Dynamic dad’s days

Of the days of parental observances, Mother’s Day seemingly receives more hype. It should. I’ve always marveled at maternal empathy, organizational skills, resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness. Moms do have superpowers.

But let’s not undersell dear old Dad. Fatherhood has become exponentially more complex in recent generations. Most men are glad to embrace more personas than the antiquated “strong, silent provider” archetype, but it’s been an adjustment, nonetheless.

So, as we reflect upon paternal contributions as Father’s Day approaches this Sunday, check out a list of some potential activities to help fathers and children connect. And, in transit to one of these destinations, perhaps queue up on your favorite streaming platform for a musical homage to fatherhood. May I suggest Paul Simon’s “Father and Daughter”, Zac Brown’s “My Old Man”, or, for a real tearjerker, Sturgill Simpson’s “Hero."  

Bonding Through Food
If a way to man’s heart is through his stomach, connecting through shared culinary events seems only natural. What better place to celebrate local gastronomy than the city’s epicenter of local foodie culture, Findlay Market? The venerated institution, opened in 1855, stands as Ohio’s oldest public market still in operation. Unlike most retail destinations, Findlay Market is a nonprofit, city-owned entity that relies significantly upon patron donations.

An enterprise doesn’t survive through 32 presidencies without adapting to societal changes and evolving preferences and economic conditions. Findlay Market has continued to thrive, attracting more than 1.4 million annual visitors in 2023. Its customer count has surged roughly 20% over its 2018 tally (peak pandemic numbers weren’t available, but a dip and spike presumably happened), and its popularity has helped catalyze Over-the-Rhine’s revitalization.

Attracting diverse families has been an essential part of Findlay Market’s popularity, with palate-pleasers providing a focal point. Again, dads like to eat, and whether it’s a Market event, cooking class, or produce purveyor,  onsite gastronomic opportunities abound.

Steve AustTablespoon Cooking Co. owner Jordan Hamons, a former corporate chef, provides a unique variety of cooking class opportunities, with classes featuring pasta and friend chicken among the most popular.

Sami Stewart, Findlay Market’s marketing and communications manager, noted two of its cooking schools as potential opportunities for fathers and children to learn, have fun, and connect. Tablespoon Cooking Co. offers an eclectic list of offerings highlighting specific food types, such as June’s how-tos for fried chicken sandwiches, biscuits and scones, and paella, as well as a primer covering essential knife skills. Its owner, Jordan Hamons, who received culinary training at Cincinnati State, worked as a corporate chef before launching her own business. She noted that most classes, which are announced month-by-month approximately two weeks before the next month begins, typically host 16 people, although some maximize Tablespoon’s capacity and host 40. Some of the most popular include its classes that demonstrate making fried chicken and homemade pasta. Tablespoon’s classes range in price from $138-$152 for an individual reservation, and $206-$226 for a two-person station.

Steve AustLocated within Findlay Kitchen on Elm St., Afromeals and co-founder and executive chef Gabi Odebode teaches students how to make an array of Caribbean and African dishes at home.

Another option is Afromeals’ cooking school (it operates in Findlay Market as well as Dayton), which offers classes that expose students an array of African and Caribbean cooking. For instance, its Tour of Africa classes, led by co-founder and executive chef Gabi Odebode, teaches how to make chakalaka, a warm tomato, peppers, and bean salad, plantain skewers, spiced chicken skewers, and Nigerian shrimp fried rice. Class sign-ups cost $85 per person.

Additionally, Findlay Market offers numerous events year-round that would provide fun, flavorful bonding . Ticketed events include the Summer Fun Tasting Tour, taking place June 15, which provides sweet and savory concoctions from Bee Haven, Roth Produce, Gibbs Cheese and Ruby’s Chocolates, and The Flavor of Findlay, which takes place September 12, offering food prepared by local chefs with ingredients from Market merchants.

Findlay Market will have promotions to be determined for National Farmers’ Market Week August 4-10, and Holiday Market Weekends the first three weekends of December will provide family-friendly holiday festiveness.

Educational opportunities at niche museums
Opened in 2006, the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum showcases more than 10,000 law enforcement artifacts that pay homage to the more than 150 law-enforcement agencies that serve Hamilton, Clermont, Butler, and Warren Counties in Ohio, Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties in Kentucky, and Dearborn County in Indiana. It also honors more than 160 police officers who were killed in the line of duty, as well as Handsome, who holds the distinction of being the city’s unofficial first police dog.

My guide, Gene Ferrara, served as a police officer for fifty years; 17 years with the city and 33 on the University of Cincinnati’s on-campus force. He said one thing he hopes visitors take away from the Museum is a greater understanding of those who serve on the “thin blue line.”

“It’s unfortunate the rift that has developed between law enforcement and the community,” he said. “There have been problems, but most interactions between police and the public have been positive. I think a visit to the Museum would help people better appreciate the people who wear the uniform.”

One way to truly gain an appreciation for the stress of police duties, the Museum offers an interactive simulator that allows visitors to use a mock handgun and react to footage of crime reenactments that underscore the few seconds police officers have to decide whether to use deadly force when crimes occur.

The museum is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens 65 and over, and $6 for children ages 7 to 17.

American Sign Museum
Cincinnati wielded considerable influence within the sign industry for more than a century. In 1906, Signs of the Times Magazine was founded and operated in Cincinnati as the first trade magazine for the sign industry (it operated in Greater Cincinnati until 2021, when its parent company was sold). In 1999, Tod Swormstedt, a fourth-generation family member, founded what was initially called the National Signs of the Times Museum before adopting its current name two years later.

In 2005, the American Sign Museum opened within Essex Studios in Clifton, but almost immediately outgrew this space and moved to its current Camp Washington space in 2012, where it attracts approximately 50,000 yearly visitors. (Editorial aside: the Sign Museum is unveiling a new wing on July 14. Check out Soapbox’s July 9 edition to learn more about its forthcoming additions).

Whether the dad/father figure/male significant other/nearest individual with XY chromosomes in your life enjoys history, design, architecture, advertising, or engineering, the American Sign Museum’s multifaceted presentation of the evolution of signmaking methods from elegant, gilded signage through early electric signage, neon, porcelain enamel and an eclectic mix of signage, many of them from erstwhile local business that provide a dash of local history.

American Sign Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for seniors 65 and over, children ages 13 to 18, and military first responders. Up to three children ages 12 and under are admitted free with each paying adult.

Cincinnati Fire Museum
First opened in 1981, the Cincinnati Fire Museum thoroughly documents the history of firefighting in the city, which has the honor of organizing the nation’s first professional fire department. Thousands of artifacts burnish the department’s legacy and provide an authentic review of tools used to quell conflagrations going back to the 19th century. However, according to director Susan Strickland, the Fire Museum’s primary mission is educational.

“The artifacts are a fun look back at our city’s firefighting history, but the main thing we want visitors to take away is how to make their homes safer and be better prepared to prevent fires.”

In the Fire Museum’s basement, the addition of wraparound multimedia theater provides an immersive look at the challenges firefighters face on the job and the equipment that helps protect communities and survive the dangers duty requires. The Safe House, a kid-sized interactive area, provides play spaces and colorful wall decorations that educates youngsters on how to help prevent fires at home.

Stickland, who moved back to Cincinnati five years to helm the Fire Museum, previously served as director of the Fire Dept. of New York’s museum for seven years. Her favorite exhibit at the museum is the horse-drawn water pumper.

The Cincinnati Fire Museum is open 10 am to 4pm Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $9 for seniors 65 and over, $8 for children ages seven to 17, and $7 for ages two through six.
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Steve is a freelance writer and editor, father, and husband who enjoys cooking, exercise, travel, and reading. A native of Fort Thomas who spent his collegiate and early-adulthood years in Georgia, marriage brought him across the river, where he now resides in Oakley.