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Mountain State Forest Festival

By Bill Rice


Queen Silvia XX, Ann Lyon Alexander, processes across the campus of Davis & Elkins College at the 1956 Forest Festival.
Photograph by Frank Wilkin/The Charleston Gazette; courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives, Frank Wilkin Collection.

On Monday night, August 11, 1930, a meeting was held at the YMCA in downtown Elkins to finalize plans for an upcoming homecoming festival. The festival was destined to become one of West Virginia’s premier events. Chairmen of the various festival committees would decide that night what to call their celebration. Several names were suggested, and the choices were eventually narrowed down to one — the Mountain State Forest Festival.

Planning for the celebration had been going on for several months, but a meeting three nights earlier at the nearby Tygart Hotel had greatly stimulated the process. It was attended by as many as 150 people, representing more than 50 organizations and business firms. The principal speaker was W.W. Glass, a former mayor of Winchester, Virginia, and the assistant director of the popular Apple Blossom Festival held in Winchester each May. He pointed out that the Elkins area had something unique to offer and that people would come to the area if you let them know about it. Mr. Glass made several suggestions that would help make the new festival a success and offered the cooperation of his organization in planning the event.

In addition to Mr. Glass and his delegation were William Trapnell, H.H. Marsh, and F.H. Fowler of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, who offered the support of their company in the preparations for the festival. Elkins was at that time a railroad town, and support of the B&O was invaluable.

Presiding over the meeting was the director of the Elkins festival, George Henry Dornblazer, who had visited Winchester the previous month with a delegation from Elkins, including Alfred Spates Brady, Sr., a Randolph County coal operator and member of the Elkins city council; Lewis Henry Buzzell, president of the Elkins Businessmen’s Association; Leslie L. Cook, the secretary of the Elkins Businessmen’s Association; and Bernard F. Groves, a former resident of Winchester and the assistant manager of the Randolph Garage in Elkins.

Contributing to the support for a celebration in Elkins were the results of the primary election on August 5. Elkins resident Jennings Randolph had won the Democratic nomination for congressman for the 2nd Congressional District. The general election would be on November 4, just three days after the last day of the festival. Jennings Randolph had moved to Elkins in 1926 when he joined the faculty of Davis & Elkins College, and the “silver-tongued young Democrat from Elkins” is often credited with having helped to make the Mountain State Forest Festival a success over the years.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.