BUCKHANNON – The 78th annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival gets underway Saturday with the Horse and Carriage Parade, which is expected to be bigger and better than recent years’ events.
However, this year’s red berry extravaganza welcomes a few even newer events for everyone to enjoy.
Owner of Trumps Salon, Rondal Mitchell, and president of Artistry on Main, Christine Keller, have organized the first-ever Strawberry Festival Art Walk.
“We will have local artisans that set up in businesses around town and with the host, you’ll walk around and meet the business owner, meet the artist, view other artwork and have a chance to purchase artwork at that time, if you wish.”
The walk will take place Wednesday, May 15, at 12:30 p.m. with Dominique Collins, the 2014 Strawberry Teen Queen and 2016 Strawberry Queen as the host.
“I wanted to bring more exposure to the local artisans, in a way that had a bigger community involvement,” Mitchell said. “You get to learn about not only the artists, but the business owners, and a lot of people that may not know what types of businesses that we have here in town.
“It would also be a great opportunity for [visitors and local festivalgoers] to be able to get a personal one on one experience with business owners.”
The artists and businesses taking part in the walk include Keller with her handcrafted jewelry, Chrizart, at Trumps Salon; Robbie Skinner displaying his photography at Mountain Lakes Insurance Agency; painter Linda Hicks (Meeka), who will be at Tateep Unique BoutiquE; fiber and textiles artist Suzan Morgan and woodworker Greg Cartwright will be at Ameriprise Financial; and author Lou Dobbins and mixed media artist Sara Golden will be at Artistry on Main.
“It’s a great way to meet the makers,” Keller said. “It’s a way to just find out a little bit about their process and what goes into making a piece of art and to broaden yourself and broaden your horizons and what you can know about … an art or craft. Maybe it’ll inspire someone to go out and try something or to take some classes and to learn, which is always a good thing.”
The artists will be in town Tuesday, May 14, and Wednesday, May 15, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will continue to be set up even when the walk is not going on.
“Being in the community just strengthens it,” Keller said. “Without art in the community, I think there is a lot that is missing, I think it just helps bring the community together in a way that a lot of things can’t.”
Another new addition to the Strawberry Festival is the Beer Garden, also organized by Rondal Mitchell.
“I just can’t imagine eating a hot dog or a gyro without beer,” Mitchell said. “I’ve known a lot of people who have gone to festivals that serve beer and it’s a common occurrence now.”
The Beer Garden will be located across from the Whistle Stop Café in the grassy area; that’s where festivalgoers will find a variety of different beers and Anheuser-Busch Strawberitas.
Mitchell said people will enter a gated area and received a wristband, which will permit each individual to purchase three drinks, but not at the same time.
“The cost will be $5 per drink, and people have to drink it within that area,” Mitchell said. “You can bring food into the beer garden, and we will have tables set up so you can actually sit and eat and drink your beer. But you just can’t take the beer out.”
The Beer Garden will be open Saturday through Saturday, May 18.
A final new addition to the “Strawberry Roads, Take Me Home” lineup is the first Strawberry Friday, which is today, Friday, May 10 at Jawbone Park.
The event is a brainchild of the Tennerton Community Council and will feature music from the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School Jazz Band and the Preserves Bluegrass Band. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. and continue until 8:30 p.m. There will be horse-and-carriage rides and strawberry-laden food to enjoy.