Board members of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival told the Buckhannon Rotary Club this week that the event could not take place if it weren't for the support of its many sponsors.
The club contributed $800 for this year's children's activities.
Board member Jody Light said the biggest contributor this year has been the Upshur County Commission. Other large contributions came from the city of Buckhannon and the Upshur County Development Authority. West Virginia Wesleyan College hosts many of the events that will occur at this week's festival, which continues through Sunday.
The Inter-Mountain photos by Melissa Toothman
Buckhannon Rotary President Mike Coffman, left, presents an $800 check this week to support children’s activities at the West Virginia Strawberry Festival to Vicky Kelley, the festival president and executive director.
"That's a huge commitment on Wesleyan's part," Light said.
This year, The Inter-Mountain is a sponsor of the Grand Feature Parade. Other official sponsors include Loudin Insurance, Waco Oil & Gas, nTelos, Martin Oil Co., the West Virginia Lottery, Mike Ross Inc., J.F. Allen Co., Saint-Gobain, Consol Energy and many others.
More sponsors and specifics can be found in the official West Virginia Strawberry Festival program available throughout downtown Buckhannon. The publication also includes an updated schedule of events. Light said the sponsor's page is her favorite page of the publication.
"These are the people in Upshur County and surrounding areas who absolutely make this happen. We're a volunteer board, and we work hard," Light said. "But if it wasn't for the money that you see on that page on the left, the festival just wouldn't exist."
Light also said the state of West Virginia is a sponsor. She said she recently was informed that the state will be cutting its contributions to all festivals by as much as 14 or 15 percent next year.
Vicky Kelley, president and executive director of the Strawberry Festival, said the festival can be a place to make friends from anywhere. The festival also can make a lasting impression on visitors.
Past President Carol Long said, "Some folks have actually moved to Buckhannon that have been here to the Strawberry Festival. They've moved their business here. They've moved to live here. They cherish what our town looks like, how we take care of one another."
Long said she has been asked why the festival doesn't bring in more famous musical performers.
"We can't afford to do that because we offer everything for free," Long said, adding the West Virginia Strawberry Festival is one of few festivals or fairs in the state that does not charge an admission fee. Long said the absence of that cost makes the festival very special.
"We do offer a lot of free events, so it's really family-oriented," Long said. "People can afford to do the things that we offer."