Wellsburg festivities conclude

RACING ALONG — Wellsburg Oil Can Derby racers Dakota Martin and Marlee Ewusiak made their way down Fourth Street, with Martin emerging the winner of the final heat for the stock division of the race. Tyson Klick was declared champion for the super stock division after defeating Dawson Paugh by less than a second. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — A weeklong celebration of Independence Day came to a close Wednesday in Wellsburg with music and reflections on the spirit of the holiday, the fifth-annual Oil Can Derby, a parade on Charles Street and fireworks.

At opening ceremonies held at the E.R. Nichols 1st Ward Park, Mayor Sue Simonetti praised the efforts of many volunteers in organizing events ranging from free concerts on several nights to the display of the West Virginia Vietnam Mobile Wall Monday and Tuesday at Central Park.

“Year after year they continue to impress us,” she said of the Wellsburg 4th of July Committee, adding, “I hate to see them end.”

Local historian Michael Traubert shared a bit of history, noting the seeds for the American Revolution were planted by lesser known activists such as the Rev. John Wise. A Massachusetts clergyman, Wise was imprisoned for protesting taxation without representation in 1688.

Music for the ceremonies was provided by Abbey Adams and the Dream Big Music Academy, a children’s afterschool music program affiliated with New Day Christian Center, while Franklin Community firefighter Cody Rice raised the U.S. flag.

Barb Yoder, who co-chairs the 4th of July committee with Darin Pizer, expressed thanks to many businesses and groups that have sponsored the events, which also included volleyball and fishing tournaments and daily activities for children at the 4th Ward Park.

She noted local veteran Greg Cheeks arranged for the mobile Vietnam wall’s visit while Fred Marino coordinated the Oil Can Derby with the help of Steve Mitchell and many others.

A total of 34 area youth competed in the soapbox-style race, careening down Fourth Street to the finish line at Charles Street in a series of heats, with disc jockey Dave Secrist announcing each winner.

Top finishers of the stock division, for racers and vehicles weighing no more than 215 pounds combined, were: Dakota Martin, first place; Marlee Ewusiak, second; Gavin Scott, third; and Christian Lish, fourth.

Top finishers of the super stock, for racers and vehicles weighing no more than 230 pounds were: Tyson Klick, first place; Dawson Paugh, second; Maddison Rees, third place; and Aryonna Acosta, fourth place.

American Muscle Docks & Fabrication, one of many businesses and groups that sponsored the cars, received the award for best appearance.

Since reviving the race five years ago, Marino has named a former racer or military veteran grand marshal for the event.

That honor went this year to James Beeman of Wellsburg, who served 22 years in the Marine Corps.

Beaman said he was pleased by the large turnout for the West Virginia Mobile Vietnam Wall and happy to see the derby and other activities offered for youth.

He said as a boy he enjoyed watching the racers make their way down 11th Street near the Dairy Queen.

Tim Walnoha of Weirton also remembered the racers hurtling down that street because they passed the home where he lived as a boy.

“They would set up the cars in my yard before the race,” said Walnoha.

He said because the cars weren’t required to be uniform in design, some had unusual shapes, including one dubbed “Needle Nose.”

Walnoha said cars in the race’s early days on 10th Street sometimes were quite primitive, consisting of little more than a box attached to a board with wheels.


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