WEIRTON - The celebration of the nation's birth got started a little early in Weirton with a performance by the Wheeling Symphony at the Weirton Event Center Thursday night.
Returning to the community for the 23rd year, the symphony, under the direction of Maestro Andre Raphel, performed a variety of patriotic music and selections from popular culture for the gathered crowd.
Wheeling Symphony Executive Director Bruce Wheeler welcomed the crowd, noting the great weather for the evening.
"We always love coming to Weirton," Wheeler said. "It's even more of a pleasure we get to start our tour of West Virginia in Weirton."
The concert was presented by the Weirton Area Community Foundation, the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Weirton and WTOV-TV.
"It's so nice to be here with you on this Independence Day Eve," Raphel said upon taking the stage.
PATRIOTIC PERFORMANCE — The Wheeling Symphony kicked off its tour of West Virginia in Weirton Thursday with its 23rd-annual performance, greeted by hundreds at the Weirton Event Center. The symphony performed a variety of selections, including patriotic tunes and theme songs from popular culture. -- Craig Howell
Raphel said one of the best parts of the symphony's summer tour is getting the chance to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the nation's military, inviting those in the crowd who have been part of the armed forces to stand and be recognized.
Among the patriotic selections Thursday was "Liberty Bell March," "American Salute," "1812 Overture" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
The symphony was joined by guest vocalist Donna Groom, a professional studio musician and singer who also has been the lead female vocalist for Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners. Among her current positions is vocal instructor at Lincoln Park Performing Arts School.
Weirton's Independence Day parade will take place at 10 a.m. today. Band Blast, a battle-of-the-bands competition will be held at 5 p.m. at the Weirton Event Center, followed by the city's fireworks display.
While the symphony played, Groom sang tunes including "Downtown," "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "Nobody Does It Better."
The evening also served as an opportunity to celebrate the life of Dan Wilson, former president of the Weirton Area Community Foundation, who died in 2013.
Close to 90 contributors were recognized for providing "celebratory donations."
Other support was provided by Hancock County Savings Bank; Starvaggi Charities; Weirton Geriatric Center; Wilson, Kozicki and Gwynn; First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union; Linda Heilman; Steel and Wolfe Funeral Home; James Porco; DeeJay's BBQ Ribs; William Galloway, Esq.; Gus's Goodies; Jack Fowler; Arden and Nancy Ford; Riesbeck Food Markets; Wine and Beverage Merchants; James White Construction; and Suzanne Kuhns.
A fireworks display, set off behind Municipal Plaza, capped off the evening.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)