CHARLESTON, WV – For the second time in as many weeks, Gov. Jim Justice held a virtual ceremony today to award more than a million dollars in grant funds to help ensure the survival of numerous fairs and festivals across West Virginia.
Today, Gov. Justice awarded 64 additional grants, worth $1,144,010 from the Governor’s Contingency Fund, to help various organizations that host fairs, festivals, or similar events bridge the gap in a year where such events were forced to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was reported to me that many of our fairs and festivals were on the ropes,” Gov. Justice said. “The people that are putting on our fairs and festivals are doing this because of their love for our state and our communities. But they’re not flush with extra dollars and, at the end of the day, when something happens like what happened, where we had to stop our fairs and festivals, it put us in jeopardy of losing many of them altogether.
“To me, that’s just not acceptable,” Gov. Justice continued. “I’m a real believer that these events are a part of our identity, part of the fabric of who we are. We have to be able to help preserve our fairs and festivals and keep them going and I’m really proud to be able to do this.”
Out of the round of additional funding announced today, 52 grants, worth a combined amount of $451,790, were awarded to organizations that normally receive funding for their fairs and festivals through Preservation WV Grants. Ten grants, worth a combined amount of $688,220, were awarded to individual arts line items that were included in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. And two grants, worth a combined amount of $4,000, were awarded to a pair of additional festivals in Bluefield.
On top of the amount announced today, Gov. Justice also awarded more than $1.5 million last week to 330 fairs and festivals across the state.
Over the course of the past two weeks, Gov. Justice has provided a total of $2,710,398 to support nearly 400 fairs, festivals, and similar events throughout West Virginia.
“Basically what we’re doing is doubling-down to ensure that these great organizations and events can survive,” Gov. Justice said. “All the goodness they deliver to us, all the time, is incredible. The economic impact and the impact on tourism is amazing.
“I think West Virginians, all of us, should be so proud of who we are and market that to the world,” Gov. Justice continued. “We’re beginning to do that and it is really changing the way the world looks at us. We’re becoming the diamond in the rough that they think they’ve all missed. Now they all want to come.”
The Governor was joined by West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History Curator Randall Reid-Smith for today’s ceremony, along with organizers and leaders of various fairs, festivals, and other organizations from across the state.
“Governor, today we come together again to celebrate your recognition of the importance of the arts and how they contribute to our communities throughout the state, especially our fairs and festivals,” Curator Reid-Smith said. “The arts, as creative enterprises, make significant contributions to our state and local economies, defining who we are and promoting the diversity and uniqueness of who we are as a people, and the heart of the creativity in our state are our fairs and festivals.”
“Thank you, Governor, for acknowledging the importance of these entities that are trying to tell the world how wonderful West Virginia is,” said Audy Perry, Executive Director of Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Wayne County. “Our purpose is to show the world how intelligent, creative, hardworking and persevering the Appalachian is. And then we hope that each visitor, especially our school children understand that somebody in their family was amazing; they built their own home, they grew their own food, they made their own clothing, and they protected their family.
“We just thank you so much for acknowledging the importance of that, not only for our school children, but to the public at large,” Perry continued. “As tourism and others come to visit us, post-pandemic, I think the world will quickly discover what West Virginia is all about.”
“I can’t begin to say thank you enough, Governor, for your support of the arts in West Virginia,” said Charlie Mathena of the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton. “Last year, at the Chuck Mathena Center, we had better than 60,000 people pass through our doors. The impact that the arts have in West Virginia, but especially in Mercer County, goes into the millions.
“Our facility allows young people, middle-aged people, senior citizens a place to come and to dream and to develop and to learn. We’re very proud of our center and the state has been very supportive,” Mathena continued. “Governor, I just say thank you for being the booster that you are for arts and culture in West Virginia. Thank you for sticking with us. We’re proud to be West Virginians.”
“Governor, thank you for your continued leadership and support for the fairs and festivals that celebrate the culture and heritage of our great state,” said Joe Tackett, President of the West Virginia Symphony. “The West Virginia Symphony is the state’s orchestra, with performances and education programs in all the corners of the state. We are the largest employer of artists in the state and we have an economic impact of over $20 million, statewide, each year.
“Every year we travel the state by bus and car, bringing great art to all of our communities and boosting the local economy through tourism and building community,” Tackett continued. “I’m proud to be a mountaineer.”
“Thank you, Governor Justice, for your support of fairs and festivals across the state. We’re very thankful for the appropriation that you’re sending our way,” said Cliff Marstiller, Board President of the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins. “We believe we’re one of the oldest, if not the oldest festival in the state. We started in 1930 and our founding fathers…the genesis of their idea for the Mountain State Forest Festival, as the country started into the grips of the Great Depression, was to find ways to stimulate economic activity in the City of Elkins, in Randolph County, and throughout the state.
“Our festival has an economic impact, on the entire state, just shy of $26 million, so for folks out there who may not be totally aware of the impact that fairs and festivals have, that gives you some idea,” Marstiller continued. “We have two full-time staff. We’ve got offices and a warehouse and a lot of overhead expenses. The money you’ve been able to appropriate to us this year is just tremendously helpful in a year that was very challenging, where we weren’t able to raise much in the way of local sponsorship money when we don’t have events.”
“Thank you, Governor, on behalf of our entire community and the artists that make up the Contemporary American Theater Festival,” said Ed Herendeen, founder of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown. “I want to thank you for this continued support. This additional grant is going to allow us to continue to bring our passion for new American theater to the Shepherdstown community.
“Last summer we attracted people from 38 states to attend and visit our festival for two or three days at a time, overnight. We have had an economic impact…of $5.86 million to the Eastern Panhandle. We like to say that the Contemporary American Theater Festival is creating the future of American theater in the great state of West Virginia.
“The New York Times, Governor, called us in a recent story one of the top 15 summer festivals in the United States. We are so proud to be a partner with the state of West Virginia. We’re very grateful to you for giving this grant at this time when so many arts organizations around the country are feeling the pain of the pandemic, you’re stepping up to the plate and saying that the arts matter, that stories matter, that theater music visual arts matters, and that, in the state of West Virginia, we have always been committed to the life of art. So thank you, Governor.”
“I appreciate, very much, the opportunity to thank you directly, Governor, and to thank Randall,” said Cathey Sawyer, Director of the Greenbrier Valley Theater in Lewisburg. “I worked in a lot of states before I came to West Virginia…and I have never been prouder of being part of a state than I am of West Virginia because of the appreciation for the arts. Because of your support of the arts, Governor, we’re even able to offer a free performance of every one of our shows so we make it possible for everyone to come enjoy the theater.
“Arts are a consistent source of economic growth,” Sawyer continued. “The NEA tells us that we have five times the economic impact of even agriculture, and that says something about what Americans want and what it means to preserve the culture of this country. We can be a centerpiece for economic development and I think we have been in Lewisburg. Our organization, which is a small theater, we alone have an $8 million economic impact.”
“You really have touched my heart today,” Gov. Justice said wrapping up the event. “You see, as much as I think I know all the goodness that you’re doing, when you talk to me as you’ve talked today, I see into your soul, I see the commitment of the goodness that you’ve done and that you continue to do.
“I mean it when I say that you touch my heart and you absolutely give me additional life because I know that we’re doing the right thing in trying to preserve the arts,” Gov. Justice continued. “All I can say is everybody keep up the great work and I’ll continue to try to help any and every time I possibly can.”