ELKINS - Area students pulled out their crayons, paints and construction paper earlier this year to design a poster in hopes of being selected as the Mountain State Forest Festival mascot, Woodly the Elf.
On Monday, MSFF officials gathered with Midland School students and staff to announce the contest's winner.
Fourth grader Tessa Martin, daughter of Todd and Susie Martin of Elkins, jumped up when her name was called as the winner.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Mountain State Forest Festival officials gather at Midland Elementary School in Elkins Monday to reveal the winner of the Woodly the Elf poster contest for the 78th MSFF?celebration. Tessa Martin, age 9, was selected for the honor. Pictured are, from left, Sharron Reckart, grandmother; Susie Martin, mother; Debby Berdine, 2014 Mountain State Forest Festival Queen’s Department director; Peggy Phillips, MSFF Queen’s Department assistant; Lydia Jones, MSFF deputy director general; Ben Shaffer, MSFF director general; Michelle Harris, MSFF Queen’s Department assistant; and Tessa Martin, the 2014 Woodly the Elf.
She made her way to the front of the students as Debby Berdine, 2014 Mountain State Forest Festival Queen's Department director, pulled the cover from Tessa's poster. Students remarked "wow" and "very pretty" upon seeing her winning entry.
Tessa said she was very excited about being selected this year's Woodly the Elf.
"I was just shaking as soon as I heard my name," Tessa said. "I was sitting in the back with my best friend and we were both shaking when we heard the news."
Tessa said she enjoys the Forest Festival and her favorite event is the coronation of Maid Silvia.
"I also enjoy going to the carnival," Tessa said.
Her poster was selected from more than 25 entries. The Mountain State Forest Festival and Citizens Bank of West Virginia kicked off the annual Woodly the Elf poster contest for the 78th autumn celebration. Citizens Bank is the sponsor of the festival's official mascot.
The contest, now in its 37th year, is held to select the student who will have the honor of serving as Woodly the Elf. The poster winner will become a member of the royal minor court of Queen Silvia LXXVIII; additionally, the official mascot will make appearances at the Buckwheat Festival, Wood Chopping Festival and Strawberry Festival.
Berdine said the kids got really creative this year with their entries.
"The judges had a difficult time picking just one," Berdine said. "But this one stood out. You can tell Tessa put a lot of thought and effort into making this entry. We are very excited for her."
2014 MSFF Director General Ben Shaffer agreed.
"This poster is very fitting of what Woodly sees at the festival," Shaffer said. "It captures the theme of 'A Festival to Remember' very well. We want to congratulate Tessa on a very creative and original poster design that fits in with Woodly the Elf and this year's theme."
Susie Martin, Tessa's mother, said her daughter spent more than 50 hours making her poster.
"She hot-glued leaves on the poster and used watercolor fingerprints," Martin said. "She has bubbles to show that Woodly is thinking about things. She also asked about past festivals, and included President Ford on her poster."
Tessa said she included former president Gerald Ford in her poster because normally presidents do not come to West Virginia, and she thought it must have been a good time when he attended the MSFF.
Midland Principal Melinda Akers said the school is honored to have a student selected to be Woodly the Elf.
"Tessa is a sweetheart," Akers said. "She is outgoing and cares about other kids and her classmates. She will be a good representative and ambassador for the school."
Akers encouraged the other students who submitted posters to keep trying.
"Never give up," Akers said. "If you don't win the first time, give it another go."
Tessa is the granddaugher of Jim and Lois Martin, formerly of Elkins and now of St. Marys, Ga., and Sharron and Darrell Reckart of Elkins. Tessa's family has a long involvement with the MSFF. Her grandmother, Sharron Reckart, served on various MSFF committees for 28 years; her sister, Hallie was a flower girl; her mother, Susie, was a maid of honor in 1988; and her uncle, Todd Reckart, was a train bearer in 1974.
The Woodly the Elf contest is open to Randolph County students in 3rd, 4th or 5th grades, including students in private or public schools, and home schooled students. Four runner-ups will be chosen and invited to ride on the Woodly the Elf float in the Grand Feature Parade.
Additional information about the Forest Festival, scheduled for Sept. 27 to Oct. 5, is available by calling 304-636-1824 or going online to www.forestfestival.com.