LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
When summer arrives and continuing through October, there are always plenty of festivals to attend somewhere in the Mountain State. One of those events here in the local area begins TODAY – the WV Blackberry Festival – held each year on the first weekend in August at Clarksburg City Park in Nutter Fort. What began as part of the state’s Homecoming 96 celebration is still carrying on!
“Nutter Fort took part in that Homecoming celebration in 1996 and it was held in front of the old Roosevelt-Wilson High School. That weekend was such a huge success that people wanted something similar to occur every year. Because of that enthusiasm, the WV Blackberry Festival, Inc. was chartered as a non-profit organization, and it’s been held every year since that time at Clarksburg City Park,” stated Sam Maxson, President of the Festival. “This is our 23rd annual event, and honestly, the growth we’ve experienced has been amazing!”
Maxson says the WV Blackberry Festival prides itself on being very family-friendly and offering many things to do and see for all ages. He noted, however, that the free entertainment that is offered each evening is THE BIG drawing card.
“We spend close to $40,000 each year and a lot of that is entertainment-related. Paying our entertainers and renting a stage and sound system for their performances takes the largest portion of our funds,” he noted, “but there are other expenses too that no one sees … our fireworks, permits and licenses, and insurance, etc. It’s a lot to arrange for each year, but we feel it’s worth it. The feedback we get is very positive and the crowds we draw are pretty phenomenal.”
The park opens at 11 a.m. during the three-day festival and activities of some sort are ongoing through 11 p.m. each evening.
Kids enjoy the inflatables provided by Cartoon Headquarters and that begins each day at 11 a.m. Carnival rides by Gambill Amusements are available every day of the festival too from 6 – 11 p.m. And Maxson says the kids have really enjoyed the addition of a climbing wall as well.
“We have lots of food vendors taking part and that always draws people. We also have wine vendors, and a bakery as well as many novelty and craft items too. It’s a good mix and several of this year’s vendors are new ones. Our Pet Parade will be held on Friday, August 2nd at 6 p.m. and there are always pets of all kinds registered. It’s not uncommon to see many of the animals dressed in costumes and parading around the park!” he added.
Activities ramp up a little more on Saturday, August 3rd and the day gets off to an early start with a 5K Run at 8:30 a.m. Gambill Amusements will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 11 p.m. There is also a Talent Show at noon (register at the stage prior to 11 a.m. Maxon noted that there is typically a lot of really extraordinary local talent taking part in this every year. A baking contest is held at 2 p.m. (also on Saturday), and of course there is a ‘blackberry’ theme to the entries. He says it is a difficult contest to judge because all of the treats – from cobbler to pies, cakes and cookies, and jams – are delicious … and following the judging, samples are sold! Real Shoot wrestling is the highlight at 3 p.m.
After the final entertainment on Saturday night, a spectacular fireworks presentation closes the festival.
So what can you expect for nightly entertainment during this year’s WV Blackberry Festival? Here’s the exciting lineup and remember, all of the entertainment is FREE:
Thursday – 7 p.m. – 5th Gear
9 p.m. – Rick K & the Allnighters
Friday – 7 p.m. – Glen Shelton
9 p.m. – The Shades of Blue
Saturday – 5 p.m. Josh Oldaker (gospel)
7 p.m. Ryan Cain and the Ables
9 p.m. Motown Sound of Touch
Mr. Maxson concluded, “We also hosted the Mark Mills Memorial Car Show on July 27th in advance of the festival. We had great participation with about 150 cars and this helps us raise some money too. But we truly can’t thank our generous sponsors enough who continue to support this annual event. Their sponsorships help make this all happen!”
2019 sponsors include: City of Nutter Fort; State of West Virginia; Amos-Carvelli Funeral Home; Harrison County Commission; Clarksburg CVB; iLease & Rental; Affiliated Physical Therapy, LLC; Mere Image Hair Design & Tanning; WPDX; WV Dept. of Agriculture; Sandy’s Hardware; Burnside Funeral Home; James and Law Company; Hilltop Auto Mart; Town & Country Drug Store; Home Industry Bakery; MVB Bank; Secret & Shields; WV Fruit & Berry; Waco Oil & Gas Co., Inc.; Aesthetix – Graphic, Web, Commercials, Photography, Marketing; Mike Ross; LL Auvil Insurance; Harrison County Bank; and Thrasher Group.
Be sure to include the WV Blackberry Festival in Nutter Fort in your weekend plans!