POINT PLEASANT — Two days, 50 bicycles, snakes, and hundreds of kids.
Put them all together and you have the Mason County Outdoor Youth Expo, held last week at the county board of education complex.
Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students from Ashton, Leon, Roosevelt, Beale, New Haven elementary schools, and Point Pleasant Intermediate were afforded the opportunity to attend in four different half-day sessions. The event has been held since 2000, with the exception of the last two years due to COVID-19, and its mission is to promote awareness of positive, safe, and drug-free recreational activities for students and their families.
Presentations were made by Gabe Roush on bicycle safety, as well as Roy Moose and Jim Fregonara on “Snakes Alive.”
Roush told the students to remember their ABC’s while observing bike safety. The letters stand for: A – air pressure in tires; B – brakes that should be in good working order; and, C – a chain that is sturdy, oiled and rust-free. He also emphasized the importance of the proper size bicycle, wearing protective gear like a helmet, and wearing close-toed shoes.
The “Snakes Alive” presentation is always a popular one with the children, as they are shown a variety of live snakes indigenous to West Virginia. The students were told snakes play an important role in the state, and it is against the law to kill one because they are endangered. Those students brave enough were allowed to hold both tiny and large snakes.
Over 50 bicycles were given away over the two days to lucky ticket holders. Other prizes were also given to help children enjoy the outdoors, like sleeping bags, fishing rods, and various sport balls.
The students were then released to visit booths and activities. They enjoyed giveaways like books, snacks, book bags, stress balls, and cow bells. Activities included face painting, making first aid kits, archery, playing musical instruments, and a petting zoo.
Dr. Keith Burdette, superintendent of schools, opened the sessions, with Jack Cullen, former superintendent, serving as emcee. Cullen asked the students to thank those who hosted displays and activities. He praised the corporate sponsor, Pleasant Valley Hospital, which he said has been with the expo since the beginning.
Expo committee members include Jack Cullen, Joann Cullen, Leigh Ann Shepard, Lorrie Wright, Paul Nichols, Randy Searls, Rodney Wallbrown, Tracy Call, Rachel Ayers, Amy Mullins, Howie Mullins, Josh Russell, Shayla Blackshire, and Ed Lowe.
Those hosting display booths and other features were Aetna Better Health, Andrea’s Army, Branches Domestic Violence Shelter, DARE Program, ICL, Mason County Animal Shelter, Mason County Bus Drivers, Mason County CEOS, Mason County Convention and Visitor Bureau, Mason County EMS, Mason County Health Department, Mason County SADD – Wahama, Mason County Schools Curriculum Department, Mason County Schools Food Service, Mason County Solid Waste Authority, Mason County Teen Community Leaders, Mason County Career Center FFA,
Ohio Valley Bank, Pleasant Valley Hospital, Pleasant Valley Hospital Wellness Center, Point Pleasant Bike Trail, Point Pleasant High School Marching Band, PPJSHS Cheerleaders, Snakes of WV U.S. Forest Service Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, Thomas Do It Center, UniCare Health Plan of WV, U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit, Western Conservation District – Soil Conservation, West Virginia Department of Agriculture Animal Health Division, WV National Guard, WV State Police, WVDNR Operations Center/Wildlife Diversity Program, and WVU Extension Mason and Wayne counties.
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Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at [email protected]