The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

September 15, 2013

Water color: 2nd WaterFire event brings full spectrum of activities

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Sports Writer

SHARON — The thousands of people who poured into Sharon Saturday for World Fire had the whole day and night to hear music, dance, unleash their artistic skills or find something tasty to eat.

Downtown streets were crowded for the second festival organized by WaterFire Sharon.

Mike and Adonna Bryant from Gibsonia, north of Pittsburgh, came early to satisfy curiosity about the arts festival they first encountered when they lived in New England.

“We’re originally from Massachusetts and we knew about the one in Providence,” Adonna Bryant said. “We used to see it in the paper but we never drove down to see it.”

Planning to stay into the evening for the torch ceremony, the Bryants were pleased to find the “make-and-take pottery station” where, for $20, their daughter Maeve could glaze a pot and see its design emerge after firing in a gas-fueled kiln.

“I want it to be white inside,” the 7-year-old said, as she followed instructions from instructor Debbie Hinkson, who supplied a brush and different colors of glaze.

“That’s nice and heavy. You don’t want to put it on any heavier than that,” Hinkson told the young artist. “Now you can pick another spot.”

Nathan Myers, a Penn State student who also was helping with the activity sponsored by Circle K Pottery, Sharon, said pots placed in the kiln for about 20 minutes reach a temperature of more than 1,800 degrees.

The pots, glowing red, next were put into a newspaper-filled container that was closed tight so heat could reduce the paper to its essential carbon in the absence of oxygen.

“Without oxygen, the glaze becomes metallic and its colors become shiny,” Myers explained. “The surface of the pot will be black whereever there was no glaze.”

The science of ceramic glazing may have gone over Maeve’s head, but she knew exactly where she planned to put her newest treasure after it cooled.

“In my room,” she said. “I think it will be on my bureau next to a bin that my mom put designs on.”

WaterFire presented kids with a host of entertainment options. They could choose to watch a clown, get their faces painted or kick a soccer ball among the many activities for children.

Brothers Isaac Miller and Reese Venable were deep into the Passport Project that let young explorers color and collect stamps from a host of countries all around the world.

Booths throughout downtown were staffed by high school students and stocked with crayons so kids could color printed images of animals on their stamps before attaching them with yarn to their passports.

Isaac, 5, and Reese, who’s 10 years old and in fifth grade at West Hill Elementary in Sharon, had stamps from Germany, Italy, Africa and France.

“I want to collect all of these,” Reese said as he pointed to other countries on the map. “I’ll take it home, maybe color it more and hang it in my room.”

Across the State Street Bridge, Alexis Kusluch collected stamps from the United States pavilion. She already had about a half dozen stamps from other countries but didn’t immediately have a favorite until she thought for a second.

“Probably Russia, because my dad likes it,” said the third-grader at Artman Elementary School, Hermitage. “But I also like the United States of course because I was born here.”

A pavilion that had ambassadors for both Germany and Australia was doing brisk business late in the afternoon.

Taylor Zamora was waiting in line waiting for her turn as Payton Lopreore, who was dressed in khaki and wearing a slouch that would keep him comfortable in the Outback, handed out a stamp from Australia.

“There ya go, mate,” he said with a Crocodile Dundee lilt in his voice that got Taylor’s attention.

“I was waiting for that,” the fourth-grader at Case Avenue Elementary School said, sounding a little skeptical as if she doubted the authenticity of the accent she had just heard.

“Are either of you from either Germany or Australia?” Taylor wanted to know.

Mike Allenbaugh, a junior, grinned as he admitted that both he and Payton, a senior, are students at Sharon High School helping visitors to their booth learn something about other countries.

Most of the visitors were from Mercer County and the Mahoning and Shenango Valley areas but it was easy to find families who had come from Clarion, New Castle and elsewhere to enjoy the spectacle.

“We thought the weather for the first one was perfect but today was the same kind of sunny day,” said Alice Merrill who brought her grandchildren with her from Cleveland. “I don’t know if they’ll be as lucky next time but we’ll probably come back if the weather’s good.”

After sunset, the mood changed as thousands crowded the State Street bridge and riverbanks for the dramatic ritual that gives WaterFire its name.

Against a cobalt-blue dusk sky, torchbearers lined the center of the bridge, while below in the near darkness boats with black-attired crews lit each of the log-filled metal braziers floating in the Shenango River from Silver Street to below Connelly Boulevard.

The crews stoked them periodically until the embers – and the event itself – fickered out about midnight.

The final of this inaugural year’s WaterFire days will be Oct. 12.