2023 West Virginia Strawberry Festival Board President Shane Jenkins updates the commission on changes to the 2023 festival at its Jan. 26 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Let ‘Strawberry Freedom’ ring: 2023 berry festival to return May 13 with a few schedule changes

BUCKHANNON – The 2023 West Virginia Strawberry Festival will return to Buckhannon May 13-21 with a few schedule changes.

Strawberry Festival Board president Shane Jenkins attended the Jan. 26 Upshur County Commission meeting to discuss the status of the upcoming festival.

“I just wanted to say, this is my third consecutive year as president, I could serve another year after this, but I think I’m going to serve as past-president after this, so hopefully somebody else gets that opportunity,” Jenkins said. “I’m like the face of the board, but there’s 26 other people and we’re making additions. We’re hoping to add a few more people on, but I just want to say there are 26 other people who work hard year-round to make that thing happen. They put their absolute heart and soul into it, so if you see them out, thank them.”

He said the festival from last year was a huge success after dealing with COVID-19 the previous two years.

“It was our first festival back from COVID, which I think everyone was really excited about,” Jenkins said. “One year we basically had a cancellation and then that second year, we did an abbreviated festival, which we were happy to do, and it seemed to make a lot of people happy, but it just wasn’t really familiar to us as the festival we knew, so it worked, but it wasn’t what we planned to do. We were happy to bring it fully back last year.”

The board has made a few changes to its bylaws, one of which allows additional board members to join in a non-voting capacity.

“I think we opened up almost 10 associate board member spots; they just can’t vote, so they’re basically volunteers that just come in and help us out,” Jenkins said. “We’re still working on filling those, but I just want to make sure they’re filled with the right people who are going to show up, especially this late in the game because we’ve only got a few months left until it’s time for the festival.”

The board is well into planning the upcoming festivities, including the theme and ironing out the schedule of events.

“We’ve assigned a theme and it’s ‘Strawberry Freedom,’” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be red, white and blue everything; the community and especially Main Street has always backed us and makes everything look great. One big change is the schedule of events; I sat down and got to looking at our schedule of events, and our opening ceremonies are on Wednesday, and it just doesn’t make sense because we’re already halfway through our events before the opening ceremonies, so now opening ceremonies will be the first Saturday, that first opening day.”

Jenkins said they plan to close the festival with a new ceremony this year.

“We want to do a closing ceremony because there’s always been a few things at the end like the gospel sing, but nobody really makes it official, so we’re going to actually close it out this year and make it official,” Jenkins said. “We also want to add an event Wednesday, so we used to close Main Street on Wednesday evening for the car show, but we moved that to Saturday this past year and that worked; I think we just have a few more tweaks to make with it.”

The car show will continue to occur Saturday and the board wants to introduce a new event at Jawbone Park to fill the gap on Wednesday.

“We want to have a West Virginia-themed night, we bring in cultures from all over the world and from all over the state, but we don’t necessarily highlight our culture here, so that’s what we want to do that night,” Jenkins said.

Follow the W.Va. Strawberry Festival on social media for the latest news on the 2023 event.

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