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FreeFest events begin on Friday

Numerous family-friendly activities through April

A series of free festivals will begin this Friday and run through April.

Called FreeFest Connect aLive, the events are a partnership between Ironton aLive, Impact Prevention and the Ohio Mental Health Addiction Services to bring community-minded, recreational and educational activities to the area.

The money for the events comes from grant funding and the federally-funded CARES Act legislation to combat the addiction crisis.

Susan Heald, coordinator of the River Hills Prevention Connection, which is under the umbrella of Impact Prevention Inc. in Ironton, said the idea of the FreeFest Connect aLive events was to bring the community together at fun activities and help people connect with other people.

“We want to encourage the community to get out and to reduce social isolation,” she said, adding that social isolation has been connected to addiction issues. “A lot of people look for activities that they can afford or have no cost.”

The first event is a family-friendly Friday Night Open Mic at the Iron Town Coffee Lab, 225 S. 2nd Street, Ironton. It will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. this Friday and every Friday until April.

It will feature the chance for local singers, storytellers, songwriters and instrumentalists to showcase their talents with poetry readings, historical monologues, educational and science demonstrations and characters in costume. Some lucky particiapants will get a Golden Ticket to perform on the stage of the Ro-Na Theater in April.

Attendees can partake of free coffee, milk and cookies. There will also be door prize raffles of vouchers for other FreeFest activities.

Also on Friday will be an escape room challenge at GR8R Gaming Escape Room in Coal Grove.

“That was one of the first ideas we came up with,” Heald said. “It builds teamwork, and after people attend, maybe they will have time to think about the benefits may have been and how they can apply that to work in the community, how to be connected to their community.”

The Escape Room Challenge is a team-building activity aimed at fostering trust, problem-solving skills and confidence. This activity will be a voucher-only event for members of school-based mentors’ Teen Impact Group, treatment and recovery community members and other community partners. Participants will reflect on the activity by offering feedback on community-building ideas and help with identifying ways for the community to work together.

Participants must call ahead to schedule their visit in advance, no walk-up tickets will be honored without a prior reservation. Call 740-532-2269 for reservations

There will be more escape room events until April 26.

“Speaking for the Ironton aLive board members, I am proud and excited to work with local businesses, recovery community and our residents, in partnership with Impact Prevention group,” said Ironton aLive’s executive director Sam Heighton, adding that the events are possible as a follow-up to the very successful Parks aLive event last summer. “In the next three months, we expect to touch lives and, perhaps, open some new doors for hundreds of people living in recovery and impact others in the community through prevention.”

FreeFest will also have a youth essay writing and art contest. Starting Friday, they will be accepting works from Lawrence County students from 6th-12th grades on the topic of “My Town 2029,” with a positive vision for the future of the area.

There will be three brackets. Local writers, educators and community members will narrow down the selections and Ironton native and television writer and producer Mickey Fisher will make the final selections. Winners will share the $600 in prize money.

Art entries submitted in person only to Consigned Books, 221 S. 3rd St. Ironton, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, 12:30-5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday. Essay submissions can be made at Essay/Writing entries uploaded online only to Ironton aLive Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/irontonalive/app/79458893817/

Submissions accepted until March 22. Winners will be announced in April at FreeFest final event, Ro-Na Day!

In March, there will be a FreeFest Art Night at Consigned Books and an “I Love the 80’s” Night at Spare Time. In April will be the FreeFest finale, “Ro-Na Day” with a tremendous amount of activities on-site at the Ro-Na Theater, including bouncy houses, food, entertainment, workshops, community info booths, face painting, kids’ activities, and a live band concert to end the day.