The West Virginia Strawberry Festival held each May at Buckhannon, became a regular event in 1936, when Professor J. E. Judson of West Virginia Wesleyan College pointed out to the local Lions Club that the climate and soils of Upshur County were ideal for strawberries. He suggested that a festival be started to encourage strawberry production.
Soon after Judson’s talk, Buckhannon and Upshur County had the first Strawberry Festival. The one-day affair was held on Wednesday, June 3, 1936, with strawberry exhibits and the coronation by Governor Kump of Queen Laura Jean Watson on the courthouse steps. More than 6,000 spectators attended the festivities, which also included a grand march parade of 30 princesses down Main Street followed by a ball held in Whitescarver Hall, a local ballroom.
Over the next six years, the Strawberry Festival grew to include a pageant, children’s parade, grand parade, air show, marble tournament, and fiddlers contest. Documentary color films of the 1938, 1939, and 1940 festivals are held by the Upshur County Historical Society. In 1943, with World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific, it was decided to discontinue the festival. It was not reestablished until 1949, although the production of strawberries was promoted during the war years.
Although not as much emphasis is placed on growing and marketing strawberries today, the annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival still draws the largest late-spring crowd in Upshur County. The Strawberry Festival is held in late May each year.
Written by Noel W. Tenney
Tenney, Noel W. Strawberry Festival Begins in 1936. Record Delta, 9/14/2001.
Tenney, Noel W. Historically Speaking Sesquicentennial Celebration Column. Record Delta, 9/14/2001.