BEVERLY - Just weeks away, the Mountain State Forest Festival kicked into high gear Saturday with its annual Motorcycle Poker Run.
Riders from all over Central West Virginia converged on the Beverly Fire Hall Saturday morning to register for the 145-mile, nearly three-hour ride.
The annual event gathered dozens of riders, despite the looming threat of rainstorms. The weather cleared, though, and riders set out on the scenic trek for a chance to win hundreds of dollars in prize money.
Jesse Shreve, left, and his wife, Elisha, of Beverly, sign up for the annual Mountain State Forest Festival Poker Run Saturday at the Beverly File Hall. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Matthew Burdette)
Joe Morales, of Elkins, talks to Mountain State Forest Festival Assistant Director Bill Ross, prior to his first poker run Saturday at the Beverly Fire Hall. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Matthew Burdette)
"Last year, we had about 95 bikes in the poker run," said Mountain State Forest Festival Assistant Director Bill Ross. "We have a great turnout this year. I know many people were worried about the rain. With the Forest Festival, it's hard to pack everything into just one week, so we have a lot of events before the festival."
Some riders were taking to the highways for their first poker run, while many others were experienced road warriors.
"This is my first one," said Joe Morales, of Elkins. "Poker runs are always for a good cause. I moved away for year, then I came back. I'm looking forward to the ride today."
Kenny Wegman, of Valley Bend, was one of the more experienced bikers Saturday, riding the highways and byways since the mid-1960s.
"I just had to get out of the house today," Wegman said. "This will be a nice little ride and a way to get some relaxation."
Another biker in Wegman's group, Jerry Henderson, agreed.
"West Virginia is one of the best places for scenic rides," Henderson said. "This is the best place to ride as far as I'm concerned. He (Wegman) and I have been riding together all our lives."
Riders made five stop along the route - Seneca Rocks; Franklin; Monterey, Va.; Bartow and back at the Beverly Fire Hall - collecting playing cards along the way. Once back at the fire hall, participants had the opportunity to pay to exchange two cards, with the best poker hand winning the top prize.
Claiming the first-place prize of $300 was Joe Williams. The second-place rider was Elisha Shreve, who earned $200, and the third-place winner was Jeff Nelson, who pocketed $100.
In addition to the cash prizes, Ross said about two dozen door prizes were given out, including motorcycle equipment such as helmets and other riding gear.
"This is a great event," Ross said. "The rain held off, and we had a great turnout."
The 78th Mountain State Forest Festival is scheduled for Sept. 27 to Oct. 5 in Elkins.