Whitesville was anything but a ghost town on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 when the streets bustled with activity during the “First Annual Town of Whitesville Fall Festival.”
The festival was presented and planned as part of Turn This Town Around (TTTA) and was funded by a grant from the West Virginia Community Development HUB, according to Betty Ann Stine Williams, a retired Boone County Schools teacher who, along with Sandy Armstrong, led the team that made it a reality.
With her experience planning Oktoberfest activities at Sherman Elementary and working with the Big Coal River Heritage Festival, Williams and her team began planning the Whitesville Fall Festival months ago, even before they submitted the grants to fund it.
Their goal was to spread the festival – and people — throughout the whole town of Whitesville.
“We wanted people all over Whitesville, not just on the lower end. We didn’t know if it would work, but it did,” Williams said. “People actually shopped in some of the stores that were opened. Our goal was met. It wasn’t about money. It was about bringing people into town.”
From about 10 a.m. into the late afternoon, dozens of adults and children enjoyed Whitesville coming alive with games like checkers and corn hole set up throughout town amidst the many booths where people could shop or just stop and socialize. In addition, the festival boasted several different contests as well as other entertainment. A variety of food vendors sold everything from delicious barbeque and pizza to kettle corn, cotton candy, and baked goods. Crafters and artists displayed and sold their handiwork, from wood crafts and paintings to knit and crocheted items.
Live sheep were on hand as owner Rebecca Arnold spun yarn from sheep and alpaca wool she and her husband, Chris, shear at their Ashford business, Good Shepherd Farm. Distributors from many popular direct sales companies including Younique, Avon, Tastefully Simple, and Thirty-One, demonstrated and sold their products.
Exhibitors from various churches took prayer requests and sold fundraiser items, and organizations like WV Forestry with Smokey the Bear and the Whitesville Fire-EMS department taught about safety.
Musicians Josh Holstein, Chris Herron, Ricky Cooper, and Abby Bolton took the stage at the Coal Heritage Riverwalk Park throughout the day. Children had fun playing games, bouncing on inflatables, getting their faces painted, doing free crafts in the library, and painting pumpkins near the UBB Memorial.
A parade came through town at noon and included many emergency vehicles like police cars and firetrucks, Smoky the Bear, a UBB Memorial pick-up truck, vehicles sponsored by Daniel Chevy and Whitesville State Bank, and several floats made by the Black Diamond Girl Scout Council (who won first place in the float contest), the First Baptist Church of Whitesville (who won second place), the Cub Scout Pack 53 (who won third place), and the Spirit Cheer Team from All About Kids.
The classes of Whitesville Elementary School competed in a Scarecrow contest. The preschool class won first place with their upside down coalminer scarecrow. Kindergarten won second place with a Spongebob scarecrow, and first grade won third place with their Minecraft scarecrow.
Other scarecrows included a replica of Whitesville Elementary Principal Chris Duncan, a scarecrow with a scary pumpkin head, a large white grim reaper, and a Minion. Winners received a special ribbon for their classroom doors and will also get a gift from Mr. Duncan, according to Williams, and the others will get a participation ribbon for their creative efforts. (Float winners also received ribbons, Williams said.)
Lisa Snodgrass won the first place ribbon in the Chili Cook-off held in front of Whitesville State Bank, followed by Noah McGraw in second and Vickie Dingess in third. There were also raffle drawings for a fire pit, won by Stephanie Bowens, and the 50/50 drawing, in which the winner gets half the money in the pot, was won by Lisa Ford.