By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian
In just one weekend, everyone says goodbye to sweet summertime and welcomes the kickoff to football season.
More than 200 people gathered in one hangout spot in Fairmont last year to tailgate a day early for the West Virginia University Mountaineers’ game vs. Marshall University. Temperatures may have been unbearable, hitting approximately 98 degrees. But that didn’t stop the crowd from coming out to the River City Grille.
“Once the sun cooled down and people just kind of chilled and listened to the bands, it was a real nice turnout,” River City Grille owner Scott Sears said. “It’s fun.”
Ready for their first season in the Big 12 Conference, the Mountaineers will be the highlight of Labor Day weekend. Other events throughout the weekend will only add to this excitement, especially the new “tailgate party” right here in Marion County.
After the Mountaineers take to the field for the first time this season against Marshall on Saturday, Sept. 1, the River City Grille will be ready to celebrate. On Sunday, Sept. 2, the River City Grille will host its second annual Coal Bowl that has now also become known as an “End of the Summer/Boil.” Mussels, corn, raw oysters and potatoes will be served, along with a pig roast.
Since the game is on Saturday rather than Sunday, Sears decided to take a different approach.
“This year the game is on Saturday, so we’ll do this on Sunday. I always like to look for a reason to have something and couldn’t think of a better reason than with the WVU-Marshall football game.”
Starting at 3 p.m., the Grille will be open, with live music starting at 6 p.m. While a pig roasts, the Johnny Freak Band and Marshall Lowry Band will be performing throughout the night until approximately 11 p.m. Prolonging the weekend with another late night out on the town will be the perfect opportunity for everyone to enjoy the tail end of summer.
“At the end of the summer, I think people start getting the feel,” Sears said. “Everyone is so excited about football and going into the Big 12 with the tough schedule we’re going to have and with the teams coming into the area. I think people are saying, ‘Hey, we’re ready for football season.’”
Other events such as the annual Jackson’s Mill Jubilee, a three-day action-packed festival held in Weston, and the 34th West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival (WVIHF) will be other options for residents and visitors from out of town.
Held in Clarksburg, the WVIHF has been rated among the Top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association (ABA). The National Sons of Italy also recognized the event as a “Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society” and one of the “Top Four Italian Festivals” in the nation.
A slate of performers will provide entertainment at the Jubilee, and a historic area will be open to the public, where visitors can observe corn and wheat being ground at the mill. Visitors will have an opportunity to tour the Old Jackson’s Mill Museum and see some of the Civil War re-enactor shows.
Fun for the whole family is planned at the WVIHF. Games for all ages will be set up, and a special children’s area and stage will entertain the smaller children during the entire festival with Happy the Clown, magicians and music. Authentic Italian cuisine will also be offered.
Both events will take place Aug. 31 through Sept. 2.
“It’s a busy weekend with all the activities in the area,” Sears said. “But people are still trying to get that last ray of sunshine out before we call it the end of summer.”
Fairmont State University will also be getting anxious to step on the field for their first game this season at Clarion, Pa., on Thursday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. So many options are available to choose from over the Labor Day weekend, and even though it may be hectic, Sears is hoping for a large turnout this year as well, as the Mountaineers hope to celebrate a victory and give fans even more reason to be impatient for the Big 12 competition to travel to Morgantown.
“With all the hoop-la and all the excitement about Saturday, come over Sunday,” Sears said. “Chill out. Relax a little bit, and take it easy. Monday is a holiday. No one has to go to work on Monday, and Monday can be a recovery day. Milk as much as we can out of it.”
Email Nicole Lemal at email@example.com.