By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
A week after WaterFire Sharon sparked an amazing blaze in the Shenango Valley, people are stoked for the next two events this year.
"We're having WaterFire withdrawal," volunteer Tony Delgros said.
The Aug. 3 event drew more people than anyone imagined. Organizers have been saying 35,000 came to the event, but no official headcount was done or scientific calculation made.
Regardless of the exact number who reveled in the day-long, family-friendly arts and cultural festival, it was a success.
"It just turned out better than anybody thought," Delgros said. "Nobody can believe that many people showed up."
"If anyone wasn't listening to us before, they're going to be paying attention to us now," he said.
Downtown businesses benefited from the increased traffic, those interviewed this weekend said.
"I really was very impressed," Jacque Abrutz, who owns the Korner News said.
She would have closed at 3 p.m., but decided to extend her hours because there also was a $300 million Powerball jackpot luring customers in.
"We did OK," she said.
She was impressed by the event once she left that night to enjoy it herself.
"I thought Sharon really looked nice," she said. "It was fantastic."
All of the businesses on East State Street were busy, their workers said.
"We had them out the door," Elaine Davis, who works as a clerk at Niko and Lou's Coney Island restaurant, said.
"It was crazy in here," Amanda Cowan, sales manager of The Winner fashion store, said. "We did really well."
"It was artistic and beautiful and really classy," Mary James, a co-owner of Clarencedale Cakes said.
Newer businesses such as Gallery 29, owned by Donna Bostardi, also benefited from the event."The exposure was priceless," Bostardi said. "We had 600 people come through here. Sales were good and the whole experience was wonderful."
City officials agreed.
"To say that WaterFire was a success is an understatement," Sharon City Manager Scott Andrejchak said. "I think you could judge the success of the event on a lot of different levels."
Andrejchak believes the onslaught of 35,000 people into downtown Sharon caused a ripple effect for businesses in downtown and in the region.
"There were economic impacts we can't imagine yet," Andrejchak said. "Businesses all over the valley felt the impact."
City officials and residents agreed that WaterFire was a safe and fun family event.
"It was incredible." Andrejchak said. "It was a very special event for people who were there."
Sharon police reported no problems with fighting or disorderly conduct.
"The only problem we had was traffic and parking," Michael Menster, Sharon police chief, said. "We had relatively few problems."
A slow-moving, very long train was the culprit of a major traffic jam, according to Menster. Sharon police had extra patrolmen on duty directing traffic.
Andrejchak believes this will not be a problem as the police are contacting the railway to postpone or cancel train crossings through downtown Sharon for future WaterFire events.
The next WaterFire Sharon lightings will be Sept. 14 and Oct. 12.
The Penn State Shenango campus opened its doors for WaterFire planning meetings and parking.
There were a lot of faculty and staff who participated in WaterFire, according to Liz Izenas, public relations spokesman for the campus.
Downtown Sharon has been changing over the past two years. There is a lot of positive energy downtown. Having WaterFire has created positive energy. Andrejchak said.
"The event has branded itself as a family friendly event." he said.
"I think when they announced the open-container policy, it set a precedent," Izenas said, referring to a crackdown on alcoholic beverages in public during the annual Small Ships Revue downtown earlier this summer.
"This could bring a sea change to downtown," Andrejchak said.
Herald Staff Writer Melissa Klaric contributed to this report.
WaterFire looking for winning images
WaterFire Sharon is looking for pictures from the inaugural event held Aug. 3.
If you were there and snapped some photos, all you have to do is share them through the "WaterFire Sharon" Facebook or Twitter pages.
Winners will receive a WaterFire Sharon T-shirt and custom WaterFire Sharon merchandise by Wendell August Forge.
"We are looking to capture unique views of our first WaterFire Sharon event from the perspective of attendees," said Dayna Shaw Sear, executive director of WaterFire Sharon. "It is often those photos that speak to the essence of what WaterFire Sharon is about -- a family-friendly event centered around art and culture that builds community."
"We are excited to see all of the different perspectives of WaterFire," she said.
To enter, follow @WaterFireSharon on Twitter and tag your photos with #WaterFireSharonPhoto, or post your photo to the WaterFire Sharon Facebook page and put "@WaterFireSharon #WaterFireSharonPhoto" in the message.
A Best of Show and three Judges Choice Awards will be chosen from the submissions.
Photos should be posted by Tuesday, and winners will be announced Aug. 23.Created by artist Barnaby Evans, "WaterFire" was first demonstrated as a public arts installation in Providence, R.I. in 1994.
Since then "WaterFire" has been replicated in Kansas City, Columbus, Singapore, Brussels, Venice and most recently Rome.
Each WaterFire event is created around a different theme and often customized to be area specific.
All WaterFire events are free to attend."WaterFire Sharon" will host "World Fire" on Sept. 14 and "Up and Around" on Oct. 12.
For more information about "WaterFire Sharon" or to learn more about vendor, volunteer or giving opportunities, contact 724-981-5882 ext. 111 or firstname.lastname@example.org