A resounding message echoed from the Jennings Randolph Federal Building Saturday as Director General Kenna Barger and board of directors President Ray LaMora welcomed a large crowd to Festival City for the 74th Mountain State Forest Festival.
During the official opening ceremony, Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott encouraged the people that were visiting Elkins for the festival to return. Talbott noted that a return trip would find the city less full but still just as busy. He also invited visitors to enjoy the city and all of the hard work that went into planning one of the largest celebrations in the state.
Barger addressed the dozens of people that attended the chilly morning ceremony at the federal building, saying she couldn't believe it was actually time for the festival to begin. She and her assistant directors, which she thanked jointly and individually, have been planning and preparing for nearly the entire year. Barger likened the beginning of the festival to a parent looking at his or her children and asking his or herself when they got that big.
Director General Kenna Barger welcomes the crowd during the Opening Ceremony
Because the festival has come so quickly, Barger said that everyone should make sure they make memories of their time at the festival.
"This is a time to slow down a bit," she said, and, "enjoy every last detail."
Barger then introduced the head of the Queen's Department Denise Wallace who recognized the court of Maid Silvia LXXIV. This year's Maids of Honor Ellyson Schumacher and Sarah Talbott spoke briefly about their time as flower girls 10 and 11 years ago, respectively. Schumacher said that rain early in the week had her concerned for her first trip down Coronation Hill. Friday, she will descend the hill for a second time, now as a maid of honor.
WISH LANTERNS — Mountain State Forest Festival Maids of Honor Sarah Talbott, left, and Ellyson Schumacher set flight to their floating wish lantern Saturday at Elkins Town Square, just part of the many activities of opening festival day. (CU and The Inter-Mountain/Grant Jones) © The Inter-Mountain, all rights reserved.
"I realize how much I enjoyed the maids of honor," Schumacher said of the 64th festival maids, "and how important the walk down the hill is."
Talbott thanked her parents as well as Barger, Schumacher and Maid Silvia LXXIV Meredith Orndorff. She is happy to have gotten to know all of them better with each dress fitting and practice.
During her speech, Talbott said she "cannot put into words" how much the appointment and experience means to her.
"I am especially indebted to Director General Kenna Barger," she said.
Assistant Director Todd Riggleman said a large crowd filled the stands of Wimer Field in South Elkins for the Strongman Contest that featured the 2006 World's Strongest Man Phil Pfister. The event had a much higher turnout than last year, according to Riggleman, and even a few more participants. In total, 14 muscled all their strength to find out who was the strongest man at the festival. Riggleman was pleased with the turn out.
"The weather was the reason we had a good turnout," he said.
This year's competition had two categories, a lightweight (200 pounds or less) and a heavyweight (200 pounds or more). Winners in those divisions were not available as of press time today.
The Devonshires took to the downtown stage for the Classic Rock Spectacular and featured music from the dawn of the rock 'n' roll era through the 70s.
Among the spectators was Elkins City Councilman and 2009 Director General Bob Woolwine and his wife. Woolwine was glad that the weather had been so nice for the opening day of the festival. Also noting the large crowd in town square, Woolwine jokingly added that he taught Barger well.
"Kenna's done a good job," he said.
Fireworks returned to this year's expanded opening weekend and the minor court, as well as children of the assistant directors, let nearly 50 paper wish lanterns loose into the night sky. Scepter Bearer Sophia Gillispie gazed in amazement as her lantern was released by her father, Sid Gillispie. Sophia said she liked the red and green lanterns the best watching the flickering lights disappear into the night.
Sunday was the day festivalgoers took to the downtown streets as the Gambill Amusements carnival opened. Also, runners and walkers for the 10K braved the chilly morning. This year's event included a total of 72 runners and 52 walkers.
The top three male runners were Justin Simpson with a time of 33 minutes; Tommy Boone, 36:11; and Marlon Henry, 37:39. Todd Schoonover won the Men's Master's Division with a time of 43:10.
The top three female runners were Clara Gandt with a time of 39:23; Blanca Skaggs, 47:44; and Marie Friend, 47:47. Rebecca Schoonover won the Female Master's Division with a time of 45:52.
The top male walkers were Van Broughton with a time of 37:47 and Aron Moss with a time of 39:14.
The top female walkers were Bev Johnson with a time of 40:32 and Tasha Joy with a time of 42:09.
Fifteen children competed in the Kids One Mile Challenge.
Barely beating the rain, the Parade of Children came down Davis Avenue to the cheers of watchers. Multiple twirlette groups and the Elkins Middle School Band joined kids dressed as Star Wars, cartoon and Disney movie characters.
The street carnival Pardi Gras, however, did not beat the rain when a cold downpour forced street performers to seek shelter under bank drive throughs. Rain also caused the Johnny Cash tribute show by Terry Lee Goffee to be moved to the Elkins High School gymnasium from the downtown stage.
The work-week leading up to Festival Friday begins tonight with the Pet Show at 7 p.m. in the EHS gym.
Also at 7 p.m., songs of praise can be heard during the Gospel Talent Show on the downtown stage, baring more rain.
For Tuesday, the Randolph County Senior Center Bazaar opens its doors again at 9 a.m. and will remain open until 4 p.m. At 7 p.m., a kaleidoscope of talent can be seen on the downtown stage during the Variety Talent Show.
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