Thousands Turn Out for 12th Annual Celebrate Youth Festival at Wheeling Park
WHEELING — Thousands turned out at Wheeling Park on Thursday to take advantage of the free day of activities, food and the many community resources made available during 12th Annual Celebrate Youth Festival organized by Youth Services System Inc. of Wheeling.
Organized by YSS CEO John Moses in 2008 as a way to introduce families to dozens of local agencies and businesses that serve youth and families in the Ohio Valley, the annual event attracted more than 4,000 people and continues to be the largest one-day event at Wheeling Park each year, according to Wheeling Park Operations Manager Nat Goudy. He said people were already waiting in line several hours prior to the event opening this year.
“They were lining up early. … It’s an excellent time and everybody enjoys it,” he said.
In addition to the dozens of informational booths, families also enjoyed a day of free park activities, food, musical entertainment and games.
Children not only received a free drawstring backpack and school supplies, they also had access to several amenities of the park, including: the Olympic-size swimming pool, 18-hole miniature golf, and paddle boats on Good Lake.
Betsy Bethel-McFarland, communications manager for YSS, said the event continues to grow every year.
“Several thousand people come through Wheeling Park on this day,” Bethel-McFarland commented. In addition to new attractions, like Spiderman greeting children, Jingles the Clown and the Bubble Wagon were also be on hand throughout the day.
Representing the Wheeling Police Department at the festival since its inception, Sgt. Donnie Miller handed out brochures on safety related issues to families.
“So we try to give the kids some of the really good police promotional items to promote respect back and forth, plus we give them a lot of school supplies … so they can start the year out on the right foot,” he said.
The Wheeling Fire Department also was available with the department’s Fire Safety House, which is an educational tool to teach children and adults about home fire safety. The annual event has attracted more than 40,000 people to Wheeling Park over a dozen years.
The entertainment lineup for the day included youth musicians Hailey Lewis, I.A.N., Chris Kuskey and the Young Lions drumming group, along with the Community Made Serenade band and Bethel-McFarland performed on the bagpipes.
“Youth Services system is thrilled to once again be able to offer this free end-of-summer celebration to area families,” Moses said.
The main sponsor, BrickStreet Foundation, and event sponsors, Wheeling Park and Oglebay Foundation, were joined by other sponsors from The Glessner Group, The Cornerstone Group, Marshall County Commission, Ohio County commission, Orrick, EM Media, Comcast, Northwood Health Systems, Wheeling Heritage, and Brenda and Thomas Thomas.