ELKINS — The Board of Directors of the Mountain State Forest Festival is pleased to announce their appointment of Jonathan R. Morgan as Director General of the 85th Mountain State Forest Festival.
The Festival is scheduled to take place from Sept. 30 through Oct. 8.
“It’s an honor to be chosen as Director General and work with a great group of assistants for the 85th Mountain State Forest Festival,” said Morgan.
This year’s theme — “Endlessly Wild & Wonderful” — will be shared with the Monongahela National Forest.
The Forest will provide the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on behalf of the USDA Forest Service and the state of West Virginia, kicking off a year-long celebration to connect people to West Virginia’s public lands.
Morgan was appointed as an Assistant Director in 2013 and served in that role until 2020, when he was selected as Deputy Director General.
He and his wife Jennifer have one son, Grant, and one daughter, Emma. Jennifer served as Crown Bearer in the 1987 Festival and a Maid of Honor in the 2000 Festival, while Emma was the Crown Bearer in the 83rd Festival in 2019.
Morgan has served as a past president of the Elkins Kiwanis Club.
Through his work with the Festival, he has volunteered with City Park events, Irish Road Bowling, 10K Run, Horseshoes, Bass Tournament, Primitive Campers, Tennis, Lumberjack Contest, Security, Communications and the Band Field Show.
Morgan was born and raised in Elkins and is a graduate of Elkins High School. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from West Virginia University and is a professional engineer in West Virginia.
He works for the USDA Forest Service on the Monongahela National Forest as the District Ranger on the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District. Morgan began his career in the agency in 2002 and has served as District Ranger since 2020.
More information about this year’s festival is available by following the Mountain State Forest Festival page on Facebook, visiting the website at www.forestfestival.com, or by phone at 304-636-1824.
ELKINS — After being delayed for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mountain State Forest Festival officials celebrated the completion of a successful 84th festival with the official closing ceremonies Sunday afternoon.
The ceremonies, which took place at the Jennings Randolph Federal Plaza, were “a long time in the making, and one that, at times over the past three years, I admittedly wondered if it would ever come,” MSFF Director General Robbie Morris said during an emotional speech.
Morris honored the legacy of John Zirbs, affectionately known as “Mr. Forest Festival,”who passed away in 2021.
“John would either wear a Scooby Doo tie or a Tazmanian Devil tie to closing ceremonies,”Morris said. “He knew it was an emotional event for all in attendance, especially the speakers, so he would wear these ties, and if someone started to tear up, he’d say, ‘Aw, don’t cry. Look at my tie.’”
“Today I’ve had a Tazmanian Devil tie placed on a chair in memory of John.”
During Sunday’s ceremony, when a speaker would become emotional, they would look to the chair and mention how the tie gave them strength and focus to finish their remarks.
Morris thanked all the assistant directors and the volunteers who helped make the 84th festival a reality, and also thanked the local first responders who were an integral part of so many events throughout the week.
He also thanked and praised Queen Silvia LXXXIV Caroline Marie Fluke and Maids of Honor Hannah Lee Phillips and Sarah Diane Riggleman for their poise, energy and good humor while serving during the 84th MSFF.
“I hope everyone enjoyed the return of the Mountain State Forest Festival,” Morris said. “While it may not have been perfect, I assure you I gave it everything I had. Many times during the past three years, I’ve joked — sometimes serious, but mostly joking — that I was cursed. After this week I have come to realize that I’m not cursed. I am blessed beyond measure, and more than I deserve.”
Also speaking during the closing ceremony were MSFF Board of Directors President Ben Shaffer and Queen’s Department Director Tracy Gooden.
At the close of the ceremony, Fluke and Morris placed a ceremonial stone commemorating this year’s festival in the Jennings Randolph Federal Plaza courtyard.
ELKINS — Our Town’s Scarecrow Festival officially concluded on Saturday with the removal of mannequins, collection of painted leaves and a brief ceremony announcing the 2022 award winners.
Placing scarecrows throughout Elkins’ downtown city streets has been a tradition for several years now, but it wasn’t until this year that organizers decided to make it a full-blown festival, officials said.
Leaves were distributed for residents to paint and place downtown, while the festival itself included two new events, a “Scarecrow Scavenger Hunt” and the “Scarecrow Fall Festival Extravaganza.” The extravaganza was held during Halloween weekend and featured an array of activities scattered throughout the downtown area.
“We had great participation from a lot of families and children during both our special events,” Our Town volunteer Bobbi Trimboli told The Inter-Mountain. “The downtown merchants were anxious to open their doors to all the activities that were going on.
“I think we can do it again and possibly next year add a few wrinkles to all the activities we had this year. It will definitely make for another fun-filled Halloween weekend again.”
Trimboli said the organization estimated that close to 500 residents came out for Saturday’s extravaganza.
“One of the volunteers at the Methodist church told us that she gave out candy to 365 different people,” said Trimboli. “I would say that we had a good 500 to 600 people come out. It was a very nice turnout and from the feedback we got was that people really enjoyed the trunk-or-treat, the hayride and all the wonderful activities we had.”
This year’s scarecrow winners included: “Grease” Davis Trust Company; “Lone Desperado” Leading Creek 4H; “Casey the Clover Guy” 4-H Teen Leaders; “John Lennon and Yoko Ono” Garver-Daniels Family; “Stitches” Mountain State Twirlers; “Mother Legacy” Legacy Insurance; “Picasso” Davis & Elkins College Art Students; “Scrappy Andy” Elkins Metal Recycling; “Harold the Happy Scarecrow” Mountain Heart Child Care Service; “Woodly” Mountain State Forest Festival; “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” Legal Aid of West Virginia; “Miss Vivian” West Virginia Caring; “Home Run Into Retirement”Mountain Valley Bank; and “Rosie” Alan Kerns.
“The creativity gets more and more every year and people really think of some neat ways to construct the scarecrows,” said Trimboli. “It was hard to select the winners but our group tried to make choices based on youth, non-profits and businesses. We tried to take all of that in account this year so that everyone would get a nod for their participation.”
Trimboli said Our Town had 17 leaves remaining that were not purchased back by their creators and that are currently available to purchase. She said several of the cutout leaves are plain and ready to be painted. For more information call 304-636-0415.
Maid Silvia, her mother, two Maids of Honor, the Director General and the Queen’s Department visited the Kump Education Center Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2.
We were delighted to be able to share the Kump collection of 1930s Forest Festival mementos with the royal entourage.
Everyone seemed interested to see how many festive traditions we still practice began in the earliest days of the Mountain State Forest Festival.
The 2022 Director General Robbie Morris found a picture of himself in the minor court in one vintage MSFF program. Many others in the group were reminded of things they have enjoyed at past festivals.
Festival traditions are a part of our local history that makes Elkins a community with phenomenal volunteerism, artistic expression and civic engagement.
Kump Education Center has been open 3-5: p.m. on Sundays and will be open Oct. 9, 16 and 23. Although we have not had much attendance at our Sunday afternoon tours, we know our collection of Forest Festival memorabilia from the 1930s is worth seeing.
Our Forest Festival collection, it will be available from 4-5 today after the parade across from Kroger. Children are welcome with adults.
Information below will help you on your Self-Guided Kump House Forest Festival Tour:
Side Hall: Sign in visitors’ log, make donation, and read pull-up sign to learn about the architect and builder.
Music Room: See Kump family clothing plus a mythological costume worn at festivals of the 1930s.
Living Room: Notice exhibit showing how the 1930s queens’ dresses looked like wedding dresses.
Sun Porch: Learn about female participation in the wood chopping and horseback riding competitions.
Dining Room: See how drought almost stopped the first MSFF and how festival brochures changed.
Library: Learn about the Roosevelt family support for national parks, conservation and preservation.
Breakfast Room: Look at old Forest Festival programs on the curly maple table made by George Latham.
American culture is changing and becoming more concerned about our natural environment on earth.
We hope future generations will build on local traditions to develop more awareness and effectiveness in dealing with forest, soil, and water conservation.
ELKINS — A celebration of the return of the Mountain State Forest Festival after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the comedy of the daughter of Don Knotts highlighted the 84th MSFF’s Distinguished Guest Dinner Thursday evening at the Phil Gainer Community Center.
“It’s been a thousand and one days since our last Distinguished Guest Dinner,” Robbie Morris, Director General of the 84th MSFF, told the assembled audience. “It has been a challenge but we have preserved and we have gathered once again to celebrate our beloved Forest Festival.”
A moment of silence was then observed for John Zirbs, who passed away in 2021.
“John was affectionately known as ‘Mr. Forest Festival’ and always attended the Distinguished Guest Dinner,” Morris said. “He was a metaphor of what the Forest Festival is all about. You may love the Forest Festival as much as John, but not more.”
Morris added his time as director general has been eventful, to say the least.
“It’s a tremendous honor to serve as the Mountain State Forest Festival Director for most,” he said. “I’ve held the title for three years, canceled two and held one.
“Some have asked me this week is that really good or bad, and my answer has been ‘yes.”‘
Morris then praised Kaitlin Marie Smith, Queen Silvia for the 83rd MSFF, for her representation of the festival over the past three years.
“I also want to congratulate you for being the second-longest serving queen,” Morris joked. “The longest serving queen before you came during World War II and the rest are tied for third.”
Smith was later presented with a replica doll, wearing a dress modeled after Queen Silvia LXXXIII, by 83rd MSFF Director General Robin Miller.
Morris concluded his opening remarks by telling the crowd to take in all of scenes of the MSFF.
After the dinner service, Rev. Raymond Godwin, who served as Master of Ceremonies, introduced guest speaker Karen Knotts.
“I’m honored to be the guest speaker and thank you for having me,” said the daughter of the West Virginia native comedy legend. “I can’t tell you how proud my father was to be from the great state of West Virginia.”
The late Don Knotts was a native of Morgantown and a graduate of West Virginia University. He had many famous roles but was best known as Andy Griffith’s deputy sidekick Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“People always assume my father was like Barney Fife,” Knotts said. “But he was quite opposite of that. He was quiet, thoughtful, intelligent and well-read, and was just a wonderful father.”
Knotts shared several funny stories about her father. She also recalled the first time she was on the set of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“I couldn’t wait for that to happen,” she said. “When I was there, I heard a familiar voice and it was Aunt Bee and she was smoking a cigarette. I said ‘Aunt Bee, you are smoking’ and she replied, ‘That’s right kid, I’m still a hot chick.”‘
Knotts also shared a story about Ron Howard, who as a young boy played Andy’s fictional son, Opie. She said Howard was nice to her and took her around the set.
“He showed me the dartboard where my father and Andy played darts,” she said. “They were always pulling pranks on one another and it was just a wonderful experience.”
Other speakers during the dinner included Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco, Randolph County Commissioner David Kesling, Davis & Elkins College President Chris A. Wood, MSFF Board President Ben Shaffer and Smith. Then Buckhannon resident Caroline Marie Fluke, Maid Silvia for the 84th MSFF, was introduced.
Fluke was crowned Queen Silvia during Friday afternoon’s coronation.
“I’m honored to be here and it’s been a long time coming,” Fluke said. “I grew up coming to the festival with my family and I appreciate all the traditions of it.
“I’ve made so many memories and had so much fun, and know the best is yet to come.”
The event ended with the introduction of the 40 princesses of the 84th MSFF. They were presented gifts by Fluke and her Maids of Honor, Hannah Lee Phillips and Sarah Diane Riggleman.
ELKINS — Queen Silvia LXXXIV of the 84th Mountain State Forest Festival was finally crowned on a sunny afternoon Friday, after two years of cancellations due to COVID-19.
Caroline Marie Fluke, of Buckhannon, received her crown from W.Va. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt at the Citizens Bank of WV Amphitheatre on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.
“Maid Silvia, it is now my pleasure to place upon your head this symbol of royalty,”Leonhardt said as he crowned Fluke, leading to cheers from the crowd of hundreds of people attending the coronation.
Royal trumpeteers Ava Marjory Barger, Aidan Matthew Lowther, Samuel “Aaron” Mabry Jr. and Thomas Albert Nixon provided fanfare for the queen and her court at the start of the ceremony.
Following the royal trumpeteers down Coronation Hill was the 2022 Woodly the Elf, Taelynn Grace Harlan, the fabled painter of the forest.
Representing the many colors of the forest in their gowns were 40 royal princesses from across the Mountain State.
Princesses included Brianna Nicole Barnette, Haylee Marie Bennett, Addison Willow Berdine, Emily Ann Bibey, Summer Hope Channell, Mackenzie Nicole Childers, Heidi Leanne Daniels, Adrianna Celine Dunbar, Johnna Isabel Figueroa, Madyson Sue Fincham, Margaret Grace Haas, Alexandra Suzanne Hall, Abigail Lynnlee Hannan, Alexis Breanne Hare, Mackenzie Malie Harshbarger, Mackenzie Faith Holland, Madison Frances Holland, Anastasia Jones-Burdick, Katelyn Leigh Kimbleton, Julie Nicole Koontz, Ariel Brooke Mallow, April Jane Marsh, Jocelyn Marie Martin, Brooklyn Dakota Maxwell, Lindsay Brooke Maxwell, Haley Brooke McCauley, Ella Esta-Mae Moats, Rachel Alice Morgan, Kaleigh Brooke Papez, Taylor Madison Phillips, Ani Ruth Reger, Anna Marie Ruf, Haleigh Marie Riggleman, Abigail Augusta Stuart, Isabella Rose “Ellie” Stump, Taylee Tiera Tallman, Zoe Williams, Bianca Marie Wingard, Ashley Marie Wolford and Saige Zoe Zervos.
Following the princesses’ descent of Coronation Hill were flower girls Avery Grace Fox, Baelynn Lee Irons, Addison Grace Smyton and Kendall Brooke Ward.
Train Bearers Nicholas Joseph “NJ” Patella and Cooper Preston Warner served Queen Silvia LXXXIV by holding the flowing train of her majestic gown as she descended Coronation Hill.
Fluke was also accompanied by her two Maids of Honor, Hannah Lee Phillips and Sarah Diane Riggleman.
Maid of Honor Phillips is the daughter of Junior and Peggy Phillips of Coalton.
Maid of Honor Riggleman is the daughter of Larry and Brenda Riggleman of Beverly.
Crown Bearer Max Ryan Jones assisted Leonhardt in presenting Fluke with her crown. Scepter Bearer Eleanor Faye Davis carried the symbol of power down the hill to the coronation stage.
Entertaining guests of the Mountain State Forest Festival during the coronation were royal jesters Ariella Paige Brown, Kenadi Sloane Hall Carte, Emma Reese Markley and Emily Elizabeth Tesar.
The royal scouts for the coronation were Kayla Virginia Harris, Sarah Ashley Lipscomb, Daniel Webster Hardy III, and Kyle Liam Warner.
Also present for coronation as the “Court Noblemen” were State Senator Bill Hamilton, State Senator Robert Karnes, Delegate Ty Nestor, Delegate Cody Thompson, Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco, West Virginia Commissioner of Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith, and Davis & Elkins College President Chris Wood.
Fluke is the daughter of Eric and Jennifer Fluke of Buckhannon. She is the granddaughter of Carol and the late Thomas B. Dunn of Naples, Florida, and Juanita and the late John Fluke of Shawnee, Oklahoma. She has one brother, Bryson Fluke.
Fluke is a 2019 graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Currently, Caroline is enrolled in Laurel College of Technology. In 2021 Caroline received her associate degree in cosmetology and is now licensed in West Virginia. She is now continuing her studies in the field of aesthetics. After graduation she plans to be become licensed/certified and further her education to become a medical aesthetician.