BUCKHANNON - The 73rd West Virginia Strawberry Festival comes to a close after an eventful weekend.
When one WVSF closes, the planning stages of the next one follow shortly after.
WVSF President Charliena Eubank said that the WVSF Board could begin working on the 74th festival as soon as June.
Strawberry Festival King Steve Butler waves to the crowd during Saturday’s Grand Feature Parade. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman)
This year's festival battled rainy weather throughout the week, but it was mostly sunshine that gripped the weekend finale of the annual fete.
"We had an amazing week," Eubank said Saturday evening. "We had a great turnout for Saturday's parade. We have had a good two-and-a-half hours of entertainment. The last couple of nights, we know have been a little iffy with all the rain, but we're ready for tonight."
Although the Junior Royalty Parade on Thursday was soaked by rain, the Grand Feature Parade marched down Strawberry Lane without a hitch. Eubank estimated there were about 100 parade units participating, including both local and visiting bands, royalty and other various organizations. The parade was sponsored by The Inter-Mountain.
"Overall it was a great event," Eubank said. "It's just been an amazing week."
The festival was packed with activities for all ages from band performances to amusement rides.
"I think it's been fun," 9-year-old Holly Belmont of Belva said about the festival on Saturday, adding that her favorite part about the Grand Feature Parade was "seeing all the pretty floats and the queen of the festival."
The festival officially came to a close Sunday with gospel singing in the early evening and Gambil Amusement rides that were open through the day and evening.
On Friday, the Lord and Lady of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival were crowned. They are Laco Harrison and Edith Hosafook, both of Buckhannon. The crowning took place at the Upshur County Senior Center.
"Great, I feel happy," Harrison said, adding that he is a frequent visitor of the local Senior Center where he likes to play cards, pool and checkers.
Hosafook, an Upshur County native, said she comes from a large family and has many grandchildren who she believes may be more excited than she is about her being crowned Lady of the WVSF.
"My family thinks is great," Hosafook said, adding that she likes to go to the local Senior Center to play checkers and dominoes.
Harrison and Hoosafook both rode in Saturday's Grand Feature Parade.
Friday festivities included the berry auction, the Fireman's Parade and the WVSF Sweetest Berry Competition. A 9-year-old from Belington, Marshall Nestor, won for berries he grew and entered in the competition. The sweetest berry was chosen by a panel of a dozen 12-year-olds.
The panelists were Emma Reger, Sarah Rager, Greyson Shepherd, Abby Weaver, Brandon Wamsley, Travis Small, Payton Knicely, Jared Propst, Breann Morgan, Allison Tenney, Brody McCartney and Matt Carson. Each panelist tasted about three different berries and each selected the one they believed to be the sweetest.
Berries from many local growers were auctioned and many of them were grown by Marshall Nestor and his family. Auctioneer Charlie Helmick had help from festival royalty in selling the quarts of berries. Royalty took the berries through the crowd to entice potential buyers.
"I love Buckhannon and I love the Strawberry Festival," 2014 Queen Nichole Greene said. "I fell in love with it last year. I'm so happy to be here."
Millie Alkire of Buckhannon won the pie eating contest on Friday and Josh Jenkins of Charleston bested competitors in the best legs competition.