Pickens Maple Syrup Festival entertains

PICKENS – People traveled from all over-many from outside of the Mountain State-to come and enjoy music, crafts and food at the 30th Annual West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival in Pickens this weekend.

Community volunteers, like Kenny Casto, spent Saturday morning serving pancakes to hungry patrons at the Pickens School, work hard in preparation for the festival.

“We start preparation the evening before, when school lets out and then we get up bright and early to start serving folks,” Casto said. “We really enjoy seeing so many people coming out and enjoying themselves.”

The festival offered a variety of educational and recreational events that can be enjoyed by both young and old including free music at the Opera House, a wood chopping exhibition, crafters and a craft sale, book signings from local author’s Alan Clarke, Steve Bodkins and Dr. Carol Gillespie, rock climbing, a square dance, a hot dog sale and a ham and bean buffet. Live entertainment includes Elm Street Alley Cats, Night Crawlers, Michael and Carrie Kline, the Helvetia Star Band, Vernon Burky and Generation Next and more.

But if you ask people what one of the biggest draws for the festival is, the answer is nearly unanimous: People come for the pancakes. The traditional Pancake and Buckwheat Cake Feed opened Saturday at the American Legion Hall and the Pickens School Cafeteria and continued Sunday morning at the American Legion Hall only. People took the opportunity to enjoy buttermilk and buckwheat pancakes served with sausage and 100 percent pure maple syrup.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of preparation for a small community,” said Debbie Mason, a volunteer and Pickens native. “But people really come together. It means a lot to them.”

Don Nestor, an annual volunteer for the festival who also grew up Pickens said that the festival is a community-oriented event.

“This is a small tightly-knit town and one of the things that makes this festival so special is how the community comes together to make it happen,” Nestor said. “If you come from here, you are family. It doesn’t matter whether you live here in Pickens, or if you’ve moved away years ago. Everyone comes back to Pickens for the Maple Syrup Festival.”

Nestor said that this year they were tracking where people traveled from to make it to the festival.

People were asked to place a star on a map to show where they traveled from.

Nestor said some festival-goers came from as far as Maine and California this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to come together and share Pickens heritage and culture,” Nestor said. “The Festival is growing every year for 30 years and I hope to see it continue for 30 more.”

Contact Chad Clem by email at cclem@theintermountain.com.