BUCKHANNON — The West Virginia Strawberry Festival received a glimmer of hope Monday morning when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced that fairs and festivals may resume on May 1. Gov. Justice stated in his daily briefing, “These events are part of our fiber and we want them to go on.”
The current established schedule may now be subject to change with the Governor’s most recent announcement, explained West Virginia Strawberry Festival Board President Shane Jenkins. The WVSF Board has been focusing on “quality over quantity” this year, he noted. Regarding the beloved parades, Jenkins stated, “The Board did not want to have to make any decision to cancel or downsize anything at all. When it comes down to it, we’re here for the community, and we can’t let our emotion get in the way of keeping people safe and healthy. To have a parade, we’re often recruiting and booking stays and travel for international groups about a year out. We couldn’t wait any longer for the restrictions to be lifted, and still be able to produce something of quality.”
Following the press briefing, the WVSF Board is now waiting to hear back from the state about including the traditional carnival and potentially adding a local parade. Jenkins told The Record Delta Monday afternoon, “We’ve gotten ahold of the state and the state is supposed to be releasing later this week, some guidelines on the big thing we’ve been waiting on—which is whether we can bring the carnival in or not.” Strawberry Festival Board members are ultimately hoping that the carnival can happen, with guidance from the state. Jenkins explained that if they can get a parade together, they would like to focus on first responders who have worked tirelessly on the frontlines throughout the pandemic.
Pre-Festival events include the Queen/Teen and Jr. Royalty pageants. The Queen/Teen pageant will take place April 17 at the South Buckhannon Mission Church. The Jr. Royalty Pageant will be held at the Way of Holiness Church on April 24 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Applications are available on their website at https://www.wvstrawberryfestival.com/ and also via their Facebook page. On the website, click the tab on the home page, labeled “Event Applications and Registration Forms.” Also listed there, is a registration form for the Arts & Crafts show, which takes place Friday, May 14 and Saturday May 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Moose Lodge.
As of now, all events for the WV Strawberry Festival have been condensed into Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 16, pending further directives from the state for the carnival and parade. Events will kick off that Thursday with the Strawberry Blonde contest for children ages 6 and under. Originally planned as a photo only competition this year, Jenkins explained that guidelines for the traditional contests, such as the Strawberry Blonde competition, may also be subject to change.
The Food Court and live music at Jawbone Park will tentatively take place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, Strawberry Idol will begin at 1 p.m. and Irish Road Bowling will start at 4 p.m. on Turkey Run Road. At 7 p.m., the finals for Strawberry Idol will take place at the Courthouse Plaza.
Jenkins concluded, “We are fortunate to have the support of a wonderful community and local businesses. Without the people we have on the Board of Directors, none of this would be possible. I’ve truly been amazed at what our Board has been able to do on such short notice, and I think this year’s ‘mini festival’ is going to be a great one!”
While it may not be what everyone has grown to love and expect, the West Virginia Strawberry Festival is still on with traditional events and modifications to others due to local, state and national guidelines. Stay tuned for more updates regarding the 2021 WVSF and visit their website at https://www.wvstrawberryfestival.com/ for a full list of scheduled events.