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picture courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
GRANDMA GATEWOOD PROGRAM
REPORT FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

It’s a long road -- no matter how you look at it! For Hiker Emma Gatewood it was more than 2,000 miles; for Eden Valley and FilmAffects it was more than two years.

In May of 2009 the Buckeye Trail Association wanted to put together a PowerPoint presentation for its 50th Anniversary. They contacted Eden Valley to provide the narration for their program which mentioned that one of their founders, Emma Gatewood, had been the first woman to hike the Appalachian trail alone -- at the ripe old age of 67! This footnote in the BTA story intrigued me and I contacted then-BTA Board Member Liz McQuaid -- “Who IS this Emma Gatewood person anyway?” So began Eden Valley’s “search for Emma Gatewood”.

Liz put me in touch with Emma’s youngest daughter, Lucy Seeds, who provided some interesting background information about the remarkable Ohioan -- after raising 11 children and a divorce from an abusive husband, Emma set off on the Appalachian Trail after reading a National Geographic article saying that no woman had ever thru-hiked the Trail alone. It was just the kind of challenge that Emma enjoyed and so she set out to be that woman.

At the time I only planned to include Emma’s story as one of the many tales of wonderful women spotlighted in EVE’s program, WHAT’S HER STORY? But Lucy mentioned that she was interested in publishing Emma’s diaries and she thought a film would be a great idea, so I told Lucy I’d check around to see if I could help her find a publisher or put her in touch with someone to do a film.

One of the first people I contacted was FilmAffects producer, Peter Huston. Peter, too, was intrigued by Emma’s story. And so the plan began... A storytelling program devoted to Emma, a first-person character program, a documentary for DVD and PBS.

In February, 2010 Peter and I began to work on getting a planning grant from the Ohio Humanities Council. By April, I had applied to the National Storytelling Network for a grant to do a storytelling program (this was approved in June, 2010).

That Fall the planning grant from the Ohio Humanities Council was approved. In December, 2010 the Buckeye Trail Association made a grant to help with matching funds for the Ohio Humanities Council Grant. These two grants would provide funds for research and planning to determine what materials were available for Phase 2 -- the first-person character program and the video documentary. They paid for trips to visit daughter Lucy Seeds in Florida and Great Granddaughter Marjorie Wood in Gallipolis, Ohio to allow us to get filmed interviews and pictures about Emma and her life.

Having completed the planning, we were now ready to raise funds to create the first-person character program and the video documentary.

In the meantime, Kelly Boyer Sagert has been busy writing the script for the storytelling program. The Westlake Community Center presented the first performance on November 1, 2011 for their Senior group.

2012 and 2013 kept us busy fundraising as we continued researching (including meeting and talking to various family members) and writing. We had our first filming in April of 2012 with Judy MacKeigan as Emma.

In February of 2013 we received a generous $15,000 grant from the Ohio History Fund!

Our next milestone came in August of 2013 when we premiered our one-act play, Emma Gatewood: Are You Out Of Your Bloomin' Mind?! (An Appalachian Tale) (originally titled "Trail Magic") about her at TrueNorth in Sheffield Village. Starring Anne McEvoy as Grandma Gatewood and Kathie Dice as Emily Watson, the play was presented to two sold-out houses.

Next came the actual filming of the documentary. Using the the script from the play as the core of the documentary, Anne reprised her role as Grandma for the film. Director Peter Huston conducted interviews with other AT-hikers, Appalachian Trail Conservancy employees and historians to finish the film for a premier in May, 2015. Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story was presented at TrueNorth during a two-day event which included a presentation of the storytelling program and two performances of the film -- a complete Red Carpet Event!

So -- six years from first “meeting” Grandma Gatewood, EVE and FilmAffects completed its goal of documenting the life of this feisty female. Well, sort of...

Since the documentary, TRAIL MAGIC: THE GRANDMA GATEWOOD STORY premiered on PBS station WUOB we have continued to "take our show on the road". In 2016, more than 2,500 people saw one of 37 presentations of our Grandma Gatewood programs! (If you'd like to host one of these programs, just send us an e-mail!) We also continue with our fundraising activities to cover past filming expenses and additional costs for presentation on PBS and eventual creation of DVDs of the documentary which will be available for sale.

If you would like to support this project with a tax-deductible donation, you can send a check made payable to Eden Valley Enterprises; 1250 East River St., Elyria, Ohio 44035 (download a convenient PDF form) or pay online with PayPal by pressing the "Donate" button at the bottom of this page. (As a not-for-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) or the Internal Revenue Code, all donations are tax-deductible. You will receive an acknowledgment for tax purposes.)

Most exciting of all, in April, 2017 we were notified that TRAIL MAGIC had been nominated for a Regional National Association of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Emmy Award in the “Best Documentary, Historical” category.

In the meantime, Kelly, Peter and I hope to see you at one of our performances in the near future to introduce you to this truly Remarkable Ohioan!

Just in case you think that walking the 2, 178 miles of The Appalachian Trail THREE times is more than enough to put Emma in the ranks of Amazing Americans, consider these facts:

  • Emma was one of 15 children of Esther Evelyn Trowbridge and Hugh Wilson Caldwell. She often acted as mother to the younger children.
  • She and her husband, Perry, had 11 children.
  • In 1958 she climbed the six highest peaks of the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
  • In 1959 she hiked the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail in honor of Oregon’s Centennial.
  • She was one of the founders of the Buckeye Trail Association and was elected to the board of directors and served through April, 1969.
  • The Buckeye Trail Association named a section of the Trail in Hocking Hills after her.
  • Between 1955 and 1969 she hiked ten thousand miles!

Thanks for joining us on our trail!

Always,

- ¡ Bette Lou !

P.S.: I wish to thank all of Emma's family who have spent time talking to us about her and her life and sharing their pictures and other memorabilia with us especially Lucy Seeds, Lillian Gatewood Sullivan, Marjorie Wood and Nelson Gatewood. All of her family members have been wonderful and we are very grateful!

P.P.S.: We couldn't have done it without our donors -- a BIG Thank You to our company donors and our Grandma Gatewood project supporters!

This progress report was last updated on June 13, 2017

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