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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2008

July 4 tradition still strong in Woodville

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Roger Weber, 67, remembers when thousands of people flocked to Woodville from across the region for its Fourth of July fireworks celebration and patriotic festivities.

"Back then, Toledo didn't even have fireworks. People would come from all over to see our fireworks display," said Mr. Weber, the president of the Woodville Fourth of July Inc. committee.

When he was younger, Mr. Weber worked at the food stands and enjoyed helping with the celebration.

Thanks to the tenacity of Woodville residents like Mr. Weber, the village's Fourth of July tradition continues to sparkle during its annual patriotic salute to independence.

The 66th annual celebration takes place today, tomorrow, and Saturday.

For more than 60 years, the celebration was put on by the American Legion of Woodville and the Woodville Fire Department; they relinquished sponsorship a few years ago due to a lack of staff and support.

As a result, Mr. Weber in 2005 helped found the Fourth of July committee, which typically meets monthly from September until July and plans the entire three-day celebration.

"Nobody wanted to see it die," Mr. Weber said.

Committee member Angie Ewersen, who has lived in Woodville for 12 years, was among the residents who helped to keep the tradition afloat.

"We didn't want to see the celebration shrivel up due to lack of volunteers and the liability," she said.

When she moved to Genoa in 1984, Ms. Ewersen said she "always went to Woodville for the fireworks.

"It was always so much fun."

The committee relied on fund-raisers to get money for the event.

Now, they rely mostly on donations from local businesses, so the event largely supports itself. When there's a profit, it is donated to local organizations.

The committee is divided into about 20 subcommittees, which are responsible for publicity, fund-raising, the parade, entertainment, and bingo, and other matters. Ms. Ewersen said the organizational structure helps the group to pull off the celebration smoothly.

Even though the planning process is tiring, the members say it is worth their efforts.

"I'll probably be helping with this for as long as I can," Mr. Weber said.

Laurie Kepkus, secretary of the committee, has lived in Woodville all her life and has been involved with the committee since it was founded. She said she enjoys bingo and the fireworks.

"It's just a great time to get together with the community and have some fun," she said.

In addition to the committee's efforts, the event is bolstered by support from several hundred volunteers.

"We wouldn't be able to do what we do if it were not for the hundreds of volunteers," said Mr. Weber.

Visit www.woodville.net/fourth for more information.



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