By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
As has become customary during its 37-year history, the coronation of Regina Maria will kick off the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Festivities begin at noon on the Courthouse Plaza next Friday, September 4th.
For the first time, the Festival queen hails from Shinnston! Chelsea Boyles, 24, of Shinnston, says she anxiously awaits the Labor Day weekend celebration.
“For years my family has attended the festival, and like all young girls, I always looked up to whomever was serving as Regina Maria,” she noted. “Little did I know that one day I would be assuming that role!”
Chelsea’s Italian roots stem from her paternal grandmother Judy (Oliveto) Boyles of Lumberport. Chelsea’s great-grandmother (Judy’s mother) was the eldest of 14 children born to Salvatore and Julia Oliveto who both came to America from San Giovanni.
“My great-great-grandfather came to the United States at the age of 16 and worked in the coal mines. And I’ve been told through the years that my great-great-grandmother was just a baby and actually learned to walk on board the ship during her journey to America! Like most immigrants, they worked very hard all their lives to earn a living and raise their children, teaching them the Italian traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation,” she continued. “And it is those traditions that are such a part of the Italian Heritage Festival.”
A 2009 graduate of Lincoln High School, Chelsea earned a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree (with specialties in business and technology) from Fairmont State University in 2013. She is currently employed at Pratt & Whitney in customer service and is a project cost analyst.
Throughout her life, Chelsea has always exhibited a very strong interest in music, taking private vocal lessons during her early years, followed by many hours of practice on her own. Her focus remains constant; she intends to continue to pursue a career in music, despite cautions that it takes a long time to get “in the door”. Thanks to support from her family, she has made numerous trips to Nashville during the past ten years, and again on her own, she has made several CDs – three of those in Morgantown. Recently, however, her newest album entitled “Edges” was produced by Dan Mitchell and recorded in Nashville.
She is currently considering working more closely with a musician who produces and manages in Texas. She will be doing some writing sessions with him, working on her sound and is anxious to do some original songs of her own. She will be making an appearance in the future at Austin City Limits, one of the most successful music festivals in the U.S. and the longest running music series in American television history.
Chelsea performed recently for the final Tunes at Noon on the Courthouse Plaza in Clarksburg. If you didn’t have the opportunity to hear her, perhaps you will at this year’s Festival. Chelsea will be singing on both Friday and Saturday during Festival weekend. In fact, the performance will showcase the talents of two Regina Marias – this year’s Chelsea Boyles and Mary Frances Beto Smith, the very first Regina Maria. They will perform on the Festival’s Main Stage at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 4th and 5th.
When she is not working or singing, Chelsea spends her spare time caring for and riding horses with her father – four of which are rescue horses, another passion of hers.
The Boyles family will be well represented at this year’s Italian Heritage Festival! She says her family is extremely proud to have all three of their daughters in this year’s WVIHF Court. Chelsea will reign as queen of the Festival; her younger sister Chloe, 22 years old, will serve as Maid of Honor; and 7-year old Chesnea Boyles, a second grader at Big Elm Elementary School, is on the Minor Court.
“I am honored to have been selected as Regina Maria XXXVII and I particularly look forward to meeting everyone, listening to the music, enjoying the food, and celebrating with all of those who attend,” Chelsea concluded.