Community spirit shines

Dec. 7 was a busy day in our region on a couple of different levels.

For starters, there were several Christmas parades that day, including Steubenville’s Sights and Sounds of Christmas Parade. That parade, which was sponsored by Eastern Gateway Community College, helped to set a great tone for the day. In addition to heralding in the holiday season, the parade stood as a tribute to members of our armed forces and, especially, veterans, which was fitting, given that it also was Pearl Harbor Day.

Later that night, the annual Founders Day Dinner was held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

When you put all of those events together, you get a picture of our area communities when they are at their best.

Walking up and down Fourth Street while the various units were being assembled before the parade, it was easy to see the pride each group and organization brought with them to the event.

The Herald-Star’s float was one of the more than 90 units that made up this year’s parade, which lasted about 75 minutes. For the second year in a row, we had the opportunity to bring a little bit of a different type of music to the event.

When you attend a parade, you can always expect to hear the talented young men and women who make up the marching bands at our area high schools.

You know you’ll get a chance to see floats and entries from many local organizations and businesses. And, you can always expect to hear the amplified sounds of Mariah Carey which accompany the entries from area dance schools.

Our twist in 2012 was to invite the children’s bell choir from the Wintersville United Methodist Church to ride on our float and chime out their repertoire of Christmas carols, which they did to the delight of those who lined Fourth Street.

This year, we extended an invitation to the Ohio Valley Harmonizers, who shared their a cappella talents with all who gathered in downtown Steubenville.

I had the chance to ride on the floats both years, and it was interesting to see how the parade watchers responded as a we made our way along the route. Just like the hundreds who watched the 2012 parade appreciated the effort that went into that event, those who had come to downtown Steubenville on a cold Saturday a few weeks ago greeted everyone with smiles and enjoyed the afternoon while getting into the holiday spirit.

It was an experience, I’m sure, that was repeated in each of the parades held in every community throughout the Tri-State Area.

That theme of community carried over into the evening that Saturday when the Founders Day Dinner was held at the university. The dinner, which has been held since Dec. 7, 1949, was established by the late Rev. Dan Egan, TOR, then the college president, as a way to bring the school and civic community together.

That mission was reinforced in 1978 when the Founders Award was established as a way to honor area residents and organizations for their contributions to the university and local communities.

First presented to Samuel Freifield, who was a member of the original board of advisers, this year’s award went to the Franciscan Sisters TOR of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, who celebrated their 25th anniversary this year. Several scholarship winners also were recognized that night.

The gathering of community members at the university and the crowds who gathered along the streets to watch (or who participated in) the many parades held around our area help to demonstrate a sense of pride and spirit in our area and in our institutions. That’s something that’s important if our area is to continue to grow.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)