Only a few hours before the end of winter, people started to gather outside the Ireland Community Building in Lewis County to close the Irish Spring Festival, and send winter away for another year with a hike up a nearby mountain to their own Blarney Rock. The festival elects a king and queen from the senior citizens of the town, and this year, King Andrew the 33rd Ed Rexroad joined the journey. He said he's enjoyed seeing the activity in the festival over the last week.
"They have square dancing here, they have a lot of the basic, fun, family things here. I've encouraged several people to come down here and a lot of them have told me, yes, we'll be there next year," said Rexroad.
But it's not just an event for residents. Every year, plenty of people come from outside Lewis County to celebrate with Ireland residents. Carl McLaughlin and his wife traveled from Kanawha County for the event, and said he was glad to finally see the festival he's heard so much about.
"I've driven through here before, and I know it's just a really pretty area. I just really wanted to get here at the earliest opportunity, and this is the first year that I had a chance to be up this way," McLaughlin said.
Rexroad closed the festival by officially welcoming the spring season after the hike. He said there's one thing that sticks out to him that makes the event stand out from other festivals.
"It's more about the people than it is things, and I think that's the important thing about it. It's a lot of friendship and renewing old friendships and such like that," said Rexroad.
This year's festival actually set two records for itself. This year is the first time King Andrew and Queen Elizabeth have been a mother and son. And if you do the math, you can see the second record: Rexroad's mother is the first centenarian queen at a tender 102.