A crisp day served as the beginning of the 76th Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins. Maid Silvia Emily McKibbin Everson and Maids of Honor Megan Leigh Nida and Emily Jane Thompson, along with Mountain State Forest Festival Director General Mike Karlen, greeted those gathered for the opening ceremonies at the Federal Building Plaza Saturday to kick off a week chock full of festivities.
At noon, Wimer Field was filled with those waiting to see the Strong Man Contest. Then Irish Road Bowling and an inaugural Barbecue Wing and Rib Cook-Off followed.
Festival organizers said they were happy with the turnout at the event, given its new status. Three groups battled during the cook-off, and festival Assistant Director Amy Schumacher said this fresh feature was well received.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Maid Silvia Emily McKibbin Everson, middle, and Maids of Honor Megan Leigh Nida and Emily Jane Thompson enjoy the Mountain State Forest Festival Parade of Children and Pardi Gras Sunday. At right, Mountain State Forest Festival Director General Mike Karlen gets into the Festival spirit Sunday during the festivities.
"We've got three different cooks with nine different flavors of wings," she said. "It is a nice event for the first time."
C.J. Maggie's, Beander's and Frontier Communications all had representatives who prepared food, while the Tim White Band provided entertainment.
Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kate Reed served as the event's chairwoman.
"I think the turnout is good," she said. "We are really happy with it."
Attendance also was high later Saturday evening, when hundreds packed Harper-McNeeley Auditorium to listen to 2011 "America's Got Talent" winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. He sang classic big band and swing tunes throughout the show. Murphy kept the crowd clapping and swaying in their seats for the entire concert.
For one song, the crowd was in for a special treat when Murphy brought his wife, Shannon, on stage for a duet. Flashbulbs and cell phones lit up throughout the crowd as festivalgoers tried to capture a shot of the couple singing and dancing on stage.
After the show, Murphy met with fans and signed autographs.
On Sunday, the day began with the Mountain State Forest Festival 10K run/walk. Immediately after the race, the Mountain State Forest Festival Parade of Children began filling the streets of Elkins.
Thousands of parents, siblings, grandmothers and children of all ages lined the streets to watch the bands, twirlers, tumblers, dancers and youths dressed as their favorite Magical Kingdom characters.
Elkins resident Aidan Lowther dressed as Batman and said he was having a good time.
"I like eating corn dogs and watching the children's parade," Aidan said. "I want to go to Pardi Gras and the carnival, too."
The Elkins Middle School band along with approximately 10 baton, twirlette and tumble groups marched through the parade.
Pardi Gras rocked Davis Avenue as the parade came to a close. Businesses and organizations set up fun, educational booths as part of the free event. Activities included beads, masks, tattoos, caricatures, trivia, pick-up ducks, balloon twisting, bubble making and a photo with West Virginia Mountaineer Jonathan Kimble, who is a Franklin native.
Entertainment featured magician Johnnie O, the Hodge Family Jugglers, the Old Brick Playhouse and the Elkins High School Band drumline.
Karlen said he was glad for the beautiful day.
"I hope the weather stays this way for the entire week," the director general said of festival, which runs through Oct. 7. "We hope everyone will come out and enjoy the rest of the events we have worked hard to put together."
Maid Silvia LXXVI Everson and Maids of Honor Nida and Thompson also were reveling in the festivities on Sunday.
"I am having a wonderful time enjoying all of the events," Everson said. "I am looking forward to going to all of the schools and meeting the children of Randolph County."
"I like the carnival rides," Thompson said. "We are going to go play the birthday game later tonight."
Rounding out Sunday evening, the American Mountain Theater performed at the downtown stage. Fireworks capped off the night, filling the air with flashes of red, blue and green.
However, these events were just the beginning. Even more is on tap today, with the schedule building throughout the week.
This morning, events start early. From 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., the Randolph County senior bazaar will be open at the Randolph County Senior Center on Fifth Street.
At 7 p.m. today, the popular pet show will be held at Elkins High School in the gym.
On the downtown stage, the gospel talent show will begin at 7 p.m. It will kick off a series of talent competitions that will run through Thursday. All shows will begin at 7 p.m. at the Town Square stage.