The 77th annual Mountain State Forest Festival is right around the corner. Perhaps you have noticed the streets being paved, banners and flags being hung, 4-H groups painting leaves around city streets and mementos of festival history being placed in the windows of local businesses.
These are all ways the Elkins community puts its best foot forward for festival week. Local residents can help, too.
Cindy Nucilli, the MSFF executive director, encourages people to start "thinking fall," including using flags and decorations to get the fall feeling throughout town. This helps draw people downtown to enjoy the many activities.
"A lot of people come from far away because of family in the area and participants in the festival," Brenda Pritt, executive director of the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. "This causes people to have to find accommodations up to one hour away."
This influx or tourists is another reason it is important to put our best forward as a town, Pritt said. Often "the first look paints a picture of the whole community," she said.
Tourism is one of the largest industries in West Virginia and benefits everyone, so this is a prime time to impress visitors who will go home with memorable experiences, Pritt explained.
Tourists come to the area all year, so word of mouth brings people back, Pritt said. Along with residents from all over West Virginia, guests come from bordering states and areas for the Forest Festival.
Pritt said there is a particular rise in Michigan residents who come to see the fall foliage.
"Mayor Van Broughton has really taken the bull by the horns, along with the city workers, really putting in time in town," Pritt added.
Broughton said in an email that "the City of Elkins has changed the decorations in front of City Hall for fall to include wreaths on the front doors along with cornstalks, hay bales and mums outside of City Hall."
Broughton noted the city has been doing a lot of clean-up work in the downtown area throughout the summer, not just for the Forest Festival. These clean-up efforts include repainting of crosswalks, re-striping parking lots and repainting curbs indicating handicapped parking, with yellow curbs for no parking places.
In addition, the city has worked with ON TRAC to encourage local businesses to improve their storefronts, decorate their windows and to keep the sidewalks clean in front of their businesses.
The Mountain State Forest Festival kicks off Saturday with a traditional opening ceremony and a full slate of events. For more information, go to forestfestival.com.