FOR THE TEAPOT — Many turned out Saturday for an annual festival held to raise funds for maintenance of the World’s Largest Teapot, a unique landmark found at the intersection of state Route 2 and U.S. Route 30 in Chester. -- Warren Scott
CHESTER — A festival centered around a local landmark known as the World’s Largest Teapot helped not only to raise funds for its ongoing maintenance but also supported other fundraising efforts in the community.
Held on the second Saturday of August each year, Teapot Day offers the curious an opportunity to glance into the teapot, which is 14 feet in diameter and stands 14 high near the intersection of state Route 2 and U.S. Route 30.
Constructed in 1938, it began as a giant wooden hogshead barrel used to advertise Hire’s Root Beer. Its builder, William “Babe” Devon, later bought it and arranged for it to be moved to Carolina Avenue (part of Route 2 in Chester), where it was covered in tin and a spout and handle were added to resemble a teapot.
A glass ball also was added to the top to represent the knob of a lid but would later be replaced, first with a basketball painted gold and later, with the present plastic orb.
The teapot also has changed colors over the years, starting as red and white and then, blue and white, before being restored to its original colors in the 1990s.
Perhaps most surprisingly, it also has changed locations. From 1938 to about 1945, it stood on Carolina Avenue in front of Devon’s pottery outlet store, with local teens selling food and souvenirs from inside.
Devon’s business and the teapot were sold twice, once in 1947 and again in 1971, before the property was acquired by the C&P Telephone Co. in 1984.
The teapot faced possible demolition before a group of residents, led by Geneva Hill, spoke up to save it. It was moved to various locations while a committee led by Councilwoman Anne Ford worked to raise $3,000 for its restoration.
It wasn’t the last time that community members stepped in to preserve the landmark.
After being moved, by crane and flatbed truck, to its present location, it underwent another round of volunteer renovations under the leadership of Sayre Graham, a retired contractor; and Mayor Roy Cashdollar.
By 2014, the kettle had sustained normal wear and tear from the elements and Chester native Susan Hineman was recruited by Chester Council to raise the needed funds.
Hineman and other volunteers were able to raise $15,000 in six months, much of it through the use of social media.
To support its continued maintenance, she and others have organized Teapot Day over the last several years.
Hineman said it’s the only event that may be held at the site, per an agreement with the West Virginia Division of Highways, which owns the property and had allowed for it to become the teapot’s home.
She said it’s likely that concerns about the flow of traffic and liability issues are the reason. Local police were on hand Saturday to ensure visitors were able to safely cross to and from the festival.
Hineman said she was among the many teens who sold things from the teapot in years past and also worked cleaning it for a time.
She noted the structure has been rigged with electricity so the volunteer group currently involved with its preservation may sell hot dogs and other food during the festival. The group also sells T-shirts and in cooperation with the Homer-Laughlin China Co., a new ceramic Christmas ornament each year.
Surrounding the teapot on Saturday were many tents from which assorted craft and other vendors and community organizations sold various items.
Under another was a band led by Jim Hallisey, who also arranges other entertainment for the event.
Among the many participants were members of the Chester Lions Club, who were selling brooms, popcorn and snow cones to raise money for community projects, including free vision screenings for underprivileged children.
Marshall Hobbs, the club’s vice president, noted the group is a busy one, organizing an Independence Day car show that draws more than 200 vehicles each year and having recently donated funds for an afterschool program at the Lynn Murray Memorial Library.
“We’ve been here since the get-go. It’s always been a good fundraiser for us,” said Hobbs.
Also on hand was a group selling lemonade, cookies and chances on baskets filled with supplies and treats for dogs and cats.
Jane Tate, a member of the group, explained the proceeds will be used to provide residents in need with items for their pets through blessing boxes posted in three local communities.
Built by Tom Hineman, Susan’s husband, the boxes can be found near the Chester Century 21 office, the Newell Lions Club and Turley Funeral Home in New Cumberland.
The group also included Madelynn and Karsynn McKinney, young sisters who manned a Plinko game for children to play.
New to the event were members of First Baptist Church of Chester, who were selling baked goods and sharing information about their worship services.
Joseph Andrews, the church’s pastor, said, “We are honored to be here, especially to see the inside of the teapot. The folks here are just amazing. It’s like their friends.”
Many attending the festival said they enjoyed seeing old friends and newcomers to the city.
Susan Campbell, who recently moved from Pennsylvania to a home not far from the teapot, was happy to attend the event for the first time.
With her was Doris Reese, a local resident, who said, “It’s fun. I like to see the community come together. We get a lot of people from out of town and we see people here we don’t see every day.”
Hineman expressed thanks to area businesses that have donated food and materials and the many volunteers behind the event.
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