As if by magic, thousands of people traveled hundreds of miles and found themselves transported to Festival City. All are distinguished guests and all were honored during the Distinguished Guest Dinner Thursday at Davis & Elkins College.
During the evening, Nikki Bowman, publisher of West Virginia Living and West Virginia Weddings, spoke to the importance of local festivals such as the Mountain State Forest Festival. Bowman travels across the state and meets people who have made West Virginia their home either their entire lives or as a second home. Whatever the case, she said the people who call the Mountain State home are, quite possibly, its most important commodity.
"People are our greatest strength," Bowman said. "We have so much in our state to be proud of."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Founder, editor and publisher of WV Living Magazine Nikki Bowman serves as guest speaker at the Mountain State Forest Festival Distinguished Guest Dinner. The Thursday event took place at the McDonnell Center at Davis & Elkins College.
Bowman told those gathered that West Virginia has so much to be proud of and it is unlike any other place in the nation.
The MSFF is one of those attributes, she stated. A celebration "like none other in the nation," this event bridges the gap between moving toward the future and holding onto the state's varied and special heritage. Through her publications, Bowman encourages her readers, both residents of the state and others, to wear their heritage "like a badge of honor."
"Our mountains are magical and the Mountain State Forest Festival is one of the reasons why," Bowman said.
This year's MSFF director general, Mike Karlen, selected theme Magic in the Mountains, because he said he wants to see the festival through the eyes of a child. When people see through the eyes of children, they can see the magic the festival brings to the area, he said.
"It takes a little bit of magic to bring this all together," Karlen said.
Karlen, Executive Director Renee Heckel and MSFF Board of Directors President Mark A. Tomblyn thanked all the people who worked their magic to bring the festival together. From the assistant directors to the members of organizing committees to the more than 170 sponsors, the three leaders thanked these people for their dedication to the festival's ideals and their hard work to bring the magic to Festival City each year.
In her last act as queen, Queen Silvia LXXV Logan Burke thanked her director general, Scott Harris, for allowing her to share the festival experience with him.
"I will forever cherish my reign as Maid Silvia LXXV," she said. "The whole week is a series of highs woven into a unique tapestry."
Burke shared words of inspiration to her successor, Maid Silvia LXXVI Emily Everson, telling her to enjoy every moment at the festival. She also quipped that if she didn't tumble down coronation hill, Everson wouldn't have any trouble.
When she was little, Everson dreamed of being a Disney princess. She said she even imagined she was her own princess. Now Everson will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live out that dream.
"It is truly a blessing that this little girl will be able to fulfill a childhood dream," she said.
Everson will descend Coronation Hill today to be crowned queen of the forests where the magic of fall will echo the colors of her gown and her royal court.