PARKERSBURG – Blennerhassett Island is part of the fabric of the Mid-Ohio Valley, but residents of West Virginia and beyond will soon have a chance to familiarize themselves with its sites and stories.
“The Blennerhassett”, an hour-long documentary from Kanwaha County-based MotionMasters is scheduled to debut at 9 p.m. Monday, August 30 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Area residents can check it out two days earlier, with a free premiere open to the public at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 28 at the Smoot Theater in downtown Parkersburg.
“I am passionate about history; I love telling these stories about West Virginia ”, said Diana Sole-Walko, CEO of MotionMasters.
About 30 years ago, MotionMasters produced a 10-minute video for the Blennerhassett Regional History Museum which is still on display there today, said Sole-Walko, who is the new company’s executive producer and screenwriter. .
“I always thought the Blennerhassett story was interesting, and it had never been told in documentary form before,” she said.
Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett arrived in America in 1796 from Ireland and settled on the island that bears their name today, building a lavish mansion in what at the time was “The American West”, Sole-Walko said.
Harman Blennerhassett has been accused of conspiring with former Vice President Aaron Burr to commit treason. He was released from prison after Burr’s acquittal, but the family’s fortunes had turned and they died in poverty.
Country music star and West Virginia native Kathy Mattea will narrate the documentary, which Sole-Walko says will cover all facets of the Blennerhassett’s life and times. It features interviews with various historians, including Ray Swick, historian emeritus for Blennerhassett Island Historic State Park; Bill Reynolds, with the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums in Marietta; and Pamela Douglas Brust, author of “The Hendersons.” Viennese Wesley Poole is the main videographer and editor.
Local entities also sponsored the production. The budget is $ 217,000, a figure that has been reduced in light of the pandemic and a reduced ability to raise funds, Sole-Walko said.
As of August 3, more than $ 147,000 had been raised and funding is still being sought.
The Blennerhassett Historical Foundation contributed $ 50,000, while the Wood County Commission gave $ 25,000 and the Bernard McDonough Foundation $ 20,000.
The Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, and regional affiliates and the Marietta Community Foundation each pledged $ 5,000.
Parkersburg City Council approved a contribution of $ 10,000 at its July 22 meeting. City officials said they believe the film will boost tourism in the area.
“As much as I would love to have a Six Flags, a dinosaur museum or a national park, the island is the number one tourist attraction in the valley.” Mayor Tom Joyce said.
“This is something that should be broadcast on public broadcasting for years to come”, said Board Chairman Zach Stanley.
After being broadcast on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Sole Walko said “The Blennerhassett” will be offered to other public stations, and is awaiting interest from those in neighboring states. Ultimately, the plan is to make it available to stream on Amazon, like some other MotionMasters productions.
Evan Bevins can be contacted at [email protected]