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Scrooge at Mountain State Forest Festival time

Old folks like me used to be a little cynical when Forest Festival time came around. Lots of my friends would actually plan to leave town as the festive flags went up on streetlight poles, and others would say that their businesses actually lost money after the carnival arrived on Third Street. Like Ebenezer Scrooge we found reasons to say “Bah humbug” to the grand seasonal celebrations that upset our daily routine.

Festivals used to be a big deal in my family. My three sisters had their days to reign as festival royalty. Betsy, the eldest, was Queen of the Strawberry Festival; Margaret, the second, was a Forest Festival maid of honor; and Scottie, number three was a Forest Festival flower girl. I loved all the colorful velvet dresses but only got to wear a brown cotton skirt and swirl in a circle of dead leaves for one of the pageants Mrs. Fiorentino wrote and directed (c. 1954) to entertain Queen Sylvia and the crowds of people who covered the College hill for the coronation then.

There must have been a lot more little baby boomers in Elkins like me, who never got to be the center of attention. Not having served in the Queen’s Court, we were free to find fault with all the other girls who were doing their best to be good representatives of our community. Their hats were too big, their hair was windblown, or their wool suits did not fit quite right when they toured the schools and all the exhibits.

After Forest Festival has been cancelled for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, I see and hear the Ghost of Forest Festivals Past in the glowing light of remembrance. The best thing about being a fourth daughter is that you get to imagine each stage of development three times before you get there. That is why I loved to watch from the second floor when the two “Big Girls” came home after dates. In October 1958 the romance of Festival magic came alive in our house after the Queen’s Ball when my eldest sister got engaged to be married.

Now it’s time to hear from the Ghost of Forest Festival Present when the old Scrooge in me is beginning to weaken to the divine smoky smell of Shirley’s Steak Sandwiches — a temptation that can overcome the old pinchpenny in me, and then I long for the sounds of bagpipers and wood choppers. I want to talk with good friends who make glorious quilts and intricately woven table toppers. If only I could see children dancing on the coronation stage or marching in the Grand Feature Parade…. In all this nostalgia, I realize how many local people have given endless hours of their own time to make the Forest Festival such an amazing community event.

Last we hear from the Ghost of Forest Festivals Yet-to-Come and the Spirit of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner. Both of these characters are represented by the new MSFF Executive Director, Stacy Schulman. She has good training and family ties to Randolph County. I hope everyone will work with her to reimagine the Forest Festival in the 21st Century and make it work within a new economic reality in Elkins and West Virginia after COVID-19.

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