The smell of cotton candy, kids’ laughter on a carnival ride and excitement from the parade are familiar memories for people who look forward to a local event that attracts many every year.
Over the years, Emily Bickerstaff has noticed another pattern with the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival: It’s growing.
As a member of the board of directors, Bickerstaff looks at the event, which is in its 33rd year, as a great opportunity for families to spend quality time together. To know the community supports it makes it even better.
“I think sometimes vacations are planned to attend and come to the area just for the festival,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s something you can take your whole family to — from ages 2 to 92. You can bring them down and there is always something going on. It’s a good family event.”
Starting today at Fourth Street and Fairmont Avenue, the event will kick off with a grand feature parade. Highlights will include veterans and military units, Marion County bands, antique cars, local and area pageant royalty, the West Virginia University Mountaineer mascot, costumed characters, police, fire and EMS departments, Scouts and more.
Following the parade will be an opening ceremony at Palatine Park at 7:30 p.m. where the new Three Rivers Festival Queen will read a proclamation that opens the festival. The Davisson Brothers will provide entertainment.
But that’s just the beginning, as Friday and Saturday promise even more fun for children, adults and families. From 4-7 p.m. Friday, the Kids Day in the Park after-school special will feature magic shows with Josh Knotts and Lea, local talent and area attractions. Exhibits will be set up for kids to tour at Palatine Park. Three winners will receive a laptop computer.
Everything, excluding the carnival, is free and open to kids ages 5 to 17.
“They do enjoy coming down and seeing the park and seeing the different attractions,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s the smiling faces that give us all the rewards. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Other Friday night entertainment will include the third annual professional pepperoni roll bake-off and the Three River’s Got Talent competition. This talent show, which will feature singers, dancers, magicians, comedians and other performers of all ages, is a spinoff of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” WVAQ’s Lacy Neff will be the host.
Bickerstaff encouraged everyone to give it a shot.
“This could be their 15 minutes in the spotlight, and we don’t want them to pass it by,” Bickerstaff said.
Festivities will start early Saturday with the Julia Pierpont Day ceremonies. To kick off the event, a breakfast will be held at Veterans’ Square at 8:30 a.m. Sen. Robert Beach, Sen. Raymond Prezioso, Marion County Commission President Butch Tennant, Julia and Francis Pierpont (Amy and Art Dodds), the Three Rivers Queen, Robert Wolfe of the State 150 Coalition, Wha-ke-we-nn and Robert D. Pollack will serve as program presenters. At 11 a.m. the event will continue at Woodlawn Cemetery, where wreaths will be placed on several burial sites.
Avid runners, fitness gurus or folks who want to burn off calories for a good cause can do so at the 5K run or the one-mile fun run/walk to be held at 9 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., respectively, on Saturday. The run will be hosted by the Marion County Boys & Girls Club.
Those who are there for the food are reminded of the pepperoni roll eating contest. Now in its third year, the 10-minute, all-you-can-eat contest will host a field of 15 participants competing for $6,500 in cash prizes. The event will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“That’s really taken off for us,” Bickerstaff said.
The 3 a.m. Band will take the stage Saturday night, with the fireworks display to conclude the weekend of fun.
The Myers Amusements carnival will be open today through Sunday. Each year the carnival aims to bring in two new rides, with the Go Gator and the Bear Affair being this year’s newest attractions. The Go Gator is a mini rollercoaster for children, and the Bear Affair is a “spin themselves sick” kind of ride, according to manager L.A. Myers.
With 13 rides and six games, the carnival has a great view and is worth visiting, he said.
“It’s exciting,” Myers said. “We really have our fingers crossed. Not only is it going to be a great event, but it’s going to be a great summer.”
More information about the festival can be found at www.wvthreeriversfestival.org.