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Weirton celebrates its diamond anniversary

CELEBRATING 75 — Weirton Mayor Harold “Bubba” Miller and former mayors Edwin J. Bowman, Dean Harris and George Kondik watch as members of the American Legion Honor Guard raise the American flag and a new flag to commemorate Weirton’s 75th anniversary, during a ceremony in front of the Millsop Community Center Saturday afternoon. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — On July 1, 1947, four communities came together to form the City of Weirton.

Seventy-five years and one day later, residents and guests gathered in the city’s downtown to look back at its history and express hope for its future with a day of activities, live music, special presentations, games and more.

“Our city council recognized this as a great opportunity to celebrate,” City Manager Mike Adams explained in welcoming those in front of the Millsop Community Center.

Reading from a special edition of The Weirton Daily Times published on the official day of incorporation, Adams noted the headline of “One City, One People, One Purpose,” reading through an article which referred to Weirton as a “city of steel, city of prosperity, city of unity — a city where peoples of all nationalities, and from different walks of life, work together, play together and live together in peaceful harmony — a city created by the hard labors, sheer tenacity and dogged determination of a handful of men with foresight and intestinal fortitude.”

Adams said much of that same spirit continues to exist, as the city seeks to turn a corner in its history and ignite a rebirth of prosperity.

ARTISTIC DEMONSTRATION — Sarah Cale of the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau demonstrates a screen-printing technique which was used to make posters commemorating Weirton’s 75th anniversary Saturday. The posters were among free activities for residents offered during the celebration. -- Craig Howell

“We’re going to start off another 75 years,” he said.

Echoing those thoughts, state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, who spent much of his childhood in Weirton, pointed to the efforts of Thomas Millsop, the city’s first mayor, but also the work of its residents, saying Weirton was born of the vision of one many, but it was brought to life by thousands who united, no matter their own personal history or culture, to build a home for themselves and future generations.

“To many, Weirton was the epitome of the American dream,” Weld said, adding the spirit of the community could be seen during the good times, but, especially, during the bad such as the early 1980s and the push to form an Employee Stock Ownership Program to save Weirton Steel and the city it supported. “‘We can do it,’ became the town’s new motto.”

This, he said, showed, and continues to show, that Weirton is not about one man, or about one business.

“It’s the people. It’s all of us,” Weld said.

Mayor Harold “Bubba” Miller, recalled some of his own years working for Weirton Steel, saying he often would travel to other parts of the country, but always looked forward to returning home as Weirton was a place where you knew everyone and where everyone helped each other.

Miller offered thanks to the city’s previous mayors, including Edwin J. Bowman, Dean Harris and George Kondik who were in attendance Saturday, for laying the path, and, discussing a recent interview with officials from Cleveland-Cliffs – the owners of the remaining portions of the former Weirton Steel – declared there is hope for Weirton’s future.

“It sounds like E.T. Weir coming back to town,” Miller said.

With representatives of the United Steelworkers, including USW 2911 President Mark Glyptis, standing before him, Gary C. Lilly, pastor of Restoration Church read from his poem, “Here’s to you, Weirton,” which had been dedicated as the city’s official poem.

The crowd also heard from J.T. Jezierski, a Weirton native and legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, and Mary Jo Guidi, regional coordinator for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, each of whom read letters from the senators in recognition of the city’s diamond anniversary.

“It’s always wonderful to be home,” Jezierski said. “There’s nothing like a Weirton celebration.”

The former mayors then stood together as the American Legion Post 10 Honor Guard raised the American flag, as well as a new flag recognizing Weirton’s 75 years, and Adams, along with Assistant City Manager DeeAnn Pulliam and Councilmembers Chris Jonczak, Flora Perrone and Enzo Fracasso showcased a plaque with an image from the July 1, 1947 newspaper edition, depicting Weirton’s first council and other city officials.

Activities took place throughout Saturday afternoon, including a bicycle decorating contest sponsored by Nick’s Auto Sales; a patriotic pet contest sponsored by Best You Boutique; a doughnut eating contest sponsored by Summer’s Enterprise and featuring doughnuts from Gus’s Goodies; and a patriotic beauty pageant by Spread Your Sparkle Pageants and feature Jami Myers, Mrs. West Virginia American.

The Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau and Top of West Virginia Arts Council offered free art activities, including screen printing posters featuring the 75th anniversary logo, and a blacksmithing demonstration by artist and sculptor Jeff Forster.

The Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation offered free access to both the Millsop Community Center and Starvaggi Memorial Pool.

“We’d really be nothing without the residents,” Parks Director Coty Shingle said. “Not only do they provide tax dollars and pay user fees that help fund recreation activities and facilities, but their presence and utilization of our facilities shows their appreciation for our efforts.”

Throughout the day, craft and food vendors lined Main Street, and attendees had an opportunity to check out a petting zoo, or try a zip line set up on Sarah’s Lane or an inflatable water slide behind the Millsop Community Center. The events were capped off with a fireworks display set off behind Edwin J. Bowman Field.

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