FOLLANSBEE - Visitors to the Follansbee Christmas in the Park festival got the best of two seasons Saturday as the bright sky and warm temperatures signaled perhaps a fond farewell to fall while Christmas music, a visit from Santa Claus and lights and other decorations strung around the park provided a peek at the holiday season.
In its 10th year, the festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Follansbee Park, which is behind Follansbee Middle School on state Route 2.
As on Saturday, visitors will find a variety of crafts, including many fall- and Christmas-themed decorations, and food for sale. Santa Claus will return at 1 p.m. to visit with the young and young-at-heart and the Hooverson Heights Fire department will conduct a smokehouse to show children how to respond in the event of a fire.
SPECIAL VISITORS — During Follansbee Christmas in the Park Saturday, members of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment Continental Line re-enactment group demonstrated military drills conducted by the infantry unit during the American Revolution. The group and a variety of craft and food vendors, as well as Santa Claus at 1 p.m., will be on hand when the festival continues today at Follansbee Park.
This year the festival's organizers decided to extend its hours on Saturday to 7 p.m. to show off the Christmas lights strung around the park by volunteers and at the request of volunteers. Festival-goers who arrived later also were treated to a live nativity presented by children and adults from the Weirton Christian Center.
Kathy Santoro, who co-chairs the festival with Bill Secrist, said in addition to the nice weather, she was pleased with the large number of groups participating, about 90 in all.
Santoro said one of the nicest things about the event is that all proceeds go to local charities.
Proceeds from vendor fees and drawings held during the festival will go to the R.E.A.C.H. Program, a local food pantry; the Anderson Children's Home and a local student with special medical needs.
In addition to a 50-50 drawing and drawings every 30 minutes for prizes donated by vendors, chances will be sold for a holiday basket, including a flatscreen television; and Pittsburgh Steelers package that includes four tickets to the Dec. 30 Steelers-Browns game, with seats in the East Club section and a parking pass for the Gold Section.
Santoro noted the festival also benefits the various churches and civic groups who participate.
Among them was Kimberly Arbaugh, pastor of Harsh Memorial and Kilgore United Methodist Churches in Ohio, who was selling baked goods to raise money for missions to Africa and Guatemala.
Arbaugh said church members will be helping to build solar-powered water lines in Senegal, Africa and abandoned and abused children in Guatemala for a mission trip that will begin on Christmas Day.
The church has raised about half of $10,000 needed for the trip to Guatemala, about $6,000 of which will go to the missionary efforts while the remainder is for airfare and related expenses, she said.
Helping to watch over the park's grounds each year are local Boy Scouts who camp out there. Joining them this year were members of the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line, a re-enactment group that takes up uniforms and equipment typical of an infantry unit of the same name that fought in the American Revolution and originating from Western Pennsylvania.
Walter Cormack, a member of the group, said the group fought the battles of Saratoga, Brandywine and Germantown and wintered at Valley Forge before returning west to stave off Indian attacks sprured by the British.
Members of the group demonstrate military drills and firearm tactics developed by Baron Friedrich von Steuben, the former Prussian general whose leadership in the American Revolution was honored with the naming of Fort Steuben in Steubenville.
Cormack said the group also has re-enacted battles, "but it's difficult to find people willing to be the Brits."
While encamped at Follansbee Park, women in the group baked apple and pumpkin pies and other food over its campfire.