The light of the Shenango Valley burned at dusk Saturday in torches carried by men and women dressed in black during the climax of WaterFire Sharon’s inaugural event.
It was the highlight of a daylong celebration that was more than a year in the making, Jennifer Barborak, who was one of the organizers, said Sunday as it sunk in that the event so many worked so hard and long to produce was deemed a success.
“It was truly amazing,” Barborak said. “I can’t believe how amazing our community is.”
“Seeing everyone standing up there (on the East State Street bridge) was the most amazing thing,” she said.
It was a “great feeling” to be a part of it, said Sharon policeman William Gregg, who served as a torchbearer.
The idea was for the torchbearers to be silhouetted faces who were acting as a group, Gregg said, “to be a community of one.”
“It was enjoyable,” he said.
A sampling of the comments of what organizers estimated to be 35,000 people who came out for the event agreed. Most gave rave reviews on social media outlets as word spread about just what happened in downtown Sharon on Saturday night.
People “overwhelmingly loved” the events of the day, said Dayna Sear, who serves as executive director of WaterFire Sharon.
“It seems many people found it to be an emotional event and one that was truly inspiring,” Sear said. “The whole thing was such a beautiful setting.
“It really took the entire community coming together,” to make it work, Barborak said. “We have to make sure the volunteers are recognized.”
More than 300 people volunteered Saturday and more than 500 have been involved for the last year in preparing for the WaterFire “season” – two more events are slated this year, on Sept. 14 and on Oct. 12.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Sear.
The idea started in Providence, R.I., in the mid-1990s and has since spread to Columbus, Ohio, and Kansas City, Mo.
Sharon is the fourth city to try it and people here will work to make it grow each time the braziers in the Shenango River are lighted, Sear said.
“Clearly, we need to talk about the infrastructure and handling the crowds,” she said.
But all in all, things went as planned.
“It seems like the event will continue to grow,” she said.