PARKERSBURG - Despite a rainy and windy start and gray skies through much the day, Park Day 2012 was still able to draw over 200 people to downtown Parkersburg for a variety of activities and programs.
Park Day is a car-free community festival promoting alternative modes of transportation, such as biking and walking, and encouraging residents to reconnect with and reimagine their communities, not as they were, but what they can become in the future, according to organizers.
It was sponsored by the Parkersburg Bicycle Advisory Board, established in 2010 by city council and charged with reviewing, recommending and implementing bicycle policies in Parkersburg. Saturday's event was centered around Bicentennial Park at Third and Market streets, although activities were also held at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Parkersburg Art Center, the Actors Guild of Parkersburg and others.
Photo by Wayne Towner
James Auvil, owner of CJ’s Italian Kitchen in Parkersburg, gives a cooking demonstration at the Downtown Farmers’ Market on Saturday during Park Day 2012.
Several downtown establishments also participated in one of the more popular programs on Saturday, a food tour where participants could sample items at each location. Event organizer Kim Coram said three of the tours were held with 20 openings in each and every spot was filled.
Trudy Dowler, of Parkersburg, really liked Park Day, despite the poor weather. One of the first things she did was go on the food tour, which she really enjoyed.
"I think it's neat," she said of the event.
The Parkersburg Farmers' Market, which is normally open on Tuesdays and Fridays, was also open Saturday for the Park Day event. James Auvil, owner of CJ's Italian Kitchen, was giving a cooking demonstration at the market on Saturday afternoon.
"We just decided last night to do mushroom soup because of the weather," he said. "We thought it would be appealing to everybody down here."
He thought the Park Day program was a great idea, especially in connection with the farmers' market. He would like to see it expand and grow in the future.
"I love the farmers' market as well. I'm a cook, so I love the produce and the baked goods that people bring down. It's my kind of thing because I'm a foodie," he said.
While James Auvil was cooking and giving out free samples, his brother, Parkersburg attorney Walt Auvil, was pursuing one of his own interests at Park Day - cycling - as he took the bicycle tour offered as one of the Park Day activities.
"It's really nice, I'm sorry the weather kind of dampened attendance," he said Saturday afternoon, adding he would like to see it continue in the future. "It's awesome for the area."
Auvil has an interest in cycling and said he was pleased with the progress being made on the bicycle trail in Parkersburg, from downtown to the William P.A. Nicely Bridge on East Street.
"I will definitely be using that, I didn't know it existed," he said.
Auvil said increasing the availability of cycling features can have a healthy effect on the community and also serves economic development efforts.
"When you see the trails that have been developed in other areas, you see businesses around them grow and real estate values go up, so that's a good thing," he said.
Josh Westfall, of Marietta, was selling produce at the farmers' market for Hensler's Town and Country Market. He has been in Parkersburg through the summer for the twice-weekly market and said it was a positive year overall, though down a little bit compared to the past two years.
He thought events like Saturday's Park Day are positive for the community.
"Even with the rain, there's still people down here," he said.
Looking at Saturday's event, Coram said she felt it was successful despite the poor weather.
"It's really inspirational to see the community, even in the rain, hang out here and play," she said.
While the first two Park Days were held a year apart, Coram said she would like to see the event become a monthly activity, working to draw people to the downtown area on a regular basis.