A Labor Day Tradition
For the past 73 years, folks in the small town of Paden City have been celebrating Labor Day with the largest parade in the state; this year was no different. Although the parade route basically remains the same, traveling from the South end of town and going North along Rt. 2 to the high school, the four day event has taken a different route.
During the 1950’s and remaining through the mid-80’s, most of the labor day activities which brought folks to town from near and far were held on the school grounds and the athletic field. It was a big event with carnival rides for young and old. There were high wire acts, a canon which shot a human through the air for fifty yards into a net, sky diving, an act where an elderly lady jumped from a tower into a barrel of water, and many other circus type acts.
During the sixties and seventies, the very active athletic association worked extremely hard to bring an event to the community that would be remembered, and remembered it was! The entire celebration was always planned around a season opening football game, with the event ending on Monday night in time for the youngsters to return to school from their summer break.
For sure, it brought crowds of people to town as families visited, and friends and neighbors enjoyed company. Some of the fond memories people recall and speak of include the annual high school band competitions, the antique car shows, the great food at the Paden City band concession stand, the one and only ball roll, the dime pitch, and all the other games the midway offered.
As always and still to this day the largest labor day parade in the state was highly anticipated as it kicked off the final day of the four day celebration. Just as sure as you now see Dave Pethtel, David McKinley, and Charles Clements march in the parade, back then you would always see A.J. Manchin, Governors Cecil Underwood, Jay Rockefeller were frequent visitors along with many other ploitical figures. It was a fun time from Friday through Monday with plenty to do and large crowds. Bingo was one of the big games over on the basketball court. But, as the factories left the community and the population dwindled so did the big event. And as a result it is now a scaled down version of past years.
A while back, the celebration was moved to Main Street with carnival rides and lots of vendors. Music groups were added to the schedule and a nice stage was set up; crowds still attended and there was plenty of excitement. It looked more like the old fireman’s carnival, except a little larger. Today, we are lucky to still have people interested in keeping the tradition alive. While it is not what many came to expect in days gone by, the annual parade is still one of the best the state has to offer.
With limited income and limited help, the Paden City Labor Day committee does a nice job of putting on a community event that caters to people throughout the area. This year there was a great lineup of music at the city park, ranging from old rock and roll, old and new country and good gospel. The headliner, Jimmy Fortune, put on his usual crowd pleasing performance to close the celebration on Monday.
We wish to thank all those involved in doing their part to keep the celebration alive. It takes hard work and year long planning to put together a parade which has lasted for 73 years. Thanks again to the committee, the Paden City foundation and museum, volunteers, and sponsors, especially the Wetzel County Commissioners who continues to provide funding for the event and other throughout the county. It takes a lot of money to provide quality entertainment, so to enjoy music at no cost for the attendees is excellent. Maybe the committee could also consider using some of their county provided funds so some of the disadvantaged kids can enjoy themselves. After all $10 to play on the inflatables is a little steep for some families. We hope Paden City will continue to offer the free of charge event to local residents and area visitors for another 73 years.