Forest Festival Modifying the 2020 Celebration due to COVID-19

After careful consideration and consultation from health officials with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Mountain State Forest Festival Association Board of Directors has announced the 84th Mountain State Forest Festival scheduled for September 26 – October 4, 2020 is being modified to ensure a safe celebration.

With the uncertainty about the return of large gatherings this fall, necessary changes to the annual fall extravaganza include the elimination of the festival’s royal court members and all related events including the coronation, Distinguished Guest Dinner, Queen’s Ball, opening and closing ceremonies, and school tours. A modified schedule of events is being planned and will adjust as official guidelines unfold related to the Coronavirus. Board President Cliff Marstiller said these are unprecedented times and the logistics of planning a 10-day festival to include a royal court denies the organization an opportunity to “wait and see” what happens in another month or two. “Even though the festival is not until late September, the advanced planning of costuming and related court events has necessitated that decision to be made sooner rather than later. Eliminating the royal court will make the festival look different this year, but will allow us to look forward to the possibility of some kind of fall celebration.”

Marstiller further stated, “Our decision was not made lightly as the Board navigates the impact of COVID-19 on this year’s Forest Festival. Along with the royal court adjustments, we will continue with a reimagined 2020 Festival with the first priority being the safety and wellbeing of our volunteers, staff, and attendees. We will continue to confer with health officials and follow guidelines so we may produce a scaled-down quality festival for everyone. Should the future necessitate we completely cancel our celebration, we’ll announce that further down the road. For now, a modified Forest Festival will happen this fall.”

While a 2020 Festival is being planned, the celebration and coronation of Queen Silvia LXXXIV of the 84th Mountain State Forest is postponed until 2021. “We can’t have the 84th Maid Silvia be crowned Queen at the 85th Mountain State Forest Festival,” commented Director General Robbie Morris. “The time, resources and effort that goes into coordinating the royal court is tremendous and begins in the first quarter of the year. Because of COVID-19, we are falling
months behind in those activities. Additionally, we couldn’t 100% guarantee that a festival could occur once the costuming and court members were selected. That uncertainty forced the decision to remove the royal court.”

Festival organizers are well aware they will be planning for events that will occur under the lens of COVID-19. Morris added, “With the decision to move forward with the planning of a festival for this fall, it is more than likely the case that we will still be social distancing, wearing masks and limiting the number of people allowed at a venue. Our Assistant Directors and Board of Directors will consult with state officials and local health experts to alter and modify events plus take every precaution to assure the safety of all involved. We are excited for the lights, sights and sounds of the Forest Festival – I think we all need it more than ever.”

The line-up of events, happenings and dates of the 2020 Festival will be announced no later than Labor Day. The celebration will include a tribute to the 100th year anniversary of the Monongahela National Forest. The 84th Mountain State Forest Festival is scheduled for October 2 – 10, 2021.