BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council on Thursday voted to lend a helping hand to the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Association by approving an allocation of $10,000.
That amount is in addition to the $25,000 in financial assistance the City of Buckhannon has already pledged to the 2022 Strawberry Festival, the 80th edition of the very berry extravaganza.
At a special meeting Thursday morning, mayor Robbie Skinner explained the circumstances behind the requested additional funding which he said came onto his radar this week.
“I was contacted by Gambill Amusements, which provides amusement rides for the Strawberry Festival,” Skinner explained. “In 2020, they were canceled by the Strawberry Festival president, who is not the president now. [The then-president of the Strawberry Festival] signed a contract with Gambill Amusements, taking them through the next four years.”
However, Skinner said there was a major misunderstanding – the 2022 festival dates were, at the time, listed incorrectly.
“The dates of the 2022 Strawberry Festival in the contract were incorrect; they had the dates as the week prior,” the mayor explained. “Obviously, the Strawberry Festival is the next week. The president and a board member caught this error and told me there was a big problem.”
Skinner said Gambill Amusements has a long history with the Strawberry Festival, and the executives at Gambill Amusements, which is owned by Shane Turner, rearranged their schedule to make the Strawberry Festival a priority.
“In doing so, Shane [Turner, owner of Gambill Amusements] lost revenue at the tune of $10,000, so I talked to Shane Jenkins [president of the 2022 Festival] from the Strawberry Festival, and Shane [Turner] from Gambill Amusements is asking the Strawberry Festival for $10,000,” Skinner said. “Shane Jenkins, president of the Strawberry Festival, does not have $10,000 to pay Gambill Amusements for this. They are doing well to put on the Strawberry Festival with what they have, so I am asking Buckhannon Council for a one-time allocation of $10,000 from our contingency fund to the Strawberry Festival so they can make it right with Shane Turner from Gambill Amusements and not go in the hole to pay their debt back.”
Skinner reminded Buckhannon City Council members that if the Strawberry Festival does not have a carnival, a main attraction for both Upshur County residents and visitors, they will lose additional revenue.
“We have promised our community that we will have the Strawberry Festival this year, so I am asking council to allocate the $10,000,” Skinner said.
A motion to approve the one-time allocation was made by Councilwoman Pam Bucklew and seconded by Councilman Jack Reger. The motion was approved unanimously.
Skinner said he attended the last Strawberry Festival meeting as a representative of the city and learned plans for the full event were coming along nicely. Skinner thanked Buckhannon City Council for agreeing to help with the $10,000 allocation.
Also, during Thursday’s special session, members selected the day and time to interview the top three candidates for consideration for hiring for the position of probationary police officer.
The next regular meeting of the Buckhannon City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5. Additionally, council’s second meeting in May, usually scheduled for the third Thursday of each month, has been moved from Thursday, May 19 to Tuesday, May 17 so it does not conflict with the Strawberry Festival’s annual Junior Royalty Parade.
You can view a full schedule of festival events here.