FOLLANSBEE — As he opened the Follansbee Community Days dinner on Wednesday, Mayor David Velegol Jr. noted that the festival, which returns next weekend, means a lot to a lot of people.
Some think of its parade, free nighttime entertainment or fantastic fireworks display, he said, while others see it as an opportunity for family and friends to get together.
Velegol noted that he included a moment to honor his fellow citizens and Follansbee natives for their accomplishments and service to others, which was the purpose of the dinner.
The guest speaker was Raymond “Boom-boom” Mancini, a former lightweight boxing champion, who spoke about growing up in an ethnically diverse community in Youngstown and encouraged everyone to dream big while striving for good character.
Were honored on Wednesday:
ö Judy Raveaux, who retired earlier this year as chief executive of CHANGE Inc., ending a 39-year association with the community action agency, which provides healthcare, housing and other forms of assistance to residents in need.
Under Raveaux’s leadership, the agency’s budget grew from $50,000 to more than $17 million, and its services were expanded across the northern panhandle and Jefferson County.
Velegol noted that CHANGE Inc. provides free lunches to children at Follansbee Park and other local parks through a federal grant it received and offers medical and pharmaceutical services to those who are uninsured or underinsured. .
He said that in addition to serving on the boards of the West Virginia Community Action Partnership and the West Virginia Primary Care Association, she was the first female president of the Weirton Heights Rotary Club.
Raveaux received the Anthony Paesano Making a Difference Award, named after the former mayor of Follansbee, president of the chamber of commerce and educator who created it.
ö Raymond Prantil, a graduate of St. Anthony’s High School, where he was an all-conference appointee in football, basketball, and baseball, and West Liberty University, where he served as the team’s first baseman school national championship baseball in 1964.
He was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame for being an all-conference twice and an honorable mention all-American twice and set school records that stood for more than 30 years.
Prantil went on to coach at Dillonvale, Wheeling Central Catholic, and Penn Hills High Schools, serving at the latter school as a senior assistant and defensive coordinator for four consecutive championship teams.
He also owned an accounting business.
Prantil received the Lou Holtz Silver Spoon Award, named after the very famous college football coach and sports commentator. Holtz said that while his family was poor, he felt like he was born with a silver spoon because he learned, as a native of Follansbee, a strong work ethic and high moral principles.
– Mary Santilli-Kimberland, who organized the Follansbee Youth Basketball League for eight years, raising funds to ensure all children could participate and growing her participation to over 300 players.
She has dedicated her time to efforts such as a children’s Halloween event at Follansbee Park, church distribution of Thanksgiving dinners to those in need, and the Follansbee Community Days Committee, which she served for 10 years.
She also coached women’s basketball for five years and baseball for four years while continuing her education, recently earning a master’s degree in special education.
– James Rosso, chairman of Waldorf Distributing and the third generation of the Rosso family to oversee the company, which distributes Anheuser-Busch and other beverages.
Velegol noted that Waldorf was started 83 years ago in Follansbee by Rosso’s grandfather, Jimmy, an Italian immigrant; and was pursued by his late father, Frank, with whom Rosso worked closely.
He added that Rosso and his wife, Mary Margaret, have been active in the community through local schools and St. John’s Catholic Church, and he has arranged for Budweiser Clydesdale horses to appear at Community Days in 2006 and 2007.
Santilli-Kimberland and Rosso received the Thank You for Shining awards. Velegol said the awards were inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s comment that “The sun doesn’t always shine in West Virginia, but people always do.”
– Gabriel Arlia, who came to the United States from Italy in 1936 and served from 1946 to 1949 in the Marine Corps and for 28 years in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring as a master sergeant ‘artillery.
Velegol noted that Arlia has expressed pride in his country and his military service through his role as unit commander of the Tri-State Young Marines for more than 20 years and the American Legion Post 10 Honor Guard.
“Gabe has a total of 56 years giving back to the community,” said Velegol, who presented him with the Major Benjamin Follansbee award.
The award is named after the late Major Benjamin Follansbee, an Army Green Beret, Army Ranger and Commander of Special Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the son of Dr. William Follansbee, a descendant of the Follansbee brothers who operated the steelworks from which the town developed.
Velegol said the award carries words, service, integrity, humility and courage, and Arlia embodies these qualities.
He added that Arlia will serve as grand marshal for the Follansbee Community Days Parade, which will be held at 1 p.m. on July 9 on Main Street (State Highway 2).
Velegol also spoke of the volunteer efforts of the late Anthony “Mannish” Rotellini, who stepped in to organize Community Days Howard “Hi” Verner Car and Motorcycle Show after Verner’s death.
It was among the many car shows organized by Rotellini, with the help of others, to raise funds for various charities, including children’s hospitals supported by the Osiris Sanctuary, of which he was a member.
Community Days Committee member Don Layburn said the event’s Best of Show award will be named in honor of Rotellini.
Hosted by Lyle’s Auto Sales, the show will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 10, with registration beginning at 10 a.m. Food will be sold and proceeds from the event will go to help people with childhood diabetes.
The three-day festival kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday in the Follansbee Community House parking lot near Follansbee Park, where you’ll find an assortment of food, crafts and other vendors through Sunday evening.
There will be inflatable attractions for children.
Programming includes Twice as Nice and the Jersey Beach Boys’ tribute to the Four Seasons, The Beach Boys and more, Fridays from 6:30 p.m.; The Fantasies and Pittsburgh ’50s greats The Skyliners Saturday starting at 6 p.m.; and oldies rock and roll group The Fabulous Gemtones, British Legends Tribute, a Canadian group that performs songs by the BeeGees, Elton John and others, July 10 from 6 p.m.
The last night will end with a fireworks display around 11 p.m.
The festival is co-chaired by Tom Ludewig and Nina Meca.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])