EAST LIVERPOOL - The three-day Ohio Valley China Collectors Convention returns to East Liverpool, kicking off with a 6 p.m. reception today at the Thompson House and featuring daylong programs on Friday and Saturday at the Salvation Army Hall on East Fourth Street.
According to the organizers of the event, it's only natural it should be held in East Liverpool every year. William and Donna Gray, who are charter members and past organizers, say the convention reflects the heritage of East Liverpool and the potteries that have operated locally since the 1830s, as well as promoting the city.
"This is one reason why we keep it in East Liverpool," said Marie Blackledge, who has managed the convention with her husband, Marden, for seven years. Even though the Blackledges are from the Euclid area, their commitment to East Liverpool is strong. Marie says they have received invitations to relocate the event out of town and even out of state. "They say that maybe we can get more people, and I thought, 'But we'll lose East Liverpool,'" which she refuses to allow.
Donna Gray offered her praise for the Blackledges and their efforts. "They are truly to be commended," she said. "You can't imagine how much work it is."
The convention began 20 years ago as an informal meeting of local pottery collectors in the building that now houses the Pottery City Antique Mall. "It was just a little group of collectors who got together to have a couple of days together, and that's the way it's continued," Marden said.
In the years since then, the convention has drawn visitors from as far away as Florida, Texas, California and even Canada. In fact, William said that Denver Tolley, the former lord mayor of East Liverpool's sister city, Stoke-On-Trent, England, visited with his family last year.
This year's welcome reception and dinner tonight at Thompson House will be sponsored by Hall China, Homer Laughlin China and the Pottery City Antique Mall.
Guest speakers will include Len Law, a preeminent collector of art pottery, who will give a presentation at 10 a.m. Friday. Dee Ann Horstman, curator of the Scio Historical Museum and its extensive pottery collection, will speak at 1 p.m. The day will cap off with the "Treasures of the Ohio Valley Potteries" live and silent auctions at 7 p.m., with all programs at the Salvation Army Hall on East Fourth Street in East Liverpool.
Continuing on Saturday, there will be a "show and tell" of rare and unusual pieces at 10 a.m. Featured speaker Jeanie Wilby, author of "Decorative American Pottery and Whiteware," will give a lecture and present her collection at 2 p.m.
On Sunday, the East Liverpool High School Alumni Association will hold its annual auction on the clock tower lawn at 1 p.m. Though not a part of the convention, Marden said it functions as a finale for the weekend's festivities. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Association's scholarship fund.