There will be a lot of visitors in Akron this week.

But in truth, they are actually coming home.

This is Founders Day Weekend, marking the 84th anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and as many as 12,000 people are expected in the city from near and far.

Many of the activities take place in different spots in Akron that hold special significance for the organization.

The rumble of motorcycles will be commonplace as many of the participants travel from place to place.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is home to the Gate Lodge, where the organization's founders first met to discuss the steps to sobriety that would later become the founding principles for A.A.

The stately looking Gate Lodge stands at the entrance to the historic estate and was home to Fred Seiberling (the eldest son of Goodyear tire baron F.A. Seiberling), his wife, Henrietta, and their three children.

Henrietta Seiberling invited her friend Dr. Bob Smith, a prominent Akron surgeon, and Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker visiting the city, to discuss the challenges of sobriety on Mother's Day in 1935.

The conversation that night is credited with them coming up with the tenets of A.A. in the ensuing months.

The Gate Lodge remained a private residence until 108-year-old Irene Seiberling Harrison died in 1999.  She was the second child of F.A. and Gertrude Seiberling and lived on the estate long after the main home was opened for public tours.

Jennifer McDowell of Stan Hywet said the lodge has been a popular pilgrimage for those in A.A. since it opened to the public for tours in 2004.

The estate is in the preliminary stages of looking at existing exhibits that are now some 15 years old to see what — if any — changes and upgrades might be needed.

There is the thorny issue that the existing displays identify the founders by their full names and not the A.A.-suggested first name and first initial of the last name only. The Beacon Journal has historically used the founders' full names but not those of people in active recovery or attending Founders Day Weekend.

McDowell said they are considering ways to feature — anonymously — personal stories of recovery shared by guests in a journal at a Reflections Tent set up outside of the Gate Lodge on Founders Day weekend.

"It is amazing to see what these folks write in the journals," she said. "I read some of them and I just wanted to cry. The stories of recovery are amazing."

New for guests this year is a mural of Smith, known as "Dr. Bob," created by more than 50 kids and residents at last year's PorchRokr in Akron's Highland Square neighborhood. Think of it like a giant paint-by-number artwork.

Mac Love, of Art x Love, said the @Play project was then finished up by Akron artist Alan Lunda, who also just installed another mural of poet and Akron native Rita Dove at the Maple Valley Branch Library.

For Founders Day Weekend at Stan Hywet, admission to the Gate Lodge is free. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There will be a free Yoga for 12-step Recovery at 1 p.m. Saturday and live music from the Rock and Recovery on Friday and Saturday sponsored by 91.3-FM The Summit.

There will be free shuttles Saturday between Stan Hywet and the University of Akron for Founders Day events, including an 8 p.m. speech at Infocision Stadium titled, "I lied my whole life, when the truth was good enough" by Tim H. of Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Bob's Home on Ardmore Avenue will be open for tours this weekend, along with stops at 15 other sites linked to the history of A.A. scattered throughout the city.

The motorcycle procession to Dr. Bob's grave off Aqueduct Street in Akron's Mount Peace Cemetery will be at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. A full listing of events can be found at foundersday.org.

McDowell said it is pretty humbling to find out some of the participants travel from halfway across the world to attend Founders Day.

"It's cool to talk with all the people," she said.

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3547.