Take a Hike Walking Tours
In addition to our sponsors, grant funders and attendees, the Take a Hike Tour program is made possible by the work of over 20 program staff, including professional tour guides, actors & actresses, behind-the-scenes staff and volunteers!
Get to know the faces of Take a Hike:
Eileen Cassidy (tour guide) has been the Director of Community Engagement at Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation and Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation since 2012.
During her career at Junior Achievement of East Central Ohio, Eileen found her passion in connecting stakeholders to their community through targeted opportunities. Leveraging her experience in program management, marketing and fund development, Eileen engages people and businesses through investments of their time, talents and treasures for the betterment of their neighborhoods.
At the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation and Historic Warehouse District Development Corporations Eileen works to promote our downtown neighborhoods, execute public realm initiatives and increase fiscal support for both organizations.
Eileen’s community recognition’s, include awards from the Rotary Club of Jackson Township, Junior League of Stark County, Jackson Township Library and The Wilderness Center for her leadership and exemplary commitment. She was born and raised in Cleveland and now a resident of Ohio City.
John Busser (Daniel Burnham)
Mark Cipra (Mayor Tom Johnson) is an actor, director and educator. Classically trained at Circle-in-the-Square Theatre School and Yale University (BA, Drama), Cipra has acted and directed at many theaters in Cleveland and New York, in works spanning the breadth of theatrical forms from classical to experimental, and genres from farce to tragedy.
He is known to passers-by in downtown Cleveland as Mayor Tom Johnson, a role he has performed for the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Association since 2009. His directing credits include Peter and the Starcatcher, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Leading Ladies, Spamalot, Music Man, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Cyrano de Bergerac, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Hay Fever. He is known for playing dozens of classical roles, including King Lear, Henry IV, Julius Caesar, Claudius (Hamlet), Capulet (Romeo and Juliet), Lovewit (The Alchemist) and Everyman. Modern roles include Willy Loman (Death of a Salesman), Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Henry Drummond (Inherit the Wind), Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge! The Musical), Pap Finn (Big River), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), and many more.
As an independent educator, he has taught acting and writing and he has appeared as a Guest Artist at several local universities. He also taught information systems at Case Western Reserve, Cleveland State and Chancellor Universities. He is retired from his “day job” career as an information systems manager.
Tim Donovan (tour guide) is a native Clevelander; born and raised on the west side, attended St. Ignatius High School and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Cleveland State University. Mr. Donovan’s recent career direction stemmed from his personal interest in the Canalway project beginning in 1987. As a volunteer for several years, Mr. Donovan produced the first successful fund-raisers for the organization and continues to stage successful events like Scrooge’s Nite Out, The Towpath Marathon & Team Relay Race, Canaliversary Lobster Bake, and RiverSweep.
Ohio Canal Corridor was founded in 1985 as a private, non-profit organization dedicated to a mission of facilitating the development of a 110-mile linear heritage greenway from Cleveland’s lakefront to Dover, Ohio. Ohio Canal Corridor utilizes a private/public partnership structure for every project and issue. Specific items on the work agenda include the creation of a trail network following the route of the Ohio Canal and Cuyahoga & Tuscawaras Rivers, historic preservation of significant industrial artifacts and buildings, redevelopment of historic neighborhoods and commercial centers, interpretation of local and regional history, and promotion of heritage tourism and sensitive economic development projects that compliment the project.
Tim Donovan joined Canalway Partners as a volunteer in 1986, a consultant in 1990 and was appointed its director in 1992. Mr. Donovan has been instrumental in bringing federal designation to the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway, the designation of the Cuyahoga as an American Heritage River and and, more recently the Federal Highway Administration’s recognition of the CanalWay Ohio Scenic Byway as a National Scenic Byway.
Under his direction, Ohio Canal Corridor has grown from a three member Board to twenty-four Trustees, while the membership/interest list has risen to 8,500 individuals / companies / governmental agencies / and other non-profit organizations.
Major accomplishments of Ohio Canal Corridor during this time include:
- The development of a public park, Hart Crane, along the Cuyahoga River – $450,000
- The facilitation of a new Cleveland Metroparks’ Canal Reservation – $12 million investment.
- The design and production of the first Visitor Map that depicts the Towpath Trail, Scenic Byway and the Scenic Railroad.
- The designation of the state’s first Scenic Byway and awarding and installation of $300,000 towards a Wayfinding Signage Plan and System.
- The awarding and redistribution of $6 million of federal funds allocated for the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway.
- Development of Thornburg Station as model for new economic development.
Patti Hart (tour guide) has a B.A. in English Literature, and over 34 years work experience, first at Key Trust and then Northern Trust Company as a fiduciary officer. She has also been a docent at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 17 years. Patti first began giving tours in 2001 for the Warehouse District’s Holiday Tour and the Gateway District’s Walk and Dine events. Patti has since emersed herself in Cleveland History, and recommends the Cleveland Memory Project as her favorite online source. She has been conducting Take a Hike tours since 2008 and loves to see her tour attendees engaged, learning and having fun. Patti has won various awards for her short fiction and a stage play she authored, “Giant Eagle Pretty.”
Kira Hennessey (tour guide)
Bob Keefe is a native Clevelander. After 3 Summers of Porthouse Theatre at Kent State University, Bob moved to Chicago where he worked in local and regional theaters. Favorite roles in Chicago include Demetrius in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the Pegasus Players, Dr. Prentice in “What the Butler Saw” at the Theatre Shoppe, and Brasset in “Where’s Charlie?” directed by Gary Griffin at the Apple Tree. He also toured as Stanley in “A Bed Full of Foreigners” with The Old Creamery Theatre in Iowa. Since returning to Cleveland a decade ago, Bob has appeared frequently at The Actors’ Summit in Akron, and occasionally at the Cleveland Public Theatre, the Cleveland Play House, the Lakeland Theater, and in two long running improvisational shows at Playhouse Square; “We Gotta Bingo”, and “Flanagan’s Wake.”
Bob Kenderes (Levi Johnson) has performed in nearly 100 productions in 27 theaters in Northeast Ohio over the years. Ccurrently, he is in rehearsal playing Stage Manager in Our Town for the Medina Show Biz Company. After 30 years in the insurance business, he has been repurposed. He is a tour guide for University Circle’s CircleTrek, and a Concierge Concierge for Destination Cleveland. He also volunteers as a Concierge Ambassador for Destination Cleveland’s Visitor Center and a volunteer for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. Bob was recognized as the Sports Commission’s Volunteer of the Year in 2016.
Peter Lawson Jones (Mayor Carl Stokes), a member of both Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA, has appeared in over twenty films (White Boy Rick, Alex Cross, Starve), on network television (ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7) and on stages throughout Northeast Ohio, including the Cleveland Play House, Karamu, Ensemble Theatre and Weathervane Playhouse. Movies in which he has performed have been screened at film festivals from Portland, Oregon, to Sitges, Spain. Among his theatrical credits are Inherit the Wind, The Great White Hope, Ruined, The Exonerated, and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men. He has performed in staged readings off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane and Ensemble Studio theatres.
Peter’s play, The Family Line, has been produced at Karamu, Ohio University and Harvard University, where he received his bachelor’s (magna cum laude) and law degrees. His most recent drama, The Bloodless Jungle, premiered last year at Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights and has had staged readings at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Dallas Convention Center and in Harlem. The play will receive its second full production at the Karamu in August. Peter is co-executive producer of Fatherhood 101, a documentary on the importance of responsible fatherhood that has screened in numerous venues across the country.
Peter received the 2016 Indie Gathering International Film Festival Best Ohio Supporting Actor and the 2012 African American Playwrights Exchange Artist of the Year Awards. (Please log on to www.peterlawsonjones.com for more information on his work as an actor and playwright.)
Peter is also an attorney and business consultant in the areas of government relations, community engagement, event planning, fundraising and fatherhood programming. He formerly served as a councilman and vice mayor in Shaker Heights, member of the Ohio General Assembly and Cuyahoga County commissioner. His spouse, Lisa, and he are the proud parents of three children, Ryan Charles, Leah Danielle and Evan Cooke.
Marcia Mandell (Mrs. Alfred Kelley)
Ken Parker (Garrett Morgan)
Ron Reisinger (tour guide)
Dennis Runkle (Milton Krantz)
Frank Smith (Alan Freed) has portrayed DJ Alan Freed since 2012. Currently he also works at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an exhibit preparator and a docent. He has also been employed the last few years as a tour guide at the “Christmas Story House”.
In the 1980’s he worked as an engineer at WGAR radio and eventually as an on-air radio personality, known on the air as Luther Heggs. From 1990-1991 he was co-host of the Becker & Heggs Radio show on WWWE doing afternoon drive. He changed stations to WMJI -Magic, as a solo personality from 1991- 1999 again as Luther Heggs. During those years he was lucky enough to interview many of of rock and roll’s classic performers: Chuck Berry, Mary Wilson, Ronnie Spector, Lesley Gore and Carl Perkins to name but a few.
Going further back, Frank was a sound & lighting technician throughout the 70’s and 1980’s doing local and national touring acts. For 5 years in the late 1980’s he worked out of Nashville as the lighting director for The Louise Mandrell Show. She was best known as one of the Mandrell Sisters on the Barbara Mandrell television variety show. Other acts he worked as a sound tech for range from Reba Mcentire, to Eric Burdon of the Animals.
Leah Smith (Linda Eastman) is thrilled to be making her Take a Hike Tour debut in 2017 as Linda Eastman. Previous stage credits include: City of Angels(Ensemble) at Beck Center for the Arts, Hook and Smee (Peter Pan) and Finn McCool (Siobhan) at Talespinner Children’s Theater, Last Call Cleveland’s Michael Stanley Superstar (Leah) at The Outcult Theater, Selfies at the Clown Motel (Chloe) at convergence-continuum, Hair (Jeanne) at Near West Theater, and Jerusalem (Tanya) and Slow Dance on the Killing Ground (Rosie) at Ensemble Theater. Leah will begin working as an actor-teacher for Great Lakes Theater in Fall 2017.
John Thobaben (John Rockefeller) is a local actor who has appeared in roles ranging from Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to Emile Dubec in South Pacific. He is a member of SAG/AFTRA and has appeared in numerous commercials. Additionally he has appeared in a number of movies.
Linda Palko Witkowski (Mrs. Alfred Kelley) is an actress, historical educator and computer technologist. In the past 10 years she has been primarily involved in educational projects including Take a Hike and ongoing presentations with the Women in History group. She has enjoyed portraying Florence Nightingale, Calamity Jane, Hollywood Gossip Maven Hedda Hopper, First Lady Ida McKinley and computer pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Hopper among others. Additionally, she has performed in the Greater Cleveland area for over 30 years, having worked at many area theatres including the Beck Center, Clague Playhouse and The Cleveland Shakespeare Company.
Linda holds a Masters degree in Modern Languages from CWRU and has recently retired from PNC Financial Services as a Senior Technology Manager. She has joyously spent over 40 years in the fascinating and ever changing computer technology field.
Elise Yablonsky (tour guide) serves as the Planning Director at University Circle Inc., the development, service, and advocacy organization responsible for the growth of University Circle as a premier urban district and world-class center of health care, education, and arts & culture. Working with the Planning & Real Estate team, she is responsible for directing projects in the areas of urban planning and design, land use and zoning, transportation, and community outreach. Elise came to UCI from Destination Cleveland, where she helped to launch new destination development projects and programs. Prior to returning to Cleveland, she served as the Senior Project Manager at the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation & Capitol South.
Elise completed her graduate studies at The Ohio State University and holds a Masters of Public Policy & Management and a Masters of City of Regional Planning. She also has a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Mercyhurst University. A proud city resident, she grew up in the Cudell neighborhood and currently lives in Detroit Shoreway.
Thomas Yablonsky (program creator, tour guide) has 36 years of experience in management, city planning, community development, and economic development finance. He has founded or helped initiate three historic preservation development programs, including the Warehouse District and Gateway District in Downtown Cleveland. The third is as co-founder of Canalway Partners, which is a collaborative partner in a regional effort now known as The Ohio & Erie Canalway, which runs 110 miles from Tuscarawas County north to Downtown Cleveland.
Since 2001, Yablonsky has jointly held the position of Executive Director for the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation and the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation. Since August of 2006, he has also served as the Executive Vice President of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Previously, he was Director of Downtown Development for the Greater Cleveland Growth Association. Statewide he has been involved as a Board Member of Heritage Ohio. He holds a graduate degree (MPA) from Indiana University- Bloomington and a BA degree from Cleveland State University. He created the Take a Hike program in 2008, and can frequently be found as a guide on many weekly tours.