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Time Again for Mountain State Forest Festival
October 2, 2012 - Jodi Burnsworth
The first Mountain State Forest Festival was held on October 30-31 and November 1, 1930. Except for an eight-year lapse from 1941 to 1949, the festival has been held annually ever since, although the time has been moved to the first week in October. Holding the festival in Elkins is a natural choice, as it’s a heavily forested area noted for its hardwood trees and colorful fall foliage.
Considered the father of the Forest Festival, George Dornblazer was the director general of the first festival. His directors and officers included over 80 civic leaders. The event has now expanded to nine days and includes over 250 volunteer workers.
Although centered on the campus of Davis & Elkins College, the Forest Festival involves many businesses and organizations throughout downtown Elkins. Events include appearances by nationally known musicians, craft and art shows, wood chopping and other timbering contests, old English knight tournaments, dances, parades, fiddle contest and a carnival.
The coronation of Queen Silvia by the governor of West Virginia is a highlight of the Forest Festival as well. Although the two maids of honor and the minor court come from Elkins, the queen must come from another county and the 40 princesses from all over the state, making the festival truly statewide.
The Mountain State Forest Festival has attracted national attention, including Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, Ford and Carter. Other national figures who have taken part in the festival are Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Chuck Yeager, Hubert Humphrey and Neil Armstrong. The festival consistently attracts between 125,000 and 150,000 visitors, and newspapers have estimated crowds at more than 200,000 when a U.S. president takes part.
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Photo courtesy of WV Humanities Council.