Wind can’t prevent start of Strawberry Festival

Organizers and royalty for the 72nd annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival had to wait a few extra minutes to officially kick off the event Wednesday.

The festival is officially under way after the Strawberry King and Queen light the Strawberry Flame on the Upshur County Courthouse plaza. But windy conditions nearly made it impossible to light the torch.

After a few tense and awkward moments, the wind died down enough to allow for the lighting of the torch, and Queen Hannah McComas and King Steve Butler lifted it to its ceremonial perch.

Festival president Vicky Kelley thanked Chase Bank for sponsoring the opening ceremonies, and urged the crowd to “make some strawberry memories.”

Nashville recording artist Big T, who will be performing on Main Street Saturday, offered the musical entertainment at the opening ceremonies. The winners of the Strawberry Festival’s essay contest – Allison DeBarr and Tiffany Williams – were announced.

Buckhannon Mayor Kenny Davidson joked that he hoped the Rev. Ed McDaniels, who offered the blessing, had a good enough line to the Lord to keep the nice weather in place for the rest of the Strawberry Festival.

“This is a great time of year,” Davidson said. “We need to not take ourselves too seriously. It’s about having fun and celebrating the strawberry.”

McComas and Butler officially assumed their roles as the Queen and King of the festival following a coronation at the Wesley Chapel on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College. McComas received her crown from West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, while Butler received his from West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick.

The festival gets into a higher gear today, as the Junior Royalty Parade travels down Strawberry Lane at 6:30 p.m. The parade features the Junior Royalty King Adaryus Gillum and Queen Jazmin Gillum leading twirling groups, bands, floats, scout troops, 4-H teams, marching units and clowns through downtown Buckhannon.

The parade marshal will be Sebastien De La Cruz, who with his mariachi band, entertained audiences in 2012 on the “America’s Got Talent” television show. He and his band will be performing on Main Street on Friday night.

Strawberry Idol will be held on the courthouse plaza following the parade, and it will feature the best of the area’s gospel singers.

Thursday will also feature the events at the Upshur County Senior Center. There will be checkers and dominoes tournaments beginning at noon, and the photography show will be featured at the center.

Thursday is also a day for the children, as the annual Diaper Derby will be held on the courthouse plaza at 10 a.m.,

The Strawberry Blonde competition will follow at 10:30 a.m.

Schedule of events for Thursday, May 16

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Photography exhibit at Upshur County Senior Center

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Craft sale, First Presbyterian Church

10 a.m. – Diaper Derby, Strawberry Blonde contests at courthouse plaza

10 a.m. to 7 p.m. -Craft show at First Presbyterian Church

10:30 a.m. – Homemade ice cream, strawberry shortcake and sugar cookies at Chapel Hill UMC

10:30 a.m. – Strawberry Blonde Contest at courthouse plaza.

10 a.m. to 7 p.m. – Quilt show and juried art show at WVWC gym

Noon – Checkers and dominoes tournaments at Senior Center.

6:30 p.m – Junior Royalty Parade

8:30 p.m. – Strawberry Idol (Gospel Night) at courthouse plaza.