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City officials want a seat on future Strawberry Festival boards

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon is hoping to secure a seat on the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Association Board after providing more than $20,000 for the 2022 festival.

Buckhannon City Council approved a request for $25,000 in financial assistance from Strawberry Festival organizers at its most recent meeting March 17. The 80th annual red berry extravaganza is set for May 14-22.

At its monthly meeting Thursday, the Consolidated Public Works Board discussed some of the details regarding the upcoming festival, including the street closures required for the festival.

“City council has already approved this, so this is really more for your consideration and the Strawberry Festival is not going to close Spring Street,” Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said at CPWB’s March 24 meeting. “The only streets that we’re going to close for them [aside from Main Street] is Madison Street and South Florida Street,” Skinner said.

Most of the final decisions outlined in a letter to city council were made during a meeting in February that included city street, sewer and water departments, as well as Skinner, city recorder Randy Sanders, 2022 WVSF President Shane Jenkins and Shane Turner with Gambill Amusements.

Sanders recommended sitting down with the festival board and going over every detail prior to the festival’s start.

“I think it would be prudent to sit down, once again, and go through this agreement line by line with the president of the festival, just to make sure before it gets too late, that we are all on the same page and everything is what we agreed to,” Sanders said.

At council’s March 17 meeting, councilman and CPWB member CJ Rylands suggested city officials explore how a council member might be appointed to the Strawberry Festival board, given the $25,000 contribution. On Thursday, Rylands reiterated those thoughts, saying he believed communication would be better if the city had a representative on the Strawberry Festival Board.

Sanders agreed.

“[The Strawberry Festival board members] are currently reviewing the bylaws, and this would be a good time to do it, but it probably wouldn’t take effect until after this festival,” he said, “but then the city would have a voting spot for the next festival, like we have on most other boards in the city.”

Skinner said the city is contributing a large sum of money, so city officials should be involved in the planning of the festival. 

“We are now a significant financial resource for the Strawberry Festival, so we need a seat at the table,” Skinner said.

When contacted about appointing a city official to Strawberry Board, Jenkins, the 2022 Festival president, said the board would have to create a new position for a city representative – but the board is interested in that prospect.

“It’s not so much about there being something in the by-laws that prevents it, but rather something missing from the by-laws that would allow it,” Jenkins told My Buckhannon Thursday. “Our current by-laws and structure allow for 21 board members and five associate members, all of which are filled right now.”

Jenkins noted he’s been in contact with the mayor.

“I’ve talked to Mayor Skinner, and we’re fully invested in the idea,” he added. “We’ve worked more closely with the city the past couple years than ever, and it just makes sense to have someone even closer who will know the specifics and who can guide us when it comes to city planning and infrastructure.”

You can find the full 2022 W.Va. Strawberry Festival schedule here.

Below are a few of the Strawberry Festival board requests approved by Buckhannon City Council (not an all-inclusive list):

  • Use of Jawbone Park area for vendors and the carnival and additional space surrounding the park for Gambill Amusements May 17-22
  • The closure of streets along Strawberry Lane (Marion, College, South Kanawha, Main, East Main, Sedgwick, etc.) for parade use on May 19, May 20 and May 21.
  • The closure of Barbour Street, Pocahontas Street, Marion Street, Camden Avenue (both sides) for Grand Feature Parade lineup on May 21.
  • The closure of Madison Street from the South Spring Street intersection to the South Florida Street intersection during carnival/vendor house for placement of vendors and/or carnival overflow.

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