Follansbee Community Days in its 25th year

ANNIVERSARY MILESTONE — Preparing for the silver anniversary of Follansbee Days are, front, from left, Mayor David Velegol Jr.; Tom Ludewig, who co-chairs the event with Nina Meca; and Paul DiGiacinto: and back, Mary Santangelo; Kathy Andreozzi; Monica Rotellini-Myers; Chris Manack-Stover; Vickey Ross; Eddo Mirasola; and Don Layburn. The festival will be held July 6-8 near Follansbee Park, with a kickoff dinner on June 29 at the St. Francis Centre. -- Warren Scott

FOLLANSBEE — With Follansbee Community Days marking its 25th year, the volunteer committee behind the annual festival wants to celebrate the silver anniversary in a big way.

While the festival will be held July 6-8, tickets are available now for its kickoff dinner planned on June 29 at the St. Francis Centre.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is to be the guest speaker for the event, with several current and former Follansbee residents to be recognized for their accomplishments. They include Rich Lucas, who will be presented the Mary Ruth Morris Humanitarian award; Frank Santoro, recipient of the Lou Holtz Silver Spoon award; and Frank Chorba, the late Joseph Chorba and Anthony Paesano, who each will receive the Making a Difference award.

As mayor of Follansbee, Paesano initiated the award to recognize those who have made significant contributions to their community. Beginning next year, his name will be added to the award’s name to honor his own efforts, said Mayor David Velegol Jr.

Paesano also will be presented the Major Benjamin H. Follansbee award, named posthumously for a decorated Green Beret whose father, Dr. William Follansbee, is the grandson of William Follansbee, one of four brothers who founded the steel mill for which the city is named.

Another guest for the dinner will be Justin Slanchak, a handicapped resident who has been labeled as having a strong spirit, who will serve as grand marshal of the Community Days Parade.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the City Building.

Another event that serves to launch Community Days is the kickoff at Follansbee Park, which will be held July 1. Because of the festival’s anniversary, the committee has expanded musical entertainment for that day to three acts: 40 Plus at 2:30 p.m.; Vince Villanova Big Band, 4:30 p.m.; and Pocket Change, 6:30 p.m. There also will be free hot dogs and other refreshments and games for children.

The festival is known for bringing together a mix of nationally, regionally and locally known musicians, and this year will be no different.

Taking to the stage at the Follansbee Community House parking lot will be On the Level and the Diamonds, beginning at 6:30 p.m. July 6; the Driftin’ Hoopie Experience, Easy Street, the Original Fantasies and Night Fever, beginning at 3:30 p.m. July 7; and Pocket Change, Twice as Nice and Shining Star, beginning at 5 p.m. July 8.

About 60 food and craft vendors will line the parking lot, and there are plans to offer inflatable attractions for children.

In addition to the parade on state Route 2 at 1 p.m. on July 7, the festival will include the Howdy Verner Classic Cars Show at nearby Lyle’s Auto from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 8.

Tom Ludewig, who co-chairs the committee with Nina Meca, said to cap off the festival’s anniversary year, its closing fireworks display has been expanded to 18 minutes and will be something festival-goers won’t want to miss.

Ludewig said the festival’s longevity can be attributed to financial and other support by local businesses and Follansbee Council, residents who support the group’s fundraisers and the work of many volunteers.

“It’s not possible without them,” he said.

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