Arts festival goes up, up and away

PARKERSBURG – More than 300 students from the Mid-Ohio Valley gathered at West Virginia University at Parkersburg Wednesday for the 15th annual Very Spectacular Arts Festival.

Mark Lanyon, Artsbridge executive director, said the event was designed for special need students from Wood, Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt counties in West Virginia and Washington and Morgan counties in Ohio.

“We reached out to the school administrators to determine who would come,” he said. “This year the theme is ‘Up, up and Away,’ and the main activity was kite making.”

Lanyon said other activities in addition to making kites included making costumes, taking photos, making frames, cards, beaded bracelets, paper hats, painting and karaoke.

They had performances from the Parkersburg South High School handbell choir, Kootaga Indian Dancers and St. Marys singer/guitarist Jaden Bird.

Lanyon said the number of students participating was down from past years because the schools from Washington and Morgan counties were on spring break this week.

“We used to do it at a different time and we may reschedule for next year but we had 303,” he said. “That’s pretty good with just the West Virginia counties.”

Lanyon said the costume and photo areas were popular with the students this year as well as the kites.

Myriah Schnell of Ripley said she enjoyed a few things at the festival.

“I like the bracelets and face painting,” she said.

Shyanne Hardman of Parkersburg said she found the day to be a lot of fun.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said. “It’s so awesome. My favorite was making the cards and the karaoke.”

Artsbridge and West Virginia University at Parkersburg were co-sponsors of the event.

The festival is based on the national model, which was created in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith, in affiliation with the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to give children with disabilities the opportunity to experience live arts.

Students at the Very Spectacular Arts Festival range in age from pre-school to young adults.