By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
Pets parading, people playing great music and purple pies just waitin’ to be eaten are just days away. Well…the pies aren’t actually purple, but what’s inside them is–summer’s juicy sweet-tart blackberries.
The Annual West Virginia Blackberry Festival, hosted by Nutter Fort, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary Thursday, Aug. 4 through Saturday, Aug. 6 at the Clarksburg City Park, located along Route 20. The festival will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day of the festival.
Organizers say they haven’t planned a specific birthday celebration activity because all of the events are celebration enough with the multitude of fun, food and other delightful things to do at the three-day festival.
“With all of the wonderful things we’ll have going on, we just felt that the whole festival itself IS a celebration each year,” said Linda Griffith, Vice President of the festival committee.
The festival boasts top-notch musical entertainment, dance performances, carnival rides, inflatable rides, contests, parades, a 5K race, fireworks and much more.
With its blackberry theme, it’s no wonder that the Baking Contest (desserts, not entrees), set for 2 p.m. Saturday, is a featured event. With its only stipulation that the homemade baked goods must incorporate blackberries in some way, the delectable entries run the gamut from pies to cakes to cobblers to cookies to cheesecakes and so much more.
“We get a wide variety,” Griffith reports.
Griffith says that most entries are quite delicious and of high-quality. “They could put them in some restaurants, and they’d be top sellers, I’m sure,” she stated.
Registration for the Baking Contest, sponsored by Affiliated Physical Therapy, is $10, and you could win a unique bakers’-themed prize, such as a commemorative 9”-13” baking dish with the festival name and date etched onto it. You can register for this contest online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Griffith said their contestant bakers really take their work seriously. “They put their whole hearts into this,” she added.
Festival visitors can also purchase blackberry baked goods from the festival committee. They have the exclusive as the only festival group allowed to sell pies, cakes, cobblers, etc. whole. “Other vendors have the option to sell baked goods by the piece though,” Griffith explained.
The festival committee also will be selling blackberry filled cookies. “I’ll tell you, the blackberry cookies are just amazing!” Griffith exclaimed.
Other blackberry food items at the festival include ice cream and smoothies, too, she added.
With all of these delicious blackberry food items, attendees won’t find fresh blackberries though, because of the growing season’s timing, Griffith said.
Griffith reports that many food vendors will be onsite offering a variety of items such as Cajun food, Italian sausages and BBQ.
Another favorite featured event is the Pet Parade, scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday. Any and all pets of any species are welcome.
“We’ve had horses, iguanas, and some of the most beautiful dogs and cats you’ve ever laid eyes on,” Griffith said smiling. People can register their pets in the parade at the Festival Headquarters for free.
The Mark Mills Memorial Car Parade (AKA as “Cruise”) route begins at the Robert C. Byrd High School and ends at the City Park.
The vehicle parade has continued to be a major event at the festival, now honoring Mills, who originated it and organized it each year until his death. His son Andrew, who picks the car to be named “Mark’s Choice”, has taken the baton to be an integral part of this fun event.
“Mark had a real love for the festival,” Griffith stated. “He was an awesome fellow who was a true car enthusiast. Even though he’s been deceased for a few years, people still get involved because they just love being a part of his ‘cruise’.”
All of the music entertainment – from gospel to blue grass to country and many other genres – is free.”Anything that is going on on that stage is free,” she continued.
Griffith said that the group “Beatle Mania”, who is set to appear at 9 p.m. Thursday, has become a festival favorite. The group, based in Parkersburg, W.Va., covers Beatles’ tunes and dresses up like the real Manchester “mop heads” we all love.
“They are phenomenal!” Griffith exclaimed. “They change costumes throughout the performances. If you like the Beatles, you must plan on seeing them.”
Ryan Cain and the Ables, a rockabilly group, is another festival favorite. They will be on stage at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Ryan has so much talent,” Griffith enthused. “He’s got a true God-given talent.”
Many other great entertainers are on the bill for this year’s festival, and…repeating…all for free!
All events are conveniently located at the Clarksburg City Park, except for the Car Parade launch, but it will end up at the park.
The festival is alcohol free except for wine vendors who will be selling by the bottle. But no alcohol consumption or open containers are allowed, Griffith reports.
“We’re a very old-time, family-friendly oriented festival,” Griffith emphasized and encourages people to come out for part or all of the three-day blackberry extravaganza. “It’s a great time. You can bring the children and get with old friends.”
It’s amazing that only three people are the organizers and backbone of such a thoroughly fun and well-executed community event. Along with Griffith, the only other two on the festival committee are President Sam Maxson and Treasurer Twyla Snodgrass. Griffith said they are grateful for the help of their many volunteers.
For more information about the festival, how to register for events, or for a complete list of entertainers, attractions and events go to wvblackberryfestival.com or visit on Facebook at “West Virginia Blackberry Festival.”