President of the Strawberry Festival Board, Shane Jenkins, attended the March 14 Upshur County Commission meeting to make a few traditional requests for county services and highlight changes in the 2024 WVSF. (Photo by Monica Zalaznik)

Don’t miss this: Strawberry Festival organizer says 2024 Mardi Gras edition will be the best — and biggest — of his lifetime

BUCKHANNON – The president of the Strawberry Festival board lauded the upcoming festival as “the biggest of his lifetime.”

President of the Strawberry Festival Board, Shane Jenkins, attended the March 14 Upshur County Commission meeting to request the use of the Upshur County Courthouse Plaza from May 11 through May 19, the use of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office for associated services, and assistance from the E911 Communications Center and the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as necessary.

Jenkins also requested a monetary allocation of $6,000. The commission has already allocated $5,000 for the 2024 during its 2023-2024 fiscal year budgeting process.

“Sadly enough, this will be my last time as president; this is my last consecutive year that I’m eligible to serve as president of the Strawberry Festival,” Jenkins said. “I’ll still be involved, just not as president, so you may still see me, just not speaking up here, but I wanted to thank you in advance for everything that you do for us during the festival and for everything that you have done for us throughout the years.”

Jenkins said he and the board are thrilled to see the festival grow, with an expanding list of entertainment on offer this year.

“Our careful budget oversight and supportive community have allowed for the opportunity to bring in West Virginia’s Davisson Brothers Band, and we’re really excited about that, as well as Ashley Cooke who just had a song break into the Top 25 on the country charts last week and as of yesterday, she announced that she has been nominated for a CMA,” Jenkins said.

“Of course, that wasn’t enough for us, so we want to have a look at some more entertainment and we have a frisbee dog show that is world-renowned,” he added. “They won international competitions, and they’re going to be set up next to the fire department in that grassy area.”

Pictured, from left, are Commission President Sam Nolte, Commissioner Kristie Tenney, WVSF Board President Shane Jenkins and Commissioner Doug Bush. (Photo by Monica Zalaznik)

The Strawberry Festival has also become a regional qualifier for the World Association of Marching Show Bands, which has attracted international marching bands to make an appearance.

“Most of the bands we contacted had somewhere between six and nine months to prepare, and they’re talking about raising the funds to come and actually logistically planning their flights and their travel, but we started this collaboration a little later for everyone to come to this Strawberry Festival,” Jenkins said. “We have started to plan for the future with WAMSB; we have multiple bands who have said it was a little too close for this year, but they plan on coming in 2025, 2026 and we have been scheduled all the way out to 2027.”

One event that will not be returning to the festival this year is the Horse and Carriage Parade.

“Unfortunately, registrations for that were pretty low again this year, so we’re looking at an alternative, which includes what we think should be an agricultural division in our Grand Feature Parade,” Jenkins said. “We have more participation in agriculture than I’ve ever seen since I’ve been on the board, so we plan on putting the horses and carriages – and whatever may show up for that – with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture [in the Grand Feature Parade].”

The Opening and Closing ceremonies will also take place at Jawbone Park this year, rather than the Courthouse steps, and the Opening Ceremony is slated for the first day of the festival, Saturday, May 11, rather than on the Wednesday of the festival as in the past.

“With early voting going on, we don’t want to even have to try to navigate that if we don’t have to, so that’s where it will be this year, and then Closing Ceremonies will be down there as well this year,” Jenkins said. “Tuesday (May 14) is Election Day and City Hall is a polling place.”

He highlighted another venue change.

“We typically have a family fun night that night at Stockert Youth Center, but this year it will be at West Virginia Wesleyan College,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he aims to make this a special Strawberry Festival for returning patrons and new attendees.

“I’m pleased to report that this year especially we’re shaping up to be the biggest of my lifetime and potentially one of the biggest and most exciting ever, in my opinion,” Jenkins said. “The economic impact of the festival this year will be unmatched. We have focused heavily on not just making this 82nd West Virginia Strawberry Festival great, but on what we could do to make it the first West Virginia Strawberry Festival for a lot of people.”

“We understand the festival serves as a vital economic driver in our county, stimulating growth and showcasing the beauty of what we have to offer,” he continued. We are confident first-time attendees will want to return and celebrate with us again in the future and experience Upshur County all over again.”

The Upshur County Commission approved all of the logistical, service-related and event-related requests presented to the board. In March 2023, when preparing the 2023-2024 fiscal year budget, the commission allocated $5,000 to the WVSF and decided not to change that amount to $6,000 for this year’s festival.

However, the commission did budget a $6,000 allocation for the 2025 West Virginia Strawberry Festival, an increase of $1,000 from the current fiscal year allotment.

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