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Winter fun at the fest

Ferry kicks off holiday season

T-L Photos/SHELLEY HANSON ABOVE: MARIAH JONES, 18, and Caleb Funkhouser, 16, both members of the First Presbyterian Church, Martins Ferry, youth group put the finishing touches on the group’s float prior to the Martins Ferry Christmas parade on Friday.

MARTINS FERRY — Winterfest kicked off Friday in the city and continues today, offering ice skating, visits with Santa, food trucks, a foot race for children and more.

The festivities are set from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today mainly in the area of Fifth and Hanover streets in Martins Ferry.

At 9 a.m. the Kids’ Jingle Bell Fun Run will step off outside the Martins Ferry Public Library. It is free to participate.

At 10 a.m., free children’s games and activities will begin at the library and other outdoors areas of the festival.

Santa Claus is expected to arrive at 11 a.m. and stay until 1 p.m. The Rev. William Webster, pastor of Grace Church and Project Forward member, said Santa will likely be visiting children in front of the large city Christmas tree at Hanover and Fifth streets, or if the weather is inclement inside the library instead.

Clifford the Big Red Dog also is slated to visit children inside the library from 1-3 p.m.

Children’s activities on Saturday will also include a coloring contest, lasso-a-moose, pictures with a Yeti, plinko and more. The ice skating rink on Fifth Street will remain open until 2 p.m. along with a craft and vendor show.

“There are a lot of different kids’ activities,” Webster remarked.

For adults, a large tent housing craft beers will be set up near the Hanover Street gazebo. There will be warming barrels burning to keep attendees toasty.

This year’s Winterfest has 31 sponsors including Unified Bank, Belmont County Tourism Council, Valley Wide Insurance, Deluxe Toy and Hobby, Dan Stephens State Farm Insurance, Kendall Behavioral Solutions, Linda Brown Allstate Insurance, Muxie Distributing, Martins Ferry Chamber of Commerce and Grace Presbyterian Church.

Winterfest is the brainchild of Project Forward, a non-profit group aimed at fostering redevelopment of the business district. It was formed following a devastating fire that destroyed several businesses in the downtown. Project Forward also re-started the city’s beloved Strawberry Festival held in the summer.

Friday’s activities were highlighted by the Martins Ferry Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Christmas parade followed by a tree lighting event and fireworks display.

Friday’s musical acts included Shannon Canterbury, Easy Street and The Move Makers of Pittsburgh wrapped up the evening.

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