After months of planning, the Jazz Age came to life in downtown Parkersburg the last week of March. Over 1,000 people came out throughout the week of events and went back in time to the early 20th century when inspiration, leisure and pleasure were abundant in Parkersburg. History came to life on the stage of the Smoot as the week kicked off with an interactive discussion called Just Imagine, moderated by Dr. Ray Swick. Just Imagine set the scene for the Jazz Age as guest speakers such as Betty Smoot Dils recalled stories from her childhood, back when her father and uncle built The Smoot Theatre. Other guest speakers included Anna Rathbone Bowser Bailey, Woody Wilson, Scott Cain and Felice Jorgeson.
The week progressed with a one woman show by Debra Conner portraying the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald and author of The Great Gatsby. Debra’s performance of Muse to Madness recounted the life of the wife and muse to one of America’s greatest writers.
Following Muse to Madness, Becky Daniel shared an evening of Breaking the Rules, taking theatre-goers back to a time in American history when women could vote, smoke, drink and dance that risqué dance called the Charleston. The Jazz Age event then hosted Fashions, Food and Fords. Judith Smith from the Julia-Ann Square Historic District and her lovely live models showcased fashions and how they evolved from 1900 to the 20s. John Swales shared the fascinating story of Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company while Jason Weyers from Downtown Specialty Bakery shared food samples that became famous in the 20s. JELLO used to be a sign of one’s social class. Those who could serve JELLO to guests could afford an icebox and must have been wealthy.
Going into the weekend, Funny Bones (The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin) took center stage at the Smoot by performer Dan Kamin. Dan’s portrayal of Chaplin’s comic world was shared through film clips, live performance and the screening of a newly restored version of The Pawnshop. The Jazz Age continued on Saturday with a historic trolley tour of homes in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District, where tour guides shared stories of homes from the 20s. Trolley riders even got to take a tour of the Waterman House at 901 Juliana Street and marveled at the famous architectural design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. As the tours ended, Spats at the Blennerhassett Hotel was just getting started with the music of the John Yurick Trio from Beckley. Drink and dinner specials were offered and some of our participants were even dressed in Roaring 20s attire. The Jazz Age events wrapped up on Sunday with the showing of The Great Gatsby. The Montana Repertory Theatre performed this classic, bringing the beauty of poetry to this masterpiece to the Smoot.
Downtown PKB, The Smoot Theatre, The Blennerhassett Hotel, Downtown Specialty Bakery and volunteers from the Julia-Ann Square Historic District pulled together to make the Jazz Age possible, helping to Roaring 20s come to life in Downtown.
Wendy Shriver recently began her new role as Executive Director of Downtown PKB on January 5th of this year. Prior to that, Wendy had worked for the Memorial Health System for the past 18 years, most recently as the Community Relations Supervisor in the Outreach and Marketing Department.