The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

September 11, 2013

WaterFire is more than just a river fire, it’s an adventure

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — Come early, stay late.

That is the most important message WaterFire Sharon organizers want to convey to visitors they hope will be jamming downtown Saturday during World Fire.

Another reminder is to park at the top of State Street in the lots around Sharon schools. Spectators can board shuttles near Sharon Regional Health System that will be operating all day and night to help reduce traffic congestion.

The daylong schedule of activities  lists a variety of attractions with entertainment that stretches from morning to midnight on downtown streets and salsa dancing under the stars on the main stage dance floor.

The choices of arts activities and food selections are drawn from around the globe.

“It will be exciting and much bigger in scope than the first one,” said Dayna Sear, WaterFire Sharon executive director. “We have sectioned the city into ethnic groups, the Orient, Down Under, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean - that type of thing.”

Families with children will find lots of things for them to do, including the Passport Project at downtown locations to let them explore  life in other cultures and get their passports stamped, just as travelers do.

“When you come in there will be a map with 13 booths that represent the different ethnic regions of the world.” Sear said. “Kids will get a globe and a passport. Going from booth to booth, they can get icons to decorate their globe and stamps from each country. It’s a nice way to check out each of the regions.”

The huge turnout last month has had organizers scrambling to plan to accommodate that many visitors this time.

“I’m guessing that 20,000 of the 35,000 began showing up around 6 p.m., Sear said. “When so many people descend all at once, you’re going to get overloaded. I’ve tried to spread out things people can do -- more places to eat, more entertainment areas, more places to gather.”

One effect of the large inaugural crowd has been to stoke the interest of vendors who didn’t set up shop last time but have registered for booth space this time to sell art, jewelry, food, crafts, photographs, clothing and other merchandise.

“We have vendors down State Street from Railroad to Main,” Sear said. “We have them in Reyers parking lot. Pretty much every inch of the city has a vendor in it.”

Anyone curious about WaterFire doesn’t have to wait for Saturday for a preview of some of the art they can enjoy. One of two displays opens Thursday. Another has stone cairns under construction on Shenango Street, one block off State.

Christian Kuharik, a professor at Penn State-Shenango,  organized a display by artists who were invited to  exhibit functional pottery and ceramic sculpture at  James E. Winner Jr. Arts & Culture Center.

“Some of the biggest names in ceramics within western Pennsylvania and Ohio will be exhibiting” their work, Kuharik said.

The public is welcome to attend the opening reception of the show from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the center, 98 E. State St.

On Saturday, festival visitors will be able to buy pots, decorate them and have them finished in a wood-fired kiln in the raku style from  Japan.

Glazed pots are fired in containers with combustible materials which creates designs in vibrant colors on the finished surfaces.

For the last two weeks, artist Walter Hermann, of Columbus, Ohio, has been in town working with students to build cairns as part of an illuminated earthworks installation whose flames will be lighted during WaterFire.

In many cultures, cairns are stone memorials built in honor of lost loved ones.

Two cairns have been sponsored by their friends and families in memory of James E. Winner Jr. and William Basilone Jr.

Basilone was shot to death Dec. 30, 2011 outside his Farrell bar. Winner was killed in a car crash Sept. 14, 2010 in Clarion County.

Each of the four cairns in the installation has a fire pit on top. Torchbearers in Saturday’s lighting ceremony will light them at dusk.

Anyone interested can buy luminaries and write messages on the bags containing candles that will be displayed on the site with the cairns.

There will be seats throughout the installation inviting spectators to spend a few moments remembering loved ones they have lost.

“We will have light paying tribute to community members who are no longer with us,” Sear said. “We can  memorialize them with light as a symbol of hope for the future.”

For complete entertainment schedules, a walking map, shuttle parking and other information, see the website:

To volunteer, email or call 724-981-5882