Festival reflective of our town

The Weirton Festival of Nations made its return last weekend, and, from all appearances, was another success.

I’m sure there are people out there who don’t know it takes place, or even what it is, and that’s a shame.

The festival has its roots in some of the earlier days of the city of Weirton. Created in part by E.T. Weir as a way to celebrate the “melting pot” that was part of the community, it took part, I believe, at Marland Heights Park and included various foods, displays, performances and other attractions reflective of the various ethnicities in the city.

Weirton residents would dress in traditional clothing from their heritages. It was said to be a great day for the community to gather and enjoy themselves, and it drew massive crowds.

The modern version was created about six years ago by the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, and, while smaller in scope, works to have much of the same flavor.

Usually taking place at the Millsop Community Center, there is a selection of ethnic foods, a few display tables and a great deal of singing and dancing up on stage.

Weirton residents Sheena Chopra and Victoria Gerst, for example, were on hand with their amazing singing, as were students from St. Joseph the Worker School.

Dance schools from Pittsburgh, groups from Oglebay and groups from around the Ohio Valley danced, and Tom Zielinsky is usually on hand to play his accordion.

The All Saints Greek Orthodox Church had a few goodies for sale, with other food provided by Carter Bar-B-Que, the Mount Olive Baptist Church and more.

All in all, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the gym at the community center was packed for hours.

I also can’t remember the last time I saw the Municipal Plaza parking lot so full on a Saturday morning.

There are many who work for several months to put this event together, and I hope the community appreciates the effort.

Led by Dr. J.K. Luthra, there is a great deal of work to arrange for the vendors, performers and other aspects, to make sure everyone is on site and that the event goes off without a hitch.

This is a great event for Weirton, and I encourage our residents to try and take some time to check it out when the Festival of Nations comes around next year.

The Weirton area has such a rich heritage when it comes to the ancestry of our residents.

From American Indians to the first European settlers, from farmers to the early steel workers and those that have come to call our area home in more recent years, we all have that background of which we can be proud.

It is nice to be able to share some of that heritage with others, introduce them to some of the foods, music, dances and traditions of the various cultures that make up our community.

The Festival of Nations is something I can see continuing to grow and be a part of the area for years to come.

Our schools can have special activities connected to the festival, perhaps with students looking into their own heritage.

Perhaps more clubs and organizations can participate, helping to provide information or food from the various backgrounds.

This is something the entire community can truly get behind, just as it has for other events in Weirton’s history.

Thank you to the volunteers from the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center for providing such a great event for our area. Keep up the good work.

(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)