CHILLICOTHE — In celebrating Zorro's birthday, fans literally can become a part of history.

For the May 25 and 26 blowout — officially called ZORRO IS 100! — the Chillicothe Historical Society will host a slew of activities marking the centennial of the fictional hero created by Johnston McCulley, who grew up in Chillicothe. One of the events will be hosted by French artist Rika Deryckere, who visited Chillicothe in 2015 for the Zorrofest Parade. On the morning of May 25, in front of an audiences, she will paint a mural honoring Zorro.

The crowd, especially children, will be invited to help with the mural. They'll mostly be involved in painting the background, but their handiwork will remain part of the mural. It will be crafted on canvass and later put on display, part of the society's rotating Zorro exhibits.

"It's going to be a big one," says Dianne Colwell, a society member and event organizer.

That same morning, 100 Zorro hats will be given to children. They also can partake in a drawing lesson by artist and author Peter Polanski, who splits his time between France and Wisconsin. The longtime Zorro buff is no stranger to Chillicothe or Zorro events.

Saturday and Sunday also will include Zorro games and movies, plus gallery tours and speakers. At 2 p.m. Sunday, the society will present a radio play, "Zorro: A Deal with the Devil."

Born in Ottawa, McCulley became an orphan at the death of his parents. He was brought to Chillicothe to be raised by grandparents. After graduating from Chillicothe Township High School in 1901, he found jobs working for various newspapers (including the Peoria Star and Peoria Journal) before turning to writing fiction for pulp magazines beginning in 1906.

He would create a host of characters, including include the Crimson Clown, a Robin Hood-type who robbed the rich to help the poor while dressed in a circus clown costume, and Thubway Tham, a lisping pickpocket. His stable of characters (also including Black Star, Whirlwind and the Thunderbolt) helped inspired the masked superheroes who would take over comic books and, decades later, Hollywood.

But he made his mark with Zorro — Spanish for "fox" — a masked swordsman on horseback who fought oppression of the common man in California around the turn of the 19th Century. The character debuted in 1919 in the the serialized novel "The Curse of Capistrano,” published in All Story Weekly. As a book, "The Curse of Capistrano" eventually sold more than 50 million copies.

McCulley had planned Zorro to be a one-off. But actor Douglas Fairbanks donned a mask to play the swashbuckler in the 1920 silent movie, “The Mark of Zorro,” creating a demand that sent McCulley back to writing more stories.

Over his career, McCulley cranked out about 500 pulp stories, about 60 featuring Zorro. Not only were many of his tales turned into movies, but he also would write for films.

McCulley died in 1958, in Los Angeles. He is buried Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.