If you have not been to the Mercer Street environs in Princeton, W.Va. in recent years, or have never been, I heartily recommend a visit to this small but mighty Mercer County neighborhood. What the neighborhood’s urban renewalists—Lori McKinney, Robert Blankenship, and a host of local, city, and wise grant-funding groups—have wrought in the last ten years in what has been christened ‘the Grassroots District’ is nothing short of remarkable. It is a living, growing example of the importance of supporting a ‘creative economy’ to revitalize moribund, troubled districts in a city via ‘Craft, Culture and Commerce’ (as the district’s backers put it).
This Saturday, May 28, would be a good time to experience that vibrancy when the annual All Together Arts Week, a celebration of the arts in Mercer County, wraps up with a day of activities, including what has to be West Virginia’s trippiest and most Technicolor of parades.
They had dreamed of an elephant for the parade that capped off All Together Arts Week in Mercer County, West Virginia. But where do you get an elephant?
The day begins at 11 a.m. with sidewalk chalk, face painting, costuming and other festivities. At 12:30 p.m., parade-goers will gather at the sidewalk in front of the New Farmer’s Market site (next to Oasis Market Gas Station, 702 Mercer St.) to begin marching at 1 p.m. down Mercer Street. Costumes, puppets, glitter, and non-motorized floats are encouraged. All are welcome to join the parade. The only restriction is no motorized vehicles. MORE DETAILS HERE.
The Coming of Ella the Elephant
Let us now speak of elephants. One excellent feature of this parade is the appearance of the majestic Ella the Elephant. It so happens I have insights—and receipts—into Ella’s birth, development, and growth into maturity as one of West Virginia’s most significant, handmade large mammals.
About a decade ago, I spent several years hanging out with the crew behind the renaissance along Mercer Street and beyond, in its far grubbier, bedraggled, economically depressed days. (Which is why I say to you with first-hand knowledge that Princeton’s Grassroots District should be included as a younger sister or brother when speaking of West Virginia’s coolest creative communities—from Fayetteville to Lewisburg, from Huntington’s revitalized downtown to the cool streets of Shepherdstown.)
And so it happened I was there to record the birth of Ella and her first elephantine steps into the world.
PART 1: Where Do You Get An Elephant?
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They had dreamed of an elephant for the parade that capped off All Together Arts Week in Mercer County. But where do you get an elephant? A group of artists and elephant enablers decided they must do what they had to do: manifest an elephant all by themselves. This special two-part video report takes to the street and elephant works of The Room Upstairs in Princeton, West Virginia, to investigate how an elephant came to walk a street in West Virginia one fine sunny Spring day in 2011.
PART 2: An Elephant Walks in West Virginia
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It is not often elephants wander about in West Virginia. The people behind the parade that concluded the All Together Arts Week in Mercer County on April 3, 2011, had always dearly desired an elephant for the event. Then they manifested one, not without a whole lot of work. Elephants, it must be remembered, are rather on the chunky side. This was a very special elephant, and this is how she first stepped out into the world, the concluding video in a special two-part WestVirginiaVille.com video report from our Large Animal Bureau.
PS: Speaking of manifestations, the branding seen in these videos—the ‘WVTV’ broadcast arm of WestVirginiaVille was a 2011 creation. Perhaps we will revive it as our own branded channel someday!
What’s Up in the June 2022 Issue of West VirginiaVille
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EDITORS/NOTE/June2022: The Persistence of Meaning: I used to think once you got the words right they could change the world. I don’t believe that nearly as much as I used to. Yet, still, we persist in the face of oligarchs, wannabe autocrats and media lapdogs who want to tan men’s testicles.
‘HERO OF THE OPEN HEART’: A WV native’s global humanitarian life showcased in documentary: When “The Wake Up Call” make its West Virginia debut June 23, 2022 in the state’s capital city, the documentary will train a spotlight on a remarkable global humanitarian life which ranged far beyond the Appalachian hills where Dave Evans was born.
UKRAINE: How the Russian army helped to nationalize my country: A Ukrainian exchange student who studied in Charleston WV, reflects upon the devastation he finds all around him and his family in Mariupol after the Russian invasion of his homeland
VIDEO: A first-hand story about an elephant’s birth in West Virginia: They dreamed of an elephant for the parade capping off All Together Arts Week in southern West Virginia. But where do you get an elephant? A group of artists and elephant enablers decided they must do what they had to do: manifest one.
ONE/SONG: “It Ain’t More Damn Guns” by Chris Haddox: Chris Haddox’s Muses (they seem pretty pissed off and maybe you know the feeling) quick-produced the song “It Ain’t More Damn Guns,” reacting to the latest American gun catastrophe in Uvalde, Texas.
POETICS: “Appalachian Marie Kondo” by Crystal Good: I live in the disorder of a missing mother. / I sit in the middle of my mess. / I hear my mother’s voice: / You don’t need this. / This doesn’t fit. / When was the last time you used this? …
PICTURE/SHOW: A Taste for Solitude & Forests: Have I cared enough about the water? Have I left the eagle to soar in freedom? Have I done everything I could to earn my grandchild’s fondness?’
EVENT: Native Russian classical guitarist strums up a benefit for Ukraine: A Russian classical guitarist and newly christened American citizen living in West Virginia hosts a June 1 musical benefit for Ukraine, as he works passionately to counter an invasion he abhors.
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