Children enjoy storybook experience in downtown Marietta

Photo by Michael Kelly Children listen as Alice in Wonderland, also known as Kristen Gregory of the Reno branch of Peoples Bank, reads a story during First Fridays events in downtown Marietta.

MARIETTA — Under the tents in front of The Armory on Front Street, children sat in various stages of attention as adults turned pages and read with expressive faces and gestures books that included “Goodnight Baseball,” “Too Much Glue,” “Please, May We Keep Him?” and “Ten Pigs — An Epic Bath Adventure.”

Children who went through three of the four reading sessions got a book, stickers and were entered in a drawing for toys and games.

Kiwanis Club president Marcia Stewart stood by one of the tents, looking at the children, the readers and crowds strolling up and down Front Street. It was First Fridays, and the theme, developed by the club, was Once Upon a Time.

“Our club is all about children,” she said. “The purpose of First Fridays is to get people downtown, and our concern is the kids.”

Around the corner on the Second Street face of Peoples Bank, Kristen Gregory from the bank’s Reno branch read to a group of children seated on cushions. She was decked out in a blue and black gown, harlequin stockings and a long white wig festooned with flowers, in character as Alice in Wonderland.

Photo by Michael Kelly Adilynn Greenup, 7, accepts a made-on-the-spot flower tiara from Lindsay Biehl of Wildroot Flowers in front of Peoples Bank during First Fridays. The theme for the event was Once Upon a Time.

“At first I thought about Cinderella, but then I thought, ‘It’s got to be Alice,'” Gregory said.

Danielle Allphin, the Reno branch manager, said the set-up took about a month of planning.

“We just wanted to make it a whimsical evening,” she said.

At American Flags & Poles, the sidewalk was crowded with activities as a music box player churned out “Amazing Grace” and other tunes, occasionally with the children allowed to turn the crank, and volunteers from the Strecker Cancer Center promoted the ice cream social coming up at the Washington County Fairgrounds from 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 12.

“It’s to raise money for the patient emergency funds,” said Courtney Beymer, a social worker at the center in Belpre, explaining that the fund helps patients pay for transportation, drugs and other expenses they can’t manage.

Photo by Michael Kelly Connor Sweeney, 15 months, carries a stuffed toy away from Morgan Decicco of Marietta Main Street while his mother, Lindsey Sweeney, and sister, Noelle, 3, listen to Louise Holmes read the children’s book she authored, “Please, may we keep him?,” a tale of adopting a dog.

Inside, a party of sorts was going on to say good-bye to the family that has run the Marietta Salvation Army operation for four years. Friends had signed a memory book, store co-owner Sylvi Caporale said, to encourage captains Aaron and Wanessa Moore and their children to remember Marietta.

The Moores have been in Marietta four years and are moving to Lancaster, Aaron Moore said, and they are leaving with regrets.

“It’s been great. It was amazing how many people we met here just walking down Front Street,” he said.

Their children, Truett, 9, and Charisma, 8, started school here in the Oak Grove Christian School, and it’s the only school they’ve attended.

“This is the place our kids will always call home,” he said.

Photo by Michael Kelly Glen Wolfe and Mary Jo Hutchinson, dressed as the king and the fairy godmother from Cinderella, walk down Front Street toward the Green Acres of Marietta store, where they were planning on spending the evening as fairy tale characters. First Fridays in downtown Marietta had a storybook theme, Once Upon a Time, offering reading and entertainment for children.

Back at the reading pavilion, 8-year-old Evan Waller sat on the edge of a group listening to a reader while eating one of the snacks provided by Kiwanis.

“I like popcorn,” she said, “and I love reading. When mom says to go to bed, I get her to read to me some more.”

Next to her, Max Biehl, 8, said, “Yeah, when my siblings, I’ve got like six of them, finish their half-hour reading, I just keep going.”

The next First Fridays event will be Sept. 7, with Back to School Bash as its theme and Washington State Community College as the sponsor.

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