EAST LIVERPOOL - An overcast morning Thursday could not dampen the pride felt by community leaders as they helped kick off the 47th annual Tri-State Pottery Festival.
Opening ceremonies, held on the steps of the Museum of Ceramics, began with a moment of national pride with Tracy Stovall singing the National Anthem and Mayor Jim Swoger leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Museum of Ceramics Curator Sarah Vodrey was next to speak, sharing a few thoughts on East Liverpool's pottery heritage and the importance of the annual Pottery Festival. Vodrey invited audience members to reflect on their pottery heritage by asking for a show hands of those who are employed by the pottery or have family members who currently work in or have previously worked in the pottery industry. And a majority of hands from those in attendance rose were raised.
East Liverpool Mayor Jim Swoger (right) presented this year’s Pottery Festival Queen Kaylee Coble (left) with her tiara, but not before asking her for a little kiss on the cheek. Swoger said that he is proud of the Pottery Festival tradition and is happy to see the festival grow in size in the last five years. (Photo by Devin Bezeredi)
"All of us in this area who have connections to the pottery industry can be proud of that, and even those of you who didn't have occasion to raise your hand this is your history too," said Vodrey. "You are standing at the epicenter of pottery production in the United States - this is the pottery capital of the country."
Vodrey noted that East Liverpool has produced more pottery and had more operating potteries than anywhere else in the country. She said it is the mission of the museum to celebrate and preserve the history of the pottery industry in the East Liverpool.
She invited all pottery festival attendees to the Museum of Ceramics and discover the pottery industry's rich history.
A children's scavenger hunt comes free with the price of admission during the festival. Admission to the museum's two floors of exhibits during the festival is only $2 and extended hours during the festival - 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m - makes it easier than ever to explore what the Museum has to offer, Vodrey said.
Paula Vaughn, master of ceremonies and president of the Pottery Festival Committee, introduced this year's Queen and Court.
Queen Kaylee Coble was escorted Thursday by Jeremy Fickle. Her court includes Maid of Honor Robbie Harris-Vos, escorted by Jeffrey Coble. Princess Taylor Troupe, escorted by Hunter Crawford; Princess Dawn Stewart, escorted by Cole Hamilton; and Princess Konner Shaugnessy, escorted by David Mouse.
Vaughn thanked a long list of local businesses which pitched in to make the Pottery Festival possible.
The mayor performed the crowning ceremony and told Coble he was "very proud" of her achievement and the community for continuing the Pottery Festival tradition
"It's 47 years of our Pottery Festival and I've notice that in the last five years it has improved," said Swoger. "I'm proud to be a part of this."
Swoger noted that the crown, however, "comes at a price"-a customary peck on the cheek from the queen. Coble seemed happy to oblige and with that became the 47th Queen of the Tri-State Area Pottery Festival.
Vaughn said she had the pleasure of spending the last few days with the queen and her court and learned of their depth of character and community pride.
"They not only represent their schools very well, but they represent their communities very well and I'm proud of each one of them," said Vaughn.
Vaughn took the opportunity to voice her own sense of pride at being an East Liverpool native and the daughter of a pottery industry worker. She said she was proud to be involved in her community as a member of the Beacon Association and the Pottery Festival Committee.
"One thing my parents always taught me is be proud of who you are and where you come from, and I can honestly say I am proud of the community where I was born and raised and will hopefully raise my children," said Vaughn.
As president of the festival committee, Vaughn said her goal was to continue the annual fireworks display. She happily announced fireworks would again be held scheduled 10 p.m. Saturday.
Vaughn also introduced Patrick O'Hara who, representing himself and brothers Tim and Terry of the W.C. Bunting Co., will act as Grand Marshall of the Saturday's Pottery Festival parade. She commended O'Hara and his brothers for their contributions to the local pottery industry and the community.