BUCKHANNON — It is the ‘berry’ best time of year in Buckhannon, as the 79th Annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival kicks off this week. “Our board is beyond excited to get things going,” expressed WVSF President Shane Jenkins.
Jenkins noted that the WVSF has already had tremendous success with their pre-festival events and assures that the best is yet to come. Although the festival is different from previous years, the board of volunteers has worked exceptionally hard to make this the very best, given the circumstances of navigating the pandemic. “We have a very motivated board with a lot of energy. They’re ready to showcase what we’ve been working on and I can’t wait to see their hard work pay off,” Jenkins noted.
Jenkins reminisced on his childhood and explained that the live bands and entertainment, along with the car show has always been one his favorites — so he is most looking forward to that this year, and the food, of course. He explained, “We’ve got entertainment for everyone this year, ranging from various different genres of live music, to family and children’s activities, a singing competition, and some other really cool things.”
Past President and current member of the Board of Directors, Debra Hupp emphasized, “We know that everyone has been disappointed due to no parades and no carnival, but we just hope the public will come out and support us and take part in the activities we are providing for them this year.”
Ultimately, Jenkins and the board feel blessed to be part of this community that has supported them and their efforts this year. He expressed, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support of the community. It’s been a challenging time for a lot of people, and we’re glad to be able to offer some relief and normalcy. We expected a huge deficit in our sponsorships this year, and although we did see an impact, our sponsors stepped up big time. We can’t express enough how much we appreciate our sponsors and the community, this year more than ever!”
During the festivities of the WVSF, COVID-19 guidelines will be followed. Festival goers can expect to see COVID-19 signage in all of the event areas, as the WVSF is leading the way in how events will respond in the future during the pandemic. The WVSF Board has partnered with St. Joseph’s Hospital, along with Community Care of West Virginia, to offer walk-in vaccine clinics free of charge on May 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This summer, the board is going to begin asking for the public’s help, during special meetings geared specifically towards improving the relationship with the public regarding next year’s festival and parades. Hupp mentioned, “Everyone is always curious about what goes into putting on the parades, not only Horse and Carriage, but the Grand Feature parade as well, and we’re reaching out to the public this summer to come and join some of our meetings.” If you’re interested in the background work and planning for the 2022 WVSF, Hupp advised the public to watch for advertisements of their upcoming meetings.
“Next year, on our 80th celebration, we hope that everything is going to be back to a good normal for everyone,” Hupp expressed. Enjoy the special section in this edition about all things Strawberry, with a complete 2021 Schedule of Events. Although this 79th Annual WV Strawberry Festival is different in many ways, remember “Home is Where the Strawberries Are,” and they hope to see you there this week!