WEIRTON - The Grecian music greeted visitors to the fourth-annual Festival of Nations Saturday, along with the aroma of international food filling the air at the Weirton Event Center.
And sunny skies made sure the festival was a success as representatives of the American Frontier Days as well as India, the Philippines, Germany, Greece, Africa, Italy, Russia, Serbia, China, Ireland and Vietnam served up ethnic foods, music and dances.
"This is a great event that brings our area community together to show their cultural history and heritage. We have performers from different backgrounds who will light up the stage and dance today," explained organizer Dr. Juginder K. Luthra.
"This is also a chance to learn about other nations, other cultures and other groups of people," added Luthra.
Luthra said the modern Festival of Nations was started at the Millsop Community Center in 2009 to mark Weirton's 100th anniversary.
"The community celebrated a Festival of Nations from 1934 to 1944 and we wanted to return to that event. We have visitors from throughout the valley attending this one day event as well as from Pittsburgh. The event is growing more popular every year and I can see this festival getting larger each year," declared Luthra.
Several of the participants in the fourth-annual Festival of Nations took a break Saturday afternoon to pose for a photograph. From left were, Nikita Bokil, Dolly Luthra, Dr. Juginder K. Luthra, Roosha Mandal, Aleya Calavaid, Tiffany Louise Thomas and Thea Shelby Thomas. -- Dave Gossett
Members of the Heritage Dance Group performed traditional Irish and German dances as part of their appearance Saturday. The group, from the Wheeling area, also performs traditional American dances. -- Craig Howell
Victoria Gerst, a Weirton resident and Brooke High School student, sang a few patriotic tunes, including 'God Bless the USA' and 'God Bless America.' -- Craig Howell
Students from the Philippine-American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh performed several traditional dances for the crowd at the Festival of Nations. -- Craig Howell
"And after the festival is over I always hear from people who missed the event and say they will attend next year. This is the first year we have held the festival outside but this is a great location and the weather is beautiful," observed Luthra.
"It is nice to get together to learn about each other and our different customs. We have between 25 to 28 different cultures here today. This is a true community event," said Luthra.
Weirton Mayor George Kondik agreed.
"I believe the Festival of Nations will continue to grow larger every year because of the support we have for one another. Weirton has always been a community proud of its different ethnic backgrounds. And this festival allows different groups of people to share their food, their music and dance and their customs for everyone to enjoy," stated Kondik.
The lineup for the festival included a Parade of Nations, opening flag raising ceremonies by the Young Marines and performances by Carrie Oliver, Sheena Chopra, a Philippino dance group, Indian Dance, Irish dances, the Black Slaney Band, Victoria Gerst, German dances, Kingdom Children, square dances by Mountain Express Band of Beallsville, Ohio, Theresa DiBacco, a Greek dance group and Mary Leah Clark and Bill Clark singing gospel.
Chopra had the audience singing and clapping their hands with her rendition of "Country Roads."
And the Philippine American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh started the entertainment with the "Pot Dance" that originated in the mountainous region of the Luzon Island of the Philippines.
Some of the vendors represented were Caleodis with Greek food and sausages, Gus's Goodies, Taj Mahal Restaurant from Pittsburgh, Ma and Pa Kettle Corn, Mount Olive Church, Philoptochos, Philppines, Serbian American Cultural Center, St. Nicholos Russian Orthodox Church, Huu Do Vietnamese food and water and beverages from the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center.
Festival organizers also presented an award in honor of the work done by Despina Melonas to help plan this year's event. Melonas' daughter, Argiro Latousakis, accepted the award.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)