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Guyandotte Goes Hollywood for annual street festival Sept. 8-10

Sep. 05, 2011 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- It may be called Swinefest, but the street festival that started out as a church pig roast has side dishes of just about everything else from homegrown wrestling and music to a parade, ghost tour and film night featuring Huntington native star, "Dagmar."

Swinefest, organized by the nonprofit group, Swinefest Solutions, runs Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 8 through 10, with a full plate of events under the theme of "Guyandotte Goes Hollywood."

Rick Simmons, festival organizer and community activist, said the theme is partly in homage to 1950s star Ruth "Dagmar" Egnor, one of television's first female stars, as well as just a fun theme for the fest.

"We feel a theme is important to fairs and festivals, not that it is what brings the crowd out, but because it gives people something different to look back to," Simmons said. "Guyandotte has had a rough reputation for many years and a lot of people are getting a kick out of it because we have got what it takes now."

The fest, which opens at 4 p.m. Thursday with the street fair and carnival, will feature a parade at 6 p.m. with a host of local participants led by the grand marshal, veteran country-rocker, Gary Sellards, who will be playing from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday with his Stoned Country Band.

Immediately after the parade, there will be a Hollywood celebrity auction that will benefit the nonprofit group, Green Acres. Simmons, who has been volunteering to help Green Acres do some fundraising, said they have about 40 autographed items including a John Travolta-signed "Grease" movie poster, a book by former President Bill Clinton, photos signed by former President George Bush, one from the "Pawn Stars" TV show and NASCAR memorabilia as well.

Friday, some of the highlights include from 6 to 8 p.m., a viewing called "Dagmar Guyandotte Gal Goes Hollywood" at the Guyandotte Public Library. There will be free popcorn and refreshments at the library to see this best-of Dagmar clips put together by Huntington filmmaker and Huntington Public Access Channel 20 programmer Richard Bartram, who culled footage from a variety of shows including "Dagmar's Canteen," her show from the 1950s.

Egnor, who grew up at 222 Guyan St., was a buxom and tall blonde who stole America's hearts as one of its first female TV stars in the 1950s on the NBC show "Broadway Open House." At the height of her career, the Huntington High School grad was getting more than 8,000 fan letters a month, and living in a Central Park South penthouse built for Al Jolson.

She starred in her own show called, "Dagmar's Canteen," and was a guest on TV's first telethon with Milton Berle. She recorded an album of duets with Frank Sinatra for RCA.

She made the cover of "Life" magazine in 1951.

Simmons said Dagmar is a great person to inspire youth that you can come from anywhere to make it.

"When you say Guyandotte, people think we are from the wrong side of the floodwall, and Dagmar made it big," Simmons said. "She shows that there is potential and it doesn't matter if you are from Guyandotte or the West End or wherever, there is talent and it is up to the fairs and festivals to bring that talent out. She put Guyandotte in the limelight, and she proved that it doesn't matter how poor you are, you don't have to falter on following your dreams."

Simmons said they're tapping into a slew of homegrown music talent from such veteran country rockers as Angie Fletcher Band to newcomers such as Kala DeHart and River Town.

Another homegrown aspect of the fest is that Simmons put together a wrestling troupe, "Swinefest Wrestling," to present a show at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

"We're calling it where homegrown talent becomes legend," Simmons said. "For years there was nothing in Guyandotte, and to me that is the main factor in what we are doing is to bring the talent and to show that Guyandotte and Huntington has a lot to offer, not only in wrestling but in the whole concept. There is pride in homegrown talent."

The wrestling card includes, Steve Backlund, Blazin Eagle, Damien Matthews, Ricky Armoni, Johnny Blast, Smokey C, Josh Ryder, Dain Bramage, Revelation, Mitchell and Danny Ray.

"As usual we've stepped out of the box and are producing our own wrestling extravaganza with all local talent and to show people there is more to do than drinking, drugging, stealing and clubbing," Simmons said. "We've got all aspects of talent whether it is wrestling, singing or putting on a festival. There's a lot of different ways to give young people an avenue to showcase it."

Saturday is packed with entertainment, as well known Huntington area DJ Jack O'Shea will be spinning music from 1 to 4 p.m. during a Swinefest cruise-in.

There's an auction at 4:30 p.m. Saturday that helps Swinefest with its expenses and outreach into the community including buying hams at Easter for area residents.

"We use it as a pinpoint for community unity," Simmons said of the money raised. "It's all nonprofit and it stays within the floodwalls to help each other in the community."

Saturday night, Huntington Paranormal will host the Guyandotte Cemetery Ghost Tour, which takes place starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, leaving every 15 minutes through 10 p.m. This after dark tour will depart from the back yard of the Historic Madie Carroll House, 234 Guyan St., and will take place inside the iron gates of the oldest church cemetery in Cabell County which dates back to 1804.

The tour is free and open to the public, and there will be a sign-in/information tent located near the Madie Carroll House barn.

Digital cameras are welcome and flashlights are highly recommended. Due to subject matter this tour may not be suitable for very young children. Tours will last approximately 30 minutes.

Go online at www.GuyandotteGhosts.com or www.HuntingtonParanormal.com or email Melissa Stanley at tours@guyandotteghosts.com for more information.



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