CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A few years ago, I was staying the night at the Gillum House (www.gillumhouse.com/) in Shinnston.
In the front yard, not 100 feet from my window, the carnival for Frontier Days (email@example.com) had been set up to open the next day.
Quiet — so quiet — and shrouded by a soft fog that had moved in during the early-morning hours, the view, grounded in what I had seen earlier, had become an apparition. Striped and bright white tents, their peaks hovering and barely visible, protected the games of chance.
The illumination from the rides looped through the night like loosened filaments. Strings of lights, vying for a presence with the colorful and gently swaying flags, created softened pathways disappearing into the night.
West Virginia presents so many opportunities for you to experience the unforgettable, to create those unique memories that go home with you and become a part of the stories you tell about your travels.
Fairs and festivals are rich with their celebratory sounds and imagery, sense of community and fellowship, laughter and exhilaration. Parades, 4-H and FFA exhibits, crafts, cotton candy and funnel cakes, carnival rides, music, dancing and races are just a few of the many things happening at any given event.
But that’s not all! There are jazz and bluegrass festivals and festivals celebrating the wonder of our rivers and mountains; the pageantry of queens and their courts; and fairs dedicated to arts and crafts, coal, gas and oil, ramps, strawberries, water, peaches, apples, black walnuts and buckwheat — the list goes on and on.
Community, county, town and state fairs are listed online (www.wvfairsandfestivals.org/) and you can begin your adventure there. After you have selected which fairs or festivals you want to attend, you need to also find a place to stay. What better way to relax after a day walking the fairgrounds than to stay at a West Virginia bed and breakfast?
Chestnut Ridge Country Inn (http://chestnutridgecountryinn.com/), in Dunmore, has four guest rooms and a small private bungalow. Larry and Paula are gracious hosts and offer several packages in addition to a “Stay Inn” dinner for their guests.
Just five miles away from the inn is the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a place worth visiting any time of the year, and host of the Space Race Rumpus (www.gb.nrao.edu/rumpus/). The three-day family cycling festival, taking place June 13-15, is complete with three nights of live music, food, science education and cycling races (mountain and road) for all ages; there are no carousels, but the radio telescopes onsite add an element of wonder.
The 48th Annual Pioneer Days Festival is held July 9-13 in Marlinton, about 20 miles from Chestnut Ridge. Parades, a carnival, an antique car show and truck and tractor pulls, horseshoe pitching and demonstrations are all part of the five days of events. Durbin Days Heritage Festival is the following week and features train rides, live entertainment and a carnival.
The Pocahontas County website is a wealth of information on events in this area (www.pocahontascountywv.com/events/), including the Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off, Sept. 27.
The Morning Glory Inn (www.morninggloryinn.com/), also about 20 miles from Marlinton, has six sunny and large guest rooms, several with more than one bed, and a magnificent 90-foot front porch.
Another B&B you might want to check out is the Mt. Airy Bed and Breakfast and Gallery (www.mtairybnb.com/), also with six guest rooms. Located in Slatyfork, this inn is the closest to Snowshoe.
The Augusta Festival, Aug. 8-10 (https://augustaheritagecenter.org/augusta-festival/#), caps off the summer’s events held at the Davis & Elkins College Augusta Heritage Center, in Elkins. This series of traditional dance, music, folklore and crafts classes keeps the town active for most of the summer, then winds up activities with a festival in Elkins City Park. A concert, contra dancing and square dancing and a juried craft fair are followed up by a gospel sing Sunday morning.
The Mountain State Forest Festival (www.forestfestival.com/), also in Elkins, is considered to be the oldest festival in the state. Running nearly two full weeks, the festival spreads across Elkins City Park and onto the grounds of Davis & Elkins College.
The festivities involving the queen and her court are extensive. Included in the activities are parades, a 5K run, an arts and crafts fair, a band competition, music, dancing and storytelling. The 78th Forest Festival takes place Sept. 27-Oct. 5.
There are three places to stay in Elkins, each completely different from the other.
The Post House Bed & Breakfast (www.virtualcities.com/ons/wv/z/wvz7603.htm) has three guest rooms, one with a private bath. Open July through October, the brick house of mid-20th-century architecture has a cozy front porch. Hostess Joan serves her homemade bread with the continental breakfast.
On the edge of Elkins Park and across the road from D&E is the Warfield House Bed & Breakfast (www.warfieldhousebedandbreakfast.com/). A meticulously restored house on the National Register of Historic Places, it is quite worth visiting just to see the wallpaper! There are four guest rooms and Peggy serves a full breakfast.
Graceland Inn (www.gracelandinn.com/) is a restored Victorian mansion with a restaurant and conference center. Located on the D&E campus, the inn has 11 guest rooms with antique and reproduction Victorian furniture. The conference center has 26 rooms. D&E manages and hosts activities for both of the festivals held in Elkins, including lodging and meals for the queen and her court.
They seldom have rooms available during these events, but it is always worth calling about cancellations.
On Oct. 11 and 12, the streets of Berkeley Springs are filled with activities sponsored by the Apple Butter Festival (www.berkeleysprings.com/newtbs/apple-butter-festival). A hometown parade starts the festivities, which include games, music, arts and crafts, local country food and great copper kettles of steaming apple butter. The apple butter demonstrations are held in the town square.
Jazz, blues and old-time music is performed all day, and ghost stories are told at the Ice House in the evening. Over 200 arts, crafts, mountain foods and antiques vendors fill the park and streets. A highlight of the festival is the Apple Butter Quilt; chances are sold for the quilt, which is given to the lucky winner at the close of the festival.
The Manor Inn Bed & Breakfast (www.bathmanorinn.com/), in downtown Berkeley Springs, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has two guest rooms and a two-room suite. Ellen and Wesley serve a large breakfast featuring fresh organic foods available in their area. The fall leaves are at their peak in early October and, when weather permits, you may enjoy their colors while you eat on the porch.
A benefit of having a guest room at Manor Inn is that you are walking distance (two blocks) from the festival, and parking, which is at a premium, is available in the inn’s large guest car lot. Rooms book up quickly for this festival; if the Manor Inn is not available, check for accommodations in Shepherdstown (Thomas Shepherd Inn www.thomasshepherdinn.com/ or The Inn at Moler’s Crossroads (www.innatmolerscrossroads.com/); Harpers Ferry (Laurel Lodge (www.laurellodge.com/); Hedgesville (Cider Mill House www.cidermillhouse.com/) or, a little farther away, Carriage Inn Bed and Breakfast — www.carriageinn.com/ or Jacob Rohrbach Inn — www.jacob-rohrbach-inn.com/.
In Spencer, five grand marshals, all Knights of the French Legion of Honor, decorated for their service in the U.S. Army during World War II in France, will lead the Grand Parade for the West Virginia Black Walnut Festival (http://wvbwf.com/), Oct. 9-12. Featuring a high school band competition, a queen and her court, flower and car shows, arts and crafts and two carnivals, the West Virginia Black Walnut Baking Contest is at the heart of the festival.
The four guest rooms at the Cunningham House Bed and Breakfast Inn (www.cunninghamhouseinn.com/) are reserved at this time, but it’s worth giving Sherry a call to see if she has any cancellations or to put your name on her waiting list.
If there is no room in Spencer, the next closest place to stay is at Gobblers Ridge Lodge Bed and Breakfast (www.gobblersridge.com/), in Linn.
Another option is to make a day trip of it and stay in Buckhannon, about 50 miles from Spencer, at the Riverside Bed and Breakfast (www.riversidewv.com/). The house, with three guest rooms, is loaded with quilts created by Linda, the innkeeper, and you will be treated to her homemade bread served in the morning with your breakfast.
You’ve just missed it for this year, but each May, Buckhannon hosts the West Virginia Strawberry Festival (www.wvstrawberryfestival.com/). Spread over a full week and vying with the Forest Festival as the oldest and largest festival in the state, there are four parades including Horse & Carriage Parade, Junior Royalty Parade, Fireman’s Parade and the Grand Feature Parade.
There are so many fairs and festivals to choose from, you could spend nearly every weekend at one fair or another while you explore West Virginia’s history, culture and traditions, industry, people, wildlife and produce.
So, get online, check out the fairs and festivals calendar and then go to the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast site (wvbba.com) to find nearby accommodations. I guarantee that no matter what your interest, there is probably a festival to celebrate it!
Michele Moure-Reeves is a West Virginia innkeeper and president of the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week from the WV Travel Team: Why you might want to try Bermuda instead of the Bahamas.