Ronceverte River Festival begins tonight

By Jeffrey Kanode, for RealWV

RONCEVERTE, W.Va. – “Where the rivers flow, our memories grow,” poetically serves as the focus of the 2023 Ronceverte River Festival.

New memories will begin this evening – starting with a parade and a concert featuring Kate Boytek. Saturday brings more live music, a fishing tournament, a circus including a petting zoo and pony rides, and at least 3000 rubber ducks floating down the Greenbrier River.

The Rubber Duck Race is a favorite of the Ronceverte River Festival. Photo by Jeffrey Kanode, for RealWV.

“The Ronceverte River Festival has been going on for well over thirty years. We just try to provide a good weekend for the residents of Ronceverte, and our visitors. We put major focus on children, but we also offer plenty for adults too,” said Mark Mengel, the chair of the Ronceverte River Festival committee.

First, the fun for children includes the aforementioned petting zoo and pony rides, the Kent Family Circus, a coloring contest, inflatable bouncers, and other games. The fun for the adults includes “Irish Road Bowling,”—“You should Google that; it’s quite the event,” Mengel said with a laugh—a basketball tournament, and a Father’s Day Pageant, an event whose name intrigues the imagination.

The fishing tournament bridges all ages. It begins on Saturday with seven o’clock registration, and runs until noon. It’s divided up into three classes: children nine and under, children and teens ten to seventeen, and eighteen years old and up.

The Ronceverte River Festival parade has always been a highlight, noted Mengel. “We don’t pre-register people. We never know what to expect at the parade. People just show up. It’s pretty amazing.” There will be more floats in the 2023 parade—Mengel said the committee decided to offer cash prizes to the top three floats as an incentive to organizations and individuals to design and build more floats for the parade. There will be prizes across twelve categories this year. Line-up for the parade starts at five-thirty Friday evening, and the parade will roll at seven.

Live music will serve as prelude and postlude to the Great Rubber Duck Race. Lee Dean will take the stage at three o’clock, or possibly two. Mengel said that Dean has garnered quite a following locally. He often features his Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra tributes. Those ducks will be set free on the Greenbrier at four o’clock, and afterward Lee Dean will take the stage again, probably until the Goodson Boys begin their show at seven-thirty.

Mengel said that he became a fan of the Goodson Boys when he heard them play on a float in the Alderson Fourth of July parade. He was amazed at the high quality of their sound, despite the minimal amplification possible on a parade float. “The Goodson Boys are impressive,” he noted.

Cushioned with all the live music, the Great Rubber Duck Race will end with a $5000 award for the owner of the winning duck, plus many other prizes. “We still have 500 ducks available, and we’ll be selling them the day of the race,” Mengel said.

Food will also be a major part of the Ronceverte River Festival. Food vendors are selling everything from corndogs and pizza to Greek food. The Ronceverte Raiders concession stand will provide a low cost option. Additionally, the Ronceverte Lions Club will begin serving breakfast at nine o’clock Saturday morning, the first time breakfast has been offered at the festival, Mengel pointed out. In past years, the Ronceverte River Festival has been a three day event, Friday night through Sunday, but this year the committee made a strategic effort to trim it back to just two days, two days packed with a plethora of events and activities.

Vendors are ready for the crowds as the Ronceverte River Festival opens this evening. Photo by Jeffrey Kanode, for RealWV.

According to Mengel, all the profits made at the Ronceverte River Festival go toward making next year’s festival possible. He said that the expenses are about $20,000. Surplus funds go toward several other events the Ronceverte River Festival organizes for the community, including Halloween events like a costume parade, and Trunk-or-Treat.

Monies raised from the River Festival also helps fund the annual Snow Queen Festival. Dating back to the 1920s, the Snow Queen pageant raises money for the Christmas stocking outreach of the Ronceverte Fire Department. Every year, the fire fighters provide 1000 Christmas stockings for children in need.

Reflecting on these events the Ronceverte River Festival sponsors and supports, Mengel opined, “We’re a two day event that works all year. We’ve got something for every season.” The Ronceverte River Festival committee only has seven members now, and Mengel said more people are welcome, and very much needed to become a part of the group.

This year many of the events of the Ronceverte River Festival are sponsored and even run by local businesses or civic organizations including Liberty Tax Service (the Fishing Derby), Seneca Trail Animal Hospital (the Pet Parade), People’s Bank (various children’s games), the Lion’s Club (the basketball tournament), the Bank of Monroe (Irish Road Bowling), and City National Bank (the petting zoo with pony rides).

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