ST. MARYS - A longtime festival in St. Marys continues this year with a slight change in focus and direction.
The West Virginia River and Rail Festival, formerly the West Virginia Bass Festival, will run from Thursday through next Sunday at the St. Marys Marina and on Second Street through the center of downtown St. Marys.
The festival will feature many of the highlights of past festivals, including the annual fishing tournament. There will also be live entertainment through the weekend, including gospel music by the Kingsmen Quartet and Charlotte Richie on Friday and Grammy-winning country legend Marty Raybon on Saturday.
Festival organizers said the event began 27 years ago with the same purpose as today, to promote tourism and help the local businesses. Since 2008, the Pleasants Area Chamber of Commerce has taken on the responsibility of the festival. Under the care of the local chamber, the festival received the time and support it needed to grow.
And with growth, comes change. To better serve its original purpose, the festival is being renamed as the West Virginia River and Rail Festival to encompass several local assets. Being a small river town has been a great part of its history, but St. Marys also has a unique feature in its downtown area as CSX trains run daily on a working track that literally splits the small town in half, organizers said.
The expansion of the festival has led organizers to designate two key event areas - Riverside and Trackside. Riverside will be the traditional festival grounds at the marina, while Trackside will be located along Second Street in downtown St. Marys. A free shuttle service will be available between the two areas during festival hours.
Among the returning events is the Cottrill's Car Care Raft Bash, which is open to local businesses, restaurants, schools, families, organizations, sports teams and friends. The raft must be home-made and non-motorized and manned by a minimum four-person crew.
The Pleasants Area Lions will again sponsor its second annual Cruise In Car Show during the festival, with registration beginning after the festival parade around 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The registration donation fee will be $10 for each car entered. Dash plaques will be given to each participant and a trophy will be given for the first three place cars. Judging will begin at 8 p.m. Proceeds from this event will benefit those who need eyeglasses in our area but cannot afford to purchase them.
The West Virginia River and Rail Festival has been working with the Mid-Ohio Valley Model Railroad Club to provide a model railroading display in St. Marys. The club will display a layout for each scale during the weekend of the festival.
"I encourage children of all ages to check out this display in June. It is absolutely amazing to see what these guys can do with a layout," said festival coordinator Jessi Rupert, "and their permanent layout in Parkersburg is a must see!"
Another new event for the festival will be the quilt show. The public is encouraged to bring in their quilts to display during the event, with drop-off from 4 to 6 p.m. at the former Shouldis' building on Monday.
Members of the Snips N Tips Quilt Club will be hosting the event. The festival will be able to show a total of 56 quilts. Quilts will not be judged, only displayed. Visitors to the event will be able to vote on a favorite. This event is sponsored by Ingram Funeral Home.