maumee River. It was built in reaction to British attacks on American forts in the Northwest Territory during the war.
The original fort was torn down shortly after the second siege in July of 1813, and rebuilt on a smaller scale.