Take a look at our melting pot

Saturday saw the return of Weirton’s Festival of Nations for its fifth year, bringing with it a selection of food and a great lineup of performances from groups representing cultures from around the world.

The Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center brought this event back in 2009 in observance of the 100th anniversary of Weirton Steel and the beginnings of what would become the city of Weirton.

The Festival of Nations was started by E.T. Weir to celebrate our area’s cultural heritage, and that’s something that continues with the new version.

As the steel mill grew, people of various backgrounds arrived in the area to work, bringing with them the food, songs and traditions of their homelands. The original festival became an opportunity to share some of those cultural aspects.

After it returned five years ago, the Weir family continued to show its support, with E.T. and Mary H. Weir’s son, David, returning on a few occasions to celebrate the festival and lend his aid to the museum.

David passed away last year, but the Weir family continues to show its support for the festival, museum and community. This year, David’s wife Gretchen and their daughter Maisie were in attendance to help kick off the festival.

We need to have events such as the Festival of Nations continue, and, while it has seen some adjustments over the last five years, it is good to see it continue.

Weirton, and all of our communities for that matter, have a diverse cultural background of which we all should take pride.

We have everything from American Indians and the descendants of early European settlers, such as the Irish, Scots and Germans, to later immigrants from Greece, Italy and Eastern Europe.

It’s something that continues to this day as people from around the world come to America and settle around the nation, coming from Central and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

It is good for us to have opportunities to learn from each other, to have a better understanding of each other.

The festival is just such an opportunity, as we can sample different foods, learn about other nations, hear music and see traditional dances from around the world.

I know I have enjoyed each experience over the last few years, seeing the different outfits and the dances, trying foods and meeting people of different backgrounds who may only live a short distance away.

Our nation has been a cultural melting pot since before it was born. Early settlers brought their traditions and learned from each other as they worked together and built their communities.

These days, many of us observe aspects of various holidays and celebrations from those home countries, no matter from where our own ancestors may have hailed.

In Weirton, many of us attend the Greek Festival. Wheeling has its Italian Festival. We get pierogi from Sacred Heart of Mary and St. Nicholas’ churches.

We have restaurants showcasing cuisine from Italy, Greece, Japan, China, Mexico and many others. Some reflect a portion of our culture influenced by some of our earlier residents, while others bring new ideas and tastes.

Each of these influences should be celebrated as they have contributed to making our area what it is.

Years ago, we had the International Food Festival. It was a massive event which brought people from throughout the region. People planned their vacations and returned to the Ohio Valley for it.

Well, I feel there is the possibility we can have something just as big still exist here in the Ohio Valley.

We all have ideas and differing backgrounds, and we can all contribute to the success of our community in some way with those backgrounds.

The Festival of Nations helps to serve as a reminder of that possibility, as people of differing backgrounds came together to restart a long-dormant event celebrating our community.

The festival is finished for this year, but I hope you keep it in mind when it rolls around in 2014 as we come together to celebrate our own little melting pot.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)