Since WaterFire Sharon PA blazed its trail through downtown Sharon, more than 160 youth from the Keystone Community Support Program have played a part in making it happen. The volunteers were introduced to the event through their coordinator, Jeff James.
James, 59, of Hermitage, PA has lead the program for nearly 17 years, and has been employed at Keystone Adolescent Center for 18 years. The center works with all court-adjudicated youth in Mercer County ages 11-18.
James said he heard about WaterFire and hoped his clients could get involved and help out. They frequently help with many projects throughout the county and found particular interest in this as most of the teens taking part in WaterFire are from the Shenango Valley. Typically 8 or 9 students participate in all three of the WaterFire events through the summer.
Whether stacking wood needed for the fires to burn brightly, or sending the logs down the chute to the boats, the students are participating in a meaningful way. James said they also have participated in building braziers and other “work days” held throughout the year.
From the beginning, James said he was encouraged by the way people from the area really stepped up to bring WaterFire to life. “I was impressed with the amount of organization, planning, and the number of folks who volunteer in this community,” said James. “It was very gratifying to see it all come together that night when the fires were first lit.”
James decided to get both himself and keystone involved for two reasons: to help out with a worthwhile festival, and to work with the clients and have them share the enriching experience. There’s a lot to like about WaterFire and James said he particularly enjoys the camaraderie of the volunteers, the music, food and atmosphere as the boats glide down the river to light the braziers.
No matter how you get involved, James claims anyone who volunteers will come away with a good feeling. This and seeing their efforts pay off in a successful event were his reasons for getting the youth involved.
“WaterFire has helped highlight our community in a positive way. It has brought about a financial benefit to the area,” said James.
Experience all the activities and fun first hand and watching the community come together are a few important reasons James thinks people should be sure to check out WaterFire, right in downtown Sharon.
“WaterFire Sharon” was introduced during the summer of 2013 in downtown Sharon, with more than 50 braziers placed in the Shenango River and fired with cedar and pine. After a full day of an arts and music festival, the evening activities commence with a ceremonial lighting of the braziers which are tended to and remain burning until midnight. The music festival continues throughout the evening by featuring live entertainment on an indoor stage and several outdoor stages.
“Last year’s ‘WaterFire Sharon’ events drew approximately 60,000 visitors into downtown Sharon” said WaterFire’s Board Chairman, Karen Winner Sed. “In addition to the exposure to such a world class artistic event, there has been economic impact far beyond Sharon. We’re hearing stories of increased business done in shopping, restaurants and hotels during WaterFire weekends throughout the region for the past three years. We know that there is a positive residual effect as well. Visitors return year round to the area, claiming their return is due to having such a positive experience while here for WaterFire. We are always looking for more volunteers and encourage everyone to participate.”
As part of the Community Foundation, all financial contributions to “WaterFire Sharon” are tax deductible. For more information on how to financially support “WaterFire Sharon” or to learn more about the many, and varied Volunteer Opportunities, please contact Karen Anderson, Land Operations Manager of WaterFire, at 724-981-5882 x111.