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More appreciation for our community

One of the things I most enjoy about my job is seeing and visiting our community events.

There always has been something special about the various festivals, fundraisers, parades and other activities offered in the Upper Ohio Valley. They have a unique flavor and a history we all can appreciate.

Many residents recall the days of the International Food Festival in Weirton and the Garibadli Festival in Follansbee, for example. We still have Follansbee Community Days, New Cumberland’s Fall Fest and many more, along with local summer concert series, youth sports leagues, the Covered Bridge Festival in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and our local county fairs and church festivals.

They all provide good memories and time to spend with family and friends, as well as an opportunity to just get out of the house and enjoy some of what is available in our area.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to experience any of those favorite events over the last several weeks. We all know why, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening.

We’ve been publishing a list several times a week to show the status of many of our community events, so I continue to encourage everyone to reach out and let us know your plans so we can better inform our residents.

The first event to be changed, even before West Virginia issued its first closure order, was the Weirton Festival of Nations. I look forward to this event every year, mostly because of the food brought in to the Millsop Community Center and wishing some of the international cuisine could get a foothold in our towns.

Others began to follow suit soon after, and it has continued as the uncertainty builds over this virus.

The Greek Festival at All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Weirton has been rescheduled for September. I was hoping it would be OK to hold it in July, as is tradition, but it is understandable parishioners would not want to take any chances in the event we would not be “reopened” by then.

I’ll just have to wait until the fall to get my fill.

The Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce has suspended all of its events at least through the next couple of months, the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center has been closed to the public, and many of our social service organizations are relying more on individual donations or fundraisers organized by small groups or single residents.

Schools are closed at this point, so there are no events taking place there for the time being, and prom and graduation activities are still up in the air in most of our districts. A few have announced plans for “virtual” commencement exercises, but most are still taking a wait-and-see approach.

It’s been the same across the river in Steubenville, and in areas to our north and south.

I haven’t heard much about changes to Independence Day celebrations, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there will be a lack of parades, concerts, derby races and fireworks as we get through April and into May. Summer is starting to look a little bleak.

We still have some life in our communities, but it’s not the same knowing these wonderful events are being held off because of something out of our control.

If anything, maybe this experience is reminding us of just how much we still do have, and hopefully it can build a better appreciation of them.

(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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