Monroe County Autumn Harvest Festival continues decades of tradition

By Christina and Ricky Edwards,

The 2023 Autumn Harvest Festival started out wet and rainy but it did not hold back the spirit of the festivities.

Held on Saturday, September 23 at the Willow Bend Agricultural Innovation Center, this longstanding 30+ year tradition pushed forward through the showers and celebrated the end of the long and strenuous harvest season on Willow Bend Road just south of Union, WV. The event featured axe throwing, an antique tractor show, several games for children and adults, live music, quilt show, canned good show, an art show, flower show by the Monroe County Gardener’s Club, produce show, several local craft vendors, and a public service tent.  Food vendors included beef sandwiches by the 4-H beef wagon, breakfast sandwiches and desserts by Dropping Lick United Methodist Church, and specialty breads and desserts by The Dough Ball Bakery located in Gap Mills across from Cheese N’ More on Rt 3. 

Competitive ax-throwing has been taking the country by storm and this event became the talk of the festival this year with Hauling Axe LLC, a mobile axe throwing venue that has set up beside the Sportsman’s Tavern in Ronceverte a few times. Owner Delton Webb, invited throwers of all ages to hurl metal axes through the air to splinter them into the wooden targets. 15-year-old Aydin Kleinfelter told us he was thrilled for this new event. 

Second place winner of antique tractor show. Tully Tomlinson presents the trophy, with Marc Flowers. Photo by Christina Edwards.

Relics of days gone by filled the field on Willow Bend Farm with several antique tractors.  Marc Flowers’ 1961 Massey Ferguson 35 tractor won first place in the tractor show. Kenny Mann’s ‘49 Oliver Tractor 66 won 2nd place. Tully Tomlinson’s ‘65 John Deer 112 won 3rd place. Jairus Broyles’ ’75 Wheel Horse C-100 won ugliest tractor. 

The youth pedal tractor pull showcased our young-uns pedaling their hearts out to see who could pull their tractor the furthest with the most weight. First place winners were Tye Comer and Kash Galford (both in the 4-6 year age group), Nolan Miller (7-9 age group), and Addison Kleinfelter (10-11 age group). 2nd place winners were Ledger Frazier, Tully Tomlinson, Mason Deel, and Landon Brown. 3rd place winner were Haylen Brown, Charity Grose, and Audrina Edwards. 

In a friendly competition among local youth, our New York Life cookie stacking contest followed the tractor pull with an intense class of three age groups stacking cookies to see who could stack the highest stack of cookies within a three-minute timeframe. First place winners were Haylen Brown (5-7 age group), Alyana Deen (8-10 age group), and Peyton Deel (11-12 age group).  

In Appalachian tradition, children and adults from states near and far came out to toss hay bales for the hay bale toss, the event’s signature event. Asher Deem’s toss won first place in the 5 and under group. Up next was Jason Weikle (6-11 age group) who threw his haybale a whopping 19.9 feet. Full size hay bales followed for ages 12 and up. In the group of youth age 12-16, Aydin Kleinfelter won the competition tossing his hay bale 19 feet. Winners of the adult competition were Oralyn Kleinfelter, who threw her hay bale an even 19 feet; and Barry Miller, who tossed his haybale an incredible 37.1 feet, nearly hitting the fence! 

No West Virginia festival is complete without good ‘ol live country music. Country Pride led by Jim Croy, and Diggin’ Grass Band featuring Bobbie Charles, delivered harmonious bluegrass/gospel tunes while embracing their love for God and our country. 

Our committee thanks everyone for coming out and supporting this event. Our goal is to continue to keep the festival FREE for the community so that everyone can enjoy a fun and enjoyable day with their family. Save the date for the next Autumn Harvest Festival, slated for Saturday, September 28, 2024!

If you would like to help sponsor this event in the future or participate as a vendor/contributor, please reach out to us! Our email is autumnharvestfestival@gmail.com or call Christina Edwards at (304) 647-8253; Ricky Edwards at (304) 661-5591 or Chad Parker (304) 646-7738. Please follow us on Facebook @ahfwv.

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