Grantees’ Stories

ORBI was created in 1995 to have an impact on the communities of the Ohio River Valley.  Like most  state arts agency programs, we have measured that impact in terms of dollars granted and people participating in our programs.

Since 1995, we have also learned that ORBI’s impact has taken place on a deeper and more individual level.  Starting in 2003, we began asking grant recipients to tell their stories about how their ORBI-funded programs affected their communities and the people who were involved in those programs.

This page offers these stories as an important illustration of how ORBI has contributed to changing lives through the arts in the communities along the West Virginia/Ohio border.  Look especailly for references to the ways in which comments describe connections across the border.  You will find quite a few.

From the Artist Fast Track Program –

From Theodore Banning, art blacksmith, armorer and teacher from Parkersburg, WV.  Mr. Banning used an Artist Fast Track grant to attend the annual conference of the Artist Blacksmith’s Association of North America.

“Lectures, slide shows and demonstrations ran six at a time during the ABANA conference. I pored through the schedule and narrowed down the list to those most pertinent to my work. I chose Albert Paley for his experience with very large artwork, Wendell Broussard for his incredibly detailed iron leaves and flowers, and Willem Jonkers, a sixth generation Dutch blacksmith and armorer. Other demonstrations ran several times each day, so I watched smiths from all over the world proficiently use unfamiliar equipment. I picked up many hand outs, drawings, and blueprints at these demonstrations and am digesting and implementing these new references.

Attending this conference boosted my artistic development considerably. As an artist in a “big fish/small pond” setting, receiving international exposure and feedback was both educational and gratifying. I learned many techniques, saw many cleverly designed works, and met so many talented people my head is spinning and my workshop is humming. Building tools is a big part of blacksmithing. The plans, parts, and ideas I acquired at the ABANA conference have already allowed me to finish projects that were in limbo for 10 years. The personal and professional contacts I have made should lead to a host of opportunities to market my products and further my teaching career.”

From Patti Swartz, an East Liverpool, Ohio writer and poet

“I am writing to tell you how much the fast track grant I received from the Ohio Arts Council and ORBI for the Appalachian Writers Workshop last summer meant to me, and a further development regarding that workshop.  The workshop was a wonderful experience.  I had the opportunity to work with two wonderful writers, Lee Smith and Sheila Kay Adams, both of whom reaffirmed the value of my work and helped me to believe in myself and my work.  I met Silas House, a wonderful writer, and Sharyn McCrumb, whose work I have enjoyed for some time.  I also had the opportunity to work briefly with George Ella Lyon who was offering classes in writing for children.  The contacts with other writers and the talk over the weeks time was incredible.  When I arrived home, friends and colleagues said they had never seen me so happy.   One day this past spring when [a friend] and I were meeting with and lunching with our campus Dean, a time shortly after the oral history play, the Dean noted that I seemed happier when I was doing creative work, and that I seemed to enjoy working on the plays very much.  [My friend] said, “If you really want to see her happy, you should have seen her when she came back from Hindman from the Appalachian Writers Workshop last summer.  She couldn’t stop grinning!”  At that point the Dean  wanted to know all about the workshop, and because I talked of what a valuable experience it was for me personally and professionally, he asked if I was going back.  I said that I hoped to, but money is always short in the summer, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford it.  The Dean then said he would pay for the Writers Workshop because he believed it to be a benefit to the campus for me to have this experience.  (I work with the campus literary magazine, with students to arrange poetry readings, and with students doing creative honors work.  Two of my students have placed second and third in the Perryman Awards, writing awards for first year students from all Kent campuses, and student work has been included in the Honors College anthology of student writing, Colloquey.)   So, I am going to Hindman to the Appalachian Writers Workshop again, this time with money from my campus.  This would not have been possible without the Fast Track grant I received last summer, for without that grant funding, I would not have been able to attend the first time.  In yesterday’s mail, I received the check for the deposit for the workshop, and the funds for this year’s session have been mailed directly to Hindman.    I thank you so much for the funding I received last summer!  It led to not one, but two wonderful experiences (for I know that this year’s experience will be no less wonderful), and a renewal of belief in myself and my work.  Although these grants are small, they create a world of hope and opportunity, and I am so very grateful that they exist!  Thank you again for the opportunity.”

From Cheryl Harshman, a fabric artist from West Liberty, WV

As an emerging artist, I work alone. I make art for myself and for the process of making art, swimming in color. I often wonder if I am kidding myself about this clay printing that I do in my basement. Maybe it is just a flight of fancy. I don’t have many opportunities to compare my printmaking with others, and so after a year of this solitude, I felt that I had reached a wall. This workshop helped me find a way around that impediment. It helped validate my work, and it inspired me to continue working.

To watch Mitch Lyons work and demonstrate various techniques in clay printing was first of all a remedial class. I had forgotten a lot of what he shared with me last year. Maybe forgotten isn’t the right word, maybe I mean these techniques had lain dormant and he reminded me of them. In any case, seeing him work refreshed my own notions of clay printing. He gave me plenty of ideas to try. Mitch is a fine teacher who always praises and builds up a doubting student.

Working along side the other 12 people was also stimulating. Each one of us had separate, individual ways of approaching the clay. Some, like me, worked fast and the work poured out of them; others dawdled and worked the clay slab for an entire day before trying to print it. Seeing such variety and diverse styles broadened my thoughts and techniques as I borrowed from those around me. Thus, both the mentor-student relationship and the community of artists’ relationships were enriching and stretching to me as a solo, emerging artist.

My techniques changed too. Because we shared colors, my palette was forced to change. Sometimes I only had a few colors to work with and this limit made me think about how to use these colors effectively. New color juxtapositions were made and sometimes I also was forced to not think in color at all. Rather, I was forced to think about adding textures, inlaying surfaces, scratching, and scraping out lines in the clay that would be visible when printed. These textures added depth and interest to my work and helped make the pieces stronger.

Finally, I was able to return home with a new body of work—12 new prints! But even more importantly, I drove home with a sense of validation that my work was good and true–that it could stand along side others’ works—and that I could spend another year working on my own thanks to the inspiration as well as the techniques that I gained from this workshop.

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From the Annual Grant Program –

From the 2008 Foothills Blues and Arts Festival:

David Haynes has worked in metal his entire life.  As a younger man he worked long hours as a union boilermaker.  Heavy metal and longs days though take a toll on even the toughest of men and in 2002 David realized he had to begin to give up what had been his livelihood for nearly 4 decades.  In 2007 David saw a local article about our festival.  Energized by the thought of perhaps again returning to metal work, he began in earnest welding for the first time in many years.  In a short time had he fashioned nearly two dozen sculptures made from an assortment of scrap metal.    When I talked to David during or 2008 festival, he said that not only was he back to making art again, that in doing so he had actually overcome some of the physical limitations that had caused him to quit working as a boilermaker.  He was now back to welding full time and had actually saved enough money to allow him to save his next summer for art shows and the festival circuit including returning to our event in 2009.  We look forward to having David back better than ever for our 2009 Foothills Blues & Arts Festival.  Nothing like the healing power of the arts.   The Foothills Blues & Arts Festival is located in rural northwestern Meigs County.  The area is dotted with small mom and pop stores that serve this close-knit rural community.  With very little tourism to draw folks to this part of the county, these businesses survive mainly on local folks traveling in and out of the area with their normal daily schedules.  After our event we talked with the owners of 3 local stores to see what impact our event had on their sales.  All 3 reported that the second day of our festival (Saturday) was the biggest sales day ever in the history of their respective businesses.    The local volunteer fire dept (which does our parking and security) also reported that donations to their department were beyond anything the had every experienced during the weekend of our event.  Providing economic stimulus and supporting the local fire department is just one way we feel our event makes this rural community a much better place to live.

Guild Builders children’s theater program in Parkersburg, WV incorporated the ORBI stories process into their own program evaluation.  Here is the entire Stories/Impact section of the Guild Builders 2006 final report:

Impact on an individual

1)    SUBMITTED BY A STUDENT: The Guild Builders has helped me make friends
and taught me how to appreciate musicals.  It taught me that to succeed and to be good to practice and not give up.

2)    SUBMITTED BY A STAFF PERSON:  This student was an extremely shy seventh grader.  A year behind her peers in her school work and not involved in any sports activities, she did not have a sense of belonging in any group.  She never initiated conversation and rarely looked anyone in the eye, even when spoken to.  She had never been able to speak in front of a group.  I worried about her the first month of Saturdays in Guild Builders because she so often had her head down.

Before long, there was a marked change.  I watched her making new friends as they went through Lighting and Voice classes together.  I saw her loosen up as she and the other students played out crazy characters together.  At the end of the Guild Builders season, she had memorized lines and spoken them in front of four large audiences.  Her parents and grandparents noticed the huge change and so appreciated what she experienced with the Guild Builders program.  My personal excitement came when she looked me straight in the eye and initiated a simple, “Hello Ms. ……”.

3)    SUBMITTED BY A STUDENT:  What Guild Builders did for me throughout my high school years has helped me.  The program brought me out of my shell and made me less shy.  I bet my parents are tired of me being so loud, but hey, I’m a teenager.  I have been more active in theatre and able to audition without being shy, which in the long run helps me get parts.

4)    SUBMITTED BY A PARENT:  Guild Builders had a huge impact on my daughter.  She acquired so much more confidence in herself.  She enjoyed the program very much and is anticipating the start of the next season.  She also has a greater appreciation for the arts and the different ways to express herself.  She is much more interested in how plays or productions are put together than before she was a part of this program.

5)    SUBMITTED BY A PARENT:  This year was my daughter’s first at Guild Builders.  She really seemed to enjoy every minute she was there.  I have observed the change in her during her involvement.  She has gone from a very shy, quiet girl to a much more confident and self assured young lady.  I owe a lot of this to Guild Builders.  Part of the change may be attributed to growing up, but I give much of the credit to Guild Builders.  Her grades actually improved while she was involved in the program.

Impact on the community

1)    SUBMITTED BY A STUDENT DIRECTOR:  “Scheherazade, Tales of the Arabian Nights” was a wonderful play to perform in the Guild Builders’ program.  Not many of the students or parents in our community knew very much about the Arabic culture.  Until recent years, it has been a culture that is only known by the old sit-com I Dream of Jeanie, and the more recent Walt Disney movie Aladdin.

First, it was interesting to find that they, like many other cultures, used storytelling, and even a bit of fantasy, to teach moral lessons.  Second, it was a learning curve for everyone to find out that the traditional “Genie” outfit with the bare midriff did not have its’ origin in Arabia.  No respectable Arabian woman would go out in public with her head showing, let alone her stomach.  Also, the rhythms and intervals of the music was different from what we had ever heard before.  All of us, students, parents, and ticket holders alike, had a wonderful time learning more about this interesting culture.

2)    SUBMITTED BY A STAFF PERSON: One of the most rewarding aspects of Guild Builders is when I see young people developing skills and talents for our productions then moving on to other shows and productions in the area.  I know of several who are now participating regularly in Camp Broadway (Smoot Theatre two-week “camp” for high school students – who then put on a Broadway musical) or other area productions.  There have also been a number of Guild Builders who have gone on to take roles in mainstage Actors Guild and Mid-Ohio Valley Players productions.  It is a wonderful feeling to know that our program is making this kind of impact on the development of young people.

3)    SUBMITTED BY A PARENT:  Guild Builders brought a lot of joy to this community.  It was exciting for children to come and see the plays, and people of all ages to see young people involved in an incredible program.  The young people attending really seemed to enjoy it.  It is a great learning experience for all that are involved.

4)    SUBMITTED BY A PARENT:  The children and young adults were wonderful and supportive to each other.  I believe, as well as my husband, that this program affects young lives in a wonderfully positive way.  The fact that it is free is unbelievable.  I hope my daughter will be able to participate again this year.  God bless you for giving so much to the children.

5)    SUBMITTED BY A BOX OFFICE VOLUNTEER: When I was working in the Box Office, I received a phone call from a man who had just moved to Parkersburg, and was looking for opportunities for his daughter in the arts.  She had been involved in a theatre program in their former home and he was very excited to learn about the Guild Builders program.  Before he found out about Guild Builders, he was worried that he had moved his daughter into a “cultural wasteland”, and was so relieved that there was an outstanding program like Guild Builders for her to take part in.

From the Wheeling Symphony Young People’s Concerts

The Wheeling Symphony was contacted by the Principal of a rural Southeastern Ohio elementary school in February 2007, who explained that his school participated in the Young People’s Concerts for the last 19 years and that he would like to once again grant this positive educational experience to his students.  However, due to financial difficulties in the school district, the county would not be able to cover the transportation costs to bus the children to and from the Capitol Music Hall.  Although the cost of transportation to the concert was not exorbitant, it nevertheless was impossible for the school district to cover the expense in their already overextended budget.  The Wheeling Symphony allocated the necessary funds from the Ohio River Board Initiative grant to pay for the school’s busing expenses.  Without the availability of the ORBI funds to the Wheeling Symphony, one hundred elementary school children would have been denied the wonderful live symphonic concert experience.

It is important to take notice of the trying economic times in the Ohio River Valley.  Recognizing the struggle that so many face, and lending a hand of support is what makes surrounding towns a true community.  We were proud to aid this elementary school, just as we are proud to be a recipient of the ORBI grant.  Hopefully, with a renewed commitment from the Ohio River Board Initiative, the Wheeling Symphony will continue to build a better community by enriching the lives of children through live, symphonic music.

From an article in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch about the 2005 Tri-state Multicultural Festival funded by ORBI

Festival celebrates multitude of cultures
By Scott Wartman
The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — Tokyo and Huntington differ in many ways. Tomako Horie found the transition of moving from her hometown of Tokyo to Huntington one month ago pleasant with the laid back atmosphere and warm greeting she received from West Virginians.

Horie, 26, a student at Marshall, went to Ritter Park on Saturday afternoon in hopes of learning more about the community at the 2005 Tri-state Multicultural Festival.

Local artisans and performers with backgrounds from all over the world ranging from Polynesian dancing to jazz could be sampled at the festival.

The festival brought to light a different image of small-town America for newly arrived residents such as Horie. “I was surprised,” Horie said. “I thought this was a small town. There are so many people from all over the world.” In addition to an educational opportunity, Horie viewed the festival as an opportunity to make friends in her new environment. “It is difficult to make friends in a new place,” Horie said. “It is good to know how people think about your people and your town.”

The Multicultural Festival not only serves as a vehicle to learn about other cultures, but also as a way to learn about opportunities in the community, some said. Derreck Jackson has become visible along Hal Greer Boulevard in recent years selling dresses, purses and apparel made from all over the world at his streetside stand. For the second year in a row, he has set up his stand, named Fabulous, at the Multicultural Festival. Indonesian dresses and apparel with Egyptian imagery and African imagery among other styles adorned Jackson’s two tents at the festival.

But Jackson doesn’t want passers-by to just see exotic and colorful clothing. Jackson said he wants people to see how they can take control of their lives and provide a living in the face of setbacks. Jackson lost his job six years ago and began selling sunglasses and other wares on the street to earn a living. His business has grown in the six years to an eclectic collection of clothes and has been able to provide a stable income.

On his street corner he works on 9th and Hal Greer, he sees drugs and crime. Jackson hopes he and all the other artisans and vendors at Multicultural Festival can serve as an example that owning a legitimate business is a better alternative than resorting to crime. “You don’t have a lot of African American people going into business,” Jackson said. “They get to see a person who was unemployed, employ themselves, a person who was powerless, empower themselves.”

Multicultural Festival organizers hope to dispel the notion that the area isn’t diverse. Getting the different ethnic backgrounds together shines a spotlight on Huntington’s rich social fabric, said Rebecca Glass, one of the
coordinators. “I don’t think many people in Huntington realize the cultures here,” Glass said. “That is why it is important to have us all together.”

Many people wanted to expose their children or grandchildren to other cultures at the festival. Tony Brown brought his 4-year-old grandson, Malik Johnson, to the festival. “It is good to start him early,” Brown said. Since they moved to Huntington from Columbus in December, Krista and Andre Mills hadn’t seen as much cultural diversity as they were accustomed to in the bigger city. When they set up their T-shirt booth at the Multicultural Festival, they were surprised to see the varied backgrounds.

“This is a diverse area,” Krista Mills said. “This festival does a good job of bringing the cultures together.”

The Multicultural Festival is a collaboration between The Neighborhood Institute of Huntington, the City of Huntington, Farfield West Improvement Council, Huntington Police Department, Huntington Fire Department, The
Herald-Dispatch and other citizens.
From a music teacher who also performs in an orchestra program in Marietta, OH

“I was a part of the concert series that the River Cities Symphony Orchestra performed in November, 2004. I am the Director of Bands at Belpre High School in Belpre, OH. This series was a great opportunity for the RCSO to do outreach at area high schools. Performing at my home school for my students and faculty was a great experience. I was able to speak with them over the days following the concert and all had enjoyed the concert. They enjoyed the music and hearing a live full orchestra. My students rarely are able to see me perform. This allowed me to “practice what I preach” as I am continually discussing performance techniques with my students. I appreciate the support of your grant to give local students and myself this unique experience.”

From an Ohio artist’s residency at an elementary school in Huntington, WV –

“I asked a parent volunteer to describe what impact the project had on him.  He wrote the following:  I was a parent volunteer for five days during the art residency project at St. Joseph Grade School.  During this time I was involved in every stage of the program from helping to assemble the raw materials at the beginning of the project and I was there when the work was first “unveiled.”

As a result of being part of this project, I am now encouraging my daughter to take more interest in the art that she does at home for enjoyment.  I also urge her to do things other than drawing and coloring. Now she sculpts with clay, assembles things with sticks and wire and whatever she finds that piques her interest at the time.  For my own part I have also begun projects, such as taking an ordinary picture frame and using different medium to make it more interesting.  My wife has been encouraging me to take an art class at the local museum, and I might just do that now.  Recently I started playing piano again after many years and have started teaching my daughter to play as well.”

“I believe that our artist in residence project had an impact on our community by joining the school with the local community museum as an extension of the activities started during the residency.  We invited people from the museum to our closing celebration and some did attend.  They met the artist and exchanged e-mails and telephone numbers and also met the school’s principal.   Since this meeting, the museum has come to our school and has begun the “Making Connections”  program [The Museum Making Connections program is also funded by ORBI. See the Huntington Museum story below.], starting with the fifth grade.  This program involved a slide presentation designed to answer the question, “Why do artist create art?” This was followed by a hands-on art project using the concepts of space, landscape, still life and collage.   The plan is to extend this to the other grades. This new connection with the museum will give us the opportunity to enhance art experiences for our students.”

From The French Art Colony in Gallipolis, Ohio annual juried exhibit program –

“A young part-time employee for the Gallipolis Tribune came to the French Art Colony to photograph the current exhibit. As he chatted with staff, it was learned that he was a student at Marshall University in Journalism. He also mentioned that what he really wanted to do was to become a photographer. When one of the Board Members heard this, she suggested that he should enter some of his work in the Festival Exhibit. He said he really would like to, but did not have the ready cash to pay for framing. The Board Member is also a Framer and offered to provide “over stock” frames and prepare his photographs for entry for a very minimal fee. He was delighted and  encouraged his sister to participate, also. Ultimately two of his pieces were selected for the gallery exhibit and one of her entries was also chosen by the jurors. This was an affirming experience that reinforced his hopes for a future career. Many young artists find affirmation when their works are recognized by the jurors. Whenever possible, jurors’ suggestions are passed on to entering artists, another benefit of exhibiting.”

“In addition to the visitors brought to Gallia County through the art show, Holzer Medical Center has been the recipient of fine art, from local donors, for several years, through the Festival Exhibit.  This is probably the largest collection in the area. This year, the Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau launched a similar campaign to begin a collection for the Bureau. Donors came forward to purchase six paintings. This is a win win situation. The entering artists benefit, the Bureau enhances their facility and the FAC furthers their mission to improve the quality of life for the community through the arts.”

From an annual program that brings the West Virginia Symphony’s Montclair String Quartet to schools in Wood County, WV and Washington County, OH –

“This incident happened in Washington county during the Montclaire String Quartet concert in a very recent past.  This is a story of a 90-year old retired doctor and an 11-year old 5th grader (Jimmy) whose lives became connected through a mutual appreciation of music and love for the sounds of the violin.  Sitting side by side, the two listened attentatively to the concert for Washington elementary school students.  At times, the two whispered their impressions to each other.   As a third grader, Jimmy had watched the violinist’s hands intently as they performed classical music.  When the doctor had learned of the boy’s interest, he had helped Jimmy get a violin and lessons at Ohio University in Athens.  “You should practice until you are tired,” the doctor advised Jimmy.  Jimmy, who had studied the violin for just more than a year, played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” for the doctor.  Jimmy smiled frequently at the doctor as he played.  The boy said he loved the sounds of the violin.  “It makes you so calm,” Jimmy said.  Everyone seemed intrigued when they heard how Jimmy’s interest in music caught the attention of the doctor.  “He will be an addition to any community:  he is bound to be because he’ll be able to play an intrument not too many people can play,” the doctor said.  A violinist for the Montclaire String Quartet assisted Jimmy more recently as he prepared for his violin solo during a performance for Washington elelmentary school.”

From an annual program in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky schools presented by the Huntington (WV) Museum of Art –

“A teacher at one of the schools that the fifth grade team visited was at first very reluctant, very hesitant to allow our teachers into the classroom.  She feared that the program would be unorganized, that it wouldn’t address curricular needs, and that the Museum team would not be able to control her kids and keep them interested.

By the time they left, the teacher was very excited, and wanted to include the relief printing project in her own curriculum.  She asked for their study plan and materials, and couldn’t speak well enough of the project.  Later, she sent the artist a letter praising the program.  Some of the things she said were that the teachers were punctual, competent and confident, that the material addressed core content requirements and that she would happily endorse the project.”

“One of the schools that the MMC: Tri-State teachers visited had up until last year never had a field trip to the Museum.  It was the Tri-State Elementaries program specifically that piqued the teacher’s interest in arranging for a tour.  This Ohio school, which has recently consolidated from four small neighborhood schools to one large elementary school, is characterized by a high poverty rate.  They have no visual arts instructor, and most of the children in the school had never visited any museum at all.  This project is important to that small community for providing a forum for learning about art and for encouraging both the students and their teachers and principals to seek out art by visiting museums and other cultural institutions.”

From the Guild Builders children’s theater program of the Actors Guild of Parkersburg description of the program’s imact on their community –

Guild Builders students, parents, and staff took their performing and technical supporting arts talents on the road and made a big impact on the community’s arts events this season.  Our students were in casts and crews of productions at their schools, at the Mid-Ohio Valley Players in Marietta, and at the Smoot Theater in Parkersburg in the Missoula Children’s Theater, Camp Vaudeville, and ArtsLink programs.  Every single production in this season at the Actors Guild has Guild Builders staff, students, and /or parents in its cast and crew.  One of our staff mothers, who has been part of the program for the last six years doing strictly administrative tasks, auditioned for the first time in her life at the Mid-Ohio Valley Players in Marietta and was cast in the upcoming summer production.

This program is creating a large base of young people trained and talented in community theater operations and other theaters are including more shows on their slates that require larger numbers of young people.  More young people in our theaters bring more first-time patrons as family and friends attend their performances.  A strong contingent of active young people is always a positive indicator of a solid future for any organization.

From the 2006 Evergreen Arts & Humanities Series at Washington State Community College in Marietta, OH

The Tripsichore Yoga Theatre program had a significant impact upon the life of a woman in the audience.  For two hours, the performers moved serenely and peacefully through intricate yoga poses that held the audience spellbound.  It was not unusual to see audience members moving their bodies as if straining to mimic the action on stage.  One woman who was standing in the back of the auditorium during the standing-room-only performance appeared particularly animated.  With each fluid movement on stage, she strained to stretch inside while moving her body only slightly.  At one point during the performance, she turned and said, “This is so beautiful to watch, but really exhausting.”

After the program, the woman waited to have an opportunity to talk to the performers.  As she was leaving, she told a committee member she had never been to an Evergreen Arts & Humanities Series program before, but she would be returning.  She also said she ached all over from the sympathetic exercise she experienced from watching the program.  Apparently, her doctors had been encouraging her for some time to get involved in a heart healthy exercise program and she was now determined to lose weight through an aerobic exercise program and to take yoga to reduce the stresses of her life.

The Evergreen Arts & Humanities Series storytelling festival appealed strongly to a multi-generational audience in which children, including large groups from the Boys and Girls Club, played an important role.   During the open microphone segment of the festival, audience members were encouraged to step forward and tell a story of their own.  A little girl of about seven courageously walked up to the microphone to tell the story of her dog.  It was a hilarious tale that kept the audience laughing as she described, in some detail, how, although the family dog “smelled bad” and “ate poop”, he was truly loved by everyone.

During another performance, a little three-year-old girl was heckling a seasoned storyteller and magician saying she could do everything he was doing.  Instead of being annoyed, he invited her on-stage and made her his magician’s assistant, much to the delight of her family and the audience.  Together, the two of them kept the audience in stitches until the end of the set.  Everyone who attended the festival left smiling.  Many asked for another storytelling festival next year.  Most importantly, the children left feeling proud of themselves and empowered by their participation in the day’s activities.

From the Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival in Parkersburg, WV

After this year’s festival, guitarist Josh Buskirk, who is from Coolville, Ohio and who performed at this year’s festival, said, “Nothing but compliments from me!  I had a great time.  I was extremely pleased and impressed with the turnout this year.  You definitely gave me a chance to play for many people who had not heard me before.  Although I didn’t get to experience all of the acts, I think they seemed a good mix once again, along with the vendors.  Thanks!”

A festival volunteer, recently said, “We live a kind of “sheltered life” here in the Parkersburg area. The Multi-Cultural Festival brings a weekend of diversity that is enlightening. The music, the food, the vendor booths are all enriching. It’s the Mid-Ohio Valley’s weekend to shine!”

Local resident Jim Smith has been providing the sound and lighting for the festival for 10 out of the 12 years that the festival has been active.  He recently said, “I enjoy this festival so much that last year I used vacation in order to be there.  The light humor, the bright colors and artistic outfits of the dancers, and the peaceful and tranquil music of many of the musicians, puts the listener, and observer, in a better understanding of other cultures, and a more friendly mood.  A mood that they can’t help but take away from the festival into the community.  Thanks to the vision and initial efforts of Gene Donoway and thanks to the many that have carried that vision to its present state.”

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