If one feels the need to retreat from watching stock prices surge and fall, hop in the car and have some real profit while taking a Mountain State Mini (a Wild, Wonderful West Virginia three-day vacation) to Preston County where a fabulous homecoming is about to take place.
Known for 70 years as the Preston County Buckwheat Festival, Kingwood and the surrounding area is what John Denver described in "Country Roads," and these hilly uplands are a magical potion of old-fashioned hospitality and warmth so typical of "mountain people." Join them Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 as autumn comes creeping into view, and you really want to take another memorable trip through the state before colder winds find us. There is plenty to see and even more to eat as breakfast food never got any better than it is in Kingwood during this annual celebration.
The fun will begin on Sept. 27, when the livestock arrives for judging. Steers, goats, lambs and hogs will be shown and compete for ribbons and money. This is a prelude to Thursday when the focus becomes eating buckwheat cakes, viewing arts and crafts, and looking at agricultural exhibits.
Photo by Shannon Bennett Campbell
Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department volunteers are already preparing for the 70th annual Buckwheat Festival, Sept. 27 - Oct. 2, at the fairgrounds behind the station. The famous buckwheat and sausage dinners will go on sale Thursday through Sunday of Festival Week at the Community Building. More than 18,000 dinners will be sold there including 10,600 pounds of sausage. A carnival, parades and a Friday Night Darryl Worley concert are additional attractions.
Photo by Shannon Bennett Campbell
A front porch view from Kingwood’s Preston County Inn allows a visitor to take in some sites of the town. Built in l857 and part of its historic district, the federal-style inn sits stately beside the Preston County Chamber of Commerce. The hub of much Buckwheat Festival activity, buckwheat cakes and sausage are a daily treat until noon throughout the year with Sunday Brunch served every week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
One of the week's highlights is the School Day Parade on Sept. 30. At 2 p.m., many area bands step off and provide a very musical afternoon with brightly colored floats and plenty of children's smiles. That night, a full-scale carnival is blinking its lights, and at 7:30 p.m. Darryl Worley and the Davisson Brothers Band will entertain at the Craig Civic Center. Call 304-379-2203 or www.buckwheatfest.com for ticket information.
Another parade will be hosted at noon on Oct. 1 with horse pulls, archery demonstrations and lumberjack contests also on the day's schedule. The last drop of maple syrup will fall on the famous cake breakfasts on Sunday, and the schedule reads that between l0 a.m. and noon, time for attending church is provided. Cakes are served till 6 p.m.
For those who want to attend the festival, but do not care for the many county buckwheat eating venues, delicious barbecued chicken, homemade french fries with ketchup or vinegar, hot dogs, nachos, pizza, hamburgers, cotton candy and ice cream await you at the fairgrounds.
Preston County raised
(Recipe makes 8-12 cakes)
1. In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cake household yeast (or 1 cake Fleishman's Yeast or 1 envelope dry yeast) and 1 teaspoon salt into one quart lukewarm water.
2. Let stand a few minutes and then add 3 cups, or enough buckwheat flour to make a stiff batter.
3. Cover and let stand overnight (or at least 4 or 5 hours).
4. When ready to bake the cakes, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 2 teaspoons sugar in 1 cup hot water.
5. Stir into batter, then add about 1 cup warm water, or enough to make a thin batter.
6. Bake on a hot griddle.
7. Save at least 1 cup of the batter for the next baking. (It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week)
To renew, add 1 pint lukewarm water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and enough buckwheat flour to make a stiff batter. Return to step 3.
The Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department, which sponsors this event, continues to serve buckwheats throughout the year. A handy buckwheat breakfast schedule is provided for buckwheat lovers to cut out and keep so meals can be attended throughout the year.
While roaming around Preston County, the children will be thrilled if a stop can be made at Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo. Open April through November on Herring Road off of Route 7 east, four miles past Kingwood's Walmart, children can have their pictures taken with baby animals including Bengal tigers, leopards, chimpanzees, lemurs and more than 200 other exotic and native state animals. Zoo hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from noon to 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Mondays, unless there is a holiday. Group rates are available and school trips are welcome. Phone 304-329-3122 for more information.
Another place of interest in Kingwood is The Pines. It's the home of former Kingwood mayor and Congressman James Clark McGrew, whose birthday will be celebrated Sept. 9 and l0 with a breakfast and craft show. Voting "no" against the succession of Virginia from the Union at the l861 Virginia Convention, he and others left the Convention and returned to begin doing necessary work to form the new state of West Virginia. Call Bill Prince at 304-329-3783 for more information. A gift shop is open there on Fridays and Saturdays.
As you scouts around the Preston countryside, you will find the home of the fourth annual Chestnut Festival in Rowlesburg on Oct. 9. During the one-day event on Route 72, fire-roasted chestnuts can be sampled and chestnut furniture and collectibles will be displayed by fine craftsmen.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be drawn to Cooper's Rock State Forest at Bruceton Mills, Cathedral State Park near Aurora, Alpine Lake Resort at Terra Alta and Big Bear Lake Campground at Bruceton Mills. Information on all of these recreation areas can be obtained from the Preston County Chamber of Commerce at 304-329-0576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff members are available to answer questions and have many tourist materials at their office which sets beside The Preston County Inn.
Perhaps, the two places I have saved for last will speak the most about Preston County. On Route 219/250 near Silver Lake Campgrounds is the "Smallest Church in 48 States." Not unlike any West Virginia County, religious faith is prevalent. The inside of this symbolic building can be viewed, and I have always remembered being taken there at a very young age with my brother by a family friend. Maybe it would be a special moment for other children. So many are seeking meaning in this world. It might give them ideas as to some values that give purpose to life.
And then there's Arthurdale. Very similar to The Homestead Project of Valley Bend (Randolph County), the historic districts speak of a time when The Great Depression had snarled its teeth and bit into the lives of most who lived in these areas. The very compassionate Eleanor Roosevelt visited these communities to extend concern and to try to lift the people's spirits.
I remember conversations with West Virginia University Dean of Students Betty Boyd, who, as a young social worker, attended some of the barn dances Mrs. Roosevelt participated in so people in these Appalachians would know they were not forgotten or forsaken. Miss Boyd believed that FDR's wife performed countless numbers of kind acts that helped give hope to many who were in despair.
Assisting her husband in trying to keep the country positive amid the l933 calamity going on, the new president addressed the nation and said, "Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
The growth within these once disadvantaged communities is a testament to the dedication of many and the faith of most who cared, assisted and led people from their sorry plight. The Appalachian Regional Commission continued to help, and we live today in one of the few states whose economy is on the plus-side, rather than the minus.
We find in all times events that challenge us and our greatest resources. This thing FDR spoke of - "faith" - causes us to lift our chins and keep our eyes looking toward the sunshine beyond the hill's horizon where we do not lose sight of our futures. The old English Proverb goes, "Sorrow knocked at the door; faith answered it and no one was there."
Over the syrup pitcher at the next buckwheat feed, think about and discuss the faith of the founding fathers - not a teapot full, but a thimble's worth - and similar to that of Betsy Ross'. Her quiet, steady perseverance and unwavering faith and strength were reflected in the beautiful first American flag. By any standard, she would have been called a true patriot.
As we speak of these heroes today, we can only wonder if their proteges will answer a call to get involved and give of their best time, energies and judgment. What buckwheat eaters will fold their napkin and report for duty? Clearly, it will be those who have faith, practice it and share it.
(Shannon Bennett Campbell is completing post-doctoral studies at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She is a writer and does childrens' ministry with her puppet, Anderson.)