Wellsburg events to continue today

WELLSBURG – Friday was possibly the busiest of the Wellsburg 4th of July Committee’s nine-day celebration of Independence Day, with events being held nearly from morning to night.

During a flag raising ceremony at the city’s E.R. Nichols First Ward Playground, Joy Leasure, pastor of Community of Christ Church, said July 4 may not be the correct birthdate for America.

She noted founding father and second president John Adams maintained America’s birth should be celebrated on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution supporting independence from Great Britain, two days before it approved the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Leasure added many historians believe most signers of the Declaration of Independence added their names on Aug. 2 of that year.

She said what’s really important, though, is that Americans take time each Independence Day to express thanks for the nation in which they live, the freedoms it offers and the servicemen and women who defend them.

Before offering a prayer of thanks for each of those things, Leasure said Wellsburg is one of the best places to observe the holiday because it celebrates the occasion for an entire week.

Margaret Camilletti, a student at Wellsburg Middle School, performed the national anthem while Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. John Graham, center, and Tech. Sgt. Ed Kokosinski raised the U.S. flag. Toni Taylor, who coordinated the event, led everyone in singing “God Bless America.”

Remarks also were offered by Mary Guidi, a representative of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin; City Manager Mark Henne and Mayor Sue Simonetti.

Simonetti recognized the volunteer Wellsburg 4th of July Committee, headed by co-chairs Cecil Toner and Steve Lauck, for organizing a variety of events, including a display of the West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, free concerts each night at Central Park, the Wendy’s 5K Run-Walk and fishing and three-on-three basketball tournaments.

The celebration will conclude at 1 p.m. today with the Anything That Floats Race. Participants will navigate assorted unconventional water craft along the Ohio River from the Crooked Dock Restaurant, formerly Pier 12, to the Sixth Street Wharf.

Friday’s activities also included the Oil Can Derby, games for children at the Betty Carr Recreation Site, the annual parade, which included a mix of patriotic floats, dance studios and other units, with Simonetti serving as marshal.

It was capped with a fireworks display at the Betty Carr Recreation Site.

Earlier many lined Fourth Street to watch more than 30 boys and girls careen down Fourth Street in colorful, soapbox-style cars in the Oil Can Derby.

This year’s event opened with a trial run involving two cars used in the 1960s.

Jim Campagna of Wellsburg recalled racing in one of the two more than 50 years ago and winning.

“That was the biggest event in Wellsburg, I think,” Campagna said of the derby, which was revived, after a 40-year hiatus, by Fred Marino three years ago.

He said he’s tried to fine tune it each year. This year volunteers Greg Hoit and Luke Mester devised a timing system activated by a switch at the start line and sensors at the finish line.

Hoit said the system helped to determine some very close races this year.

Marino said his main goal always will be to make the event fun. After the race trophies were presented to all of the participants, with the largest going to winners in two categories based on the weights of the cars and drivers:

Stock: Mia Camilletti, first place; Max Camilletti, second place; Skye Murdock, third place; and Bobo Billiard, fourth place.

Super stock: Brooke Ohler, first place; Austin Provenzano, second place; Cross Billiard, third place; and Bailey Serevicz, fourth place.

Shirley Mushet of Wellsburg was among many watching the derby.

“I’m glad that Wellsburg has this again. I missed it. When my children were really little, we always went to the races,” said Mushet, who this year came with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Makayla.

Mushet said the Independence Day celebration is like a citywide homecoming celebration.

“Everybody who moves away always comes back on the 4th of July. That’s when you see your old friends,” she said.

Campagna said his grown children always come home then.

“Everybody’s at my house on all of the holidays but the 4th of July is the biggest,” he said.

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