Growing up in the riverfront town of Parkersburg, West Virginia, being near the water was something I never gave a second thought to. Whether it be fishing on the Ohio, boating through the murky waters of the Little Kanawha, or sitting on the concrete steps of the amphitheater listening to music fill the air, being from a town nestled in the crook of two rivers never occurred to me as anything special. It wasn’t until traveling to Point Pleasant, West Virginia that I saw how much rivers played into everyday life of townspeople. The pride that the people of Point Pleasant have of their city and its rich history is so apparent, even at a first look into the community. As a videographer for the BrandJRNY project, I have been able to get a unique intimate look into the community.
At the community kick-off for the Brand JRNY class this year, I was so nervous about how the people at the event would react to my part in the project, getting video of them interacting with the students and other community members. I was pleasantly surprised by how excited everyone was to share their ideas and most people were not camera shy. One topic that came up frequently in the brainstorming part of the kick-off was how proud the townspeople were of the history of their city. The Ohio and Kanawha rivers play a huge part in the history of Point Pleasant, as they do in many Appalachian towns.
The first time I was able to wander around Riverfront Park is an experience I will never forget. I knew the history was a huge part of the foundation of their city, but it wasn’t until I saw the murals that I realized how important it really was. Spanning the floodwall, intricately painted murals painted from the ground into the sky depict scenes throughout history. World renowned artist Robert Dafford was hired to paint these massive works of art by the city, which shows the importance of how the riverfront looks. From the water, boats passing by can see the flood wall and know that the city has been molded by its history.
When I tell people I am in a class that is focusing on rebranding Point Pleasant, their minds immediately go to Mothman. While that is a huge part of the culture of the area, that’s not all the city has to offer. I explain that there is much more on the history side of their city as well. Even the name of the park on the edge of the city, “Tu-Endie-Wei” means mingling of the waters.West Virginia Tourism even highlights the Tribute to the River festival and Sternwheel Regatta as must-visits for the city and those interested in the history of the rivers.
The community of Point Pleasant takes great pride in their history and how the rivers play into it, and it gives me a new appreciation for my own hometown. When I look at the Ohio River, I no longer see just a body of water, I see an opportunity to teach people about the history that so many Appalachian towns share. I am very excited to see the role history and rivers play into the branding of Point Pleasant.
My name is Kenzie Pigott, I am one of the visual storytellers for BrandJRNY’s Point Pleasant branding campaign. One of my favorite things to do in my free time is travel West Virginia and explore the mountain state. Follow me through our journey– @Kenziee_kaaya.