Photos by Robert A. DeFrankJessica Benson of Columbus, left, watches as a clown makes balloon animals for a fellow redhead at the YWCAs first redhead festival Saturday.
WHEELING A crop of carrot-tops crowded the second floor of the YWCA in Wheeling on Saturday for the first Ohio Valley Redhead Festival.
Ron Scott Jr., cultural diversity and community director, said there was some excitement for the event. Unfortunately, though, several vendors were unable to attend as planned.
This is the first one of its kind around here, Scott said. I like to showcase and highlight different demographics and cultural groups that I feel arent getting really enough recognition or any shine, and the redhead community I found out, they have these festivals all over the country.
Scott said the closest was in Dunbar, West Virginia.
Scott said one goal is to raise awareness of skin cancer, which fair-skinned redheads are prone to. He said all donations given at the festival will go to anti-bullying programs to target bullying directed at redheaded children and adolescents.
Scott said Ohio Valley Dermatology set up a table. Scott also attempted to secure anesthesiologists to talk about the effects of pain medication on redheads. According to a study from the Cleveland Clinic, redheads are more resistant to general and local anesthesia.
They couldnt make it, unfortunately, but they had sent some information. The American Cancer Society sent some information as well, he said.
However, attendance of the communitys redheads was strong with close to 80 people arriving throughout the day.
Its been really amazing so far. Ive learned so much about the redhead community just by meeting people and organizing this event, he said.
There are some differences genetically, but in essence theyre the same person, and that difference has to be looked at as a uniqueness instead of something that you shy away from. Its just another cool thing about a group of people instead of something that keeps it separate.
Many redheaded mothers brought their children to the celebration, including Becky Lanham of Beech Bottom.
I heard about the event. I actually work for the Y and thought my kids would enjoy it, she said. Theyre talking about genetics and how we get some of our traits from our parents, our grandparents. This is the first time Ive ever heard of a redhead festival, but there are signs posted all over Wheeling.
We drove in from Columbus for it, Jessica Benson said, adding that she and her family were visiting a local relative. She brought a group of her redheaded children along.
We have two little redheads and Im a redhead myself, so when we saw what was going on we were really excited, Valerie Piko of Wheeling said. I always felt really special being a redhead, and when we found out I was expecting, we really didnt care what the genders were, we just really wanted a redhead and we ended up with two.
Entertainment included a clown and music. Libby Strong of SMART Centre Market also gave a scientific presentation on inherited traits and protection from ultraviolet light. She said it was possible to be sunburned even during cloudy weather.
There are traits that you inherit from your parents, and also some traits that also come about from different environmental factors, she said. Whether you can roll your tongue and whether you have a hitchhikers thumb red hairs kind of a similar sort of thing.
Ive worked with the YWCA on a couple of projects, and I think everything they do here is wonderful, Erika Donaghy of Wheeling said.
The YWCA also gave awards for the most freckles and to the redheads who traveled farthest.
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Redheads Converge in Wheeling for Festival of Their Own - Wheeling Intelligencer