WestFest draws thousands to Central Texas town recovering from disaster

WestFest

Credit: KWTX

A festive parade was part of the WestFest celebration on August 31, 2013.

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WFAA

Posted on August 31, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Updated Sunday, Sep 1 at 11:06 AM

WEST, Texas — There's a new sign of recovery this weekend in West, as citizens hold the first WestFest since April's deadly fertilizer plant explosion.

Leaders say this event is not about looking back at tragedy — it's about celebrating the community's Czech heritage and traditional Polka dancing.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to give a needed boost to the local economy this Labor Day weekend.

"Emotions are hard; they have been for months," said Dane Chapman, the father of an explosion victim. "You never know from one minute to the next what's going to set something off, but seeing his name on these fire trucks in an honor."

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn also made the trip to West on Saturday, attending the WestFest opening ceremony.

Sen. Cornyn presented replacement Army medals to veteran Robert Fleming, the principal at West Elementary School. He lost his original awards in the explosion.

Abbott, who toured the devastated city the day after April's blast, talked about the progress the town has made in the past four months.

"I could see the devastation and concern on the faces of the people here," he said. "It's so heartwarming to come back and get to see the way the community has pieced lives back together and how they're now in celebration mode."

WestFest wraps up on Sunday.

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