The West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival will celebrate its silver anniversary on March 21 and 22. Festivities get under way in Pickens at 9 a.m. next Saturday morning.
A favorite way to start the day is at the Legion Hall or at the new high school with the famous pancake breakfast featuring sausage and pancakes smothered in locally produced maple syrup, accompanied by hot home-brewed coffee, milk and soft drinks. If you don't get there early, you may have to wait a while but the breakfast is well worth it. Breakfast will be served both days from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. A ham and bean dinner will be served at the Legion Hall from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Saturday's activities will come to a close with an old fashion square dance featuring the Chaparrals at the Helvetia Community Center beginning at 8 p.m. and ending around 11 p.m. The dance was originally scheduled to be at the Pickens School but was moved to Helvetia in order to protect the new school's gymnasium floor.
According to Director Kim Delaney, this year's festival promises to be bigger and better than ever.
"We are celebrating our 25th anniversary and have put a lot of effort into making it the best ever," she said. "Alan Kisner, a native West Virginian who was one of last year's nominees for male vocalist and entertainer of year by Nashville's Grand Ole Opera, will be performing a variety of country and gospel selections at the Old Opera House from noon until 1:30 on Saturday. Local artists and musicians will entertain continuously at the Old Opera House throughout the day beginning at 11 a.m. and ending around 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday."
Delaney said that there is no charge for this entertainment.
"We also have nearly 70 crafters coming who will have an indescribable array of crafts for sale, along with locally produced maple syrup and maple candy. The famous Webster County Wood Choppers will be putting on a demonstration at the Legion Hall from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., and the Muzzleloaders will put their marksmanship skills to the test around 10 a.m. near the Leper's grave. The Haven in the Hardwood 5K run and walk will begin at 10 a.m. from the old train depot. It's just impossible to describe all the things that will be taking place over the weekend; you just have to be here to see it," Delaney said.
West Virginia stimulus information is now available on the governor's Web site at www.wvgov.org. This Web page gives constituents up-to-date information about the stimulus dollars that the state of West Virginia receives from the federal government through passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The governor's communications office will update the stimulus information on the Web page as that information is available.
As usual, a myriad of topics were discussed at Tuesday's bimonthly Downtown Elkins Promotional Committee. (I'm still having difficulty getting away from calling the group The Downtown Merchants Association.) Let me emphasize that according to Ed Griesel, the committee is not concerned with just those businesses in downtown Elkins - all businesses in the community are included.
Mayor Judy Guye-Swanson opened the meeting by informing everyone that the city of Elkins spring cleanup would commence on April 13. More information is available by calling her office at 304-636-1414.
Executive Director of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Ellen Spears followed by giving an overview of her trip to Chicago last week where she and Jennifer Giovannitti, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority, attended the 2009 National Main Street Conference.
"There were 1,600 representatives from across the nation there to receive training and gain insight on how to administer both the Main Street and On Trac programs," Spears said. "Elkins, as most everyone knows, was appointed as an On Trac city a couple weeks ago by the governor as was Beverly and Belington. Cities hoping to become participants in the Main Street Program must first successfully complete the On Trac Program. The goal of both programs is the revitalization of the commercial district of towns and cities through organization, design, economic restructuring and promotion.
Spears said that during the numerous lectures she attended, the presenters showed before-and-after photos of towns that had participated in the Main Street and On Trac programs and the results were "absolutely amazing."
I gathered, too, from her conversation that the one common obstacle towns and cities nationwide face is obtaining the financial support of everyone whom the program benefits.
Comments of those who regularly attend these meetings are beginning to indicate, however, that cooperation is becoming an ever greater commodity. Everyone agrees that efforts to make Elkins the tourist destination they want it to be is beginning to show results. For progress to continue, though, everyone will have to chip in and do their part to make Elkins what it can be.
The enthusiasm at these biweekly meetings runs higher every time the group meets. The comment, "Good things are happening in Elkins. When everyone works together everyone is successful," is heard more and more at the biweekly meetings.
Chelley Depp, president of the Randolph County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, briefed the group on why the CVB is not doing the Ramp Festival this year - mostly because they have lost money on the project for the past several years. She also stated that the CVB's mission is to get people to Randolph County and it is up to local groups to entertain them. Depp expressed the CVB's desire to work with those groups and extended an invitation to everyone to attend board meetings. The next CVB board meeting is at 11:45 a.m. March 23 at Duke's Restaurant.
Depp also asked that I let everyone know that Connie McCauley of Morgantown will be presenting a morning workshop for small retail shops primarily for heritage tourism related businesses at 9 a.m. March 23 at the Beverly Heritage Center. She would appreciate an RSVP at 304-637-7424 from those interested in attending the workshop.
Here's a good place to mention again for those who might have missed it last week that the Ramp Festival will be held this year under the name "Ramps and Rail Festival."
This year's event is being sponsored by the Elkins Depot Welcome Center and the Randolph County Development Authority. It will be on the town square from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 25. Organizers say it will be downsized somewhat from previous years and will consist of music, food and craft vendors.
There will not be a cook-off because of the time required to recruit cooks and prepare the cooking area. Harold Elbon is chairing the efforts and may be contacted at 304-637-4667.
Don Smith, general manager of The Inter-Mountain, briefed everyone on the success of the "I Shop Locally" program that recently ended. According to Smith, the program's success has caused a clamor for a continuation of the program or something similar.
He and his advertising staff are working on devising another promotional program - possibly one of longer duration. If you have an idea for a future program, discuss it with your advertising representative when they visit or call the ad department at 304-636-2717.
Smith also noted that the "Recreation Guides" published by The Inter-Mountain are now authorized to carry the "Wild and Wonderful West Virginia" logo and will be distributed to visitor centers throughout the state.