ELKINS, W.Va. — The Mountain State Forest Festival is one of the largest events of its kind in West Virginia. The Festival’s 84th year will not happen after organizers were forced to cancel the 2020 event due to Covid 19.
The festival, which annually draws more than 100,000 guests to Elkins has through the years been so big even Presidents have made an appearance. The only other time it was cancelled was during World War II. The news of this year’s cancellation certainly wasn’t a surprise since every event seems to have been cancelled by Covid 19, but beyond the disappointment there is a real concern of what happens next.
Organizers have indicated they are now planning for next year, but some wonder how the 2020 cancellation will also impact the 2021 event.
“It brings in so much money to the area and people shop, eat, and our motels are actually over booked and they spill over to Canaan Valley and some into Pocahontas County and Upshur County. It impacts a few counties other than ours,” said Brenda Pritt, Executive Director of the Randolph County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
The annual festival is also the life blood for a high number of non-profit groups and small business operators. Their biggest fundraisers of the year involve the Forest Festival.
“They sell their wares and food and take up donations. They do so many projects in the community, and with Covid so many of the smaller festivals have also been cancelled,” Pritt said.
Budgets to help the festival grow every year are also hurt. Pritt’s budget to promote tourism in the region is derived from hotel-motel taxes and this summer those are going to be severely set back. She said you like to think you can plan for next year, but it’s not as easy as taking the button off “pause.”
“You know the hotel/motel tax it brings in for us to promote with is very impacted and we need the money to advertise for next year. So we’re all just trying to figure out what we can do and what can we plan,” she said.