Elkins welcomes Maid Silvia

A reception to welcome the Mountain State Forest Festival’s Maid Silvia LXXVII and her Maids of Honor was offered Sunday at the Davis & Elkins College Graceland Mansion.

MSFF Director General Cricket Leary introduced Ashley Elizabeth Houchin, of Arnoldsburg, who will serve as Maid Silvia during this year’s Festival.

Leary also introduced Maids of Honor Amber Marie Karlen and Kara LeeAnne Parrack. She said she chose the theme “Old Traditions with New Beginnings” for this year’s festival.

“Lydia and I drove two and a half hours to find this young lady,” Leary said of Houchin. “She comes from Calhoun County. There has never been a Mountain State Forest Festival Queen Silvia from this county. This is part of my ‘New Beginnings.’ The Maids of Honor are both from Randolph County, and serve as ‘Old Traditions.'”

Houchin, 20, will be a junior at West Virginia University this fall and has been accepted into the Speech Pathology and Audiology Program.

“Growing up I was very active in school and my community,” Houchin said. “I am thrilled to have the honor of being selected as Maid Silvia for the Forest Festival.

“I am drawn to the festival because of my love of the outdoors and its celebration of the surrounding natural resources.”

Houchin said her MSFF service will be the experience of a lifetime.

“I do not have words to express how happy this appointment makes me,” Houchin said. “I was speechless when I learned I was chosen.”

She is a Dean’s List scholar at WVU and a member of the Mountaineer Maniacs. She plans to graduate as a speech therapist and work in an early prevention program or in an elementary education setting in West Virginia.

The future queen is the daughter of Jeffery and Kelley Houchin of Arnoldsburg. She is the granddaughter of Billie and Wanda Houchin, of Arnoldsburg, and Ernest and the late Mary Ellen Hartshorn of Grantsville. She has two brothers, Zachary and Matthew Houchin.

Nineteen-year-old Karlen will be a sophomore at WVU in the fall and is a 2012 graduate of Elkins High School. She is the daughter of Mike and Susan Karlen of Elkins and the granddaughter of Jim and Rose Snodgrass of Williamstown, and Glen and Sandy Karlen of Elkins.

“Being selected as Maid of Honor is one of my lifelong dreams,” Karlen said. “My dream to be a jester during the Festival was fulfilled in 2007. When I was little, my sister Jima and I played Barbies, and my Barbie would always be the maid of honor.”

Parrack, 19, is the daughter of Ryan and Jodie Parrack of Beverly. She is the granddaughter of Larry and Evelyn Snyder of Elkins and Jon and Twilda Parrack of Elkins.

“My family taught me that the Mountain State Forest Festival is not only important to Elkins, but also the entire state,” Parrack said. “I am looking forward to my duties as Maid of Honor.”

Parrack was a flower girl in the 2002 Forest Festival. In addition, her father served as a train bearer in the 1982 Forest Festival and her mother was a queen’s department assistant in 2010 and 2011. Her grandmother, Twilda, served in that same capacity in 1986.

Parrack is a 2012 graduate of Elkins High School and will be a sophomore at Davis & Elkins College in the fall.

The reception was catered by Chef Melanie Campbell, executive chef at Davis & Elkins College.

Elkins resident Connie Linger is in charge of designing the fashions for the Mountain State Forest Festival Royal Court.

“I will take Director General Cricket Leary’s idea of a time period as inspiration,” Linger said.

“I will combine fashion from that period with old and new lines of fashion for the design.”