The Times West Virginian

May 22, 2013

Three Rivers Festival offers chance for city to celebrate

Times West Virginian

— What were you doing 34 years ago?

That was when the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival was born.

It didn’t start out as the Three Rivers Festival. It actually started over Labor Day weekend in 1980 and it was called Septemberfest. But this rather hurriedly put-together festival was competing with the Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg, and that was a losing battle.

Fairmont’s festival — it began as the Coal Festival — had several names before it finally stopped attempting to appease numerous factions and adopted a simple name — such as the Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon, the Forest Festival in Elkins or the Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood.

The festival became the Three Rivers Festival. It had been the Coal Festival but after several years of having numerous mining companies show off their products, this was dropped.

So was the title Three Rivers Festival and Regatta, after the Gateway Clipper had to remain dockside because of heavy rains and high waters after a couple of successful voyages. The Clipper’s guests boarded and ate and even got in some dancing. But the popular party boat never left the dock.

Finding a permanent home was another problem the festival had. It started out on Adams Street, but this created some major traffic problems. Some downtown merchants complained that the festival kept people from their shops. So it took a new home at Middletown Mall — a marriage that was soon to split.

From there the festival called Palatine Park home, and later East Marion Park before it moved back to Palatine Park, where it remains today.

And guess what? We believe all the complaints have ended and everyone seems happy with the festival where it is now.

As we have stated in the past, a festival such as Fairmont is boasting this weekend is as American as apple pie. And the event is about the people of Fairmont putting on a celebration.

The rides begin tonight, the Grand Feature Parade is Thursday night, Kids’ Day and Josh Knotts & Lea, Extreme Illusions & Escapes are both Friday afternoon, and Taylor Made, the singing group from Grafton, will be performing from 8-11 p.m. Friday at the Palatine Park Amphitheater.

One of the big attractions, of course, will be the fireworks display Saturday night at 10 o’clock.

Many volunteers are working behind the scenes to make the festival a fine one. The Swearingens — Sharon and Mike — have dedicated so much of their time with their two boards to keep everything going smoothly.

It’s Three Rivers Festival time! Let’s all have a great time at the festival entering the Memorial Day holiday Monday.