Strawberry Festival gets underway

Saturday morning’s torrential rains threatened to turn the clip-clop of hooves into more of a splish-splash sound for the second annual Horse and Carriage Parade, the new event which marks the start of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival.

But the storms moved out in time for the riders and the carriages to parade through the streets of downtown Buckhannon.

“We’ve been in the rain before,” said parade marshal and event sponsor Mike Ross.

“Neither one of us will melt,” co-sponsor and fellow parade marshal Ike Morris said. “It’s quite an honor to be a part of this.”

Ross and Morris teamed up to sponsor the Saturday evening parade, saying it is a way to give back to the community.

“We believe in sponsoring events people will enjoy,” Ross said. “It shows you don’t have to leave West Virginia to find quality entertainment.”

The Wild West Show, which proved popular last year, was canceled because of an illness to the show’s promoter. Shadow Montag, a trick horseback rider, stepped in at the last moment to provide an entertaining spectacle for those who braved the threatening skies prior to the parade.

“It was just a little wet, ” laughed Montag, a 19-year-old from Belmont, Ohio, who has been performing stunts on horseback for about six years and turned pro three years ago.

The idea of the Horse and Carriage Parade came about last year when festival organizers were trying to find a way to get people excited about the upcoming festival.

“We wanted something for the weekend prior to the festival,” said Jody Light, one of the Strawberry Festival’s organizers and volunteers. “This is something different. It’s the only parade of its kind in West Virginia. These are things people haven’t seen for years. It has that nostalgia feel to it.”

The rains halted some of the Open Case Performances on Main Street in the morning. But Buckhannon residents Guy Howard and Steve Holmes II found shelter under the awning of a downtown business so they could “jam together.”

Covered wagon rides eventually started around noon. Dr. Ross Young, a veterinarian from neighboring Braxton County, toted festival goers around town. The money raised by the rides will be used to send children to an equestrian-themed retreat on his Rosedale farm.

The Gambill Amusements Carnival will open today at 6 p.m. Rides will operate through 10 p.m. both today and Tuesday. The festival kicks into high gear at noon Wednesday with the opening ceremonies on the steps of the Upshur County Courthouse.

The queen’s coronation will take place that evening at Wesley Chapel on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus.