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Local author writes of W.Va.'s oddities, wonders

October 24, 2004|by TRISH RUDDER/Staff Writer

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - Author Jeanne Mozier's "Way Out in West Virginia, A Must Have Guide to the Oddities and Wonders of the Mountain State," has been selling well, she said.

More than 20,000 copies have been sold, she said. The first edition was released in 1999 and the second in 2002. The revised second edition has many new photos, and Mozier has added new pages.

"Every county in the state is represented," Mozier said. "'Way Out' is distributed primarily everywhere in the state. If you Google (search) Jeanne Mozier, you will find 300 listings of where the book is sold. Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com carry it, too."

The book is divided by topics, from Adventure Driving to Unusual Places to Stay, Mozier said.

"The people's response was overwhelming," Mozier said. "They tell me they plan vacations around the book. West Virginians love it and they tell me it is so much fun to read."

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The book's description at Amazon.com says, "... Mozier describes with wit and detail nearly 600 of the state's really wild and wacky offerings. Get the scoop on moldy mummies, the state food (the pepperoni roll), great plumbing, Cornstalk's Curse, the only town in the country you enter through a parking garage and tons more. Mozier will delight both the adventurer and armchair traveler alike."

In 1989, Mozier wrote the Eastern Panhandle part of the West Virginia travel guide.

"Writing the book connected me to state tourism, and put me in touch statewide," Mozier said.

In 1992, Michael Lipton, editor of the West Virginia tabloid Graffiti, asked Mozier to write a column about odd things in the Eastern Panhandle. The monthly column is called "Way Out in the Eastern Panhandle," and includes new and unusual things in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

Mozier continued to search for more oddities in West Virginia towns and started compiling material for "Way Out in West Virginia."

Mozier found a very unique event, "Bridge Day," in Fayette County. Mozier said one day a year, one lane of the New River Bridge in Fayetteville, W.Va., is closed, and people are allowed to jump off the bridge. Vendors set up booths along the bridge, she said.

"It's a long narrow festival," Mozier said. "You see about 5,000 human butts because they are leaning over the edge watching the jumps."

In 1997, she went to the Northern Panhandle to see if she could find strange things there, she said. "Moundsville alone can be a book of weird," Mozier said.

In all, Mozier traveled about 18 months collecting information.

Mozier travels around the state on speaking tours to promote her book, and book signings sell a lot of books, she said, and there's always a new story to hear.

She said she received a phone call about a month ago from a woman who attended a garden party in Arthurdale, W.Va. The woman told Mozier that the owner wants her garden to be listed in the next edition of Mozier's book.

Mozier said she called her to tell her she and her husband were coming to see the garden. The woman was very excited that Mozier was interested, she said.

"The incredible and large garden was a 'found objects' garden," Mozier said. "It was all in sections - the bathroom section had an old claw-footed bathtub filled with growing flowers. Another section had an old pickup truck filled with flowers." The story is featured in Mozier's column in the October edition of Graffiti, called "Lawn Art on Steroids."

Mozier and her husband, Jack Soronen, came to Berkeley Springs in 1977. They purchased the movie theater, known as The Lynn and named after the owner. They changed the name to The Star Theatre.

Mozier started promoting Berkeley Springs soon after arriving and has been ever since. She started the Morgan Arts Council "as one of the first acts of promoting Berkeley Springs. The Chamber of Commerce was nearly defunct and there was talk of dissolving it," she said.

In the spring of 1978, changes began. Grant money was sought and tourism promotion fell to the Chamber of Commerce, Mozier said. "The only real promotion then was the Apple Butter Festival," she said.

In the early 1980s, a tourism committee was developed. Mozier said she remembers the town only had two places for tourists to eat dinner.

As tourism started to take off, the town had to be bigger, she said. "It had to be about tourism," Mozier said. "As the Apple Butter Festival grew, the town grew."

In the late 1980s, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill establishing a hotel/motel tax that was county- and municipality-based.

Mozier lobbied to get that bill passed, she said. Money was available now to promote Berkeley Springs.

Travel Berkeley Springs came up with more festivals to promote the town, such as the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, a water-tasting event of bottled and municipal water from all over the world. The festival is held in February each year.

Mozier said she's had "28 years of vision for Berkeley Springs." She is vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and a vice president of Travel Berkeley Springs, as well as an Apple Butter Festival committee member. Mozier said she also raises funds for the Morgan Arts Council.

She is working on a coffee table book, "The Wonders of West Virginia," with photographer Steve Shaluta.

Mozier has a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University and said she worked for the CIA in Washington, D.C., for 21/2 years, but quit after the Nixon administration invaded Cambodia. Mozier, a historical researcher, was introduced to astrology in the early 1970s, and her "world view has been affected ever since," she said.

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