BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — The 77th West Virginia Strawberry Festival is now underway in Buckhannon, providing both history and new events over the nine-day party.

The festival began in 1936 as a way to honor and help strawberry growers in the area, and while not many remain, the festival continues to encourage local farmers to grow strawberries, Festival President Debra Hupp said.

“This is a statewide festival, so we have growers coming from Charleston, Clendenin, Grafton, all over the place,” Hupp said. “They make quite a few dollars on that strawberry auction with their berries.”

Last year, about 15 state growers took part in the strawberry auction, a number that Hupp said she hopes to see grow every year.

“We’ve been trying to work with a lot of the local youth groups, and this time we’re also working with a lot of the individual elementary schools, trying to encourage those children to grow products also,” she said.

Of course, it’s not only about growing strawberries as it is eating them as well. There’s several opportunities throughout the week to enjoy strawberry treats, including strawberry pancakes at the First United Methodist Church, the strawberry recipe contest at the WVU Extension Office and various vendors in the food court.

“Any kind of strawberry mixture you can think of, we’ve got it,” Hupp said.

In addition to strawberries, the West Virginia Strawberry Festival is also known for its events that attract visitors from miles around.

Some of the most anticipated include the Strawberry 5K, Strawberry Idol, the Antique Car Parade, Irish Road Bowling and a Miniature Horse Show.

“Where we don’t have like a fairground, we use the whole entire town — city streets, Wesleyan’s campus,” Hupp said. “Everywhere that we can squeeze in an event, we try to do so.”

The Coronation is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the West Virginia Wesleyan Chapel. Thursday is the Junior Royalty parade at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday’s much-anticipated Grand Feature Parade begins at 1 p.m.

Though many see the festival as an annual homecoming for those who grew up in Buckhannon or attended West Virginia Wesleyan, Hupp is always pleased to see so many local residents take part in the week’s festivities as well.

“It’s amazing how many families will gather along the parade route,” she said. “They will pop up a little gas grill, pop up canopies, have their own little picnics. You’ll see the family gatherings, so I feel the community gives us outstanding support.”

Hupp herself remembers being raised around the festival, as her father was a former festival president in the 1960s.

“I was always in the local twirlette group, and we always enjoyed marching in the parade,” she said. “I can remember, my father owned property where the now-Super America is, and we would always go down to his business and watch the parades for years and years from that location.”

Even after 77 years, a lot of work goes into planning each festival, and Hupp is always proud to see the board’s hard work pay off.

“This is not just a weekend planning, it takes 12 months to do this,” she said. “Believe it or not, we’ve already started for 2019.”

For a full schedule of events visit www.wvstrawberryfestival.com or call the festival office at (304) 472-9036.

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