This Is The Season For Doing Something in Downtown Wheeling Steve Novotney June 23, 2015 1 They wrote on-the-spot poems for $5 on really old typewriters right there in front of everyone. One of the composers was Bethany College’s Jessie Janeshek, and the other was Marc Harshman, the poet laureate of West Virginia. Wheeling resident Wendy Scatterday was one of the many who challenged Harshman and Janeshek, and Scatterday’s present topic was, “Wheeling.” Wheeling / Part 1 Skulls and barrel staves … Politics and murder … A river runs through it – high Ohio, and the rain falls, the sun shines, teams take the field, and boys kiss girls – a city lives this way. Stars are born and walk the boards in New York; others blow their horns in the smoke and piss of nowhere bars in that same metropolis but now just go ask Bird who his first son is named after. A state is born here – sweat, words, and sacrifice. Nails and beer, … Trains and sternwheelers and that great national road running west even yet. We can begin here. I have. — Marc Harshman / 6.20.15 Bethany College’s Jessie Janeshek, and Marc Harshman, the poet laureate of West Virginia, composed poems for donations to the annual Arts Fest. They did so to raise money for the future of the Arts Fest during the fifth annual Wheeling Arts Fest, an event that was expected to be overshadowed by dark clouds and thunderstorms but still attracted a large crowd until the rains arrived in the late afternoon. Erika Donaghy, the chair of the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission, guided the 23-member board through the puzzle that is the organization that has taken place since Arts Fest was created in 2011. Many local artists, like Bob Villamagna, Cecy Rose, and Amanda Carney, were there selling their wares, and live entertainment took place throughout the day. When the precipitation proved too much, Elec Simon & Friends simply relocated to the Vagabond Kitchen for their final performance. Because the show had to go on! Arts Fest 2015 was a smashing success thanks to the hard work by Donaghy and many, many others, and so was the unveiling of the statue of the father of West Virginia, Francis Pierpont. Independence Hall site manager Travis Henline portrayed Pierpont, U.S. Rep. David McKinley spoke to the large crowd about an imperative time in our country’s history, and descendants of the Pierpont family also made the trip to the Friendly City for the historic installation and dedication. The cameras were out as employees of Walter Construction prepared to install the statue of Francis Pierpont. The city of Wheeling is blessed to have so many historians who have chosen to be very active with the preservation of the many tales that tell us about the important role this community played during the Civil War era and then with the development of the continued growth of the United States. Henline, Margaret Brennan, Jeanne Finstein, Brent Carney, Sean Duffy, Rebekah Karelis, and several others helped make the 9-foot, 1,200-pound statue a reality on the corner of 16th and Market streets. From time to time during both events on and near the West Virginia Community College campus, costumed characters could be seen searching for clues connected to the second annual Challenge Wheeling 5K Race. Organizers Christie Contraguerro from Carpet Showcase and Tammy Kruse from Youth Services System welcomed a total of 31 teams that took to the streets in search of the answers for 12 questions they composed about something historical in the downtown area. One of the 12 clues furnished by the event was No. 8: Since settlers first arrived in the 1700s, Wheeling has accumulated a wealth of history. This building houses a substantial collection of material related to this rich history in their “Wheeling Room.” Go to this building and find the “Wheeling Room” and a Challenge Wheeling volunteer; then “Crack the Code” for a hint to Clue #4. Shhh! Quiet Please as you take a team picture in front of the “Wheeling Room.” A total of 31 teams competed in this year’s Challenge Wheeling 5K event. Challenge Wheeling raised funds for YSS, an organization that accomplishes more for the region’s children than most people realize, and Kruse and Contraguerro enlisted their entire families to help orchestrate what is more of a game than a 5K race, and the proprietors of River City Restaurant – Jason Miller and Becky Schmidt – opened up their establishment to a crowd that included the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Team Fanny Pack, as well as the brides, tutu-clad ballerinas, three blind mice, and hula hooping contestants. Team LLC captured first place with a time of 58:42; Carlo’s Baby was second with a final time of 1:02:30; and third place was won by See How They Run at 1:15:30. Not one of these events, though, would have been successful without the people who got out and did something, and each one attracted diverse crowds with folks of all ages and sizes. It was especially great to see so many children looking up to their parents while asking questions about the sights and the sounds. But wait! There’s more! This weekend will not be different, either, as two festivals are scheduled for Heritage Port. On Friday and Saturday, there’s the Rib & Chicken Cook-off , and on Sunday the YWCA will present the second annual Upper Ohio Valley Multicultural Festival. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window) One Response Margaret Lais June 23, 2015 Hello Wheeling! Though I have only had the pleasure of visiting, rather than living there, it holds a hallowed place in my heart. My mother was born and raised in Wheeling, leaving only to pursue her dream of acting. One line of Marc Harshman’s, the poet laureate of West Virginia, in his $5.00 poem, speaks of ‘Stars are born and walk the boards in New York;’ and could have been referring to my mother, Mariruth Ford, who was one of the lucky ones. After performing Summer Stock plays in the beautiful Ogelbay Park, and winning the title of Miss Wheeling West Virginia as Miss Camera Shop in 1948, she set her sights on New York, where she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. There she studied, and acted in plays with the likes of John Casavetes, and perhaps others who rose to fame in the ensuing years. She was apparently highly regarded, and could be seen performing in Summer Stock in Gatlinburg Tennessee. A play I would have liked to have seen her in was ‘Gaslight’, which involved the treachery of a husband attempting to convince his wife that she was losing her mind, hence the term ‘gas lighting’. It refers to someone twisting reality through lies and subterfuge, for the effect of undermining another’s very hold on sanity. It portrayed a chilling story, and was a famous play both here in the states, and abroad in England. I do not know the details of their meeting, but at some point, in the early 1950’s, she met and fell madly in love with my dad, William G Lais. Yes, I am spelling his last name correctly! Some of you may remember an infamous ‘Mover and Shaker’ years ago in Wheeling, by the name of William G Lias. My dad knew Mr. William Lias, and despite the uncanny similarity in their names, the similarity ended there. Mr. Lias, known for his influence and involvement in perhaps less-savory incidents through the years, was certainly not like my father, who was, then, a young FBI agent! I do not pretend to know details regarding his life, yet I do think Bill Lias qualifies as a high profile ‘Character of Wheeling’. I think at times, perhaps later, when telling of his experiences in Wheeling, my dad would chuckle at the confusion their names caused, and the little bit of infamy he instantly found was certainly a nice conversation-starter for those who craved knowing more about G-Men, and what they actually did at work each day. So aside from infamy and fame, it will always remain in my heart as the home of my grandparent’s grocery store, ‘Ford’s Grocery’, and of course the cradle that rocked my infant mother. I am happy to see that Wheeling remains a vital city, with interesting happenings, and interesting people. I do not know if many are alive now who would remember my grandparents, Harold Vernon Ford, and Ursula Harden Ford. Harold was a civically minded man, and stood up for the civil rights of others, by his participation in local political activism. I know very little of what he stood for, but I know that in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, he was a brave man, fighting for the rights of blacks in Wheeling. I am sure there are many local historians who know much more than I, of the troubles experienced by those denied, and therefore fighting for, civil liberties. I would be thrilled if anyone with stories or information would come forward, to flesh-out my grandfather’s contributions. Our mother, Mariruth Ford Lais, died April 30th, 1958 She is forever in our hearts, and never forgotten. Thank you, Margaret Lais (I apologize if I have the circumstances or any facts incorrect here, & trust I have done my best to accurately portray a bit of the life of Wheeling native, my mother, Mariruth Ford Lais.) I give my permission to Wheelunk to publish portions or all of this letter, & I would appreciate a note if you do publish this brief account of my mother’s life. email@example.com Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.