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23rd annual Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival

The fun doesn't fall far from the tree!

The fun doesn't fall far from the tree!

October 17, 2002|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

meg@herald-mail.com

As the branches of the apple trees are laden with sweet bounty, the time is ripe for a celebration.

The 23rd annual Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival begins today with tours of the West Virginia University Tree Fruit Research and Education Center and the Appalachian Fruit Research Station, both in Kearneysville, W.Va.

The festivities continue through Sunday in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, and include the coronation of Queen Pomona XXIII, an arts and crafts festival, a parade and all sorts of contests.

For the second year in a row, the arts and crafts festival, contests and other entertainment will take place at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds. Last year, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the base of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard, where many of the festival's events were held for years, was off limits for security reasons. Such is the case this year as well.

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Ed Wilson, advertising and publicity chairman for the festival, says the fairgrounds will be the site of Apple Harvest Festivals for the foreseeable future.

"We're very happy to be there," Wilson says.

Apparently, the public is happy to go there, too. Wilson says the Apple Harvest board received 230 notes and e-mails last year from people about the change in venue and only eight were negative.

There will be 170 crafters and exhibitors on hand Saturday and Sunday, Wilson says. Some will be housed in tents at the fairgrounds, while others will show their wares inside the buildings there. After problems with dust last year in the livestock auction building, 80 percent of its floor has been paved, he says.

The Grand Feature Parade, one of Saturday's highlights, will feature 150 units. Among them will be the float carrying Julie Linton, Queen Pomona XXIII for 2002.

As a child, Linton sat with her family outside her aunt's house in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., and watched the parade go by.

"Every little girl watches the queen go by and says 'Oh my, she's so pretty,'" says Linton, 19, a sophomore at Shepherd College.

"Now, I'm it," she says.

While Linton has ridden in cars in the parade before - as Miss Berkeley County Youth Fair 1999 and as the 2000 West Virginia Dairy Princess - this will be her first time perched on a float.

Apples remain the star of the harvest festival weekend, taking the spotlight during the pie baking contest, pie auction, eating and peeling contests, growers' and arrangement contests, and the 5K Apple Trample road race.

But there are other celebrities to look for.

Mark Moseley, who played for the Washington Redskins from 1974 to 1985, will be the keynote speaker at the celebrity sports breakfast Saturday morning at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg and will be the celebrity grand sports marshal during the parade. In 1982, he was voted the National Football League's Most Valuable Player, the first time in NFL history that a kicker had ever been nominated or elected to such a position.

Also keep your eyes peeled during the parade for Celebrity Grand Marshal J. Eddie Peck, who plays Dr. Jake Martin on "All My Children." The brown-haired, blue-eyed actor has also had television roles on "The Young and the Restless," "Days of Our Lives" and "Dynasty," and appeared in the films "Lambada" and "Curse II: The Bite."

Wilson says the celebrity athlete is usually someone people in the area are familiar with. As for the celebrity grand marshal, Wilson says jokingly, "they look for a hunk."

Behind all the pomp and circumstance is the reality of how important the apple industry is to the Eastern Panhandle. Linton, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, made that clear during her interview when she was competing for the title of Queen Pomona.

"Farms all across this area - especially Berkeley and Jefferson counties - are dying," Linton says, and she doesn't want the apple industry to meet the same end.

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