By Beth Christian Broschart
and Chad Clem
The 77th Mountain State Forest Festival officially began under beautiful, sunny skies with the opening ceremonies at the Jennings Randolph Federal Plaza Saturday.
As members of the Minor Court and Maids of Honor released balloons marking the start of the week's activities, MSFF Director General Cricket Leary and MSFF Board of Directors President Cliff Marstiller welcomed everyone to the festivities.
Across town at the Scott Ford Road boat launch, contestants were trying to win the Bass Fishing Contest. Officials also presented local resident Tai Letan with the D.J. Rogers Memorial Lunker Award.
"I was honored to win the award," Letan said. "D.J. was a good friend, and he was all about this competition. I feel like he was looking down on us. We all miss him - he was such a great guy."
Festivalgoers filed into Wimer Field at noon Saturday to see the Strong Man Contest, and afterward, many gathered on Georgetown Road for the Irish Road Bowling event. Thirteen teams, each with two to five players, took part in the event, held on a 1.4-mile stretch of road. The goal of the game is to roll a 28-ounce ball down the road and make it to the end of the course in as few rolls as possible.
Spinner O'Flaherty, an enthusiastic supporter of the sport, explained that it is a long-standing tradition in Irish culture that originally got its start more than 300 years ago, when the Irish rebels would steal cannon balls from the English, and rather than carry them all at once, they decided to make a game of it. When the Irish immigrants came to America they brought the sport with them, and it had some popularity in Eastern cities.
O'Flaherty said the event has been a staple of the Mountain State Forest Festival for several years. People traveled from as far away as Columbus, Ohio specifically for this year's contest.
Paul Naas and his friends Ryan Lazoen, Natalie Kokish, Kirsten Tillinger and Jessica Florea, said that they heard about the event when they met an MSFF officials.
"We thought, 'What's the Forest Festival?'" Naas said. "So we looked it up and saw this event listed. We were so curious to try it that we planned on attending this year.
"It's been an amazing experience. It's so much fun and the people here have been extremely nice. It's definitely something we'd love to do again."
The winning team, composed of Scott Harris, Eric Anger, Jamie Carpenter and Evan Thomas, finished the course with only 27 rolls.
"It's a lot of fun," Harris said. "The weather has been great and it's a great start to the festival."
Later on Saturday, food lovers enjoyed the second annual MSFF Chicken Wing Cook-Off, sponsored by Yuengling.
This year the competition was stiff, doubling the amount of entries from last year, with participants taking part in two divisions: Amateur and Restaurant Divisions.
The Restaurant Division featured Darren's Pizza Shack, with the flavors Sweet & Spicy and Hot; Smoke on the Water, which offered its brand of Smoked Wings; Gino's, which presented Dr. Pepper BBQ, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Ranch & Jalapeno and Apple Butter Jalapeno; and Scottie's, which offered Mango Habanero, Caramel Apple and Hawaiian flavors.
The Amateur Division featured the Burgess Clan, which offered Old Country BBQ-flavored wings; and last year's returning champions, the Frontier Guys, who offered Buffalo, Garlic Parmesan and Whipple Wings.
Tim White and Chris Woodrum provided live music throughout the event, and Frontier brought a big-screen television so those attending could also watch college football.
Wing lovers could buy a pass that gave them eight tickets (one for each wing) for $5, or a full pack that included eight tickets and two beers. Additional tickets were available three for $1. People were also provided with two ballots (one for each division) to choose their favorite participant.
As people were digging in, they began to voice their opinions as to which flavors they preferred.
Lisa Karlen said she really enjoyed the Smoked Wings from Smoke on the Water, while Isabella Karlen said she preferred the Caramel Apple flavor from Scottie's. Lauren Cain said her favorite was the Buffalo from the Frontier Guys.
In the Amateur Division, the Frontier Guys won for the second-straight year.
In the Restaurant Division, Scottie's was the winner, while Gino's placed second and Darren's Pizza Shack took third.
Leary said the event had a tremendous turnout.
"Everything has been great," she said. "The weather has been amazing, the community has been supportive. Today, all around, has been a great opening to the festival."
Sunday was another beautiful day, featuring a 10K Run Walk, the horseshoe doubles tournament, the Parade of Children, a Children's Fest and entertainment on the downtown stage, featuring 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience.
The 10K Run/Walk included nearly 80 runners and 40 walkers, with almost 30 kids participating in a run. Following the event, the streets filled with twirlette groups, the Elkins Middle School Band, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, tumbling groups and tons of tots "Tooned into TV," the theme of the Parade of Children.
Maid Silvia LXXVII Ashley Elizabeth Houchin said she enjoyed the day, especially spending time with area children.
Costumed characters of all types paraded through town showing off their garb, including some dressed as the Flintstones, Dr. Seuss characters, princesses and many other cartoon favorites.
The crowd was also entertained by Scott Epperson, who portrayed Barney of Mayberry, drawing laughs with his Don Knotts-style antics.
Following the Parade of Children, kids gathered at the Children's Fest, celebrating "Hooray for Hollywood." The many stations at the event included face painting, beads and glasses, meeting Barney of Mayberry, a photo opportunity, temporary tattoos and other free games and activities. Members of the Elkins High School band drumline entertained those gathered.
Winners in the MSFF horseshoe doubles tournament at Elkins City Park Sunday included Class A winners Lonny Somers and Robert Carpenter of Rivesville; second place, Chuck Varney and John Coberly of Elkins; and third place, Greg Corica of Elkins and Floyd Riggleman of Beverly. Class B winners were Buck Koontz of Masontown and Jack Carpenter of Rivesville; second place, Tracey and Michael Harte of Stonewood; and third place, Jay Cunningham of Baxter and Tom Upperman of Rivesville.
Sunday evening turned cool, but did not deter the hundreds gathered at the downtown stage in Elkins Town Square for 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience.
The band performed many Eagles favorites including "Hotel California," "Tequila Sunrise," "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "New Kid in Town," "Heartache Tonight" and "Desperado."