Celebrating our cultural heritage

The Ohio Valley, like much of the United States, is a melting pot of cultures, with residents representing a variety of nationalities through their ancestry.

We take pride in that heritage, often passing down the lessons taught from our parents and grandparents to the next generations, telling family stories and teaching special food dishes.

This weekend saw one such celebration with the 10th-annual Festival of Nations, held at the Millsop Community Center.

Showcasing a variety of music, dancing and food from several nationalities, the festival is organized through the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center as a way to celebrate the nationalities represented in the community’s history.

The Ohio Valley’s early history includes American Indians, as well as settlers with ancestry from Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and a few others.

In the early 20th century, with the start of Weirton Steel, the cultural mixture grew, with people of Eastern European and Meditteranean descent coming to the region.

Today, we have residents who have come here from various Asian and African nations, as well as the Middle East and other parts of the Americas.

While we all are Americans, we can still take pride in our history, and it is good to see festivities available to showcase these unique aspects we carry with us.

The Ohio Valley also is home to several Greek festivals and Italian festivals, many of which are held by churches or civic groups, and the Wheeling Celtic Celebration.

They are ways for many of us to celebrate our families and traditions, while also providing an opportunity for others to learn the same.

We can hear the music, sample the cuisine, see their dances and play their games.

It is a great way to broaden our horizons and learn more about the world around us.

It’s something I wish there was more of an opportunity to do.

My family, for example, primarily comes from various parts of western Europe, primarily Ireland and the United Kingdom. There also is some French and a bit of Dutch or German, depending on whom you ask.

There are stories about family members, favorite food dishes and holiday traditions we have passed down.

Some of these things I continue to learn about as I connect more with family or do research into our histories.

Living in Weirton, I know many with similar heritages, but also those with Italian, Greek, Polish, Indian, Egyptian, African, Mexican and Middle Eastern backgrounds.

We work hard to be a part of these communities, showing that we are one within our towns, but we also respect our ancestries.

We know that we wouldn’t be here without the men and women who have come before us, no matter their origin.

We are proud of our heritage and find ways to show that pride whenever we can.

The Festival of Nations, Celtic Celebration, Greek Festival, Italian Festival and other events are just a few ways to share those traditions.

There are road bowling events, bocce tournaments, pierogi sales, cultural events at local schools, instrument lessons, radio programs, and much more offered through our residents.

Driving down Main Street in Weirton, you may currently notice the flags of numeorus nationalities waving above.

Last year, Weirton’s mayor unveiled the idea of a series of Christmas ornaments to celebrate the city’s history.

No matter where we live now, or will live in the future, we will always have our heritage. It’s something that stays with us our entire lives.

It needs to be respected and celebrated, and I’m glad we continue to have opportunities to do just that here in the Ohio Valley.

(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)