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Posted: 12/05/12

AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE. Above, Mark Szabo of Romeo dons his French attire for one of his Voyageur programs. Szabo was recently awarded the Master Front-Line Interpreter Award by the National Association for Interpretation. Below, Szabo said he enjoys the voyageur program where he includes a bit of theatrics as well as a canoe trip to help educate attendees at the Stony Creek Metroparks.

(Photos courtesy of Mark Szabo)

Szabo awarded national
award for interpretation

Observer Staff Writer
      An interpreter with the Stony Creek Metroparks and Romeo resident has been recognized nationally for his work in sharing history and nature with others.
       Mark Szabo was awarded the National Association for Interpretation's (NAI) 2012 Master Front-Line Interpreter Award on Nov. 17 during the NAI's national workshop held in Virginia.
       The award is given to a NAI member who has worked for more than five years as an interpreter and has more than 60 percent of their duties consisting of interpretation work.
       "Being from a national organization it was quite an honor," Szabo said.
       An interpreter deals with presenting facts and information in an entertaining manner as opposed to translating languages. A Civil War re-enactor, for instance, could be considered an interpreter.
       "It's telling stories of our history, cultural and natural history, in a way that relates to the audience," Szabo said. "You can really touch someone's soul with what you do and really make an impression."
       Szabo has worked as a master interpreter and naturalist with the Huron-Clinton Metroparks for nearly 32 years. He began at the Kensington Metropark Nature Center before transferring to Stony Creek in 1989. He has been dubbed "Mark from the Park" by school children that have attended his presentations or been privy to a school visitation.
       He said one of his favorite programs has been the French Canadian Voyageur, a performance he has given for the last 20 years that entails dressing in costume and donning a French accent. More specifically, he takes groups out on a canoe while talking about history.
       Among his accomplishments, he said he is proud of the exhibits and displays for the nature center he helped design. The nature center used to be an old house before its conversion.
       "What is really nice is you know when it's working or not when you see if the public is looking at it or not," he said. "Everything we put in is looked at, so it's very rewarding to see something that is appreciated."
       Part of what makes Szabo stand out as an interpreter is his penchant for music and acting. He said he tries to bring a bit of theatrics to his presentations as well as singing songs. He even belongs to the La Compagnie Musical-Dance Troupe, where he plays the stand-up bass.
       "I found a group that is an expansion of that voyageur canoe experience," he said with a chuckle. "It's utilizing the arts to convey your message."
       He tributes his choice in careers to his father, Bert Szabo, who was a naturalist for the Metroparks in Ohio.
       "My dad's love for the outdoors and his knowledge of the natural world inspired me to follow a similar path," he said.
       The NAI is a professional organization for park historians as well as zoo and museum educators, park managers, naturalists and others affiliated with interpreting. Its current membership is 4,700.

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