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88 Counties in 88 Days: Fulton County's Sauder Village reimagines big 1920s debut during pandemic

The pandemic caused the historical living history village to pivot in order to present 1920s Main Street in a way to keep visitors safe and engaged.

ARCHBOLD, Ohio — This content is part of our 88 Counties in 88 Days coverage, which focuses on the current issues Ohioans are facing during a challenging year.

We continue our 88 Counties in 88 Days by highlight Fulton County, home to Sauder Village.

Sauder Village has continued to expand over the years across its sprawling 235 acres in Archbold. It's a local staple for field trips, family entertainment and mouth-watering food.

Erie Sauder began the living-history museum in 1972, which operates as a nonprofit. The village is staffed by hundreds of volunteers and paid employees, dedicated to bringing history to life.

Sauder Village had big plans to reveal its 1920s Main Street project when the pandemic struck.

Now we're highlighting how they had to reimagine its big reveal, and are keeping staff and visitors safe and happy.

Credit: WTOL
Credit: WTOL

"I'm Debbie Sauder David, the President and CEO of Sauder Village here in Archbold, Ohio. My grandfather, Erie Sauder, started this back in 1976 as an educational tool, to teach people really how hard our grandparents worked to make a home and a life for us here in Northwest Ohio."

Credit: WTOL
Credit: WTOL

"You know, this is not at all the way we envisioned 2020. We were so excited about our new 1920 Main Street that we've been working on for many years, as the capstone project for our walk-through time experience. And we had plans to roll that out in a very big public opening, and really that came to a grinding halt in March obviously when the shutdown happened."

Credit: WTOL
One of Sauder Village's living history staff works in the broom shop, educating visitors on the trade.

"And for our staff, we have a lot of elderly staff that tell stories from their own experiences. And we wanted them back, but we had to assure with each one that they were comfortable coming back."

Credit: WTOL
Barbara Martin, a historical guide, was one of many who returned to work when the village reopened in June.

"It was the beginning of the year when we didn't know when we were going to get to open, it was sad for us because we are like a big family here and not being able to be together. And then when in June when we were able to open it was exciting because we were all so happy to be back working again."

Credit: WTOL

"I think the way it has been set up this year with the chains where the employees feel they're safe, they're back away from them some, with the one family at a time coming into the buildings has helped also. And we do feel safe here, and I hope our guests feel the same way."

Credit: WTOL
Credit: WTOL

"On the opening day there was a family that was sitting on the picnic table outside our Dough Box Bakery, and when we came up to them and asked them what brought them here on our new opening day to the village, this grandmother said 'I have not seen my grandkids in four months. And when we heard Sauder Village was opening, we did research and decided this was going to be a safe place to come and meet. So we drove several hours from all directions and we can't wait to go into the village and make new memories together.'"

Credit: WTOL

"So it's been stories like that that have made it all worth while as we've brought our staff back and welcomed our guests back in a new manner, and tried to make the best of 2020."

Credit: WTOL

RELATED: The 1920s roar to life at Sauder Village's latest attraction