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'Hooked on Fishing' program under way this week at mall

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

The "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs Education Fair" will kick off Monday at the Meadowbrook Mall, with the opening ceremony set for 11 a.m.

"We have a full week planned with lots of entertainment and information available to promote happy, healthy lifestyle skills. We encourage students and their families to visit the fair together," said Kathy Loretta, the Healthy, Safe and Drug-Free Schools coordinator for Harrison County schools.

Loretta said this is the 12th year for the fair that encourages alternative activities to keep children from drugs and other destructive behaviors. Dozens of booths will line the mall during the fair, featuring everything from puppet shows to a bass casting contest.

Three years ago "Hooked on Fishing" added the educational aspect to the fair, giving area schools a place to showcase their talent. Jazz bands, elementary choirs, middle school choruses, tumblers, chess players and jump rope teams will be performing throughout the week.

"This gives our children another opportunity to perform for the public, which can give a real lift to their self-esteem," Loretta said.

Students from the United Technical Center will have a treasure map booth at the fair. Martin Pigg, counselor at UTC, said the fair is good for the students and the school.

"It gives our students an opportunity to work some with the younger kids, to do a little community service. And it also gets the word out about some of our programs here at the center," Pigg said.

UTC will also be selling raffle tickets on a 1962 Ford Falcon that the students are in the process of restoring.

"We raffle a car every year for the school's VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) program. We always take the car up to the mall during the week of the fair," Pigg said.

Central West Virginia Community Action will have a fish pond booth at the mall that will carry drug awareness information. A number of group members will perform as the Kids on the Block Puppet Show.

"The fair helps to give the kids some extra tools, to show them that there are a lot of better things to do than to go out and use drugs," said Michelle Markovich, program coordinator for the organization.

The keynote speaker for Monday's opening ceremony is Michael Kirkpatrick, deputy director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. The FBI also plans to have a booth at the mall during the week, according to Maria Fazalare, FBI community outreach specialist.

"Hooked on Fishing is probably one of the largest anti-drug programs we have in North Central West Virginia, and the goals completely parallel our Community Outreach Program mission. It's a wonderful way to reach students in the area," Fazalare said.

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