MENTOR (AP) -- With schools and government offices closed for President's Day on Monday, an opportune time presented itself for learning more about the historic men who have led the U.S. since its beginnings.
And a prime place for gleaning information about the subject was the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor which offered the public a free day-long program with a special focus on presidential inaugurations. Garfield was the 20th president.
A steady stream of people of all ages began arriving at the scenic site when the doors opened at 10 a.m.
Perusal of displays at the visitor's center, childrens' crafts, presidential trivia games and a tour of Garfield's home were among options for guests.
About 400 to 600 people were expected to visit the site on Monday, according to Todd Arrington, chief of interpretation and education.
Among them was Linda Terdan of Mentor who brought along her grandchildren Hannah Gibson, 9; Zachary Gibson, 6; and Isaak Gibson, 4. Terdan explained that the visit was much anticipated because her grandchildren are history buffs.
As they focused on crafting patriotic door knob hangers complete with glittery red, white and blue stars, she noted that they take frequent trips to Cleveland's Natural History Museum and Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen to view what the children refer to as "old time stuff."
"It's Presidents' Day so it's good to teach them what it's all about … and respect for our country," Terdan said.
Laura Pohto and her son Alex, 12, of Mentor-on-the-Lake, were not only taking the day to enjoy the program but also to fulfill a requirement for National Parks Junior Ranger Certification.
Interested students are required to complete a series of activities during trips to national parks in the U.S., share their answers with park rangers, and upon completion receive an official Junior Ranger badge or patch and Junior Ranger certificate.
Alex, who is home-schooled, and his family, have visited Gettysburg and Valley Forge as part of his quest for certification.
Asked about his favorite president, without hesitation Alex replied that it's Abraham Lincoln because "He was a good president to admire. He was honest and courageous."
Five-year-old Gavin Patterson of Highland Heights had a somewhat different reason for his selection of Barack Obama as his favorite president.
"Cause he has a funny nickname," Gavin said.
Scott and Gina Patterson, Gavin's parents, explained that the youngster often mispronounces the name of the current president by referring to him as "Broccoli Bama."
Peter Lawrence of Willoughby, who works in the banking industry, took advantage of his day off to bring along daughter Kasia, 5.
Admitting that he was more prone to study European history, he said he liked looking at the many old photographs displayed throughout the exhibits.
Tom Gamble, who lives in Cleveland Heights and works for the U.S. Government, also had an official day off from work.
A strong interest in history motivated his stop in Mentor.
"I think history is a road map of what can happen in the future," he said. "It's important not only to learn about (presidents) as patriotic figures, but also their personalities, what made them tick."
Arrington said he and staffers are always pleased when visitors take the time to explore what's available on the site's approximately eight acres.
"A lot of people see (President's Day) as a time when they don't have to go to work or school," he said. "We're trying to change that perception -- that there's a fascinating piece of history in their backyard, right here in Lake County."
He added that 80 percent of the artifacts in Lawnfield, President Garfield's home, are original, and that it's one of the few historic sites in the U.S. that can claim such a high number of authentic pieces.
For details, visit www.nps.gov/jaga/index.htm .