Living in Buckhannon
In North Central West Virginia, one friendly town offers more shopping, dining, entertainment, and history than you can fit in one day.
(page 1 of 3)
Set along the Buckhannon River in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, this friendly town is abuzz with community members working together to improve Buckhannon’s beauty and quality of life. From the George Latham House built in 1866 to the continued operation of St. Joseph’s Hospital established in 1921, the town boasts numerous historical sites and events, like the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, that continue to attract more than 100,000 visitors every year.
Buckhannon is the Upshur County seat and was once a top contender to become West Virginia’s capital city because of its near-central geographic location. With a foundation built upon the glass, mining, and chemical industries, Buckhannon has a deep and telling history rooted in Civil War lore and the days of B & O Railroad passenger trains.
West Virginia Strawberry Festival
In 1936, in an effort to showcase the Buckhannon community and the strawberry—one of the state’s largest crops—a group of community leaders and volunteers started the Strawberry Festival. Since then, the largest festival in the state has been held the third week of May every year, except during World War II.
An exciting family tradition, the 2012 festival will take place May 16 to 20 and host a “jam”-packed weekend of events. Already, participants are inquiring from as far away as Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and Italy. Past festivities have included the grand feature parade and crowning of the Strawberry King and Queen; quilt, art, and craft shows; Strawberry Idol; band competitions; pie eating and other contests; and an antique car show and parade. The big event is Party Gras—two nights of dancing, music, and reuniting with old friends in the streets of downtown.
“As more and more young people get back into agriculture, it’s important we keep the traditions going,” says board member Carol Long. “People love coming to the Strawberry Festival because of the welcoming atmosphere. Everyone in Buckhannon goes out of their way to make visitors feel comfortable.”
Things To Do
The West Virginia Wildlife Center, just 12 miles south of Buckhannon on Route 20, is a popular zoological destination showcasing native and introduced state wildlife. A 1.25-mile woodland trail features interpretive signs that educate visitors about Mountain State wildlife, and a picnic area, well-stocked fishpond, and gift shop add to this family experience.
On your way back into town, stop at renowned glassblower Ron Hinkle’s studio located on Sago Road to catch a demonstration and purchase beautiful products from his gallery.
Those enamored with art should also pop into the Main Street Arts Cooperative gallery where more than 30 artists from across the state are represented. “Our focus has always been on supporting the arts and arts education in our community, and we could not have done it without the community’s support,” says co-op president Tom Lynch. The gallery sells West Virginia-made glass, pottery, textiles, woodwork, paints, photographs, and more; offers classes and demonstrations; and is available as a venue for community events.
Be sure to put Buckhannon Community Theatre on your calendar, too. The 40-year-old theater company showcases local talent and provides recreational and volunteer opportunities for community members and businesses like Trumps Salon that does hair and makeup for their productions. “I love serving as an integral part of the community,” says salon owner Rondal Mitchell.
To satisfy your shopping needs, check out Hourglass, the new consignment shop opened by Elkins-native Kristin Bolton on North Kanawha Street. The pawnshop for high fashion offers women’s vintage apparel and trendy accessories. “I named my shop ‘Hourglass’ because of the vintage-time focus. Then there’s the hourglass figure that you think of that beautiful women like Marilyn Monroe had. And there’s a song by Dave Matthews Band called ‘Hourglass,’ and he’s my favorite.” Hourglass offers “like new” apparel purchased locally that Kristin ensures is stain- and tear-free, as well as new accessories, jewelry, and other high-end vintage pieces purchased in Pittsburgh or online. Hourglass is also “green”—Kristin runs all of her sales on her iPad and texts or e-mails her customers their receipts. If designer jeans and hot fashion are what you fancy, then check out Opalesque Boutique on East Main Street.
For a culturally rich experience, The Book Store, open since the 1890s and the oldest in the state, offers a fine collection of used, rare, and collectible books, as well as a wide variety of contemporary books, magazines, RPG- and card-gaming supplies, toys, and resources for teachers and educators. A mainstay on Main Street, the bookstore is most famous for its train and trap door—features in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s children’s series The Boys Start the War. In honor of the train, The Book Store’s live music series is called Friday Night Trainwreck.
Antiquers will hit the jackpot at Buckhannon Emporium and Main Street Antiques and Collectibles, the largest privately owned antique store in West Virginia with a wine store and more than 14,000 square feet of antiques and collectibles. Across the street, Whimsical Treasures sells everything from décor and gifts to well-made West Virginia products at a reasonable price.