Belpre Homecoming kicks off

BELPRE – Although the rain fell pretty heavily leading up to the start of the 82nd annual Belpre Homecoming at Civitan Park Thursday, that’s not why city schools Superintendent Tony Dunn was soaking wet.

As he has since arriving in the district three years ago, Dunn was manning the dilly dunker for Belpre Masonic Lodge #609. For $1, folks could get three baseballs to chuck in an effort to douse the superintendent.

But since the proceeds go to a scholarship fund for Belpre and Warren students, Dunn didn’t mind.

“This is for a great cause,” he said. “The Homecoming is a great thing in Belpre, and the Masonic lodge does a lot of good things.”

Dunn had gone under several times before the festival officially got started with a welcome from Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce President Susie Casto and the ceremonial lighting of a torch by Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz and his Marietta and Parkersburg counterparts, Joe Matthews and Bob Newell. It’s a tradition they’ll repeat in the weeks ahead at the Parkersburg Homecoming and Ohio River Sternwheel festivals.

“This is the fun part of the job,” Lorentz said. “You’re not sitting behind a desk, trying to fix streets. … It’s just a good time to relax and enjoy everyone around you.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of hard work involved, for volunteers and city employees alike.

“The boys at the street department have just worked themselves to death to get the park ready,” Lorentz said.

Afternoon rain didn’t deter Thursday night’s crowd, Casto said, noting the addition of a headlining musical act – Eagles tribute act Hotel California – may have helped.

“It’s a good attendance, increased attendance for the first night,” she said as she looked at the hundreds of people gathered around the gazebo and walking through the vendor tents and carnival. “Rain cleared, and people came out.”

The precipitation didn’t give Belpre resident Sharon Elliott, her brother Steve Hallett of Marietta and his fiancee Diana West of Parkersburg any second thoughts about coming out.

“Come for the music and the food, plus I love watching Little Miss and Mister pageants,” Hallett said.

Brian Ogden of Vincent was there with his daughter, 4-year-old Kyleise Britton. He said the festival means “low-key, good times with family. We usually watch the pageant and the music.”

Kyleise also enjoys the rides and games at the carnival, Ogden said.

Award winners in the Little Miss and Mister pageants were:

* Little Miss – Alexa Wilson.

* First runner-up – Shyanna Miller.

* Second runner-up, Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic – Lilly Pettit.

* Little Mister – Chase Maze.

* Little Mister Photogenic – Haiden Wilcoxen.

* Fan Favorite – Nevaeh Ward.

Homecoming continues today with Youth Night, the Junior Miss Belpre Pageant and musical performances by Brooks and Ivey, High Schools That Rock and Tristen Smith, who has opened for country artists like Hank Williams Jr., Brooks and Dunn and The Charlie Daniels Band.

The festivities wrap up Saturday, with the Buddy Bass Fishing Tournament, Kids Fishing Derby, Belpre Mile Run and Walk and Homecoming parade in the morning and the Miss Teen and Miss Belpre pageants in the evening. Jody Haught and Zach Paxson are the featured performers Saturday night on the Suddenlink main stage.