Events connect us with the past

The Ohio Valley is home to a variety of home-grown fairs, festival and activities. They provide a special connection to those of us who live here, and those who once called the area home.

Plans have begun to add one more event to that list, and I would encourage everyone interested in putting this event together to get involved.

A group of 12 potential volunteers gathered last week for the first meeting of the inaugural Gate 5 Industrial Arts Festival.

The festival is aimed at providing a variety of community activities, with the hope of attracting people of all age groups and interests, while celebrating the area’s industrial past — not just its steelmaking history, but also our connections to glass, pottery and other industries.

It will definitely be unique, and something Weirton can call its own.

There were many discussions of possible ideas during Tuesday’s meeting — some we were able to report already — and much will be announced with more detail as plans begin to solidify.

I’ve previously written about the importance of some of these festival and events, as they help to provide a sense of community and pride which connect our residents, while also giving us something to do on the weekends and holidays.

There are numerous church fairs, Independence Day celebrations, ethnic celebrations and farmers markets.

It’s nice to have an idea that Weirton can call its own, though; something you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

We can take a look at other towns and see those special events, which draw thousands of residents and visitors every year.

Twinsburg, Ohio has the Twins Days Festival, which is the largest gathering of twins and multiples in the world.

The residents of Ireland, W.Va. hold the Irish Spring Festival as a way to celebrate both St. Patrick’s Day and the Vernal Equinox. It also is considered to be the place where the sport of Irish Road Bowling was launched in the United States.

Point Pleasant, W.Va. sets aside a time to celebrate the legendary beast, the Mothman. It is held every September as a way to commemorate the initial sighting of the cryptid. There is even a statue and a museum.

Austin, Texas has the Bat Fest, where people gather to watch more than a million bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge.

The Texas SandFest in Port Aransas is a big beach party with a competition of sand sculptures.

They all have that unique element that sets them apart from other events.

So many residents talk about there being little to do — which is untrue if you actually bother to look around — and wanting something different.

There is definitely an effort to increase the number of community events, and this new festival is among them.

It helps to celebrate the arts, our residents and our area’s history, and I’m hoping to see the support grow as the plans continue.

My hope is for it to draw some attention, and for organizers to look for ways to bring in other attractions and events that will pair with the central focus.

We have a unique area, and we should have some unique activities to go with it.

It just takes an individual, or a group, willing to step forward with an idea and see if it will work.

After all, the Festival of Nations, the International Food Festival, the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Festival, the Weirton Greek Festival and all the others didn’t just appear.

Someone, years ago, had an idea and got a group together to plan it all. They started out small and let things grow. They took pride in what they offered, and continue to offer, and we should all be grateful to them for their work.

We can take pride in these events which have, and do, celebrate our community, our heritage and our culture, providing a stronger connection between us all.

(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)

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