Youth Council to host special Festival Fridays event July 29 featuring an open mic night, showing of ‘The Goonies’ and more

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon-Upshur community is invited to get outside and see “The Goonies” during an extra-special edition of Create Buckhannon’s Festival Fridays July 29 — one that’s geared toward teens and pre-teens.

The July 29 Festival Fridays extravaganza is being organized by a group of middle and high schoolers who have formed a countywide Youth Council facilitated through the grassroots, community organization, Create Buckhannon, said member Susan Aloi.

In 2021, Create Buckhannon recruited local middle and high schoolers recommended by teachers and student council advisors to serve on a Youth Council organized to provide “an ongoing voice of youth idea, concerns, suggestions, challenges, etc., and to help us engage our youth more in the community,” Aloi said.

Just one of a slate of activities the Youth Council has planned is a Festival Fridays Youth Night scheduled for Friday, July 29 from 5-8 p.m. in Jawbone Park. On tap for the event is an open mic night featuring local talent; musical entertainment supplied by the Soda Pop Gypsies; recreational fun in the form of spike ball, a volleyball contest and corn hole; and the usual repertoire of kids’ activities that take place at Festival Fridays throughout the summer and early autumn.

Lila Wright, a rising ninth-grader at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, is excited for the extra recreational opportunities the Youth Council has organized, as well as the big-screen showing of the 1985 classic, “The Goonies,” which will follow Festival Fridays’ musical entertainment.

“I’m excited we secured a couple of the vendors that come occasionally, and then we also have a couple extra vendors joining us, so there will be a lot of places to shop and things people our age would like more,” Lila said. “There will be a lot more people there who are teenagers. We’ll have more games, we’ll have an open mic night and hopefully, that will attract some more people.”

“I’m excited about the movie, too,” she added. “It’s fun to be out later, when it’s all dark outside, hanging out with your friends, even if you’re not paying attention to the movie. It’s a fun way to be outside with your friends.”

Create Buckhannon member Alisa Lively, the dean of students and director of campus life at West Virginia Wesleyan College, said the college and the City of Buckhannon are happy to co-sponsor the free screening of “The Goonies.”

“I love our community,” she said. “This will only be the second time we’ve had a movie on the lawn in Jawbone Park. Bring your blankets and your chairs; it’s a family fun event!”

“The Goonies” is the mid-1980s story of a group of young misfits who embark on an adventure to uncover a well-known pirate’s highly sought-after treasure, according to IMDB. Popcorn and drinks will be available during the screening of the film at dark, which Hank Phillips, another Youth Council member, hopes will be a big draw.

“It’s a test trial because it’s not something that’s been done that often before, so it’s something that we’ll do again if it goes well,” said Hank, a rising senior at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. “We’re hoping that showing ‘The Goonies’ in Jawbone, which will be like a large outdoor theater, will bring out families and teens.”

Youth Council member Joey Nolte said the group has been working on putting together the evening for months now.

“We’ve been working on it for awhile, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out,” Joey said.

But Youth Night at Festival Fridays is just one of the slew of activities and projects the Youth Council has planned. More events like Youth Night are much-needed in Upshur County, according to Lila, Hank and Joey.

“Our mission is to try to integrate the younger side of Buckhannon into society – to get us out more and find more things for us to do,” Lila said. “Buckhannon is a pretty town, but, as you know, there are limited things for us to do. We want to bring more activities to the area so we can get to know and get closer with all age groups.”

The Youth Council is trying to prevent young people from leaving north-central West Virginia as soon as they graduate from high school.

“If you ask quite literally anyone our age where they’re going after high school, they all say they’re going to leave,” Lila said. “It’s just a common conversation that comes up about wanting to leave this town as soon as high school is over. It comes up all the time at school and in class.”

Hank said the Youth Council provides a safe environment through which pre-teens and teens can bring suggestions to the adults of the city and county.

“It’s a way for us to get involved in creating a diverse and inclusive environment and a way for us to get involved in our local government and have our opinions shared as Buckhannon is developing,” he said.

Ideas for future events include thematic escape rooms, youth-focused trivia nights and a centralized recreational facility. Joey, a rising ninth-grader at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, said a facility similar to the Upshur County Recreational Park Pool, but located closer to downtown, would spur youth to get out more and get more active.

Joey skateboards; however, he said a skate park could be utilized by practically anyone, including youth who bicycle, skateboard, roller-blade and scooter.

“We need something like the high school pool or more places like [the Stockert Youth & Community Center] where we can interact that’s closer to Main Street because that would benefit us, and it would benefit the businesses down there,” he said.

Hank is rooting for more youth-friendly trivia events.

“CJ Maggie’s has trivia nights on Wednesdays, which is fun and all and we have a couple of people who go there, but it can be more for older people, especially when [the questions] are about things that happened in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” he said. “We want it to be more pop culture focused, and we’re also looking to get into some community service projects with the [city’s] Parks and Recreation [advisory committee] to make the parks more useful for younger people as well as older people in the community, and we want people to see that youth care about the community, too. We’re part of it; we’re the Buckhannon of the future.”

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