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Williamsport gives youths Last Blast of summer

August 15, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Betty Lou Marks, left, of Hagerstown, fits Josh Hammer, 4, of Williamsport, for his balloon belt to hold his balloon sword Saturday during the Last Blast community event at the Springfield Farm Barn in Williamsport.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT -- Many might wish summer vacation would last forever, but on Wednesday, children across Washington County will be shouldering backpacks and boarding buses for the inevitable first day of school.

For one last Saturday before they go back to school, the town of Williamsport decided its children needed one Last Blast, the name of the inaugural event at the Springfield Farm Barn.

"We wanted to make sure we didn't use the words 'back to school'" in the name of the event, said Mike Sparks, Williamsport's director of community and economic development. The town bought most of the food and refreshments and arranged the entertainment for its younger citizens, he said.

"We started out younger and we're transitioning now," Sparks said.

Events for younger kids, such as a chance to handle a ball python or alligator from the Reptile Crib store or have balloon animals and swords made by Betty Lou Marks, occupied them earlier in the day.

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The event culminated with something for the older students -- a concert by May Weather.

There also was a water balloon battle, which started a bit earlier than scheduled because the 7,000 balloons were starting to bust, Sparks said.

How long does it take to fill 7,000 water balloons?

Volunteers worked at it for about four days, "but we weren't getting close," Sparks said.

More manpower in the form of eight Division of Correction inmates was brought in to finish the job, Sparks said.

May Weather, which the town had hired to perform on the Fourth of July, was the choice to perform by young people in the community, Sparks said. One member, trumpet player Tyler Palladino, just graduated from Williamsport High School.

"I've never seen them do anything like this before," Palladino said of the town. "It's nice they're having things throughout the year" for the community.

The band has landed another gig with the town on Sept. 19, when Williamsport will take part in celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day. That seemed natural to drummer Bailey Kercheval.

"We're river rats out here," he said.

The town also observed International Youth Day on Thursday and on Friday had a workshop bringing together some area youths with elected officials, Sparks said.

During the school year, elected officials will meet with student government members, Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said.

"We're going to use it as a tool of communication with the different schools around our town," McCleaf said. "It's really to bring the community together ... so Williamsport can be number one."

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