Coalton Days draws large crowd

The sun beat down on the gem-studded jacket of the Elvis Presley impersonator, who coaxed former senator and area businessman Mike Ross to dance on his own front porch in front of crowds of clapping people.

Across the way, lines of hungry locals patiently waiting to fill their plates with fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs and sausage stretched out from Ross’ front yard into the street.

Later in the day, kids both small and tall would line the sides of the main road as parade floats passed by, diving for Tootsie roll pops, bubblegum and squares of Now and Later taffee.

Seated in a canopy-shaded lawn chair, Virginia Zirkle peered out over Coalton’s main street and seemed to relish watching all these scenes unfold – scenes that characterized Coalton Days 2013, the main festivities of which took place Saturday in the town of Coalton, or Womelsdorf, as it’s formally known. Coalton Days has come to be known not only as an annual summertime fete, but also has a local homecoming for graduates of Coalton High School and former residents of the tiny town.

The Mabie native says she’s been venturing to Coalton to celebrate its heritage for as long as Coalton Days have been in existence – 19 years to be precise. What keeps her coming back, she said, is the opportunity to catch up with old classmates.

“Oh, I just love to mingle with the people,” Zirkle said, “especially my schoolmates. I see a lot of people I went to school with. And I never leave without getting a hot dog from the Lions Club. It’s a tradition I have… they do a lot of stuff in the community, and I like to support them.”

Ross, whose backyard is cluttered with carnival rides including a small ferris wheel, provides the food for free with the help of family members and a Clarksburg-based catering business. He says he’s happy to sponsor Coalton Days.

“We like to bring people back home,” Ross said. “I enjoy seeing people I grew up with and went to school with have a good time and renew friendships.”

“We have carnival rides set up in the yard, and a lot of the kids will never forget that,” Ross remarked. “Adults will forget being in Coalton today, but the kids never will.”

Coalton Days 2013 featured classics like the tractor pull, Tony Silvester Memorial Lawn Mower Race, miniature horse show, Vince Ross 5K Run and Walk and arts and crafts vendors; however, this year, the ‘king of rock and roll’ – Elvis impersonator Endre Samu made his debut, belting out timeless hits like “All Shook Up.”

Buckhannon resident Michael Cowger, who’s made a habit of attending Coalton Days ever since he moved back to the Mountain State from Huntsville, Ala. in 2009, said Samu was the icing on the cake.

“I love being able to see old friends and watch Mike Ross having fun,” Cowger said. “It’s just fantastic this year, and Elvis is spectacular.”

“Elvis” wasn’t the only famous face in Coalton Saturday. West Virginia Mountaineer men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins and Sen. Joe Manchin and his wife, Gayle, appeared in the feature parade amid a variety of baton groups clad in red, blue and golden spangles.

Coalton Mayor Jim Rossi called Coalton Days 2013 a great success.

“People are having a great time, and I think everything’s working out really well,” Rossi said in front of his house Saturday. “We ordered this weather, of course. We’ve had a nice turnout on the tractor pull, the miniature horseshow and the 5K run was great.”

Coalton Days wrapped up Sunday with a bluegrass concert by Nothin’ Fancy.

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