“This will not be the last time you hear from me,” said Carrie Eller, the owner of Under the Elder Tree Massage Therapy and Natural Body Care. “And I do love that I live and work in a community that supports local businesses. Thank you so very much.”

That’s what Eller told the crowd after she was announced as the winner of the seventh “Show of Hands” crowd-funding event Wednesday evening. She explained to the crowd of 225 – the largest in the brief history of the ReInvent Wheeling initiative – that she needs to add more spa space at her location at 1904 Market St, to accommodate consistent demand. The $2,250 presented to her by members of ReInvent Wheeling, she said, will go a long way in making the expansion a reality.

Carrie Eller was presented the "big check" Wednesday night at the Capitol Ballroom.

Carrie Eller was presented the “big check” Wednesday night at the Capitol Ballroom.

“At this time I would like to convert a storage space in my shop to another area where massage can take place. That way I would be able to add a therapist and service twice the amount of people who are coming into the shop,” she said. “We all have a lot of stress because of the way the world works these days, so massage is a very important way to relieve that stress.

“I would love to get the work started as soon as possible,” she said. “I am making calls now, so maybe I can get it started as early as next week.”

The “Show of Hands” victory came just three weeks after Eller’s shop was robbed. The perpetrator apparently kicked in the glass in her front door.

“But it’s all fallen into place perfectly thanks to, ‘Show of Hands,’” she said. “It was truly a horrible feeling getting robbed, but I am a person who believes things happen for a reason. I had a lot of people react to the interview I did on AM 1600 WKKX, and once again the community has supported me in amazing ways.

ReInvent Wheeling director Jake Dougherty assists participant Chris Burress field questions from the crowd.

ReInvent Wheeling director Jake Dougherty assists participant Chris Burress in fielding questions from the crowd.

“It was an amazing experience because it was a high-energy crowd, and I was a little surprised that I won because of how much competition there was. There were so many great ideas,” Eller added. “What I do is for the community, so they have an opportunity to feel better either with the massages or the natural care options that I offer in our retail section. I was honored to be the people’s choice, and the size of the crowd was a sign for me that the community is very involved with what is happening in Wheeling now.”

Erikka Storch, president of the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce, is reminded of the importance of community each November, when the time arrives for the annual Perkins Restaurant and Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade in downtown Wheeling.

The parade is scheduled for this evening and will begin flowing along Market Street at 6:30 p.m.

“Without the help from our entire community, this event doesn’t happen,” said Storch, who also serves as a delegate in the West Virginia Legislature. “We may organize it, but the participants are mostly from this Valley, and that’s what is most important to us here at the chamber.”

This evening’s parade will be Storch’s second as president, and the grand marshals will celebrate past presidents Dick Kennedy and Terry Sterling.

“Because this is our 30th annual parade we thought it would be very fitting to honor two gentlemen who were very instrumental in making it such a wonderful event,” she said.

“What we try to do every year is present a high-quality event to offer the Upper Ohio Valley a true kick-off to the Christmas season,” Storch said. “We focus on our community because that’s what this event is all about. People from all over the Valley converge on downtown Wheeling each and every year.

The Color Guard from Wheeling American Legion Post 1 traditionally leads off the Perkins Restaurant & Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade.

The Color Guard from Wheeling American Legion Post 1 traditionally leads off the Perkins Restaurant & Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade.

“I am shocked by how many phone calls we have taken from outside the Wheeling area from people who are asking for directions into town for the parade,” she continued. “People from Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland, and Charleston have been calling, and I did not realize the reach our parade has to people throughout the tri-state region.”

Storch has orchestrated a few changes for this year’s parade.

“The relationship between the Wheeling Chamber and WTRF was a fractured relationship, so I have worked very hard to restore that relationship,” Storch said. “We have worked very closely with both of the television stations in the Upper Ohio Valley to make sure that we are all working together.

“Another thing that is new this year is that we have put the order of the parade out to the public,” she said. “That way all of the parents, grandparents, and friends of the people in the parade will know when to expect them as everything flows by them in downtown Wheeling.”

Another difference parade attendees will notice this evening is that downtown Wheeling is illuminated much more than in years past. Not only has the city of Wheeling added lighting in many areas, but all of the 81 trees lining Main and Market streets have been lit by technicians with ERB Electric.

Crews with ERB Electric worked during the evening hours in downtown Wheeling the past two weeks to place lights on 81 trees along Main and Market streets.

Crews with ERB Electric worked during the evening hours in downtown Wheeling the past two weeks to place lights on 81 trees along Main and Market streets.

“The credit for the lights in the trees goes to the people who make up the City of Light’s sponsors. That’s who has Main and Market streets covered in lights in time for the parade,” Storch said. “I don’t think they get enough credit for what they do to beautify the downtown district.”

Those sponsors are the following: AEP, Project BEST, Lee Paull III, Upper Ohio Valley Building and Construction Trades, Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation, Riesbeck’s Food Market, McDonald’s, Century Equities, the Cave Club, First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union, Zeno, Pockl, Lilly, & Copeland, Carol Austin, Miklas Meat Market, IBEW Local #141, Hannig & Associates, Richardson Copy Concepts, the Wheeling CVB, the Ohio County Commission, Carenbauer’s Distributing, Hampton Inn, DiCarlo’s Pizza, Concrete Fabricators, Dr. Kluth, and The Citizens Bank.

“Bill Bryson is the person who has made this parade a success year after year,” Storch explained. “The planning and preparations take place all year long, and Bill is the chair of the parade committee. He is a volunteer, too, so everything he does to make it such a great event is something he does for our community.

“And once again the parade is full, and that’s also thanks to Bill Bryson,” she said. “Once again we’ll have several great marching bands, the dance groups, and many, many floats.”

Parade sponsors for this evening’s event are the follows: First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union, IBEW Local 141, The People of Ohio County, OVMC/East Ohio Regional Hospital, Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, WVNCC, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Robinson Auto Group, and The Citizens Bank.

Charles Waldrum is set to participate in this year's parade, according to Storch. (Photo by Bennett McKinley, Bennett McKinley Photography)

Charles Waldrum is set to participate in this year’s parade, according to Storch. (Photo by Bennett McKinley, Bennett McKinley Photography)

One aspect of the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade that will not change under Storch’s watch involves the participation of Charles Waldrum.

“There was some confusion about his participation a few years ago, and that is why we have been very clear to Charles that he is more than welcome to participate in any way he wishes to,” the chamber president explained. “Besides, how else would the people know when the parade is over if Charles isn’t following Santa Claus and the Wheeling Fire Department?”

(Photos by Steve Novotney)

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