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'We're trying to rally the troops'

Chip Ellis
Sisters Brooklyn Holcomb, 2, and Brianna Abner, 8, take a spin on the merry-go-round during the Upper Kanawha Valley Homecoming Festival on Wednesday evening next to Riverside High School.
See a site plan for the health complex and community center here.CHELYAN, W.Va. -- Fred Joseph hopes this week's Upper Kanawha Valley Homecoming Festival will renew excitement in eastern Kanawha County communities from Marmet and Chesapeake to East Bank and beyond."We're trying to invigorate the population of the area," said Joseph, one of the organizers of the festival."There's been nothing going on up here for a long time. We're trying to rally the troops, so to speak."The festival, which runs through Saturday on a site next to Riverside High School, kicked off Wednesday afternoon with a flag-raising ceremony. The event features live music, vendors, carnival rides and other attractions.Hours are 3 to 10 p.m. through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, said Chesapeake Mayor Damron Bradshaw.He said admission to the festival and music acts is free, but visitors will have to pay for food, carnival rides and other events.Joseph said the festival is not designed as a fundraising event, but organizers hope the festival will drum up support for a multimillion-dollar health complex and community center local leaders hope to build."We have land allotted to us beside Riverside High School," Bradshaw said. "Our thought long-range is to build a sports and recreation complex."
The facility, from the hand of the same designer who came up with the plans for the South Charleston Community Center, would include an indoor basketball court, meeting rooms, an indoor pool and outside tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, picnic areas and a marina on the banks of the Kanawha River.Bradshaw said local officials hope to partner with area hospitals and clinics to use the facility also for rehabilitation and other medical services.Joseph said local officials hope to line up grant money and private donations to pay for the facility. Both Joseph and Bradshaw said any money left over after paying off the costs of the homecoming festival will be put toward building the complex.Drawings and artist's renderings of the facility will be on view during the festival, Joseph said.Musical entertainment for the festival includes local bluegrass band the Grass Stains at 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by singing Walmart cashier Kayla Stone -- immortalized on YouTube -- at 8:30 p.m.Friday entertainment begins with Highway One at 5 p.m. and country singer Tammie Davis at 8 p.m. Saturday's acts are locals Area 51 at 5 p.m., followed by country singer Greg Bates at 8 p.m.
For information, call 304-594-5991 or 304-543-7495.Reach Rusty Marks at or 304-348-1215.  
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