Good crowd at Honey Festival over the weekend

PARKERSBURG – The honey was the star this past weekend as the 2013 West Virginia State Honey Festival was abuzz at City Park in Parkersburg.

The 33nd annual festival saw good crowds and good weather for Saturday and Sunday, said festival chairman Tom Riddle.

“The festival has been going good,” he said. “We have some different things going on this year, like the bonsai tree club and the Sheppard Brothers (who were the featured entertainment Sunday).”

With many vendors, people who came out to City Park on Saturday or Sunday found something to enjoy, from food to crafts to music and more.

“The feedback I have been getting back has been very positive,” Riddle said. “They are very pleased with what we have here.”

Riddle pointed out that a number of honey vendors, featured throughout the festival, were all very popular with people interested in honey. The bee beard demonstration was also popular with a lot of people, as it is every year.

A number of vendors featured honey products made in West Virginia as well as seasoned beekeepers demonstrating the honey extraction process from honeycombs.

“I hope people increased their knowledge on the honey bee, the problems they face and more,” Riddle said. “I hope they got a better understanding of honey bees and what they do.”

One problem facing the honey bee is colony collapse, where a number of bees in a particular group are killed off by cold weather or other causes which has affected honey production in some areas.

“It is a problem every place,” Riddle said, adding he was not sure how big the problem might be in West Virginia yet.

Representatives from the state agriculture department talked to people about pollination, the different types of products that contain honey and the different types of hives available during the weekend festival. Others were available to talk to people about how they can get started in beekeeping and honey production.

“We have several different educational programs set up on getting started in beekeeping,” Riddle said. “We had all the right people here to answer their questions.”

Riddle felt attendance numbers for the festival were about the same this year as they were last year, around 4,000 people or so for the entire weekend.

McKenzie Cameron, of Vincent, Ohio, was crowned the 2013 Honey Festival Princess. She had an opportunity to go around to the different booths and taste a wide variety of honey.

“I have really enjoyed tasting all of the honey,” she said adding the Honeysuckle, Vanilla and Lavender honeys were her favorites.

Cameron hoped the people who came out to the festival learn more about honey bees and their importance to everyone.

For many people, it was all about the sweet stuff.

“I came to the festival to buy some honey,” said Missy Whitacre, of Mineral Wells. “I come every year.”

It is a chance for her to get something unique.

“It is local stuff,” Whitacre said. “It is not from a store.”

Liz Forella, of Shallotte, N.C., was visiting family in Parkersburg and with good weather Sunday they decided to come and check out the festival. She was sampling some different varieties of honey and had got some all over her hands.

“We came to the festival to see what it is all about,” she said. “So far, so good and the honey is excellent.

“I am going to buy some as soon as I get my hands clean.”

Lillian Roush, of Parkersburg, was looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon and came to the festival at City Park.

“I came to get some honey,” she said. “There is a lot of interesting stuff here to look at.”

Steve Conlon, of ThistleDew Farm in Proctor, W.Va., was one of the honey vendors at the festival. He also does the bee beard demonstrations during the festival.

“It has been a nice weekend,” he said. “The weather has been reasonable and we had good crowds both days.”

People are always fascinated by the bee beards and many have a real interest in what goes into producing honey.

“People come to see the beekeepers and learn about bees,” Conlon said. “We have been coming here and selling honey for 25 years so we always do well and we have a good following.

“We have a lot of honey lovers who show up and they show up to get a good jar of local honey direct from the producers.”