The West Virginia Water Festival, held in Summers County in mid-summer each year, had its origins in the late 1950s. The nearby Bluestone Dam and Lake had been completed in 1952, and the idea of a water show had been discussed for years. The opportunity came in 1958 when a water ski show originally scheduled for Tennessee was canceled there and moved to Hinton. The show proved successful as a reported 10,000 people watched the three-hour show on Labor Day afternoon.
Unfortunately, similar shows in 1959 and 1961 failed to draw a crowd and were financial failures. In 1961, the Hinton Jaycees decided to turn the show into a full festival with parades, a festival queen, and other events. They filed for a charter with the secretary of state in 1961 and held the first festival in the summer of 1963 in celebration of West Virginia’s Centennial. Virginia Carwithen, Miss Summers County, was chosen to reign as queen. There was a Queen’s Ball, as well as numerous other events and exhibits. But thousands of spectators were disappointed when boat races were canceled at the last minute for lack of equipment to get the boats in the water.
Two years later the 1965 festival was promoted as the ‘‘First Annual West Virginia Water Festival,’’ because for the first time the queen’s selection was statewide. It was an enormous success, with Sen. Jennings Randolph attending. The West Virginia Water festival has been held each year since, with the biggest event in 1971, Summers County’s centennial year.
This Article was written by Fred Long
Last Revised on November 19, 2010