Time to party at WASCO

There was no need to go to New Orleans for the nearly 200 people who celebrated Mardi Gras Tuesday at WASCO Inc. in Marietta.

A parade consisting of 13 floats featuring live and papier-mache animals, a human jack-in-the-box and more wound its way through the production area of the nonprofit organization that provides work and life skills to adults with developmental disabilities. Clients and staff members worked to put together the floats then donned purple, yellow and green masks, hats and beads to throw a party for each other and students from nearby Ewing School.

“I can’t hardly believe we’ve got a full house,” said WASCO client Marsha Hill, 54, of Belpre.

Hill helped construct a papier-mache elephant that followed Mardi Gras king and queen Duane Henry and Penny Bolen at the head of the parade. Bolen squealed with delight as workers, volunteers, community members and fellow clients applauded her royal entrance.

It was the second year WASCO has celebrated Mardi Gras, but the first time volunteer Carolina Alvarez of Marietta participated.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m really impressed by how much time and effort went into this.”

Work on the floats started last month and generated a spirit of competition among those involved, said Sandy Lang, registered support specialist with WASCO. That resulted in a few pranks and Lang joking that she wanted to claim the four-tiered sternwheeler float assembled by WASCO clients and staff who do work for Thermo Fisher Scientific as her own.

“This is the one I’m mad about,” she said.

WASCO clients Alicia Lee, Josh Donahue and Julia Cottrell pulled the float – loaded with festively decorated rubber ducks – around the workshop floor. They were proud of their efforts, which resulted in the group repeating as the winner of the Best in Show prize.

“We had hours and hours in that (float),” said Donahue, 23.

“We’re pretty happy,” Cottrell said of winning the award.

Taking the Best Mardi Gras title was the music room’s cart pulled by an actual miniature horse.

“I’ve become a farmer,” WASCO registered support specialist Connie Hughes said of her work to prepare the entry with nurse Kathy Silvus. “I’ve been up since 5 o’clock working in a barn with Kathy. And I’m all city girl.”

Lang said the day is simply a chance to do something fun for WASCO’s clients. After the parade, the celebration continued with live music by local band Roy Bones and the Breaks, king cake, a pinata and photos. She said the event is something that is fun for the clients.

“It just keeps getting better and better, better and bigger,” Lang said.

WASCO client Betty Anne Fitzpatrick, 48, of Marietta, agreed, although she attributed at least part of the improvement to where she was sitting. Last year, she was in the parade; this time, she was a spectator.

“They did a wonderful job on the floats,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think I enjoyed watching it better than being in it.”