Like Teyve in “Fiddler on the Roof,” I am a respecter of tradition. In addition to Randolph County residents, students and alumni of Davis & Elkins College experience the annual fall tradition known as the Mountain State Forest Festival on our campus and throughout the town. Concluding this past weekend, the 83rd festival is now history, and like the 82 before it, the event was a grand opportunity for Elkins and D&E to shine.
The College and the festival have been intricately linked for decades. The campus facilities host numerous events and welcome thousands of people to our hallowed grounds. The grassy area in front of Halliehurst is commonly known as coronation hill for a very good reason. The script that accompanies the elaborate pageantry that transforms Maid Sylvia into Queen Sylvia was originally written by Davis & Elkins College professor Claire Fiorentino. British royalty could take a few lessons in pomp and circumstance from the coronation of Queen Sylvia. It is a grand production and a treasured tradition. I was honored this year to crown the festival queen and have a unique view of the royal festivities.
The Grand Feature Parade, held this past Saturday afternoon, is the event of the year in Elkins. Our international students walked and waved proudly the flags from their home countries. Lisa and I joined the College’s own royalty, namely Miss D&E, along with student government officers and the Appalachian Ensemble on the D&E float. Each year we are amazed at the thousands who line the parade route as it snakes through the town. Participating in the spectacle brings a sense of gratitude and joy for a community that comes together to celebrate our forests, our community, our children and youth, and our civic pride.
As I rode the College’s float and waved to the parade crowds, I was struck by the outpouring of support from so many along the route as they saw our international students and the Davis & Elkins logo that was prominent on the float. We heard cheers and shouts such as “We love D&E” and “Go Senators.” Others cheered our international students recognizing the gift they are to both the campus and the community. One supporter shouted as we passed by, “God bless D&E.”
God has blessed D&E, as well as this community. At least for a time, we come together to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of this land we call home, the people who are our neighbors, and the community that is the vital building block for the quality of life we enjoy. Along with the carnival rides and food, the lumberjack contest, concerts, craft fair, coronation, parade and all the rest, there is also the tradition of coming together as a community to celebrate where we are, who we are, and whose we are.
For all of us who are fortunate to live in this area, whether for a few years as a student or a lifetime, our journeys intersect among these mountains. We celebrate this at the Mountain State Forest Festival. If we are reflective and wise, we will celebrate this each and every day that we are blessed to breathe the mountain air, interact with each other, and be enriched by the traditions that bring meaning and joy to our lives.
The journey continues….