Ahlstrom Inc. employees and family members enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers during a Family Day and Employee Appreciation Day held Wednesday.

BISHOPVILLE — The Fourth of July has come a little early for the employees of Ahlstrom Inc., located in the Interstate 20 Industrial Park on Browntown Road.

A Family Day and Employee Appreciation Day was held Wednesday as the plant’s 100 employees and family members were treated to hamburgers and hot dogs and a tour of the facility.

Plant General Manager Wayne Merritt said the company had an employee appreciation day in 2008 and decided to expand the event in 2009.

As many as 500 people were expected to take part in the cookout and tour.

“We wanted son and daughter and in some cases mom and dad to see what we do here,” Merritt said.

At the Bishopville plant, Ahlstrom produces fabric for windmill blades. Despite the economic slowdown internationally, the demand for Ahlstrom’s product remains high, Merritt said.

“Because of the credit crunch, we had a slow down for a while,” he said. “But things are picking up. There’s a huge demand for alternative energy, and as the cost of fuel rises, the demand increases.”

Nemiah Tention said he appreciated the opportunity to see where his son — Leon Tention — works as a maintenance technician.

“My son’s got a good job,” he said. “I’m glad to get to come and see what he does.”

Leon Tention, a resident of Sumter County, has worked at Ahlstrom for 16 months and is responsible for making sure the machines and equipment are operational.

“This shows the company has an interest in our family,” he said. “And it’s good to meet the family of our co-workers.”

Ahlstrom opened its Bishopville facility in 2006. It is a global manufacturer of nonwoven materials, using natural and synthetic fibers for customers who turn them into hundreds of products.

Contact Staff Writer Randy Burns at rburns@theitem.com or (803) 491-4533.