Festival-goers are hoping the 2024 West Virginia Strawberry Festival is a bit drier than last year's edition. (Brian Bergstrom / My Buckhannon)

The biggest event of the year is here: The Strawberry Festival kicks off Saturday

BUCKHANNON – Ready or not, the 2024 West Virginia Strawberry Festival officially kicks off this weekend with the opening ceremonies at Jawbone Park.

Lacy Ramsey, Strawberry Festival board vice president, attended the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday to inform members of a few changes to the imminently approaching 82nd Strawberry Festival.

“We start planning by the first of July every year, and it all leads up to this week,” Ramsey said. “If you see any of the directors, please thank them and acknowledge them. They have worked tirelessly, especially in the last few weeks, to bring you a quality festival. There will be probably upwards of 50-plus events that will happen starting this Saturday through next Sunday.”

The opening ceremonies traditionally take place at the steps of the Upshur County Courthouse, but due to early voting, the board elected to move the event to Jawbone Park this year.

“We’ll kick things off at 10 a.m. on Saturday with opening ceremonies,” Ramsey said. “Those events have moved to Jawbone Park, because that is the last day for early voting. The flame will stay down there for the duration of the week, and any activities that normally happen at the courthouse will be down in Jawbone this year.”

Due to Mother’s Day occurring this Sunday, the board decided to offer a Mother’s Day Bingo as a fundraiser at 2 p.m. at The Outpost and Event Center.

“Another new event we’ll be offering this year is the Disc-Connected K9 show,” Ramsey said. “They’re a traveling group of dogs that do events, and they’re doing several different shows throughout the week. There are different pets and different tricks with each show, and that will happen over behind the Public Safety Complex in the grassy area next to the Stockert Youth and Community Center.”

This will be the first Strawberry Festival in a long time to welcome a headlining musical act to entertain the crowds on Saturday, May 18.

“We are going to have a headliner for the first time in a while,” Ramsey said. “Ashley Cooke is a county artist, and she will be up on Main Street Saturday evening, with the Davisson Brothers opening for her. That is a free event, which we hope will draw a lot of people in. We’ll also have street competition-style music on Thursday with Battle of the Brass, which really emphasizes our Mardi Gras theme, and we’ll have a drumline battle on Main Street similar to some of the things we saw during the [World Association of Marching Show Bands event last summer], so we’re excited to bring that back.”

The carnival is allowing customers to purchase tickets online before they arrive.

“If you want to pre-buy tickets, you can do that, and I believe they’re discounted about $5 if you buy them in advance versus at the ticket booth,” Ramsey said. “The West Virginia lottery has confirmed they are coming, so they will have their wagon down in Jawbone, as well as lots of food vendors and several new vendors coming in this year.”

The Junior Royalty Parade will be at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16; the Firemen’s Parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17; and the Grand Feature Parade will march down Strawberry Lane starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 18.

The City of Buckhannon sent out notices outlining where parking will be limited during the festivities. There will be no parking beginning May 11 through 19 in the following parking lots: Lot 2 across from the Post Office on Spring Street, Lot 7 across from the Post Office where pavilions are located at Jawbone Park, and Lot 6 off Madison Street and the old bank lot. There will be no parking on Main Street during any of the parades, and there will be no parking on E. Lincoln Street from May 16 to 19. People who park in these areas will be towed before the parade commences.

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