Area residents have a plethora of ways to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, beginning with the ever-popular Independence Day Extravaganza at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Wheeling, continuing with activities at Oglebay Park and in other communities, and concluding with the Wheeling Symphony's concert and pyrotechnical show at Heritage Port.
With the waving of flags and the singing of patriotic tunes, the traditional Independence Day Extravaganza at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 1410 Chapline St., always draws a full house. The musical festivities begin in the main church at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 4. Because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year, a later starting time has been set to avoid conflicts with regular Sunday worship services.
Robert F. Troeger, organist-choirmaster and director of music at St. Matthew's, said the 25th anniversary of the Independence Day Extravaganza is being celebrated at this year's event. Patterned after holiday programs offered in the nation's capital, the concert was established at St. Matthew's by Troeger's predecessor, William P. Crosbie. Under Troeger's leadership, the annual event has continued and expanded to include a partnership with Faith in Action Caregivers.
Channeling Lady Liberty, soloist Sue Pettit performs a patriotic
medley at the 2009 Independence Day Extravaganza. She also is the featured artist and song leader for this year’s event, beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 4, and benefitting Faith in Action Caregivers.
Troeger will fill the traditional role of host and serve as organist for the fun-filled, patriotric celebration of the nation's 234th birthday. The star-spangled festivities will again star Moundsville resident Sue Pettit, a soprano soloist in St. Matthew's parish choir, as the featured artist and song leader for the event. Drummer Tim Birch of Wheeling will provide percussion accompaniment.
A member of the 305th Military Police Company will present the colors at the start of the program, said Jeanette Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action Caregivers. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, audience members will be encouraged to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "The West Virginia Hills."
Pettit, wearing spectacular red, white and blue costumes for the occasion, will perform an all-American tribute with a spirited song set.
Promising special surprises for the audience, Pettit also will lead the crowd in a sing-along of patriotric and nostalgic favorites. The session will include service anthems for the various branches of the U.S. armed forces.
To bring the concert to a stirring conclusion, Troeger will perform a rousing rendition of John Philip Sousa's march, "Stars and Stripes Forever." As a special treat, a select group of audience members will be chosen to provide rhythmic "accompaniment" to the crowd-pleasing selection.
A reception, featuring birthday cake and lemonade, will take place in the parish hall after the concert.
The event is open to the public. The church is accessible to wheelchairs from the building's 15th Street entrance.
Free-will contributions are accepted at the concert to benefit Faith in Action Caregivers. Organizers of the event note that the day's theme of "independence" reflects the nonprofit organization's mission to support the independent living of older adults and people with disabilities in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties through the shared ministry of faith communities.
Wojcik will be on hand to explain the mission of Faith in Action, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. She will recognize the organization's board members, advisory council members, volunteers and care recipients.
"During 2009, we served more than 1,275 neighbors and provided approximately 10,000 hours of free services such as transportation to medical appointments, shopping, errands, chores, respite care, friendly visits and telephone resaaruance calls," Wojcik said. All services are provided free of charge to qualifying participants from any faith background.
"Escorted transportation is the most frequently requested service and is provided for local medical appointments, medical appointments in Pittsburgh and Morgantown and for other needs," she said. In 2009, volunteers provided 4,895.5 hours of transportation.
Requests for services increase significantly each year, she said. For instance, in Belmont County, requests have grown steadily as governmental funding for transportation services has declined over the years.
For more information on the Independence Day Extravanganza, call St. Matthew's parish office, 304-233-0133. For more information on Faith in Action Caregivers, call the agency's office in Wheeling at 304-243-5420.
Meanwhile, Faith in Action Caregivers continues to recruit sponsors, volunteers and participants for its ninth annual triathlon and duathlon, to be held on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University Saturday, July 10. WesBanco is again the major sponsor of the event, Wojcik said.
The triathlon begins with a 400-meter swim in the indoor pool at the McDonough Center at 7:30 a.m. The second leg is a 25K bike course. The race concludes with a 5K run on WJU's cross country trail.
The duathlon begins at approximately 7:45 a.rn. with a group start. In this event, athletes participate in a 3K run. a 25K bike and another 5K run.
Applications for the race are available from the Faith in Action Caregivers office, 1359 National Road, Wheeling. Participants can also register online at www.active.com. Call the organization to have an application mailed or to get information about becoming a race sponsor or volunteer.