Bahai News - Mood present at festivals and fund-raisers seen as 'subdued' Sunday, September 16, 2001

Mood present at festivals and fund-raisers seen as 'subdued'
Crowds at events glad for chance at change of pace

The Roanoke Symphony Polo Cup, the Fincastle Festival, the Fries Festival by the River and the Wilderness Trail Festival carried on.


Release, diversion and outlet were words people used Saturday as they gathered at events just days removed from terrorist strikes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and a jet crash in western Pennsylvania.

Normal, though, wasn't part of the vernacular.

"Well, I don't know that it will ever get back to normal again," said Doris Ripley, spending her Saturday at the Roanoke Symphony Polo Cup.

"Well, I don't know that it will ever get back to normal again," said Doris Ripley, spending her Saturday at the Roanoke Symphony Polo Cup.

"I think if we just abandon this type of thing, then they're winning," said Ripley, a Norfolk Southern retiree. "And we can't allow that."

American flags flapped from arts, crafts and food booths at the Fincastle Festival, a Botetourt County staple for 33 years. There was laughter and camaraderie, but Norce and Herman Lowe, festivalgoers for the past 10 years, said the event's tone wasn't quite the same.

"If I had to use a word, it would be 'subdued,'" said Norce Lowe, of Salem, secretary to a Roanoke circuit judge. She and her husband said it was good to try to escape the reality and the constant news accounts, if only for a while.

"It's a release," said Herman Lowe, a Virginia Department of Transportation retiree.

Tommy Firebaugh of Roanoke and his wife, Kathy, displayed his photos and her decorative painting to potential customers at their booth.

"If we didn't have this, we'd go crazy," Tommy Firebaugh said, adding that the event gives people "an outlet after being penned in all week watching this stuff on TV."

At the polo match, bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" as an American flag flew at half-staff above the announcer's tower. Where the event's corporate sponsor's flags normally hung, American flags flew, said Steve Adams of Sprint PCS. Saturday's ticket sales and profits of merchandise sold Saturday went to Red Cross disaster relief for Northern Virginia and New York City. They raised about $7,000, Roanoke Symphony board member Lou Ellis said.

Anita Lothes and Ripley, both of Roanoke, said their group of friends decided Thursday to drop the safari theme they had planned for their tent, one of about 40 that lined the polo field at Roanoke County's Green Hill Park. Instead, they went with red, white and blue.

"We're proud to be Americans," Lothes said.

"And what better way to show it?" Ripley added.

They said they were happy for the day's diversion, but thoughts of a war on terrorism were not far away. They're taking nothing for granted anymore, they said.

"This will pull people out of that comfort zone and get them involved," Lothes, a homemaker, said of the attacks.

Bicyclists competing in the second annual New River Trail Challenge took off at 8 a.m. from the Fries town park in Grayson County. The 65-mile triathlon included included biking, hiking, climbing and canoeing.

Only four of the 191 team and individual competitors failed to show up, said Nancy Heltman of Richmond, who works for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. On Saturday, she was in Fries helping register competitors.

Some team members had to drop out because of military commitments stemming from Tuesday's terrorist attacks, she said. But all the teams came up with replacements.

As the race began, so did the Fries Festival by the River. The festival offered food, crafts and live musical entertainment. Red, white and blue ribbons were given to those making their way among the tents of vendors, church fund-raisers and information tables.

An even larger celebration packed downtown Christiansburg. The Wilderness Trail Festival stretched more than four blocks along Main Street, with a stage at one end featuring live music.

Several young women wore one of the more popular face-painting requests, a small U.S. flag. Many stands, windows and tables sported pictures of the flag with the caption "United, We Stand," distributed by Christiansburg's Old Town Printing.

"I've had people say they're very thankful to see people out," said Ruthie Leeb, stationed at an information booth on the Baha'i faith.

TAD DICKENS can be reached at 981-3236 or

©Copyright 2001, THE ROANOKE TIMES

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