Alderson Strawberry Festival brings face painting, unicorns, and 5,000 smiling faces

By Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV

Vendors, non-profit groups, musicians, and other artists lined the Alderson Memorial Bridge and other areas in town from mid-morning to late afternoon, basking in the late-spring sunshine which blanketed the town before the rains set in late in the day.  Town officials estimate around 5000 people attended Alderson’s Strawberry Festival this year, an event started less than ten years ago which seems to be rising in popularity every year.

Alderson Main Street sponsors the Alderson Strawberry Festival, and according to member Margaret Hambrick, it has become a destination and key event in the summer festival calendar in the Greenbrier Valley. “We wanted to have a festival of some kind at this particular time of year in Alderson, and we also wanted to provide publicity for [Alderson businesses],” Hambrick explained. She said the festival started in 2016.

Sheena Pendley, also a member of Alderson Main Street, stressed that the Strawberry Festival strives to keep growing. “We keep adding new activities each year,” she said. “Last year, we added pony rides. This year we added face painting. We’re just trying to add more and more each year.”

Hambrick and Pendley noted that the vendor spots filled up quickly.  The AMS volunteer who coordinated the vendors reported that all the slots were full before May. “We accommodated forty-eight vendors this year in town: thirty on the bridge and eighteen at the depot,” the volunteer stated.

Volunteers from both the business community and concerned residents make up the membership of Alderson Main Street. They do vital work. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that if it were not for Alderson Main Street managing, supervising, sponsoring everything, this whole thing wouldn’t happen. It’s all volunteer based. Without Main Street, this and other festivals would not be happening,” Hambrick noted. 

Many local residents attended the festival, but The Real WV met people from as far away as Milton in Cabell County, and Boone County, West Virginia.

Bailey Miller and her family drove two hours to Alderson for the Strawberry Festival.  As she paused at the Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church for a quick hot dog lunch, the child beamed as she reflected on what she had just done, and especially for what she looked forward to doing next.  “I just got a panda tattoo,” she began.  “I was afraid at first. It was kind of chilly when it happened.”

Laying aside her hotdog, Bailey pointed to the West Virginia Renaissance Festival’s little camp, set up just across from the church.  There, a lady knight and several other attendants in period costumes were giving children rides on ponies. The Ren Fest folks had adorned both little steeds  with unicorn horns. 

“I’m getting ready to ride a unicorn next. My mom did not believe in unicorns,” Bailey began.

“But I see one right there,” The Real WV interjected.

“I know!” Bailey exclaimed. “If it’s either he or a she, the unicorn probably lives in a cloud castle when it goes home.”

This author agreed with Bailey, and the little girl reclaimed her hotdog so she could finish lunch. She did so quickly, and then she dashed away to meet her cloud-dwelling friend.

Bailey said she will definitely return to Alderson for next year’s Strawberry Festival, and her mom and her dad agreed that they’d be up for the trip again, too.

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