The 2019 West Virginia Strawberry Festival King Joseph Robinson and Queen Cassidy Myers leave the stage Wednesday after being crowned during the WVSF's coronation at South Buckhannon Mission Church. The festival was last held in 2019 due to its complete cancellation because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This year's four-day event will be scaled back. / File photo

‘Home is Where the Strawberries Are’ starting May 13: 79th annual WVSF releases festival lineup

BUCKHANNON – The 2021 West Virginia Strawberry Festival will not feature a carnival or parades, but organizers promise the event is going to bring plenty of summer fun back to Buckhannon.

The West Virginia Strawberry Festival Board confirmed during their Wednesday, April 14 board meeting that the festival would not feature a carnival or parades, but there will still be plenty of things to look forward to during the 79th annual red berry extravaganza, which is slated for May 13-16, 2021. This year’s theme, selected two years ago, is “Home is Where the Strawberries Are.”

Regarding the decision to host the festival without the carnival and regular lineup of parades, West Virginia Strawberry Festival Association President Shane Jenkins said it wasn’t one the board took lightly.

“It’s not a decision we wanted to make, it’s a decision that more or less, we’re forced to make,” Jenkins said at the Strawberry Board’s meeting Wednesday. “I think we almost had some tears in here when we had to cancel those events, but that’s just the reality that we have to face.”

The bulk of the festival will take place Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 16, but the Teen and Queen Pageant will take place this Saturday, April 17 at 2 p.m. at the South Buckhannon Mission Church, and the Junior Royalty Pageant will take place April 24 at 1 p.m. at the Way of Holiness Church.

“When you look at the big picture, we’re very fortunate to be in the community that we’re in and to have the support that we have, to be able to still do this,” Jenkins said. “If we didn’t have the support from the community and the people, I don’t know where we’d be right now.”

WVSF President Shane Jenkins at the Strawberry Board’s April 14 meeting.

The Berry Bandit Poker Run, a fundraising ATV poker run, will take place Saturday, May 8 at 9 a.m. at the Ireland Community Building in Lewis County. The ride costs $15 per ATV and $5 for each additional rider.

“I feel, as a group of volunteers, we have almost climbed the impossible mountain – maybe not impossible, but it’s been a tough mountain,” WVSF first vice president and board member Gary Connell said.

The board was faced with a balancing act; it was essentially assigned the task of hosting an event so the Strawberry Festival would not lose its State Fairs and Festivals funding and appeasing regular festivalgoers both near and far who look forward to the event every year, all while ensuring the festival operates as safely as possible in the midst of the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really tried the best we could and worked with the authorities,” Connell said. “It’s going to be very safe and very healthy.”

The WVSF board has also been conducting raffle drawings, and while the first two are already complete, the final drawing will take place Sunday, May 16.

“We have tickets available for purchase online, or people can buy one personally from a board member; tickets are $25, and the last drawing is for $500,” Jenkins said.

Even without the parades and amusement rides, Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 16 will see a slew of Strawberry Festival traditions return to town including live music, food, vendors and plenty of fun activities.

“I personally think the locals are going to love it; it’s going to be Festival Fridays on steroids,” Connell said. “Festival Fridays are fantastic, but I’m just saying there is going to be a lot of excitement, a lot of people down there having a great time.”

WVSF First Vice President Gary Connell at Wednesday evening’s meeting.

The food court will be open at Jawbone Park Thursday, May 13 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday, May 15 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Strawberry Craft Show will take place at the Moose Lodge from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 13 through Saturday, May 15. Strawberry Royalty will have their coronation at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 13 at the Way of Holiness Church. A Strawberry Festival-themed photography exhibit will be on display Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre.

In addition, the Classic Car Cruise-in will return to Main Street Saturday, May 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Strawberry Idol is slated to take place Saturday, May 15 at the Upshur County Courthouse starting at 1 p.m.

For more details, head to the festival’s Facebook page or its website. A tentative schedule appears below (view PDF):

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