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Cacapon State Park celebrates on Labor Day Sunday

September 01, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. -- The traditional Labor Day smells of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs filled the air at Cacapon State Park on Sunday, and nearly 1,000 people filled the grounds.

The 13th annual homecoming celebration event, Come Home to Cacapon - It's Your Park, is always held on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, said Morgan County Commissioner Glen R. Stotler, who served as master of ceremonies.

Family groups were set up at picnic tables and under trees close to the bandstand where local musicians performed for free.

"People were here early this morning picking out their spot," he said.

One of the local performers was the Stevens Family, which sings bluegrass gospel music. The group has been performing since 2001, said vocalist Nancy Stevens.

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J.W. Stevens, who plays banjo and is the father of the group, said the group performs all over the country.

Also performing was the bass player, Laura Stevens, daughter of J.W. and Nancy Stevens, who has temporarily lost her vision and has been diagnosed with optic neuritis.

Laura Stevens, 34, said the swollen nerves behind her eyes might have been caused by a virus. Within 10 days, she lost her vision, she said.

J.W. Stevens said the group does not read music.

"We play by ear," he said.

Stevens lives with her mother and father, she said, which helps with the daily routine.

"It's a waiting game right now to see if and when I get my sight back," Stevens said. "If for some reason I don't see again, I will continue to work for the Lord through my music and not my eyes."

"It's a good family gathering," J.W. Stevens said of the homecoming event, noting 15 grandkids were in attendance.

Tia Conner lives in Winchester, Va., but grew up in Morgan County, W.Va. She said she and her family enjoy the park and try to attend the homecoming event each year.

Her husband, Monte Conner, and 8-year-old son, Ryan Conner, participated in the family Olympic Games at the park's nature center.

Park employee Laura Steepleton, a summer naturalist, led the kids through the sack races, water-filled balloon tossing and hula hooping on the grounds next to the nature center.

About 10 kids participated in the games. Chelsea Pell, 10, who is Tia Conner's niece, and Maya Dubensky, 6, came in second in the three-legged sack race even after a fall or two, and were cheered on by the Connerses.

"When I was a child, we spent a lot of time at the park with swimming, boating and hiking," Tia Conner said. "My sister got married here."

"It's a beautiful park right here in our backyard," Conner said.

A silent auction was held, which is always a big hit, Stotler said. The funds raised are used to improve the park, such as adding a gazebo and building a new nature center.

Campers could bring their own food and drink or buy it from the local Boys & Girls Club.

Chris Risinger, the Morgan County unit director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle, said the club would raise about $1,000 by selling food to the crowd.

The club provides after-school programs for about 100 kids this year from kindergarten through 12th grade, said Debbie Guinta, the club's advisory committee president.

"It's an excellent family day," said Superintendent Tom Ambrose, manager of the 6,000-acre Cacapon State Park.

"It's a good feeling to give something back to the community with free boating, swimming and free entertainment," he said.

His father, James Ambrose, once was a park ranger at Cacapon, he said.

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