RONCEVERTE, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – Keeping up with tradition isn’t always easy, especially in the face of adversity. The City of Ronceverte has overcome many obstacles over the last three decades but has always held on to the city’s only annual festival: The Ronceverte River Festival.
Ben Anderson, Ronceverte River Festival Treasurer, spoke of some of the obstacles Ronceverte has faced and how his city has continued to rise above.
“It has come a long ways over time,” he began. “About four years ago, the festival was in financial turmoil, and we were very afraid that we would never be able to have another festival again. At one point, there wasn’t much interest in protecting the river festival, but we are a diamond in the rough. We got the community together to save the festival.”
With the help of local residents, the festival was saved from financial crisis, and all looked well again, that is until the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, forcing the festival to be canceled.
“The town has gone through quite a lot of turmoil this past year with the water crisis,” Anderson explained. “People were out of water for days at a time. It was a rough year and the festival being canceled just took another toll on the town. This year was really depressing for a lot of people, which goes without saying.”
The day the 2020 festival was canceled, Anderson said the committee immediately started planning for the 2021 event in hopes that restrictions would be relaxed. The committee held auctions and raised money to get where they needed to be financially, and then, they waited.
On Friday, June 11, the City of Ronceverte unveiled the 33rd annual Ronceverte River Festival with the theme “Back in the Sun in 2021.”
Friday’s largest event was the Grand Parade, in which both Governor Jim Justice and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey participated.
“This is really a real victory that we are able to have this festival, especially with it being our only festival,” Anderson said, adding that the appearance of Justice and Morrisey shows that the event is receiving state-wide recognition. “This puts the town back on the right track.”
While the river festival is full of fun events that span city-wide, Anderson said it is more than an event. It’s a way to celebrate history and heritage.
“It’s a celebration of who we are. We are a proud railroad town that has a lot of great history behind it. It not only gives people something to celebrate, but it builds upon the town to give people the history and beauty of Ronceverte.”
As a younger resident with a family history spanning decades in the Ronceverte area, Anderson is pleased to see another year with the river festival.
“This is my town, and I want to give back and help preserve the history in any way that I can. It’s just nice to see that people want to come out and do something again.”
Not only has the river festival been able to save itself, but it has become so financially solvent that it is able to support city departments and is currently providing food to employees of the water company who have been working to solve the city’s 100-year-old water system.
Anderson believes the future is bright for Ronceverte and its only annual festival.
The river festival will continue on Saturday, June 12, inviting visitors to enjoy live music, games, the Great Rubber Ducky Race, pageants, family-friendly activities, competitions and more. Saturday’s event will open early for the fisrt-ever Sensory Friendly Saturday- a period of time that allows disabled individuals to enjoy the festival in a quiet and serene environment without the chaos of large crowds.
The festival’s entire schedule, as well as additional information, can be found here.