Maple Syrup Festival
Folks waited for up to an hour and a half for tasty pancakes, buckwheat cakes, maple syrup and sausage during the Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens Saturday and Sunday. Carlie and Emily Garvin serve pancakes to attendees of the festival.

Crowds celebrate 35th anniversary of Maple Syrup Festival under sunny skies

PICKENS – Folks venturing out to the 35th Annual Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens this weekend were greeted by a huge, happy crowd, fun activities and tasty treats.

And even through the chilly winds, everyone agreed this was the perfect sunny weekend to come out from winter hibernation and celebrate the sweet sticky treacle harvested from the mighty maple trees that surround all of us – especially those in the ‘haven of the hardwoods’ of Pickens.

Event organizer Deb Morgan greeted those standing in line to enjoy a stack of pancakes or buckwheat cakes — and found out how far people had traveled to enjoy the weekend festival.

“So far, the longest distance was a gentleman who said he came from North Carolina,” Morgan said on Saturday afternoon. “He has family he met up with in Clarksburg who came here with him, but he said the real reason for his trip is to eat pancakes and maple syrup at our festival.”

The map posted by the door showed visitors had traveled from all over West Virginia, plus the states of Pennsylvania, Virginia and, of course, North Carolina.

“We have had a really steady crowd of people coming through to eat pancakes, buckwheat cakes, maple syrup and sausage,” Morgan said as she excused herself to go and tend to the ham, beans and cornbread she was making for the evening fundraising meal. “We are so happy to have a sunny day and so pleased that so many people came out to help us celebrate.”

The younger set were all excited to get to meet some of their favorite characters, a new attraction for this year’s festival. Children gathered to meet life-size Paw Patrol, Troll and Scooby Doo characters.

Another new and very popular attraction this year was axe throwing with Morgantown’s Appalachian Axe Company. Owners John Tokarz and Canton Whisner said they are happy to be a part of this year’s Maple Syrup Festival.

“This is our first year in the business,” Tokarz said. “We have only been doing this for a few months. We are all West Virginians and we want to be part of the fairs and festivals.”

Rolling Hills Farm from Buckhannon had a vendor booth selling jams, jellies and apple butter. Owner Bob Hinchman said he was glad to be part of the weekend celebration.

“This is my second year here,” Hinchman said. “I like coming to the festival. I do pretty good selling here.”

Maple Syrup Festival
Deb Morgan greets those attending the 35th annual Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens this weekend.

Kenco Farms out of Sutton was selling bottles of mead (honey wine). Owner John Kennen said he has been coming to the Maple Syrup Festival on and off for a dozen years.

“This is the first festival of the year and gives me the opportunity to come for this spring ritual,” Kennen said. “Cabin fever has driven me out of the house.”

Kennen said his farm has blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and apples. He also raises bees to get the honey for his mead.

According to Morgan, the Maple Syrup Festival is organized each year by members of the Pickens Improvement and Historical Society.

“They have been an organization since the early 1970s,” Morgan said. “I have been the vice president for the last four or five years. We are a small group with about eight that come to meetings.”

She said the success of the Maple Syrup Festival is due to the fact that family members and others who used to live in Pickens come home to help with the event.

“In 1985, Mike Richter, who has the maple syrup here now, came to us as an organization and asked why we didn’t have an event like a maple syrup festival,” Morgan said. “He said we can have a pancake feed – which would promote his product but also help out the community, too. We started out and picked the third weekend in March.

“For our first festival, our high hope was to serve 500 people the whole weekend. So we planned a pancake and buckwheat feed and a ham and bean dinner for that evening. We started it out and we had a pretty weekend. Before the end of the day on Saturday that first year, we had already served more than 500 people and were running out of everything. We had to send folks to get more supplies from Wendling’s in Buckhannon. It was totally crazy because we had no idea how many people would come to the festival.”

Maple Syrup Festival
Volunteer Frank Ross helps make pancakes to serve those eager to taste this year’s crop of maple syrup.

Over the years, Morgan said she thinks people come to the Maple Syrup Festival to get out of their houses after a long winter.

“I like to tell the story about our 25th year,” she said. “I take the money at the door at the American Legion Hall during the pancake feed. There was a little guy who came in – he was an older man – he told me that it was his 25th annual celebration, so he had been to each of the festivals. I told him I had been there for 25 years because I have to be here. Why do you come?”

Morgan said the man told her he looks forward to the Maple Syrup Festival all winter long.

“He said he lived in Spencer, W.Va. and he didn’t have a connection to Pickens, but just started coming. He said he enjoyed walking around and talking to others and seeing all of the crafts and the wood chopping.

“I continued to ask folks at the door where they came from, and a couple years ago as I was asking folks, a couple said they were from Spencer. I said there used to be this little man who would come and I haven’t seen him for a few years. I told them how he had told me he came for 25 years. The guy got emotional and said that was his father. He said he looked so forward to coming but had passed away.”

Morgan said she knows of another family who came to the Maple Syrup Festival for years.

“The kids in the family have all grown and moved away, but they come back home on this weekend and come here to the festival as sort of a family reunion weekend,” she said. “The festival affects people who don’t even have a connection to Pickens. That is how the old fairs and festivals used to be. I think there are a lot of people from Helvetia, Pickens and Czar as a homecoming.”

“I was very young when the Maple Syrup Festival started and I never expected this to go on this long,” Morgan added. “Money raised from the Maple Syrup Festival goes right back into the community. We own several of the buildings where people have moved out. The Quilt House used to be a private residence and we purchased that, as well as the depot. Our organization pays for the mowing in Pickens every summer and that accounts for about $5,000 a season.”

If you are planning ahead, next year’s Maple Syrup Festival will be on March 21 and 22, 2020.

Maple Syrup Festival
A new attraction was very popular with children during the 35th Annual Maple Syrup Festival – a visit with life-sized Paw Patrol, Scooby Doo and Troll characters.
Maple Syrup Festival
Appalachian Axe Company was one of the new vendors at the Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens this weekend.
Maple Syrup Festival
Kenco Farms out of Sutton was selling bottles of mead (honey wine). Owner John Kennen said he has been coming to the Maple Syrup Festival on and off for a dozen years.
Maple Syrup Festival

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