Kenneth Downs inflates an alligator that will
be among the prizes at the carnival's "lucky duck"
game. (Photo by Jim Cooper-Spencer Newspapers)

By Jim Cooper, Editor

The W.Va. Black Walnut Festival carnival has moved uptown. For the first time since the late 1970s, one of the festival's main attractions will be on Spencer's main parking plaza rather than the Bowman Street lot.

"I think it's going to work," Spencer Mayor and festival co-president Terry Williams said. "It does interrupt business some, but we've had a lot of help and cooperation. This makes for a very close-knit festival where people can easily walk to other events."

Williams said Brown Amusements of Cortland, Ohio, new to this year's festival, has set up 21 rides on the plaza. That could make it the largest carnival in the history of the event.

The 54th annual festival officially begins Thursday and continues through Sunday.

The coronation of the festival queen will also take place in a different location this year. Morgan Cottrell will be crowned during a 7 p.m. ceremony at Roane County High School. In another change, there will be no concert as part of the coronation.

Friday will feature the Kids' Day parade at noon and a football game at 7:30 p.m. when Roane County High hosts Clay County in the 36th Black Walnut Bowl at County Stadium.

Williams said the Kids' Day parade continues to grow in popularity.

"We've had an awful lot of pre-applications this year," he said.

Newton native Squire Parsons will serve as grand parade marshal, and a group of local writers as honorary marshals. The parade begins at noon Saturday and will follow a route down Black Walnut Avenue and Main Street.

Sixteen high school bands and two college bands are set to march in the parade, which will be followed by the annual band and majorette competition beginning at 3 p.m. at County Stadium.

Another popular attraction returning this year is the Granpa Cratchet Show. The puppet character tells stories, sings songs and offers riddles, puns, quizzes and old sayings. The show will take place on a stage set up on Court Street behind the courthouse.

Twenty-nine food vendors located on the courthouse square will offer a variety of taste treats. The square will also host live music performances that continue today beginning at 11 a.m. and wrap up around 11 p.m. Saturday.

Parsons will headline the 7 p.m. gospel sing at the Spencer Middle School auditorium, the same time the annual 4-H and FFA livestock sale begins at the RCHS barn. Judging of the animals will take place today and the showmanship contest is Friday.

Sunday's schedule includes gospel music on the courthouse square, the 5K Nut Run/Walk, a novelty shoot at the Roane County Gun Club and a car show at the Walmart parking lot.

A flea market is open each day, as are 4-H and FFA exhibits, craft sales, an antique power show, art and photography shows and a quilt show.

Two traditional events - a Saturday firefighters' competition and a Sunday golf tournament - have been scratched from this year's lineup.

The long-range weather forecast calls for only a slight chance of showers during the festival, with highs in the mid- to upper-70s and lows near 50.

"I always say the festival shines if the weather shines," Williams said.

Regardless of the weather, organizers are expecting large crowds to turn out for the area's biggest annual event.

"It's a combination of a homecoming and a reunion," Williams said. "It's one of the nicest events in West Virginia."

Free parking is available on the Bowman Street lot as well as lots along Williams Drive and the McKown-Matheney property on Ripley Road near Community Resources.

A 15-passenger shuttle bus will offer free rides from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, with stops at the National Guard Armory, Williams Drive, downtown and the lot next to CRI.

Williams encouraged people with questions about parking, or the festival in general, to call the Spencer Municipal Building at 927-5616 or visit the information booth on the courthouse square.


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