Independence Day observance to include Vietnam wall

WELLSBURG – A visit by a mobile wall paying tribute to the state’s Vietnam veterans will be part of the Wellsburg’s week-long celebration of Independence Day this year.

Established in 2013 by the West Virginia State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America in Nemours, W.Va., the wall is similar in design to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But it differs in that it bears the names of just the 732 West Virginians who were killed or missing in action or prisoners of war while serving in South and North Vietnam, its seaways and theater of operations.

Leaders of the council said their goal is to take the wall throughout the state for people unable to view the monument in Washington or mobile replicas that travel throughout the U.S.

Greg Cheeks of Wellsburg learned of the wall through the Internet and has been working since last year to raise funds for its visit. He said thanks to the generosity of many, he has raised about $1,000, enough to bring the wall to Wellsburg, but is continuing to accept donations to offset costs for security and food and lodging for council representatives transporting it.

“People have been really on board with this and can’t wait to see it,” said Cheeks, who himself served in Thailand during the war.

“There are some names on that wall of people from Brooke County who went to school the same time as I did,” said Cheeks, who has compiled a list of Brooke County veterans killed at wartime.

The wall is slated to arrive at Wellsburg’s Central Park at 18th Street, escorted by the Red Knights motorcycle group, on the morning of June 30 for assembly by volunteers, and remain on display through July 2.

A dedication service will be held at 6 p.m. June 30. Participants will include Rudy McAllister, a local minister who served in the Air Force during Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Iraqi Freedom; the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad and Toni Taylor.

Cecil Toner, who is co-chairing this year’s Independence Day festivities with Steve Lauck, said he’s very pleased Cheeks arranged for the wall’s visit to coincide with the celebration.

He said through the generosity of many businesses and support of city officials, the many volunteers with the Wellsburg 4th of July Committee have planned a variety of events.

The celebration will include free concerts at 7 p.m. at Central Park on the following dates: June 27, Cross Creek; June 28, Twice as Nice; June 29, Easy Street; June 30, 40 Plus; July 1, the Dallas Marks Band; July 2, Spinning Jenny; and July 3, Refugee.

There also will be a Christian music concert, featuring Marvin Whiteman and others, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. there on June 29.

Activities on June 28 also will include a community yard sale sponsored by the Wellsburg Garden Club at 8 a.m.; Wendy’s 5K Run-Walk at 9 a.m. at the Wellsburg Town Square, with registration at 8 a.m.; a volleyball tournament sponsored by and held at The Crooked Dock at 11 a.m.; a cornhole tournament at Central Park at 10:30 a.m.; and the Wellsburg All-American Idol singing contest at 2 p.m. at Central Park.

Kelly Camarote will serve as mistress of ceremonies for the contest and her band, Three’s Company, will perform.

Toner said a new addition to the 4th of July schedule is an ecumenical service to be held at 10:30 a.m. June 29 at Central Park by Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church and New Day Christian Center.

He said church members also have offered to assist with other events that day.

Other events on June 29 will include a fishing tournament at 6:30 a.m. at the 12th Street boat ramp; a community picnic sponsored by the Wellsburg Kroger from noon to 2 p.m. at the Betty Carr Recreation Site; and a horseshoe tournament at 11 a.m. at the Betty Carr Recreation Site.

There will be a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, for ages 18 and under, at 5 p.m. July 2 at the Betty Carr Recreation Site.

Activities on July 4 will include flag raising ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. at the E.R. Nichols 1st Ward Playground, followed by the Oil Can Derby on the adjacent Fourth Street at 9 a.m.

The derby is similar to Soap Box Derbies and has become a popular attraction, growing from 11 young racers when it was revived three years ago to more than 30 this year, said organizer Fred Marino.

The day will continue with games for children at 1 p.m. at the Betty Carr Recreation Site; the parade at 7 p.m. on Charles Street; and fireworks at dusk at the Betty Carr Recreation Site.

Mayor Sue Simonetti will serve as marshal of the parade, which will line up at 5:30 p.m. at the city’s south end near Zatta’s.

The week will conclude at 1 p.m. July 5 with the Anything That Floats contest, in which individuals and groups will race down the Ohio River from The Crooked Dock restaurant to the Sixth Street Wharf in a variety of home-made watercraft.

The contest will be canceled if there aren’t six entries by June 1. Registration forms for it, the Wendy’s 5K Run-Walk and Wellsburg All-American Idol contest can be found at www.wellsburg4thofjuly.com.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstarononline.com)