Upshur leaders prepare for annual festival

To put on an event the magnitude of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival takes more than just a handful of people, one of the organizers told the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce at a recent meeting.

“The community spirit has been the driving force,” Carol Long said. “Without the involvement of the volunteers, this celebration wouldn’t be possible.”

The 72nd edition of the Strawberry Festival will be held in Buckhannon May 11-12 and 15-19. The preliminary weekend will feature the return of the Horse and Carriage Parade, along with a Wild West show.

“We received such a positive response from the Horse and Carriage parade,” Long said of the parade, which will begin at 5 p.m. that Saturday. “The downtown will be filled with music and the sales of homemade foods and arts and crafts.”

Open-case performers will again be found scattered along Main Street. Those performers play their tunes with the hopes of having a bit of loose change tossed into their musical instrument case.

“It’s a way to keep Main Street exciting up until the parade,” Long said.

She also said that spirit is prevalent among the local residents, especially those who live near Strawberry Festival events.

“The community spirit is visible when residents decorate their windows and yards,” she said. “That spirit of community, the love of community is what showcases Buckhannon, Upshur County and the state of West Virginia.”

Long said the festival has seen its state funding slashed by 14 percent, adding organizers hope to make up the difference in business and corporate sponsors.

Sponsorships start as low as $300 and can range up to $20,000. Those interested should call Jody Light at 304-472-3033.

The festival also offers its “Friends” program, where civic-minded patrons can donate anywhere from $10 or more to help stage the annual event.

Long told the gathering that it’s not too early to begin thinking about the 75th anniversary of the Strawberry Festival. She said she realizes the enormity of organizing such a milestone event, having done so at the 50th festival.

“It will take the whole community to pull it off,” she said.