Festival Comes to Close

Sunday marked the closing ceremony of the 77th Mountain State Forest Festival – one during which each day was as warm and sunny as the last – something that has not occurred for many years.

Elected officials, residents, Mountain State Forest Festival Assistant Directors and Queen’s Department members, parents, grandparents and friends all gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate one last time before the close of the festivities. The event was at the Jennings Randolph Federal Building Plaza.

Mountain State Forest Festival Board of Directors President Cliff Wilmoth thanked those gathered.

“It has been a full and very exciting week,” Wilmoth said. “We are pleased to have everyone here.”

77th Festival Director General Cricket Leary bid a tearful goodbye to her assistant directors, Queen Silvia Ashley Elizabeth Houchin and members of the Royal and Minor Courts.

“All that matters to me is that everyone had a good time,” Leary said. “If you get the opportunity to be Director General, take it. It is a wonderful opportunity and the best seven days I have had in a long time.”

Jeffrey and Kelley Houchin and sons Zachary and Matthew also offered thanks to the residents of Elkins.

“Thanks for a truly amazing, fantastic week,” Kelley Houchin said. “Thanks to all of the volunteers who work hard making the festival look easy. The Mountain State Forest Festival is a testament to your town and your citizens. The kindness expressed to my child is forever in my heart.”

Queen Ashley Houchin accepted her scrapbook, detailing the week of events for her. The scrapbook was compiled by Joy Cutright, Holly Cutright, Nancy Thompson and Kathy Hamrick. She also received the Queen’s Quilt, presented by Jennifer Morgan.

The final event of the day was the placing of the stone in the garden behind the Jennings Randolph Federal Plaza. Leary and Houchin set the stone among the many others from the past. Elkins resident John Zirbs removed his cap, given to him by H.H. “Hank” Keim, symbolizing the close of the festival.

Earlier Sunday morning, Queen Houchin and her entourage traveled to the Izaak Walton League, Mountaineer Chapter Lodge in Beverly to share a buckwheat cake and sausage breakfast. The group was served by volunteers from the Randolph County 4-H Teen Leaders. Following breakfast, Forest Festival activities including an archery shoot by the Appalachian Bow Hunter’s Association and a muzzleloading contest by the Tygart Valley Muzzleloaders challenged contestants to choose the best.

The College Aid Luncheon took place at Graceland Mansion, on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. The organization is open to all women who support its aim of creating goodwill between the townspeople of Elkins and the D&E community. It also aids in projects helping the college succeed in its educational mission.

The group was founded in 1931, and its original goals were to purchase furnishings for Graceland and Halliehurst Mansion dormitories.

Early Saturday morning, Forest Festival competitions including the Championship Lumberjack Contest and the Hard Hit Classic had fans cheering for their favorite competitors.

The antique and classic street rod car parade commenced at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by the special units and log truck parade. Next was the state’s favorite parade – the Mountain State Forest Festival Grand Feature parade.

This year’s parade packed the streets of downtown Elkins with cheers for the many bands, baton groups and other units including clowns, floats and other fun entries. Queen Silvia and her Royal Court waved to the crowds, followed by local and state dignitaries.

Saturday evening offered music lovers a plethora of entertainment. Bands from all across the state converged on Wimer Field in South Elkins for the Band Field Show Competition.

Those preferring country music gathered at Harper-McNeely Auditorium on the D&E campus to hear The Henningsens and Chris Cagle.

The Mountain State Forest Festival is one West Virginia’s oldest and largest festivals and is considered a homecoming event for past residents of Elkins.