By Rosalyn Queen
Once the charter had been written and filed with the secretary of state, a board had been appointed for the festival, and a date had been set for the real work to begin.
It was readily accepted that there would need to be a good mix of individuals who could support the festival financially and those who were able to volunteer their services in many different areas. In setting up the original board and those that followed, studies were made to find individuals who could lend support in building, bookkeeping, legal, authenticity, fundraising and many other areas. Soon it became very evident early on that the festival would need a paid staff and a permanent location.
This is the story I hope to document for you now. It focuses on the people and locations of the festival over the years.
In 1979 Jay Rockefeller was governor, Dan McCarthy was county commissioner, Arch Benninger was mayor, and Patsy Trecost was city manager. With very few months to get the first festival on the street and limited funds, Merle Moore, a festival founder and the director of the Clarksburg Harrison Library Found room in the local library, and with the approval of the library board, the first festival office was headquartered in the library.
Any place there was room, festival work was done that first year with most of the board and committee meetings held in the library conference room or at the Waldomore. After a search was initiated, it was decided to hire Bob Kovacevich of Beckley as the coordinator, and he was assisted by Loretta Mazzei from Bridgeport.
They were the team that led all the volunteers to a successful first festival. James D. Larosa, a Clarksburg businessman, served as the first chairman of the board of directors. After the first festival, because of limited funding and a decision not yet made as to whether we needed a year-round office, Kovacevich wrapped up the first festival and headed back home.
After the wrap up session was held by the board, it was agreed to find a year-round office and staff it. In 1980, the office moved to the corner of Main Street and Monticello on the first floor of the old A&P store.
Once again, Larosa was elected as chairman of the board. It was agreed to appoint Lenora Riley of Clarksburg as the coordinator, and she was assisted by Mary Weege Vargo and John Peters.
Board meetings were held in the conference room of the Larosa offices on Buckhannon Pike, and then, in the new office space. The offices and the staff remained the same in 1981, but after that year’s festival, Ewel Coronet was hired as the executive director. Donna Jordan was appointed to handle the public relations, and she compiled the souvenir book that year.
In 1982, the office was moved, for financial reasons to the upstairs of 343 West Pike Street in downtown Clarksburg. Cornett remained as the director and he was assisted by Rebecca Kimmons who handled marketing and the souvenir book.
In 1983, the office was located in the Galleria Mini Mall on Main Street in Clarksburg. John Manchin of Farmington served as chairman, and Russell Bonasso of Fairmont was the president of the board. The office remained in the same location for the 1984 festival with Manna as the director, but the board had elected Victor Gabriel as its chairman.
In 1985, a financial crunch hit the festival, and the office was closed, so there was no longer a paid staff. Thought was given to no longer having a festival. With the guidance of Louis Spatafore, Merle Moore, and Rosalyn Queen, board members agreed to serve as volunteer coordinators after five of the founding fathers put up the financial backing to make the festival solvent.
Gabriel was still serving as the board chairman. The Harrison County commissioners donated a six-by-six room on the fifth floor of the Harrison County Courthouse where business was conducted by a volunteer staff. Arch Moore was serving as governor of our state.
With the office still located in the courthouse, and after a financially successful festival, the board elected Queen as its chairman and hired a secretary to do the day-to-day business. Sandy Williams was the new secretary for the year of 1986 alongside Queen.
In 1987, an appeal was made to the County Commissioners for more space, and they donated space in the Correctional Center to be used as the Festival Headquarters. Rosalyn Queen was hired as the new executive director and David Seamon was the new chairman of the board of directors. The city manager of Clarksburg was Dan Boroff.
In 1988, the festival did business from the Correctional Center and held their board meetings in the conference room located there. Jayne Folio served as the secretary.
In 1989, Gaston Caperton was the governor of the state with the festival still operating from the same location and with Queen as the director. Beverly Stickel was appointed as secretary, and the festival utilized the services of the governor’s summer youth program to get the festival on the street
While David Seamon was still serving as the board chairman, arrangements were made to move the office to a suite located in the Goff Building. Queen was the director, Caperton was the governor, and Stickel was the secretary when several nonprofit businesses in the downtown area had the opportunity to utilize the old C&P building on main.
In 1991, the festival joined this group and relocated their offices with Tom Basil now serving as chairman of the board of directors. The same space was used in 1992, and Queen was still the director, and Joy Payton was the secretary.
In 1993, a decision was made to do away with the C&P building, and the festival found a new home on Second Street. Stickel and Cheryl Cummings shared the secretary responsibilities. John Shields was now the chairman of the board of directors, and Lori Mancuso was supervising the governors summer youth workers.
In 1994, everything seemed the same as the year before with Queen still serving as the executive director.
Once again in 1995, the festival was faced with having to move the offices. This time, they moved to the Schroath building on Washington Avenue. Shields conducted the board meetings in the conference room of the Correctional Center. Cummings was handled the secretary duties.
In 1996, still at the same location, Louis Iquinto was elected as chairman of the board of directors. Mary Barberio was the summer workers supervisor, and Katy Titus volunteered as the marketing coordinator. Stickel was the secretary and Queen was the director.
Cecil Underwood was elected governor in 1997.
Under the leadership of Iquinto, in 1998, the festival found a permanent home. Once again James D. Larosa came to the forefront and donated the use of his home place for a festival office, as well as space for a library to house the archives of the festival. The new office was located at 309 Clark Street in the Papa Jim and Emily Larosa home for the preservation of Italian culture. The same year, Judy Fryzel was hired as the secretary, and Rachel Torchia was the advertising coordinator for the souvenir book.
In 1998, for the first time in a long time the festival hired an assistant: Barbara Murray. She took care of marketing and publicity. She also did some grant writing and compiled the souvenir book.
In 1999, Queen continued to serve as the executive director at the new location. Mary Weege Vargo was elected to serve as chairman of the board, and John Farmer joined the staff as the souvenir book coordinator.
In 2000, when Queen announced her retirement plans, the board hired Sheila Hauser from Huntington to serve as executive director, and Queen remained in a training capacity. Hauser resigned that same year, and Queen remained in the position while the board conducted a search. Fryzell continued to serve as the secretary. At the end of 2000, Torchia was hired as the executive director to head up the 2001 festival while Queen remained as a consultant, and Titus came back to the office as the assistant. Farmer retained his position as souvenir book coordinator.
2001 marked the first year that the festival did not participate in the governor’s summer youth program. Mike Fusco was elected to serve as chairman of the board of directors and the new governor was Bob Wise.
2001 marked the 24th annual festival held in Clarksburg. Past chairmen remained active in consulting positions and headed up volunteer committees throughout the year. The original founders continued to serve as consultants and a support team.
There have been eleven different office locations and seven individuals who have served as the executive director.
Through all of this, the festival stands strong and solvent. The community and state can point with pride to this event that generates millions of dollars for the economy in North Central West Virginia and attracts over 100,000 people to Clarksburg every Labor Day weekend.
The festival will be held Sept. 2-4 in downtown Clarksburg.
Until next week, “Now You Have Heard It Through The Grapevine.”