Families unite for holiday concert

WHEELING – Families and friends gathered at Wheeling Heritage Port on Thursday to celebrate Independence Day and listen to the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra perform before the city’s annual fireworks display.

The patriotic festivities brought people together from across the Ohio Valley and beyond. As she played with her 2-year-old grandson, Lian Anderson, Kandi Shipley of Bethlehem said the Ohio Riverside concert and fireworks display is an annual tradition.

“We usually come out every year,” Shipley said, adding her husband, Phil Shipley, is a firefighter who volunteers to oversee the fireworks display.

St. Clairsville natives Patrick, Amy and Catherine Gunning also make a yearly visit to Wheeling’s riverfront to visit with friends.

“It makes for a nice viewing experience,” Patrick Gunning said.

Independence Day brought together families, some whose careers separate them by hundreds of miles. Steve and Michelle Evans prepared for the concert with their sons, Noah, 2, and Holden, 3. Living in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Michelle Evans said her husband works in the Ohio Valley without seeing his family often. Whenever they can, she said, the family comes to him.

“We come up here and camp sometimes or just find things to do,” Michelle Evans said.

Chad Wright of Somerset also got to spend the holiday with his family in a change from his usually busy schedule working in the local mining industry.

“I get one day off,” Wright said as he relaxed with his wife Elizabeth and son Cohyn. “We figure we’ll spend it out here.”

Coming from Cincinnati, Bill Armhurst and Cindy Wyatt were in the midst of a road trip as they paused to experience the music along the waterfront.

“We’ve been (in the Ohio Valley) since Tuesday evening,” Wyatt said. “I really like it here.”

Before visiting Wheeling, Armhurst and Wyatt were in Pittsburgh to watch a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. Wyatt said she would like to return to the Ohio Valley in the fall to see the changing leaves.

Darkening clouds and some rain scared away some spectators. Bill Graham, a member of the technical crew working the sound for the event, predicted thousands of people would show up before the end of the concert.