The Mountain State Forest Festival was first held on October 30–31 and November 1, 1930, in Elkins. Except for an eight-year lapse from 1941 to 1949, the festival has been held annually ever since, though the time has been moved to the first week in October. Elkins is the county seat of Randolph County, a heavily forested area noted for its hardwood trees and colorful fall foliage. George Dornblazer, generally considered the father of the Forest Festival, was director general of the first festival. His directors and officers included 80 civic leaders.
The event has now expanded to nine days and is put on by 250 volunteer workers. While centered on the campus of Davis & Elkins College, the Forest Festival involves almost every business and organization in Elkins. Events now include performances by the Wheeling Symphony, appearances by nationally known country musicians, craft and art shows, wood chopping and other timbering contests, old English knight tournaments, dances, parades, and a carnival. Major attractions include a highly competitive fiddle contest and a fire-engine parade which draws fire departments from throughout West Virginia. The coronation of Queen Silvia by the governor of West Virginia is a highlight of the Forest Festival. Although the two maids of honor and the minor court come from Elkins, the queen must come from another county and the 40 princesses from all over the state, making the festival truly statewide.
A magnet for West Virginia politicians, the festival has also attracted national attention. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, Ford, and Carter visited the event. Other national figures who have taken part in the festival are Eddie Rickenbacker, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Chuck Yeager, Sam Rayburn, Hubert Humphrey, and Neil Armstrong. The Forest Festival consistently attracts between 125,000 and 150,000 visitors, and newspapers have estimated crowds at more then 200,000 when a U.S. president takes part.
This Article was written by Jae Spears
Last Revised on October 08, 2010
Whetsell, Robert. Elkins, West Virginia: The Metropolis Revisited. Parsons: McClain, 1994.
Stell, Harold. History of the Festival, Booklet. .