Dec. 15: Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre, Chardon OH

It’s Day 349 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. On a snowy mid-December day, it took only about an hour to drive from the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive In in North Ridgeville OH, passing through the south side of the Cleveland metro area, to the Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre, a few miles south of Chardon OH.

The folks who talk about the Mayfield Road these days all say that it opened in 1945, but I haven’t heard anyone mention that it opened as the Hazelwood Drive-In. I know that the Hazelwood was around by 1950 or so, but I can’t find any other information that it existed in the 1940s, especially from the drive-in lists published at the time. Just call me a skeptic.

What the old reference books tell me is that by 1952, the Hazelwood was owned by R.H. Manley and Herbert H. Horstemeier, a big name in regional theaters. One V.A. Nelson was listed as owner in the late 1950s, followed by Carl Brinkman in the 1960s. Except for Horstemeier, I can’t find any other info about any of these guys.

The drive-in’s name had changed to the Mayfield Road by 1972, when it and manager Peter Maisano were unsuccessfully sued by a patron. (It sits on Ohio Route 322, also known as Mayfield Road, but I don’t know why its name changed.) By 1980, my old books list the owner as Maisano, and the Geauga County Maple Leaf wrote recently that the Maisano family had owned the drive-in up to 1993.

Current owner John Knepp bought the Mayfield Road in 1993. That year, a wind storm blew down the original screen. I couldn’t tell whether that was before or after the sale. The drive-in replaced the screen of course, and 20 years later quietly switched to digital projection.

Earlier this year when Disney demanded higher fees and other concessions from drive-ins that wanted to show Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Knepp joined a loose coalition of regional theaters that refused to show it. The embedded video of the day is from WKYC, Cleveland’s News Leader, covering that announcement while gathering some lovely images of the place.

The drive-in closed for the season in October, and I’m glad it’s in such great shape to return next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 47 / 39107 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: It looks like somebody’s house on the corner, except the busy parking lot betrays that something good is being served at Maple City Taps & Eatery. It’s like a neighborhood bar with seemingly every kind of food that goes well with beer. I started with a cup of homemade chili to literally warm up, then moved on to a ribs and chicken barbecue combo. With sports playing on the TVs, I could have stayed here all day.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Google told me that there aren’t any hotels in Chardon, and that the closest to the drive-in is the Comfort Inn 11 miles north in Painesville. On this snowy day, I didn’t want to drive any more than necessary. Cookies and coffee were waiting at check-in. My nicely refurbished room had all the modern amenities, and breakfast included some protein along with the classic Comfort waffles. If only I had some Geauga County maple syrup to go with them.

Only in Chardon: Every spring, Chardon hosts the Geauga County Maple Festival. The event was founded in 1926 in an attempt to market Ohio syrup in competition with Vermont syrup. The 2017 edition included one- and five-mile sap runs, the crowning of the festival king and queen, and plenty of pancakes.

Next stop: Midway Twin Drive In Theater, Ravenna OH.

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