Strawberry Festival set to open on Wednesday

The “exciting family tradition” that is the West Virginia Strawberry Festival officially kicks off at noon Wednesday with the lighting of the Strawberry Flame on the Upshur County Courthouse Plaza, the highlight of the opening ceremonies at noon.

Queen-elect Hannah McComas, 20, of Ripley, will be introduced, as will King-elect Steve Butler and Teen Queen Eva Leigh-Ann Thorne, of Moorefield.

The royalty courts also will be introduced to the crowd.

The Upshur Senior Center will be a busy location Wednesday as seniors will compete in the annual berry-capping competition at 10:30 a.m. The two fastest cappers will be invited to go head-to-head for the title on Friday afternoon just prior to the crowning of Lord and Lady Strawberry.

The center also will be the stage for the festival’s Photography Show, which will open at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The official West Virginia Strawberry Festival Gift Shop on Main Street will open at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Visitors can find festival apparel, special items and the official program of the festival.

The program is available at various locations in town, and they will be sold during the various parades by Young Life members as a fundraiser for their organization. The cost is $3. Businesses selling the program will have a sign on their windows or doors.

The program includes a map, schedule of events, along with information on the many aspects of the festival. The program also includes a coupon redeemable for a line-up of Saturday’s Grand Feature Parade. Coupons may be turned into the festival headquarters or to the Gift Shop for a lineup card.

Gambill’s Amusements will have its carnival and rides going full-tilt from 6-10 p.m. Wednesday.

The day would not be complete without the coronation of the festival’s king and queen. A pre-coronation concert will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Wesley Chapel on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The ceremonies will begin at 7 p.m. The queen will be crowned by West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, while the king will be crowned by West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick.

Music for the coronation will be provided by the West Virginia Brass Quintet, which was formed in 2009. This versatile group’s repertoire spans five centuries of music, from Renaissance and Baroque to contemporary and jazz, with an emphasis on traditional American music.

The minor court, all first-graders, will be in attendance at the coronation, along with all of the winners of the Junior Royalty Pageant – Queen Jazmin Gillum, King Adaryus Gillum and the junior royalty court. Teen Queen Eva Thorne and her Court, the Queen’s court and Hostess Princesses Kristen Cosner and Mariah Stocker also will participate in the coronation, which promises to be a special evening for all.

A reception to honor the WVSF royalty will follow the coronation. The reception is set to take place at the French See Dining Hall just across the Wesleyan campus. The coronation and reception are free to the public.