Fluke introduced as MSFF’s Maid Silvia
ELKINS — After a two-year hiatus as a result of the COVID pandemic, the 84th Mountain State Forest Festival officially kicked off with a reception announcing the royal appointment of Maid Silvia LXXXIV Caroline Marie Fluke of Buckhannon Sunday.
The private event in historic Graceland Inn on the campus of Davis & Elkins College was sponsored by Graceland Inn & Conference Center and D&E Dining Services.
Also introduced were Maids of Honor Hannah Lee Phillips of Coalton and Sarah Diane Riggleman of Beverly.
As guests arrived, members of the West Virginia Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College played Scottish tunes from the Graceland porch signaling the start of an official Forest Festival event.
With family members and Forest Festival officials gathered around the staircase landing, Director General Robbie Morris gave a welcoming address to what he jokingly deemed “the third annual Queen’s Announcement for the 84th Mountain State Forest Festival.”
“As we all know much has happened since were last gathered here for the announcement of Maid Silvia the 83rd Caitlin Smith,” Morris said. “Our world has been through one of the most challenging times in history, our health care workers and first responders have been tested to the max, and we have lost too many members of our community.”
Specifically, Morris recognized the loss of Mr. Forest Festival John Zirbs, who died in May 2021.
“As they say, ‘out of sorrow comes great joy,’ and that is what we are here to celebrate today,” Morris said.In introducing the theme he chose for the Festival, “A Mountain Mosaic,” Morris explained that everyone associated with the event is integral to its success.
“A mosaic is a piece of artwork created by many individual pieces that when brought together in a specific, orchestrated way, creates a magnificent piece of art,” Morris said. “That is exactly what the Forest Festival is. Each one of you here today are pieces of that mosaic. Members of the Board of Directors, my amazing team of assistant directors, Queen’s Department, our executive director, all of their families that allow them to work on the Forest Festival, sponsors, supporters, community leaders and friends of the Forest Festival. And, especially my family, who has endured more Forest Festival havoc in their lives than most these past couple of years. All of you are a piece of this great work of art.”
Morris added that Maid Silvia and her Maids of Honor will add to the pieces of Festival mosaic.
In anticipation of the coming festivities, the word “finally” echoed in the remarks from Director of the Queen’s Department Tracy Gooden and Festival royalty.“On behalf of myself and the Queen’s Department Assistant Directors Lisa Shaffer and Megan Casto and the entire Festival Family, I would like to finally, after two long years, welcome you to the formal announcement of Maid Silvia,” Gooden said. “As we stand here together in the beautiful, historic Graceland Inn on the campus of Davis & Elkins College, it is our honor and privilege to welcome festival royalty to our beautiful town. The beautiful surroundings are a representation of our theme this year, ‘A Mountain Mosaic.’”
The maids of honor and Maid Silvia descended the staircase on the arms of assistant directors and took their places behind the podium.Phillips, a sophomore at D&E majoring in elementary education, is the daughter of Junior and Peggy Phillips and granddaughter of Mickey and Charlotte Phillips, Sumiko Elmore and the late James Elmore, all of Coalton.
Phillips shares ties with the Forest Festival and reflected on her memories from childhood. Her mother served as an assistant director in the Queen’s Department for one year and as director of the Queen’s Department for four years. Phillips was a flower girl in the 77th Mountain State Forest Festival.
“Growing up I can always remember sitting along Coronation Hill dreaming of descending it one day,” Phillips said. “That dream came true in the 77th Mountain State Forest Festival when I had the opportunity to be a flower girl. That was the best week of my life.”
Later, when her mother began volunteering for the Festival, Phillips learned more about the preparations and her admiration for the event grew.
“After that week, my dream of descending Coronation Hill again was reignited. I have always admired the Festival, the people in it, the people that work so hard to make it what it is, and the way the people of this town love it,” Phillips said. “I loved getting to know more and more about the Festival through my mom. All of the countless hours that go into preparation for the week of magic is something that I had a blind eye for. Now, I realize how lucky I am to be able to experience the magic that people work so hard to make possible.”
Riggleman is the daughter of Larry and Brenda Riggleman of Beverly and the granddaughter of Floyd Riggleman and the late Sylvia Riggleman of Beverly and Raymond Hamrick and the late Virginia Hamrick of Elkins. Her sister, Haleigh, was a flower girl in the 77th Mountain State Forest Festival. She attends Davis & Elkins College majoring in outdoor recreation management and minoring in accounting.
Although she is making her debut as a member of the Royal Court, Riggleman has fond memories of attending the Festival and recognized the efforts of volunteers who make the event possible.
“Finally, the time has come to start the 84th Mountain State Forest Festival,” Riggleman said. “After two years of cancellation and two long years of keeping this secret that nobody can believe I kept, we are finally at the Queen’s Announcement.”
Riggleman’s parents and aunt and uncle Ben and Lisa Shaffer have volunteered for the Festival and from them she has learned the dedication it takes to produce the fall celebration.
“The Festival cannot happen without the hard work of so many individuals,” Riggleman said. “Their hard work is visible in all of the events and does not go unnoticed by the people of Randolph County and the thousands of visitors that gather in Elkins to enjoy the festivities.”
Riggleman explained that the Festival is all about memories. Her most cherished one occurred in 2014 when she was the drum major in the Elkins Middle School Band.
“The band got to march directly behind the director general and his wife at the time, which happened to be my Uncle Ben and Aunt Lisa,” Riggleman said. “That was probably the first and last time the middle school band got to lead the Grand Feature Parade and it was just so Lisa wouldn’t have to miss seeing me march in the parade.”
“So, not only is the Festival full of fun childhood memories, but it is also full of personal memories of my family,” Riggleman said. “All of my life, my family has been the driving force behind me, and at all these Festival events I have attended, I was always accompanied by family. As you can see, the Forest Festival has already provided me with a lifetime of memories and it will continue to provide memories for generations to come.”
Fluke also shared her enthusiasm for getting the Festival off to a start and to begin making memories. She is the daughter of Eric and Jennifer Fluke and the granddaughter of Carol and the late Thomas B. Dunn of Naples, Florida, and Juanita and the late John Fluke of Shawnee, Oklahoma.
In 2021 she received an Associate Degree in cosmetology and is now licensed and certified in West Virginia. She is continuing her studies in the field of aesthetics and is enrolled in Laurel College of Technology. She plans to become licensed and certified and further her education to become a medical aesthetician.
“This has been a much-anticipated day — two years to be exact,” Fluke said. “I am extremely honored to have been selected to represent the 84th Festival as Maid Silvia and especially looking forward to becoming Queen Silvia.”
Fluke’s aunt and cousin previously served as princesses and she often attended the Festival as a child. This year, she is excited to take center stage.
“Today, I was able to meet the Maids of Honor Hannah and Sarah, and I know that we are going to have a wonderful time together,” Fluke said. “It will be a privilege having these two by my side.”
Phillips, Riggleman and Fluke expressed appreciation to their families and Festival officials for their support and guidance.
The 84th Mountain State Forest Festival will take place Oct. 1-9 throughout Elkins.