Former Queen Silvias, maids of honor, director generals and Queens Department directors gathered on the veranda of Halliehurst chatting and rekindling memories as the Maple Leaf Society officially inducted charter members.
Queen Silvia LXXI Catherine Wilkes remembered the theme of the 2007 MSFF, Homecoming in the Hills, and explained how the Maple Leaf Society gives past participants the chance to stay connected.
"I have always felt like Elkins became a second home and I'm glad to have yet another reason to come back and see everyone here and be a part of the festival," Wilkes said.
(CU and The Inter-Mountain/Joe Blankenship)
CAPTIVATING QUEENS — Former Queen Silvias from left Kimberly Cover, Catherine Wilkes, Jessica Legg, Laura Phillips, Amy Capelli O’Hara and Jennifer Taylor Wotring.
While Wilkes and her mother, Pat, were speaking with Missy Armentrout McCollam, a maid of honor in 1986, they talked about how so many MSFF participants are connected. McCollam's niece, Abbey Martin, served as one Wilkes' maids of honor.
"It creates a nice network," McCollam said of the Society.
Jessica Legg, Queen Silvia LXVI, made her way to Elkins to visit those who she hasn't seen in awhile.
"I hope that it (Maple Leaf Society) brings a closeness between the queens and maids of all the years," Legg said. "And hopefully recruit future queens and maids."
All the way from Minneapolis, Minn., Queen Silvia LXI Amy Capelli O'Hara also mingled among past festival royalty and volunteers. O'Hara explained she is unable to visit Elkins often and inauguration into the Maple Leaf Society gave her the opportunity to come back to Festival City.
"I love the Festival and wanted to see everybody," O'Hara said.
Legg and O'Hara both planned to attend the coronation of Alicia Taylor, while O'Hara said "I wouldn't miss it."
A 1973 Maid of Honor, Sarah Mongold Martin agreed the Maple Leaf Society is "wonderful" as it enables past court members and volunteers to gather to share memories. Martin thinks the Society will bring more sense of community and togetherness in the future.
"It's a family type homecoming," Martin said.
Former Director General Willard Herron said that when the Maple Leaf Society becomes larger there will be an even bigger gathering. Herron's son, Steve, was also at the ceremony. Herron said he and his son were the first father and son to serve as director generals.
The chats came to an end when Maple Leaf Society President Susie Kump explained how the traditions of the MSFF come together each year to create a unique event that embraces its past and looks to the future.
"Through just the right combination of tradition and progress, the Forest Festival has become a standard to judge other celebrations by and it is recognized as one of the most prestigious in the state of West Virginia," Kump said.
The heritage of the Royal Court was recognized when 72 women who served as Queen Silvia, 152 maids of honor, 57 director generals and 20 Queen's Department directors officially became members of the Maple Leaf Society.
"You gave each festival, the community and the state your time, your talent, your energy, your devotion, your warm smiles and beautiful spirits to make the Forest Festival one of a kind," Kump said. "For that, the Mountain State Forest Festival Association and the Maple Leaf Society say thank you. We honor you and we will never lose sight of you in the future.
"You are our future and you will guide others to participate in the years ahead and to share a piece of the glorious week known as the Mountain State Forest Festival," she said.
Commissioner of West Virginia Division of Culture and History Randall Reid Smith read the names of the women and men who were in attendance: Queen Silvia LVIII Jennifer Taylor Wotring, Queen Silvia LXI Amy Capelli O'Hara, Queen Silvia LXV Laura Phillips, Queen Silvia LXVI Jessica Legg, Queen Silvia LXXI Catherine Wilkes and Queen Silvia LXXII Kimberly Cover; Maids of Honor Gayle Paul Moore, 1951, Grace Lee Jordan, 1954, Mary Ann Lyland Gay, 1956, Martha Collett Scheller, 1957, Carole Lynn Craig Keller, 1959, Nancy Boxell Syner, 1961, Judy Lynn Shelton, 1963, Marsha Widney Wehr, 1963, Conne Sayre-Bahnsen, 1964, Margaret Ann Isner Andrews, 1966, Suzanne Marie Snedegar, 1966, Rosemary Goots Markley, 1971, Sarah Mongold Martin, 1973, Jaime McGee Cupp, 1976, Marian Elizabeth Joseph, 1979, Tracye Schoonover Murphy, 1981, Missy Armentrout McCollam, 1986, Holly Hartman Adams, 1987, Susie Reckart Martin, 1988, Kim Chenoweth White, 1990, Crystal Warner Gibson, 1991, Ashley Pitsenberger Harper, 1992, Donna Gola Smith, 1994, Christie Corley Shoemaker, 1994, Allison Baird D'Angelo, 1998, Jennifer LaMora Morgan, 2000, Haley Kwasniewski Wing, 2001, Heather Trupo Collier, 2002, Ashley Bialek, 2004, Amanda Tomblyn, 2006, Samantha Zurbuch, 2007, and Megan Sponaugle, 2008; Director Generals Willard Herron, Bill Johnson, Gary Schoonover, Bill Hartman, Steve Herron, Carolyn Capelli, Bob Wamsley, Molly Busch, Frank Santmyer, Hugh Hitchcock, Craig Hyre, Dottie Wamsley, Steve Shepler, Karen Bialek, Ray LaMora, Mark Tomblyn, Robin Dolly, Cindy Nucilli and Cliff Marstiller; and Queen's Department Directors Sandy Grahame, Carolyn Capelli, Susie Kump, Sue Chenoweth, Molly Propst, Teena Wallace, Kathy Hitchcock and Lisa Preusch.
Today members of the Maple Leaf Society will gather for brunch at 10 a.m. and discuss the agenda of the organization and its goals for the next year. The Maple Leaf Society will be on the Web at www.mapleleafsociety.org.