All the finalists from this week's Mountain State Forest Festival Gospel, Variety and Country Talent Shows competed Thursday evening on the Downtown Stage in Elkins to decide the Grand Prize winners.
The contest featured acts performing alone, in tandem and with a full band. Some participants were accompanied by a soundtrack and others provided their own music.
In the end, it was Gracie Metheny who won the Children's Division Grand Prize, Hillary Mayle who captured the title in the Teen Division and Chelsea Anderson who placed the highest in the Adult Division.
Anderson was thrilled about her win.
"It's fantastic. I love being here at the Forest Festival," she said. "It's my birthday today, too."
The excitement was not exclusive to the performers. The crowd actively joined in during Geno Austin's rendition of "Mustang Sally."
"We rode on that one. Didn't we?" Austin said to the audience following his act.
In the Children's Division, Kayla Hoy, Emma Post, Josh Helmick, Cheyenne Kittle, Gracie Metheny and Blake Anderson wall competed.
The Teen Division contained Amber Marstiller, Hillary Mayle, Dale Jackson Jr. and Caleb Helmick.
The Adult Division included Scotty Leach, Katrina Groves, Cassie Wallace, Geno Austin, Chelsea Anderson, Cub Hammond, Amber Kocela and Kelly Talbott.
The 76th Mountain State Forest Festival was in full swing Thursday and the beautiful, sunny day featured many activities scheduled for all ages. Busloads of students from Randolph County schools converged on the Elkins City Park for the MSFF Kids Day.
Kids Day debuted four years ago with the hope of bringing the forest back to the Forest Festival. Jonathon Schafler, refuge manager for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said many forest-based agencies came together to build the Conservation Village.
"We believe it is important to teach children the value of the forest and natural resources," Schafler said. "If we fail to educate our children about wildlife and wild places, when they are old enough to vote, wild places won't matter."
Schafler said kids today are really into electronics, but advised parents against telling kids to leave the technology behind.
"We need to teach children to appreciate nature," Schafler said. "We also need to find ways to blend this technology with nature."
Schafler said they were really grateful for the volunteers like Sarah and Herb Myers who helped out at the stations.
In the Conservation Village, children were able to paint, pet "Corny" the corn snake, make rubbings and travel through a mock cave.
"In the cave, children can spot a raccoon, snake, frog, bats, and saber tooth cat fossils," said Rebecca Urbanczyk, an Americorp volunteer with the Forest Service. "There are also stalactites and stalagmites. Our goal is to give students a better understanding about why we take care of our caves and what we hope to gain with the exploration of caves."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Park Ranger Cindy Phillips said the Conservation Village is an important part of the festival.
"We have all kinds of displays," she said. "We have that central core of conservation. This is our way of pulling together our resources."
Activities at the park also include a train ride, balloon twisting and a Division BMX Stunt Team bike exhibition.
The Division BMX Stunt Team returned to Festival City for the second year in the row. Students participating in Kid's Day at the Elkins City Park cheered and clapped for the high flying stuntmen.
At the park, children had the opportunity to watch many demonstrations of folk arts. Artisans were on hand to demonstrate glass blowing, chain saw carving, and wood burning. Students were able to visit with animals in a petting zoo including goats, cows, miniature horses, a zebra, a llama, and a donkey. Entertainment included Mark Lippard, who juggles, rides a unicycle and eats fire.
Thomas Williams, a third-grade student from Coalton Elementary School, said he was enjoying all the attractions.
"I loved the petting zoo," Williams said. "The zebra was my favorite. I also liked doing the crayon rubbings. I haven't gotten to ride the train yet, but I will."
Frances McLaughlin, principal of George Ward Elementary School, said she thinks Kids Day is important because it teaches students there is more to the Forest Festival than just the carnival.
"Students learn the importance of the forest industry," McLaughlin said. "They get to see the many products."
McLaughlin has designed booklets that all students attending Kids Day receive. The books are chock full of activities and information related to the attractions during Kids Day, and include reading, math, science, social studies and many other subjects.
Jennings Randolph School Principal Rebecca Whiteman said second, third and fourth grade students from her school traveled to Kids Day.
"I think the students learn from a variety of people with different talents," Whiteman said. "Today we have about 150 students in attendance."
Coalton Elementary Principal Amy Rowan-Smith said the Forest Festival brings a unique opportunity for students.
"I think it is a wonderful opportunity for the students of Randolph County to learn about the heritage of our state," she said.
The Mountain Loggers Cooperative Association held its 16th Annual Log-a-Load for Kids Log Auction beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday at Newlons International. The auction, which is the MLCA's largest annual fundraiser, raises money that directly benefits WVU Children's Hospital.
As of noon, the auction had amassed $44,700, according to auctioneer Dallas Hedreth. Loads of logs and other items donated by forestry and wood products companies were sold to benefit the WVU Children's Hospital, which treats approximately 6,600 children annually for a wide range of illnesses and injuries.
All over Festival City, activities are in full swing including the Photography Contest at the Elkins YMCA, the Log Cabin Quilter's Guild exhibit at the Elkins YMCA, the Randolph County Senior Center Bazaar, the Crafts and More Show at First United Methodist Church, the GFWC Woman's Club of Elkins Arts and Craft Show at Davis & Elkins College, the Mountain Weavers Guild at the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library and the Randolph County Community Arts Center Juried Art Show.
Today's schedule for the Mountain State Forest Festival includes:
(All exhibits open to the public)
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. - City Park events
Division BMX Stunt Show
Mark Lippard: Juggler, Fire Eater and Unicyclist Extraordinaire
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge "Conservation Village"
Barnyard Petting Zoo
Chainsaw Carver Andy Kerns
Shingle Cutting/Branding - Wood Mizer/Jerry Allen
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Randolph County Senior Bazaar (Senior Center, Downtown 5th Street)
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. - GFWC Woman's Club of Elkins Arts and Craft Show (Memorial Gymnasium, D&E College)
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. - Randolph County Community Arts Center/Seneca Trail Artist Guild Juried Art Show (Community Arts Center, Randolph Avenue)
Crafts & More (First United Methodist Church, Kerens Avenue)
Log Cabin Quilters (Elkins YMCA, Davis Avenue)
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. - Photography Exhibit /Contest (Elkins YMCA)
Primitive Campground Exhibit (D&E College, Lower Front Field)
Forestry and Wood Products Exhibit (Elkins VFW, Corner of Randolph Avenue)
WV Christmas Tree Growers Association Exhibit (Elkins VFW, Corner of Randolph Avenue)
Mountain Weavers Guild (Elkins/Randolph County Library, Davis Avenue)
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. - Mountain State Forest Festival Store (Davis Avenue, next to Armadillo Flats)
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. -Information Booth (Corner of Davis Avenue and Third Street)
1 p.m. - Pre-Coronation Music
2 p.m. - Coronation of Maid Silvia LXXVI - with The McChoir Sisters and Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner of Culture & History Queen's Reception (Halliehurst Mansion, immediately following Coronation)
6 p.m. - DC Pipes and Drums Performance (Elkins Volunteer Fire Department, 4th Street)
6 to 10 p.m. - EHS Alumni Association Open House: Grads and Friends Welcome (American Legion, 4th Street)
8 p.m. - Elkins Volunteer Fire Department Fireman's Parade (Downtown Elkins)
9 to 10 p.m. - Downtown Stage Entertainment (Downtown Stage, Elkins Town Square)
9 p.m. - Queen's Ball featuring Santa Cruz Band (McDonnell Center, Davis & Elkins College)