By Michael J. Hillman, Office of State Rep. Mark A. Longietti
The City of Sharon sits unassumingly in the Shenango Valley of Mercer County, nestled against Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio. It has been a blue-collar town since its founding: first, as a home for coal miners and, later, an industrial center of iron and steel production.
But Sharon is not a community that can be defined solely by its history or its industry. Sharon has also nurtured actors, singers, painters, writers, and artists of various stripes. In 2013, the Rhode Island-based artist Barnaby Evans recognized the fertile artistic ground of Sharon and brought his award-winning art installation, WaterFire, to the shores of the Shenango River.
WaterFire Sharon is one of a series of Evans’s art projects that combines the contrasting elements of flame and water in a public display to inspire the spirit of local populations in towns as far-flung as Kansas City and Rome. The multi-sensory centerpiece performance, featuring flames floating on the surface of the river, accompanied by an energizing soundtrack, draws tens of thousands of visitors and volunteers each year.
The 2018 edition of WaterFire Sharon incorporates the contributions of dozens of local galleries and works of art lining downtown Sharon. The family-friendly event offers an opportunity to walk the main streets of the city traffic-free and surrounded by art bathed in the glow of the river’s stunning display of fire.
Each year, WaterFire Sharon presents three unique, themed shows through the summer and early autumn. The first of 2018, titled “Magical Moments,” was held July 21, and featured street performers and river activities to create new magical moments to cherish as magical memories for years to come.
The next WaterFire Sharon event was on August 18. This iteration honored the “Everyday Heroes,” such as teachers, doctors, nurses, volunteers, and mentors, who live their lives in quiet, steady service of others. Visitors were welcomed to browse and consider purchasing the works of artisans including craft vendors, fine artists, jewelry makers, and more. The food court offered a selection of delicious street food and countless sweet treats.
The final performance of 2018 will be held September 22. The theme is “Hands Across the Water,” and the special attraction will be a tribute to the Beatles by a national touring Beatles tribute band that will recreate the early days of Beatlemania, complete with those groovy costumes from the 1960s.
WaterFire Sharon is a perfect way to enjoy a Saturday of good food, good music, and soul-nourishing artistic inspiration in a small city where you might not expect to find such an innovative display. The artist and food vendors are open on performance days from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. The river festivities, including a Native American blessing and live music on shore and on boats, begin at dusk.
All are welcomed to enjoy the beauty of WaterFire Sharon free of charge on September 22. For more information, visit: waterfiresharonpa.org.