History of the Project
Developed in 1992, the initial concept of the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center & Outdoor Historical Drama was tested independently for two years by 25-year veteran fund development consultant William E. Jones, a lifelong student of Johnny Appleseed lore.
The concept was also presented in 1994 to state government and community leaders, with the assistance of the Mansfield/Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau. As a result of the studies, Jones founded the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center Inc., which was incorporated in 1994, receiving 501(c)(3) status in 1995.
With the help of the Institute of Outdoor Drama, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which conducted an extensive market/site analysis, the project was said to have great potential for success.
In 1996, a 45-acre site within a 118-acre parcel of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District was determined as the location. Construction began in September 2000. The amphitheatre was completed in 2004 and the drama was played through the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
In 2006 the play was suspended and the organization reconfigured to go forward with use of the facility for special concerts and events, while developing a new business plan to bring "Johnny" back.
Playwright and Composer
Playwright/Composer, Billy Edd Wheeler, and Music Arranger, Dennis Burnside, composed the play and music. Their work with the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center falls on the heels of their professional successes: Wheeler is author of the "Hatfields & McCoys," one of the longest-running outdoor dramas in the U.S. and songwriting for recording artists such as Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash and Judy Collins, as well as Burnside's recent work on Garth Brooks' the "Magic of Christmas" compact disc and television special.
Under the direction of a volunteer board of trustees and operated by a corps of volunteers the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center & Outdoor Drama was built through the generosity of numerous individuals, families, corporations and foundations.
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