By TAYLOR KUYKENDALL · firstname.lastname@example.org
It's West Virginia's state fruit, and if you want to celebrate the Golden Delicious apple, there are few bigger ways to do so than the annual Clay County Golden Delicious Festival.
This year's festival will be held Sept. 19-22 in downtown Clay. The annual family-oriented event attracts Clay County residents past and present as well as people from across the state and beyond.
"A lot of the people that come to this event on Saturdays plan their vacations to come back to Clay for the Golden Delicious festival," said Ordy Holcomb, the Clay resident who heads up the parade. "You might have 3,000 people in Clay on that weekend."
Roger Hanshaw, an attorney with Bowles-Rice in Charleston and a Clay County resident, said his family has been in the county for generations and the festival is the "biggest deal in Clay County" each year.
"People talk about it all year and plan for it months in advance," Hanshaw said. "It's a family reunion, a tourist attraction, an historical event, a fundraiser and a celebration of West Virginia history and culture, all at once. The one street that runs the entire length of Clay essentially becomes a carnival midway for three days where you can buy an apple pie, an apple cake, apple butter and even apples from your favorite church, Little League team, local restaurant or carnival vendor."
Hanshaw, who lives just off Interstate 79 in Wallback, said he could talk about the September festival for hours.
"At noon on Saturday, just before the parade, there will be more people along the streets of Clay for those four hours than in the entire rest of the county for the remainder of the year," he said. "It's a good time."
Holcomb said a lot of people will come for the three-day event chock full of various types of entertainment.
The festival is held in Clay County because it is the birthplace of the Golden Delicious apple, which first grew on a Clay County hillside around 1912. It was first known as the Mullins Yellow Seedling.
The festival site touts the apple as "delightfully fresh, with snap and zing in its flavor."
"The Gold that grew in Clay County on a tree, in 1912, now enriches much of the fruit world. But the original source of the Gold, the tree that made many a child happy after tasting the fruit it bore, is now to be found only in history books," festival materials state. "This Festival today is in honor of the Golden tree. We hope you will return home with a fond memory of the Golden Delicious Apple and its birthplace, Clay County."
The festival began after then-Agricultural Commissioner Gus Douglass proposed the idea to the Clay Lions Club. The Lions Club immediately began work on the festival, chartering the festival in December 1972. In 1995, the Legislature recognized the Golden Delicious apple as the official state fruit by resolution.
Holcomb said the Golden Delicous, know for its sweetness, is his favorite.
"I just like the taste of it," he said. "I always loved the golden delicious apple."
Entertainment at this year's festival includes Tom Pringle and Tiffany Cadle and Friends, Po Folks Cabaret, The Poor House Crew, Bowyer Drive, Charlie Absten and Distant Thunder, Farrah Facemire, The Brightside Quartet, Doug and Megan Paxton, The Fishermen Quartet and Divine Hope. There will also be amusement rides, a youth art auction and the Appalachian Cloggers.
Other featured events during the festival include an antique car show, a baking contest, a 5K run/walk, golf tournament, motorcycle show, pageants, a parade, a pig roast, a quilt show and Solomon's Secret — and outdoor theater presentation about West Virginia's Cherokee heritage.
Information on the festival is available at claygoldendeliciousfestival.com.