BUCKHANNON — The history of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival is now commemorated with a special marker on South Kanawha Street, where parade units will pass by on Strawberry Lane.
Dr. Greenbrier Almond who lives in the home at the intersection of Madison Street and South Kanawha Street with his wife Araceli, first approached the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau for help getting the marker over a year ago.
“It is really nice to have this, especially about one week before the festival kicks off,” Laura Meadows, director of the CVB, said. “It’s nice to have this displayed for people to see and get in touch with the story of the festival.”
Meadows helped with the process of getting it approved through the Division of Culture and History.
Donnie Tenney, a past strawberry king who continues to grow the sweet berry, discussed some of the difficulties of growing the delicate fruit.
“I was honored in 2002 and 2007 to serve as Strawberry King,” he said. “Since the festival is a little early, the farmers have to be innovative in order to have strawberries earlier, so the simplest method is to have a high tunnel or some kind of structure over the berries so you can heat it so on days like today it’s 65 degrees instead of 45 degrees.
Tenney said he has strawberries that may be ready in two weeks if warm weather returns.
People who work in agriculture understand that growers are battling all the elements of nature, according to Tenney.
“You are fighting an uphill battle between the weather, temperature and worries about frost and freezing,” he said. “You have to be very innovative if you are going to be an agriculturist today.
“When you are a farmer, you realize that it is a blessing from God when you have a good increase in strawberries or whatever it is we eat to sustain our lives,” he said.
Tenney noted that strawberries are the only fruit that have their seeds on the outside.
A former Record Delta reporter, Linda Booth Coronet, wrote a song about the strawberry to the tune of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
Asia Dezarn sang the song at the dedication Sunday.
The ceremony ended with teen queen Sydni Smith reading the strawberry benediction first done by Rev. Steve Engel in 1987:
“Let the color of these strawberries remind us of the beauty of creation. Let the taste of these strawberries remind us of the sweetness of a fruitful life. Let the size of these strawberries remind us of the time and effort given by the growers. Let these strawberries remind us of lives that are enriched as we share with each other. Bless these strawberries as symbols of lives that are pure and sweet.”