Mayor Skinner’s Official Welcome To 81st WVSF
BUCKHANNON, WV: Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner provided an official Welcome To The City at the beginning of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Coronation, Here are his remarks:
This morning marked the official opening of yet another action-packed, fun-filled, ‘berry-sweet’ West Virginia Strawberry here in Buckhannon for the week ahead. For the citizens of Upshur County, the middle of May is always our most special time of year.
In the weeks leading up to the event, we manicure our yards, spending small fortunes at local greenhouses, planting, mulching, mowing, and of course, staking those wooden strawberries in every garden – all orchestrating a metaphorical red-carpet aimed at welcoming thousands of visitors to experience the ‘berry-best’ our beautiful city has to offer.
For me, each year at this time, my memories of childhood wonder that surround this festival come rushing back like a flood in my mind. Although I’m 33 years young now, and a good 20 years have passed since I last took a ride on the Spring Street Ferris wheel, it doesn’t change the raw emotions, love, and excitement I feel when the middle of May shows up on the calendar.
That’s exactly what this festival is for all of us: traditions, and lots of memories. It’s going to Chapel Hill United Methodist Church for the best strawberry shortcake money can buy. It’s tolerating more noise than a front-row seat at a rock concert just to watch the Buckhannon Fire Department drive their impressive fleet through town on Friday evening. It’s standing along Strawberry Lane, packed shoulder-to-shoulder, beaming with pride as the blue and white band marches with adrenaline in front of the hometown crowd on Saturday afternoon. It’s walking Downtown for Party Gras on Friday and Saturday evenings listening to bands, eating vendor food, sipping strawberry lemonade, and reconnecting with family, friends, neighbors, and classmates.
In large cities, they may laugh at us for placing so much importance on what I just described, but they don’t understand. These experiences are important to us here. This festival is woven into the fabric of what makes us… us, and just one of the many reasons why we are always named one of the “100 Best Small Towns in America.”
This time of year here in Buckhannon, West Virginia, is everything small-town America should be. Our quality of life, hometown pride, joy, beauty, laughter, excitement, connections, culture… all of it. When the festival rolls into town, it’s like time stands still. We put away our phones, set up our chairs, cease political debates, forget about personal problems and the challenges facing our world, and relax. We focus on community, memories, and traditions. It’s just good, wholesome, honest fun.
I’m often asked why I choose to stay here, why I chose to run for Mayor, and why I’ve submerged myself so deeply into giving back to this community. This is it. Buckhannon, West Virginia, is more than just a place on a map. It’s more than a network of streets, houses, buildings, businesses, parks, and a highway. It’s even more than just a community. We are a family. We look after our neighbors. We take care of our properties. We welcome new faces. We nurture our past, respect our history, but embrace a bright future. We love our events. We share a bond through tragedies and triumphs.
I would like to think that all small towns are like this one, but sadly, we know that’s not the case, which is why every single one of us who calls this community home MUST work to ensure that festivals like ours continue to be interwoven into our fabric. I love everything about this place, and I love everything about this festival. I could not imagine living or giving back to any other place on the planet than Buckhannon, West Virginia. This. Is. Home.
Finally, we would be remised if we didn’t offer sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the entire all-volunteer Board of Directors of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival who work tirelessly to make this event possible – now 81 years strong. We also must thank our City of Buckhannon Street, Waste, Sanitation, Water, Fire, and Police Departments – all who work extremely hard to prepare the landscape and keep us safe during this celebration. Last, but not least, we extend sincere and heartfelt thanks to the sponsors and business partners who financially contribute each year, making sure that every event is free to the public. We couldn’t enjoy this weeklong event without you. THANK YOU!
And so, on behalf of our City Council, administration, staff, citizens, and business owners, WELCOME TO FESTIVAL CITY, WEST VIRGINIA, WELCOME TO BUCKHANNON, and WELCOME TO THE 81ST ANNUAL WEST VIRGINIA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL! Thank you for being here, congratulations to our royalty, and I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Mayor, City of Buckhannon