Parade is Martinsburg's biggest ever

October 16, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Mike Carrico sat in the back of his big box van surrounded by 500 pink puffs of cotton candy.

Carrico, his son Mike Jr., daughter-in-law and two helpers in the van were getting ready to hit the route of Saturday's annual Lions Club/Apple Harvest Festival Grand Feature Parade in Martinsburg shortly before noon. They drove up from Baltimore earlier.

Each wore orange tags signifying that they were city-sanctioned vendors.

They were lamenting recent rains and rising gas prices for cutting into their cotton candy sales.

"We're trying to make a living at this, but it's getting harder," the elder Carrico said. "People can't afford to buy anymore."


He brought 500 "pieces" of cotton candy to hawk during the parade, but expected to sell no more than 300 at $1 apiece, he said.

His "pickings" couldn't have been better Saturday.

According to Ed Wilson, president of the Apple Harvest Festival board of directors, "this is the biggest parade downtown Martinsburg has ever seen. We have 185 units signed up, 35 more units than last year."

Carrico said he works the parade and festival circuit in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from April through the last Christmas parade.

After Christmas, he does odd jobs to keep the money coming in, he said.

Wilson, who has been board president for three years, said the 26th annual festival celebrates the contribution that agriculture and the apple industry make to the tradition and cultural history of the area.

Wilson acknowledged that the Eastern Panhandle's apple industry has shrunk significantly during the last decade, pushed aside by booming housing development.

"There are still a lot of acres under orchards," he said. "If we only find one apple left in this part of the Panhandle, we'll continue to have an Apple Harvest Festival."

Members of the Martinsburg Lions Club were operating their two concession wagons Saturday, one on the public square and one at the beginning of the parade route at the intersection of West King Street and Illinois Avenue.

Club members haul their wagons to other major events during the year to raise about $15,000 to support the organization's charities, said Norva Johnston, secretary of the 43-member organization.

Across East King Street from the Lions Club's wagon, members of the newly organized Red Hat Ladies were holding their first fundraiser, selling hot dogs, french fries and other delicacies when disaster struck their stand around noon.

The grease in their french fryer erupted in flames. Minutes later, the square filled with the sound of sirens followed by the arrival of a city firetruck and ambulance. Firefighters doused the flames ... on their second try. Their effort left the ladies' concession stand temporarily unpleasant with acrid smoke.

The Gerald and Irene Parson family, including the couple, their son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, found a spot on the parade route around 11:30 a.m. for a guaranteed vantage point on the east side of South Queen Street. They were enjoying their own company as they whiled away 1 1/2 hours before the first unit would come into view.

"It's a nice parade, about three hours long," Gerald Parson said. He was ready with his video camera to record the event for family posterity.

Other festival events Saturday included a 5K Apple Trample road race, a sports breakfast, car show, square dance and daylong arts and crafts show at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds.

Today's schedule begins with a pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and includes the arts and crafts show, an antique vehicle show, apple eating and peeling contests, and a drawing for the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival quilt.

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