To Greenbrier Countians, heritage matters. A history of strength through trials and pain runs through the Greenbrier Valley’s veins, and one community that has experienced adversity is the aging railroad town of Ronceverte. The city that once welcomed John F. Kennedy to address its people fell upon hard times economically. Eventually, this decline spread to the community’s long-time yearly summer celebration, the Ronceverte River Festival. The success or failure of festivals often correlates with the general feelings of either prosperity or gloom in that festival’s hometown or general region. For example, the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival’s resounding success seems to correlate with the growth and effervescent spirit of Lewisburg. On the other hand, the River Festival’s recent shortcomings corresponded with the overall loss of vitality of the city of Ronceverte itself. After the end of the 2018 River Festival, the future of the festival was in jeopardy.
However, heritage doesn’t die easily. 32 years of River Festival memories matter to city residents. After news spread of the River Festival’s financial plight, a new group of concerned citizens jumped on board to save it. With fresh ideas, a renewed sense of work ethic, and zeal for preserving small-town tradition, the new Ronceverte River Festival committee hit the ground running.
The 2019 festival will be a return to its roots with a center around the joy of summertime in Small Town USA. Everything kicks off on Friday, June 14th with the Grand Parade, which is one of the biggest parades in the Greenbrier Valley every year. Kids, be ready with plenty of bags open, because candy is coming your way! After the parade, Buddy Allen & The Cheat River Band will play down-home tunes, with strong WV roots.
On Saturday, the Great Rubber Ducky Race will be held, the festival’s highlight. Greenbrier Countians are already purchasing tickets for the event, in which thousands of happy rubber ducks will be dumped into the Greenbrier River in a race to the finish line. If your ticket number matches the number printed on the winning duck, you could win the $10,000 grand prize.
Saturday night’s entertainment will be Short & Company, which will deliver some soul and blues to the festival. This band is led by genre-bending guitar blazer Jeremy Short, who has quickly risen to the top shelf of must-hear players on the scene. Other festival events include Irish Road Bowling, a volleyball tournament, a home run derby, punt-pass-kick, a dog show, horseshoe tournament, cornhole tournament, car show, and kids’ activities.
Heritage matters. It’s all a part of the joy of growing up in Southern West Virginia, and let’s work together to preserve it. Be sure to support the effort by coming to the 2019 Ronceverte River Festival, held June 14th-16th. Also, purchase your Rubber Ducky Race ticket at a location near you! Follow this event @RonceverteRiverFestival on Facebook.
– Ben Anderson. HashtagWV #113. May 2019.