By Kevin Greer, Lakeside Communications Manager

To help celebrate Lakeside’s 150th Anniversary, Linda Huber, the Media & Publications Chair of the Sesquicentennial Planning Committee, played a key role in the idea of a documentary of the community’s history.

“When we got together as a committee, we thought about all the various kinds of things we’d like to do, the video was right there at the top,” Huber said.

Toledo PBS affiliate WGTE, which has produced several award-winning documentaries, agreed to do the project. Nathan Hursh and Caleb Johnson drew the assignment of co-producing the film, and neither of the Ohio natives had ever been to Lakeside.

Hursh and Johnson sat down with The Lakesider Newspaper as they are in the final stages of finishing “Lakeside Chautauqua: An American Treasure.”

They discussed the documentary, working with the film’s narrator — CBS correspondent and longtime Lakesider Steve Hartman, how Lakeside left a lasting impression on them, and the challenge of getting all the interviews and footage down to the allotted time of 26 minutes, 46 seconds. It will premiere in Hoover Auditorium at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 28.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

How long have you been working at WGTE?
Hursh: I’ve been at WGTE for 5 years.
Johnson: I’ve been with WGTE for 2½ years.

Talk about your previous experience.
Johnson: I started in 2020, a little bit after the pandemic started. Before that, I graduated from Ashland University with a bachelor’s degree in digital media production.
Hursh: I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2017. As a student, I worked at WBGU in Bowling Green, which was my first public media experience. Then I worked in corporate video for about a year after that. In 2018, I was offered the job at WGTE public media in Toledo.

Are you from the area?
Johnson: I’m from Toledo, born and raised.
Hursh: I grew up in Bluffton. It made this experience at Lakeside fun and exciting because I grew up in a small town.

What are some other documentaries you’ve worked on?
Johnson: I was a part of producing a Ronald McDonald House documentary. I edited, shot and co-produced. I was mostly production support for “A Soldier’s Story: Never Forgotten.” Those are the two documentary-type videos I’ve been a part of prior to Lakeside’s.
Hursh: I worked on documentaries both at WBGU and WGTE. At WGTE, I’ve been involved in every episode of “Toledo Stories” we’ve done since 2018. I’ve worked on films related to the Warehouse District in Toledo, Toledo Public Schools, Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Ohio and Hospice of Northwest Ohio. I also worked on “A Soldier’s Story: Never Forgotten,” which was nominated for a regional Emmy Award. I also produced a documentary on West Side Montessori.

Were either of you familiar with Lakeside before you got here?
Johnson: Not at all.
Hursh: Our first experience at Lakeside was in April 2022. So, everything we’ve learned has been since then.

What were your first impressions?
Hursh: We were surprised at how quiet it was because it was in the spring. There weren’t many people around, but everybody told us how busy it gets in the summer, how exciting it is and all the activities happening here.
Johnson: It’s a unique community, different from anything I’ve ever seen before. You can tell Lakeside is different.

When did you start filming?
Hursh: We started filming in June 2022. It took about two weeks in total. We filmed 21 interviews and started those very early, even before we started writing the documentary. We didn’t know much about Lakeside, so we were eager to get started.

So, there was a big difference from your first visit to when you started filming?
Johnson: It was the total opposite of what I experienced the first time I came. People were sitting on porches and walking up and down the streets and stores were open. Everything started to make sense from there.

Was there a story or historical fact that you found most interesting?
Johnson: I feel like every time I stepped into Lakeside, I learned an interesting fact, something new or of historical significance. I’d say there were a lot of those moments. The similarities from the past to the present and the fact that some of the cottages were more than 100 years old blew my mind. I learned that what Lakeside was doing 150 or 100 years ago, it’s still doing today.
Hursh: We had to become Lakeside experts. It’s hard to point out one historical fact or something that stands out because we’ve spent every day here learning about the community. Every interview and person we talked with had different, new and interesting stories. Just the fact that Lakeside has been around for as long as it has is amazing. Lakeside has been through different types of struggles, and for it to be around for 150 years, that’s a feat in and of itself.

Could you tell us about some of the interesting Lakesiders you spoke with?
Johnson: There are a lot of interesting Lakesiders who had great stories. How often do you get to work with somebody like Steve Hartman? Lakeside is a close-knit community. Even as we were interviewing people, they would recommend someone to talk to, and sometimes it was someone we had already interviewed. I met a lot of good people throughout this experience. Everyone was always respectful and courteous. I felt “the treat your neighbor how you want to be treated” aspect of it. I think everyone in Lakeside did a good job spreading the community love and making people feel accepted. Even if it’s your first time here and you feel like an outsider, you don’t feel like one for long.
Hursh: We felt like we were part of the community working on this project.

How would you describe Lakeside to somebody who’s never been here before?
Hursh: When you visit Lakeside, it’s like you’re traveling back in time. People share similar values and that creates a sense of community. It’s an escape from reality. A purposeful vacation — I’ve heard many people say it that way, but it’s more than that.
Johnson: Lakeside is a place that once you step in the gates, even though you’re still part of the world, you don’t feel like you’re in the world anymore. You feel like you’re at a place where it’s different, then it makes you want to figure out why it’s so different. There are a lot of opportunities to figure that out through the activities and the people you meet. It’s a place where you can get an experience or opportunity that you never thought you could without knowing what you’re going to get. You can’t put one word on it. I think if you asked, “What is Lakeside?” Lakeside is a place where you can learn about religion, people, science and art. Lakeside is a place where you can have fun while playing shuffleboard or tennis or walking along the lakefront with all the beautiful flowers. Lakeside is a place where you can praise God inside and outside church. Lakeside is a lot of stuff, and whatever you’re looking for, Lakeside could be that. You have to go to Lakeside to find it. 

What was it like working with Steve Hartman?
Hursh: He is the same person you see on CBS. Steve and his family have been coming to Lakeside for generations. He’s now bringing his kids to Lakeside. He’s doing this project because it’s something he cares about. We’re learning from him, and he gives great suggestions. I’m sure when we send Steve the script, he’ll have a lot of really good ideas. He’s just been a pleasure to work with.

How many hours do you think you have on film right now?
Hursh: We interviewed 21 people. Some of the first interviews were longer than we did in August. On average, an interview would be about 30-45 minutes. So, you’re talking close to 20 hours of interview footage alone. That doesn’t include all the B-roll we shot in between. That’s a lot of footage. Caleb has been working hard to sort through it all and find the hidden gems, and the little sound bites we will use. Caleb and I are not news reporters. What we do in public media is entirely different than a commercial station. That’s why we like what we do because the projects we’re working on are different every day and our job is to learn about things and teach the public. We had to become Lakeside storytellers in a couple of months. We get to do this daily with other organizations.

Without giving too much away, what can we expect in the film?
Johnson: You can expect to learn what Lakeside is and how it started. You’ll learn about what’s happened here, where Lakeside is now and where it’s going. The film will paint a big picture to answer the question, “What is Lakeside?” Our goal for the documentary is to answer that question for somebody who might not know what it is. A lot more can be uncovered, but we just can’t because it’s a 30-minute timeframe. We got to tell the history of Lakeside, but I think you will hear some stuff you didn’t know before.
Hursh: I think it will be interesting for people who live in Lakeside, and even people who know a lot about Lakeside. We’ve been working with the Lakeside Heritage Society to compile hundreds of archival photographs, so people can see pictures they may haven’t seen before. Hopefully, to a Lakesider watching, this will inspire them to visit Kaysie (Harrington) in the Archives, learn more and keep building on that history.

When will the documentary be finished?
Johnson: We plan to get the documentary wrapped up and approved at the beginning of May. The story was set at the beginning of February 2022. We’ve cut the video and added B-roll videos, pictures and graphics. Right now, we’re finalizing the narration with Steve Hartman. At the beginning of May, we want it wrapped up.

After the documentary is finished, are you coming back to Lakeside?
Johnson: Yes, I am certainly going to come back to Lakeside. I want to bring my family so they can experience it. Hearing about it and then experiencing it is different, so I want them to feel what I felt — not knowing anything about it, then visiting and getting the benefits.
Hursh: I was here so much last summer. I went home, and I talked to my girlfriend. She knows all about Lakeside, but she’s never been here. If she’s not at the premiere, we will definitely be back.

When you guys come back, what are you going to do?
Johnson: My first stop will be The Patio to get a donut and some chicken. It’s some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. I want to jump in the lake, of course, and really relax. I’ll find myself in a lecture somewhere and at a performance one day. Lakeside is great, and I want to see what else it offers.
Hursh: I’ll be at The Patio getting fried chicken as well. Then my second stop will be the Dock to rent a sailboat.

Any closing thoughts?
Hursh: It’s been great working with Linda and Doug Huber and the team at Lakeside, including the Lakeside Heritage Society, the Marketing Department and everybody involved. We’re excited to return Memorial Day weekend and see everybody’s reaction to the documentary. At a premiere, I don’t watch the film. I watch people’s reactions. I once worked on a World War II film that we premiered in a library, and a veteran’s biker organization was there. I was watching them and saw a few start to cry. That’s been one of the best moments of my career. I enjoy watching people’s reactions, especially people you wouldn’t expect to react to something, but they do. I’m excited to see the excitement of people here at Lakeside as they’re watching the film.