PARKERSBURG - The annual Belleville Homecoming Festival is steeped in a lot of tradition as people come out to take in the many different activities, as well as relish the chance to see family and old friends again.
This year saw many people come to the annual festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the grounds of the Belleville Community Center, located off West Virginia 68.
"This year, the Belleville Homecoming has been tremendous," said Debra Buckley, festival president. "We have prided ourselves as being the only event in the southern part of the county.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Many people at the Belleville Homecoming Festival came to see the Wheelie Wizard, Tyler Shepard, perform tricks on a variety of motor bikes during the weekend.
"We promote the local history and heritage of this area. Many people come here for the fellowship and to see old friends."
From many of the traditional kid games and activities to the food, heritage exhibits and entertainment, everyone found something to enjoy. Regular favorites include the marble tournament, horseshoe pitching contest, the Car and Truck Show, the Oreo cookie eating contest, the tractor shows and more. The history room, located in the former Humphrey School on the festival grounds, remains another popular attraction with hundreds of old pictures of the town of Belleville and its residents lining the walls.
"There is absolutely something for everyone," Buckley said.
The weather remained good throughout the weekend even with talk of possible rain that never really materialized.
"It was a little windy (Saturday), but it was tolerable," Buckley said. "I don't think it kept anyone away."
Many people came to see the Wheelie Wizard Tyler Shepard perform tricks on a variety of motor bikes. Avis Rader, of Pond Creek Road, was one of the people who came to see Shepard perform.
"The Wheelie Wizard was one of the things we wanted to see," she said. "I was amazed.
"My son use to ride a skateboard and that scared me to death. I am glad he didn't do this."
Shepard rode a bike where he made the front wheel fall off and he had to ride around the show area on one wheel, eventually riding that bike up a ramp, over a trailer and down another ramp, all the while talking to the crowd over the loudspeaker.
There were times Rader thought Shepard was going to fall backwards off the bike.
"He was pretty good," she said.
Rader makes it out to the Belleville festival every year.
"I live close by and I grew up here as a kid," she said. "It is a homecoming for me.
"I have made it a point to come to the festival every year. I have never missed a one."
Rader had left the area for awhile and came back in 1991. She regularly sees people she has known, people who have moved away and have come back.
"I have really enjoyed it," she said. "I came here (Saturday) and (Sunday)."
Jim Sams, of Belleville, was one of the participants in the Tractor Rodeo. At one point, he was trying to balance his Farmall H tractor on a teeter-totter.
He has tried this event in the past.
"It is addicting and it is frustrating," Sams said. "Everytime I go somewhere that has it, I try it.
"You might do it once and then try again a thousand times and not do it again. It is something you like to try and be successful at."
Sams is another local resident who comes to the festival every year.
"It is a good time," he said. "If it wasn't, I wouldn't be here."
The Belleville Homecoming got it first nationally recognized act on Saturday with a concert by Josh Gracin which brought in around 1,000-1,500 people, said Chuck Lipps, concert promoter with Rick Modesitt and Associates.
"Josh Gracin put on one heck of a show (Saturday) night," he said. "It was the biggest crowd I have ever seen out here."
Buckley said festival organizers were pleased with the turnout.
"Belleville really rocked the house with Josh Gracin," she said.
Olivia Smith, 12, of Belleville, was one of the many contestants in the Oreo cookie eating contest on Sunday.
"I did it last year,"' she said. "I was doing it again because it was fun."
Smith has many ties to the community and likes coming to the festival every year.
"It is fun to be able to get together with all of your family and friends at homecoming, listen to music and do a lot of stuff," she said.
Buckley said there was a lot of positive feedback from people in terms of the activities and the entertainment line-up. However, it is many of the traditional things, like the apple butter, the sense of history and more that keep people coming back.
"There are a lot of traditional things here that people come here for because they know it is here," she said. "This community is very steeped in tradition."