CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Clowns, live music, archery lessons, woodworking and more than 2,000 ice cream cones -- Charleston's West Side knows how to celebrate its community in style.
The West Side's 8th-annual Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social, part of Charleston's FestivALL celebrations, featured free ice cream courtesy of United Dairy, the largest dairy producer in the state, and one of the businesses that calls the West Side its home.
Brenda Ashworth, who organized the event, said it started eight years ago with the community's Main Street program to promote growth on the West Side. West Side Main Street partnered with FestivALL, which now runs the event.
"It started with West Side Main Street, for economic revitalization of the West Side," Ashworth said. "The first year, we might have had about 500 ice cream cones, but it has definitely grown since then."
The event was held at Stonewall Jackson Middle School, and area vendors and groups, including the West Side farmers' market, the West Virginia Bow Hunters Association and the Fountain Hobby Center participated in the celebration.
United Dairy donated 25-gallon tubs of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and sugar-free vanilla ice cream for the day, as well as orange sherbet for a nondairy option.
There was music from the Charleston Metro Band, Coal Train, the Charleston Mountain Mission Youth Choir and the Ritch Collins Three-O. Children got their faces painted, practiced archery and enjoyed a day meant to highlight the vitality of Charleston's West Side.
"We tend to have a negative perception of the West Side, and that's really all that is -- a perception," said Stephanie Johnson, director of West Side Main Street. "Holding events like this helps us combat that perception and lets people know that we do have really great businesses and great opportunities on the West Side."
The West Side Main Street program is part of a national model for community revitalization, and Johnson said the group works closely with the East End Main Street program to foster community growth. WSMS has been planning for this year's ice cream social since January, and it is only one of the initiatives WSMS uses to promote its neighborhoods.
"The mission of our organization is to ensure the existing businesses on the West Side have the resources they need to thrive, as well as to recruit new businesses to the area," Johnson said.