WVSF king and queen crowned

BUCKHANNON – The 2014 West Virginia Strawberry Festival King and Queen now bear their crowns after the official coronation Saturday afternoon.

The strawberry royals gathered at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Buckhannon to ascend their thrones, ruling over the area’s 73rd W.Va. Strawberry Festival. However, the king of the festival, Steve Butler, is serving his second year after being king in 2013.

“It’s a pleasure to serve the community, and I just enjoy representing agriculture to the community,” Butler said, adding that he already has started growing strawberries this year. “We have about 2,500 plants out on plasticulture outside.”

Butler said he enjoys the festival.

“I think my favorite part is seeing the youth involved and seeing them enjoying themselves at the festival,” he said.

Queen Nicole Natasha Greene was crowned in a white dress ornamented in strawberry red that left an impression on her when she first saw it.

“Oh my gosh, I loved it,” Greene said. “As Debbie called it, it was Barbie on a birthday cake meets southern belle, which is totally me, and I loved it.”

Greene said finally being crowned, receiving the scepter and the key to the city made the experience feel more special.

“It feels official,” Greene said. “I felt kind of naked at first. You go through all the festival events and they (festival-goers) are all like ‘oh, you’re queen, but where’s your crown?’ So it’s really official to actually get the key to the city, have your sash put on and your crown. The moment’s kind of real, and I’m so excited to kick off the week now. We have the Grand Parade next Saturday and the berry auction. It’s just so exciting.”

Various community members served in different capacities during the coronation: the Rev. John Craig Smith as chaplain, Mayor Kenny Davidson as bishop, Upshur County Commissioner J.C. Raffety as arch bishop, Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick as chancellor and 2013 W.Va. Strawberry Festival Queen Hannah McComas as justice.

McComas presented the mantles of office, Raffety presented the oath of office, Davidson presented the keys to the city, Smith blessed and presented the berries, WVSF President Charliena Eubank presented the royal scepters and Helmick crowned the king and queen.

“We focus today on growing strawberries and on the Strawberry Festival,” Helmick said. “The festival in itself does a significant amount for West Virginia. We’re a state that has many festivals and different parades, all those things associated with agriculture. We’re very proud of the fact that we’re a part of it.

“We’re proud of the fact that they keep inviting us to be a part of this particular scene, because it does so very much for our image in West Virginia and the one that we want to project, the one that we want to pursue and that is the one of being aggressive and growing food product in West Virginia. Strawberries come first.”

A limited number of West Virginia’s locally grown strawberries are for sale this Friday and Saturday, as supplies last, on the Upshur County Courthouse Plaza for $5 a quart as a Future Farmers of America fundraiser.

WVSF Teen Queen Dominique Collins, Junior Royalty Queen Meagan Weaver, 10-11 Princess Reagon Good, 8-9 Princess Lakyn Campbell, 6-7 Princess Katelyn Howes and 4-5 Princess Kayleigh Sue Bennett also all attended coronation.

The Queen’s Court, including Key Bearer Emily Burr, Oath Bearer Madison Williams, Sceptor Bearer Abigail McKinley, Crown Bearer Ciera Huffman, Flower Girl Mia Critchfield, Flower Girl Allison Stewart and Honorary Princess Brooklyn Smith, all walked the aisle to start off the ceremony.

The King’s Court, including Key Bearer Bailey Zickefoose, Oath Bearer Caleb Myers, Sceptor Bearer Bryson Eby, Crown Bearer Brodie Triplett, Junior Guard Jeremy Smith, Junior Guard Dakota Ogden and Honorary Prince Joel Smith, also walked the aisle.

Festival events continue today with a quilt show at the West Virginia Wesleyan College Rockefeller Gym, upstairs and to the right, from noon to 4 p.m. The Gambill Amusements Carnival rides also begin from 6-10 p.m. in downtown Buckhannon.

For a more detailed and inclusive schedule of events, see Page A8 in today’s edition of The Inter-Mountain.