The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

August 4, 2013

A blaze of glory

WaterFire draws fun-loving families

SHARON — It’s not often that State Street Bridge in downtown Sharon is closed so the city can party.

Back in the day, parades marched past for one celebration or another but not everybody could be part of the main event.

The opposite was true Saturday during WaterFire Sharon, much to the delight of the families who came with their children to see what the first of three scheduled arts festivals was about.

The crowd multiplied by early evening ahead of the inaugural event’s featured attraction – the lighting of braziers in the Shenango River.

But out-of-town visitors liked what they saw earlier in the day.

Artists and performers let everybody who wanted to try their hand at the arts dive right in. And did they ever!

“This is fun!” one beaming drummer about 8 years old shouted to his parents as he used a stick to tap a “vibratone” while dancing with other kids in the middle of the bridge.

African drummer Milton Wilson, of Farrell, laid down a rhythm for his motley crew of young backup musicians who each played an instrument as they danced – sort of – but mostly marched as he called out various moves.

“Do the ko-ko bop,” he sang out, and the kids, like 3-year-old Avynn  Williams of Sharon, jiggled and gyrated as though they understood exactly what that meant.

“Now JUMP!” Wilson shouted, and they did, all the time beating, shaking or tapping instruments whose names they probably couldn’t pronounce, let alone spell. But play them? Yes they could and they did.

Some are familiar – sleigh bell, tambourine and drum. But readers will have to turn to a good dictionary or ask the Google for information about such West African instruments as caxixi and afuche.

None of that mattered to Allison Morris, 7, who was dressed more festively than the other kids. The Hermitage girl’s fuzzy pink hair band could have been a clue but the sash she wore told the tale.

“Birthday Girl,” it announced, and Allison couldn’t have smiled more broadly when the dance ended and she could express her opinion of performing with other kids for an audience.

“G-o-o-OOD!” she said, as fellow performers-of-the-moment from Sharpsville, Farrell and Sharon as well as Youngstown and Liberty, Ohio, went back to their families.

The same sentiment seemed to apply to spending the day with her family at a festival that Allison said made her birthday, “a really, really good one.”

Art was a spectator sport further down State Street. Young observers were trying to make sense of the patter Bill Roddy kept up as he spun plates on sticks and handed them, still spinning, to anyone who wanted to hold one.

Beside him was a small makeshift gazebo wrapped with rolls of clear plastic. Roddy, who was dressed comfortably in shorts, said the see-through shelter was for “juggle art painting” as he stepped into a white jumpsuit made of vinyl.

“Isn’t that hot?” Alexis Dubay, 12, of Sharpsville wanted to know, as he dressed.

“Yes, it is,” Roddy answered. “I feel like an Oompa Loompa.”

Sort of like one of the dwarf characters of children’s author Roald Dahl, Roddy slipped under the plastic sheeting to get inside the gazebo where all sizes and shapes of tubes, sticks and plastic plumbing elbows – all filled with paint – waited for him to juggle and spin.

When he did, they spewed paint that spattered on the plastic sheet. While spectators outside watched, the inside walls dripped with paint.

“That looks like milk,” said Alexis’s 10-year-old brother Austin. “It looks like milk coming out of a grenade,” he said of the punctured can Roddy was twirling on a string.

Color by color and drop by drip by spatter, the plastic sheeting turned into an abstract design to the amazement and delight of the crowd.

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