For years, artist Ben Kolb dabbled in creating cartoon, character and story illustrations from his art.
When Kolb got the opportunity to create an activity book through a partnership with the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau, he was able to exercise that creativity by putting characters based on the Feast of the Seven Fishes on coloring pages and interactive puzzles.
âIt all starts with the characters, I love creating the characters,â said Kolb, owner of Nativibes in Mannington. “Once I found the seven fish, and had to research all the different types they make – it turns out they make a lot more than seven – I found the squid and eel.This is the key that makes it easy to plug them in in situations afterwards.
Kolb created a children’s activity book and an adult activity book with the Convention and Visitors Bureau in July, which were placed at local organizations and businesses in the area for people to color for free.
Leisha Elliott, director of the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the idea to do another book based on the Seven Fish Festival came from adjusting this year’s event during the COVID-19 pandemic . The activity books will serve as souvenirs for festival guests.
âIt’s a celebration that everyone is looking forward to,â Elliott said. “Obviously because of the pandemic things had to be rethought but we still wanted to honor it.”
Elliott said the booklet, like the annual event, celebrates aspects of the Christmas season that are unique to West Virginia and Marion County, especially the food and heritage it seeks to preserve and share with the new generations. There are a few recipes included in the activity book that children can try to make with their parents.
âWe put in some recipes that families could maybe enjoy at home,â Elliott said. “These are activities, they are probably coloring pages for younger audiences, but definitely something they can do with their families.”
Kolb said he wanted to include history lessons in the book, alongside the puzzles and activities. He said that because the holiday is built on Italian heritage, he tried to include images that illustrate this rich heritage and its traditions.
âThere are also things a little more interactive, I put in kid-friendly recipes, and I put them because of the Italian heritage,â Kolb said. “A little bit of history about the mining industry and the glass factories and the Italian immigrants who came to work there and that’s kind of how they brought their traditions with them.”
In addition to celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes event, Elliott said the Convention and Visitors Bureau promoted the Marion County area through the Robert Tinnell film of the same name released in 2019. She said that the film had attracted people. to visit places that are shown in the movie, and as it happens around Christmas, she wanted to promote each of these aspects throughout the season.
âWe always encourage people to make it a family tradition,â said Elliott. âWe have developed a map which is on our website so that you know the different places that were mentioned in the film or used as part of the landscape for anyone who is not from the area and who may not know. be not certain of the places. “
Elliott said the activity books will be included in food orders people have made ahead of time for the Feast of the Seven Fishes Cooking School video, but that people may also find them in the near future. local businesses, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and online for download on its website.
âWe will try to distribute them,â Elliott said. âSince people are shopping, they can buy a free copy. “
Kolb said he enjoys stretching his creative muscles through these coloring books, and that he also hopes people find the characters and activities in the books as enjoyable as he does.
âI think illustration, story writing and character development is always my side dream,â Kolb said. “For 20 years, I’ve been tinkering with comics … I can develop characters and play with them.”