Many buzz about festival

PARKERSBURG – Many people came out to the 34th annual West Virginia State Honey Festival at City Park for one reason.

“The honey,” said Bill Fittro of Parkersburg.

“…and more honey,” his wife, JoAnn, added with a laugh.

The couple, like so many people who came out to the weekend festival, was interested in West Virginia-produced honey.

“It is better than what you get in the stores,” JoAnn said. “We like West Virginia bees.”

People don’t know where most of the honey in grocery stores comes from, Bill said.

“You can really find many of these kinds of honey in the store,” he said of the many types that were available at the festival over the weekend.

Although some were seeing this year’s festival as being in a transitional state with the change in the organizations putting it on, organizers were happy with the turnout over the weekend.

“Things have been going great,” said Vickie Marshall, Executive Director of the Wood County Recreation Commission. “We have had a really good turnout.”

The WCRC took over the festival earlier this year after the original organizing group decided not to do it anymore and voted to disband. The recreation commission is using the festival as a fundraiser for local recreation programs, just as it does with the annual Harvest Moon Arts and Crafts Festival later this fall.

Marshall said many people around the community had heard the festival had been canceled which is why they might have seen some decline in numbers this weekend.

However, a moist season has also contributed to less honey production this year.

“A lot of the honey vendors did not have honey available as they have had too rainy of a season,” Marshall said.

However, the festival still had more than 30 vendors selling a variety of arts and crafts items on Saturday and Sunday.

“With us taking it over so late in the year, we only had a couple of months to plan for this,” Marshall said. “This turned out great for no more than the time we had to plan it and put it on.”

The honey has remained the focus for many people.

“The honey has been a highlight,” Marshall said. “I hope the people who came this weekend got some honey and I hope they enjoyed the entertainment.

“I hope they plan on coming back next year as there is a lot in store for next year. I have been in touch with several of the beekeepers who were not here this year and they want back in next year. They want to set up and go back to the educational aspects of the program.”

Paul Poling, of Mountain State Honey Company from Parsons, W.Va., has been apart of the festival since 1989.

“Things are going real well,” he said Sunday. “We have had two good days here at the festival.

“For us, it is the number of people coming in wanting to purchase honey. We have had a lot of honey customers come in this weekend making large purchases. So much so, we are almost out of most of our large containers of honey.”

Poling said he offers a unique variety of honeys that give the customer the opportunity to pick something different.

“Our honeys are made from different floral sources,” he said. “We don’t add anything to the honey.

“They are all nice, raw and natural. That enhances the flavor by keeping everything natural. It really brings people in to have a natural product like that.”

Overall, people have been interested in the health of the bees and how they are doing, Poling said. Due to weather, honey production is around 30-50 percent of what it normally is, he added.

“There has been a little bit less honey production this year in most of the areas in West Virginia and Ohio,” he said. “What we are finding is that the weather had a lot to do with that.

“It was a little more cooler and rainier most of the time. We didn’t have quite the flower bloom, but the bees’ health was in pretty good shape.”

Although the honey festival may be in a transition this year, Poling said he is looking forward to it growing back in prominence.

Sara Blevins, of Parkersburg, came out with her family on Sunday for the final day of the festival.

“I needed to get some honey,” she said. “We come every year and get honey.

“I’d rather buy it off of someone who does it locally, instead of at the grocery stores.”

Steve Conlon, of ThistleDew Farm of Proctor, W.Va., has been a regular participant in the festival, doing his bee beard presentation each year.

“It has been a good show,” he said. “People have been coming out (Sunday). The weather has been treating us all right.

“We have had a good demand for honey.”

People come to meet the people who keep the bees and see what kind of honey is being produced, he said.

“People are interested in different types and color of honey,” Conlon said.

Conlon’s wife, Ellie, said people have been friendly and their mission to educate the public about bees and honey production continues as it always has.

“The people learn a lot,” she said. “That is what is important.

“That is why we are doing this to teach people about agriculture.”