WEIRTON - From its earliest days, the community of Weirton has been a melting pot, and that rich tapestry of heritages and cultures will be celebrated with the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center's fifth-annual Festival of Nations from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 13 at the Weirton Event Center located on Cove Road.
The festival celebrates "Unity in Diversity," and will feature several ethnic groups performing traditional songs and dances.
"As an added feature this year, we will also be honoring the 150 anniversary of West Virginia Statehood," said Dennis Jones, museum executive director.
The festival will include performances honoring the different ethnicities and nationalities that make up the Weirton community, ethnic foods and display tables highlighting different cultures. Books on Weirton's history and historical photo calendars will be on sale, and a gallery of old Weirton photographs presented by Jones will be on display.
Admission and parking at the Millsop Community Center lot, across Cove Road from the event center, are free. Shuttle service from the lot to the event center also is free.
Any performance group celebrating a cultural heritage is welcome to perform. To date, groups representing the following heritages are scheduled to perform: Kingdom Children, African-American; Yan Lai Dance Academy, Chinese; Grecian Odyssey Dancers, Greek; Akshay Hari, Indian; Heritage Dance Association, Irish; Italian-American Culture Club and Sofia-Teresa and Lucia DiBacco, Italian; Tadashi Tadashi, Japanese; Philippines-American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh, Philippines; bagpiper Nila Boyd, Scottish; accordianist Tom Zielinsky, Polish; Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Ukrainian; and Sheena Chopra and Carrie Oliver Shultz; American.
The Tri-State Young Marine Color Guard also will do a demonstration, and the Heritage Dance Association also will perform several dances from the Civil War era.
Those ethnic foods available include Billie Pendergrast and Olivia Currenton-Carter's Carter Barbecue, American-style; Walter Ehnes, "The Pizzelle Man," and Antonio Meucci Lodge 2506, Italian; India Garden of Pittsburgh, Indian; Sacred Heart of Mary Church's Holy Name Society, Polish; Philippines-American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh, Philippines; Serbian American Cultural Center, Serbian; Mount Olive Baptist Church, African-American; St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Russian; and Theo Yiannis, Greek. Gus's Goodies, a bakery that has served the Weirton community for three generations, also will be on hand.
Display tables will be set up by Diane Cameletti of American jewelry, Boys Scouts of America, Daughters of the American Revolution, Frontier Persons, local magician Nick Gallias, American Indians, Greeks, Indians, Italians, Philippines, Polish, Rotary International and the state of West Virginia.
Dr. J.K. Luthra, festival chair, and Jones, along with Weirton Mayor George Kondik will give the welcome, and John Sorrenti is the master of ceremonies. Gretchen and Maisie Weir will be the guest speakers.
"With so much planned in our own Weirton, let us all come out to enjoy the melting pot in action, with various colorful performances and songs, different ethnic foods and learn about other cultures, which co-exist in our valley," said Jones.
The museum resurrected the Festival of Nations five years ago at the community center in 2009 to mark Weirton's 100th anniversary. The festival had been celebrated early in the 20th century, but discontinued during the Second World War, when Weirton devoted its energy and efforts to the war.
"The community celebrated a Festival of Nations from 1934 to 1944, and we wanted to return to that event," said Luthra. "We have visitors from throughout the valley attending this one-day event, as well as from Pittsburgh. The event is growing more popular every year and I can see this festival getting larger each year. It is nice to get together to learn about each other and our different customs."
Area residents and businesses are invited to become a sponsor or to memoralize or honor a loved one in the official festival program book. Platinum sponsorship are available for $250; gold, $100, silver, $50; and bronze, $25. Memorials and honors are available for $10 per name. Those interested in making a contribution are asked to do so by Sunday to ensure inclusion in the program book. Send information and a check payable to the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center to P.O. Box 517, Weirton, WV 26062.
For information, visit the website at www.weirtonmuseum.com