Our familial roots are what tethers us to our past. It is not only the ancestors we left behind, but the region in which we live. Family and land are intrinsically tied, and it is in that link that people of a certain area gather together to celebrate where they came from. These 11 festivals are emblematic of that regional connection.
1. Guyandotte Civil War Days - Huntington
The Civil War is strong part of West Virginian history, and most of us have roots that go back to that time period. This Civil War event commemorates a famous battle during the war that left an entire town in ruins. It features street vendors and a full battle reenactment, complete with real firearms and cannons. No bullets or cannonballs, though - just gunpowder. All the boom with no bite.
2. The Mothman Festival - Point Pleasant
The belief in the paranormal is a big part of West Virginia culture, and the Mothman phenomenon sits at the heart of this belief. It has a history that reached prominence in 1966-67, but its roots go as far back as 1777 when a murdered Indian chief cursed the land. Some believe that the Mothman and the other strange occurrences during that time are a manifestation of that curse. Whether you believe it or not, the Mothman is part of West Virginian culture and heritage, especially if you roots can be traced back to that specific region.
3. Rocket Boys Festival - Beckley
Homer Hickam was the son of a coal miner in the aptly named city of Coalwood. But instead of following in his fathers footsteps, Homer and his friends were more interested in what was above ground, rather than below. Together he and his friends built a homemade rocket, which they launched off a hill outside of town. Homer ultimately grew up to become a NASA engineer who trained the first Japanese astronauts. The festival celebrates not only the famous Rocket Boys and their accomplishments, but also our coal mining heritage.
4. The Freshwater Folk Festival - White Sulphur Springs
This festival's goal is "to promote understanding, appreciation and conservation of freshwater resources and to celebrate the local natural history and culture of White Sulphur Springs and Greenbrier County." The event features music, food, local crafts and numerous activities that focus on the festival's mission.
5. Lumberjack Festival (Lumberjackin’ Bluegrassin’ Jamboree) - Twin Falls State Resort Park
This festival celebrates a a time-honored profession in West Virginia. This free festival features a woodsman competition, arts and crafts, bluegrass music, and food. The competitions include an ax throw, log roll, crosscut saw, chain saw, one-man bucking, bolt splitting, horizontal chop, and pole fell.
6. Maple Syrup Festival - Pickens
This region has a long history of making homemade syrup, a technique that settlers learned from the natives. This festival offer activities that celebrates the preparation of syrup. The festival offers live music, craft vendors, a pancake dinner, a ham and bean dinner, and a Saturday night dance.
7. Ramps & Rails Festival - Elkins
The ramp (a type of wild onion) is more than a food in West Virginia, it is a tradition. The Ramps & Rails Festival offers a variety of foods in which the ramp is a primary ingredient. You can also listen to live music and visit craft vendors while you enjoy this very West Virginian food. Selections each year include ramp burgers, ramperoni rolls, ramp chili and ramp risotto with shrimp.
8. Coal Mining Heritage Festival - Bramwell
This festival celebrates life in the coalfields through music, texts and relics. There will also be living history scenes and several booths about the history of coal mining.
9. Appalachian Festival - Beckley
This three-day festival celebrates everything Appalachia, including, music, crafts, art, food, coal mine tours, Appalachian history, nature tours and children's activities.
10. Shinnston Frontier Days - Shinnston
This is the largest country music festival in West Virginia, celebrating the musical culture rooted deep in the region. The four-day festival also features two parades and a tractor show.
11. Matewan Homecoming
This festival is held to commemorate the Battle of Matewan. This event is tied in with coal mining and the mistreatment of workers, an issue that many coal miners faced throughout the history of the profession. The event features reenactments of the battle, food, live music, street vendors, a scavenger hunt and a Hatfield-McCoy play.
Which of these festivals have you attended? Which ones would you recommend that are not on this list? Feel free to comment below and join the discussion.