OHIO CITY — Carol Jean Lambert, great-granddaughter of inventor John Lambert, defines Ohio City as being to the automobile what Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, is to the airplane.
During the weekend, the small town in Van Wert County held it’s 46th annual festival celebrating that fact.
Henry Ford is often incorrectly given credit for the first gasoline-powered automobile. However, the actual inventor of the first gas-powered vehicle was built in Ohio City by John Lambert.
Lambert Days began Thursday and ended Sunday with a grand parade that ended on the festival grounds.
Steve Lambert, another descendant of the inventor, said his great-grandfather not only invented the first automobile, but held more than 600 patents. At it’s peak, Steve Lambert said his great-grandfather had more than 5,000 employees. Other events highlighting the affair were community garage sales, a pageant, entertainment, fireworks, a softball festival and plenty of vendors, rides and a car show that featured some of John Lambert’s automobiles and engines.
Tom Muhlenkamp, who lives in a rural area near Ohio City, said the festival is important to the locals.
“It is important to highlight the history of Ohio City and it is good for the community,” Muhlenkamp said. “They are doing a great job with it and it improves every year. This was the best year yet.”
Jan Osborne said the event is all about tradition.
“It is important to keep the tradition going,” Osborne said. “A lot of people are busy with their lives and this gives the community a chance to sit and enjoy dinner together. The festival shows a part of our history that the little ones might not learn about otherwise. It helps everyone remember.”
John William Lambert made America’s first gasoline-powered automobile in 1891. Not long after that same year, Ohio City became the scene of the first automobile accident in the United States, when Lambert’s car struck a tree stump in the road and bounced into a hitching rack.
Lambert’s first automobile resembled a buggy. His parents operated a buggy factory, so it was natural for the first gasoline-powered automobile to resemble one. Research revealed that John Lambert would work on his vehicles usually late at night and kept his invention secret.