The second season of ReInvent Wheeling’s “Show of Hands” competition will debut this Wednesday evening at the Capitol Ballroom.
The event will get under way at 6 p.m., and the four presentations are schedule to begin at 6:30 p.m. Each of the four presenters is allotted four minutes to make their pitches, and then each will field four questions from audience members. At the end, the audience members are asked to vote for their favorite project, and the one that collects the most votes wins the prize money.
International law firm Orrick, Sutcliffe & Herrington is donating $1,000 for each “Show of Hands” events, and the winner collects that amount plus what is generated by donations offered by those who attend. If an individual donates $10, he or she is given microphone time during the voting process to raise awareness about a community project or a business operating in the Friendly City.
“’Show of Hands’ was very successful during its first year, and it has continued to grow with each event we have held,” said Jake Dougherty, the director of ReInvent Wheeling. “This time we received eight different applications, and it was a very difficult task narrowing down that number because of the level of quality of all of the proposed projects.
“Now that people have seen how ‘Show of Hands’ works, I believe they are more comfortable with it now,” he said. “And attendance is key because it adds to the amount of money the winning presenter can take and use to grow their project or their business.”
The four presenters selected by a committee are Bianca Benson with Architects of Change, Brandon Holmes with Green Plate LLC, Dave McFarland from Mmm … Popcorn, and Ron Scott Jr. with the Ohio Valley Hip-Hop Awards.
“We have seen several of the past participants make a big impact on our community,” Dougherty said. “And not just the winners, but also some folks who have continued with their ideas have had a positive impact on the city of Wheeling.
“Now that Wheeling has been selected as a Main Street West Virginia community, there’s even more excitement for the future,” he continued. “This designation ranks Wheeling with some of the most vibrant downtown districts throughout the state and country and opens up opportunities for more resources and support to aid in the revitalization efforts of Wheeling’s historic downtown. It also means we have caught the attention of the rest of the state, and there are many folks now looking for answers right here in Wheeling.”
The city of Wheeling and the city of Elkins in Randolph County are the first ON TRAC communities to make the transition to Main Street status. Main Street West Virginia is a program of the West Virginia Development Office and focuses on economic development of historic downtown and neighborhood commercial districts using the National Main Street Center’s Four Point Approach®, according to the press release distributed by ReInvent Wheeling. Main Street West Virginia created ON TRAC, which stands for organization, training, revitalization, and capacity to help the state’s communities boost economic growth with evaluation, education, and training in downtown or neighborhood revitalization. ON TRAC communities also receive mentoring from certified Main Street programs.
Mmm … Popcorn
Dave McFarland explained why he and his family decided to start a new business in Wheeling that focuses on a favorite snack.
“We have discovered that what is true for our family is true nearly across the board: People love popcorn,” he said. “Our daughter came up with the name while waiting for a bag of microwave popcorn to be popped. It’s what you say when you smell it at the theaters, and it’s what you say when you taste our gourmet corn.
“We want to create excitement in the community by offering a delicious alternative to any other kind of snack you can get in Wheeling. We are a small-batch producer which ensures that the popcorn is always fresh,” he said. “It is our hope that people leave our shop with a smile on their faces. With our popcorn we have a snack food that has a large range of options to appeal to a variety of tastes, from the decadent chocolate covered caramel corn to spicy cheddar flavors to a more healthful option of our custom-made corn — you pick the oil, herbs and toppings.”
The McFarland family hopes their new business will provoke others to open in downtown Wheeling, too.
“We are going to provide Wheeling with another cool niche destination shop that can help bring more foot traffic to the newly revamped uptown market plaza area. We will at first be the only real option for a quick, fresh, local, gourmet snack on weekdays downtown,” he said “But we hope locating our little shop on the plaza will draw more businesses, spurring the revitalization that so many of us envision for this city. We will continue to be very involved in the community at large, from actively being part of First Fridays to providing popcorn for nonprofit fundraisers and volunteering our time for various projects to help reinvent Wheeling.”
The Ohio Valley Hip-Hop Awards
Ron Scott Jr. explained he would use the prize money to benefit youthful members of the Wheeling community because the Hip-Hop Awards show is all about raising the level of creativity via local children.
“If awarded the investment, we would use the money to address the four major needs to make this event/project happen: the venue, the awards, the web site, and the promo video and magazine,” he explained. “We would use a portion of the money to secure a venue to house the event, and we would be using the local business, Ohio Valley Awards, to secure the awards that would be handed out at the event.
“In order to get the music submissions from artists around the Upper Ohio Valley and to promote the event, we would make a web site that would give masses of individuals access to the specifics of the event, a glimpse into the process, and the ability to vote on categories and artists,” he said. “In the same vein as major awards shows, we would create a ‘video cypher’ that would showcase nominated artists and promote the show. We would also create a small publication that would provide readers a glimpse into the lives and history of the artists nominated and the awards themselves.”
Scott Jr. also explained how he believed this effort enhances the downtown Wheeling area.
“This project would benefit downtown Wheeling by bringing a diverse artistic event to the downtown area. It would re-establish Wheeling as a hub of creativity and a major focal point of the valley,” he insisted. “The downtown area would be cast in yet another hue of light for another demographic in this area
“Originally, we planned to have the Awards in August/September of 2015, and if we meet our financial goals, we would still do so,” Scott explained. “If we don’t, we will push our date to at least six months after we reach our budget and launch the web site.”
Green Plate LLC
Brandon Holmes has worked in food service for several years, and his presentation will involve making the dining experience in Wheeling a healthier one.
“Green Plate is a new venture that focuses on using local ingredients and healthy preparation. Green Plate hopes to expand dining options in Wheeling by offering healthful and vegetarian dining options at public and private events and local festivals,” he said. “In addition to providing new dining alternatives, Green Plate hopes to be a model for starting a community-funded food business at a low cost. Beginning in late spring of 2015 Green Plate will offer event concessions and catering along with private chef services through our Community Supported Kitchen program.
“Event concessions will offer Latin and Asian inspired burritos and wraps during events at Wheeling Heritage Port and other local venues,” Holmes continued. “Focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients, our catering menu will capture the sights and tastes of the summer and fall harvest, allowing customers to create memorable experiences for their guests.”
Holmes admitted Green Foods technically was not his idea, but if he were to win this Wednesday evening, the awarded funds would flow toward the construction of a commercial kitchen.
“The idea came from many friends, acquaintances, and strangers telling me about how there should be something like the CSK and more vending options at festivals. I’m just giving people what they are asking for,” he said. “Downtown has benefited from the opening of new food ventures, but Green Plate is unique in both our focus on event and in-home foodservice, along with our dedication to local and healthy preparation. I believe that Wheeling will continue to become a regional and national destination for great food, and by expanding dining opportunities, Green Plate will become another force putting Wheeling on the culinary map.”
Architects of Change
Bianca Benson’s project involves the Marian House and Catholic Charities’ Neighborhood Center on 18th Street in East Wheeling. The Marian House is a facility where those suffering from mental illness can seek care, and the Neighborhood Center produces meals for people in need. Benson’s project would involve the participation of clients that visit both non-profit organizations.
“I am in the process of completing my thesis on art therapy, and what I have found in the my research is that this kind of project can really turn things around for those who are in the need of what the Marion House and the Neighborhood Center provide,” she said. “What this project calls for is the painting of a mural on the west wall of the Marian House, and the clients from both organizations would be the ones doing the work from the very beginning.
“This will involve a collaborative group process, and it will involve learning new skills to be able to create the idea for the mural and then to paint it,” she said. “There are no guarantees, but it would also be a chance for something very good to happen, too. It is possible that such a project could transform an individual into a productive member of this community instead of being a person who is in need of the services at the Marion House and at the Neighborhood Center.”
(Photos by Bennett McKinley)