W.Va. Three Rivers Festival's grand parade kicks off the weekend

May 26—FAIRMONT — The West Virginia Three Rivers Festival has officially begun.

Thursday night, roads around downtown Fairmont were closed to traffic as the festival's Grand Feature Parade made its way down Fairmont Avenue, across the Million Dollar Bridge, and through Merchant Street.

Veterans, police, firefighters, pageant queens, marching bands and the usual parade fare made their way toward the Palatine Park to officially start the 44th annual West Virginia Three Rivers Festival.

At the front of the entourage was Fairmont Mayor Anne Bolyard, who was the parade's marshal this year. By the end of the route, her box of candy was reduced to a few packs of Smarties and she was all smiles.

"This was my first time in a parade without an instrument in my hands," Bolyard said. "I remember coming to this festival as a little kid during the summers with my grandmother and it's just great to see an event bring together the entire Marion County community."

As the parade made its way through the streets, the first official day of the carnival opened to the public with rides, games, food and vendors lining the road through Palatine Park.

By 8 p.m., the festival's organizers took the amphitheater stage to hold the opening ceremonies.

Jon Dodds, a member of the festival board, said that between the promising weather forecast and the loaded entertainment lineup, this year may set new record attendance records.

The board members and organizers are all volunteers and spend most of the year after the last festival planning the next.

"We truly work year-round, putting in hours and hours and hours to put this together and we enjoy every minute of it," Dodds said. "You go home at the end of a successful night of a successful festival and you realize you didn't get to sit down and enjoy it because you were so busy, but still I bet I enjoyed it more than anybody there. We wouldn't do it if we didn't enjoy it."

Thursday night's festivities are the start of a packed weekend of events at Palatine Park.

Friday, the carnival grounds will open at 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. will start the 14th annual Pepperoni Roll Bake-Off. At 8 p.m. the amphitheater stage will be filled with a live, free performance by the band Green River. The festival grounds will close at 11 p.m.

Saturday starts early at 10 a.m. with the Jerry Ragen Car Show in the parking lot of the Fairmont Baptist Temple on Morgantown Avenue in East Side.

At noon, the festival grounds will open along with Kid's Day at the Park. Costumed characters, face painting and other education and entertainment with the illusionist Josh Knotts will take the amphitheater stage at 3 p.m.

At 4 p.m. the annual Strongman Showdown will begin and the KISS Tribute band, KISS Army will perform a free show at 6 p.m.

The two mainstage performances will also mark the start of the Palatine Park Summer Concert Series. This is the first year the concerts have coincided with the festival.

Marion County Administrator Kris Cinalli said that these two concerts have been highly requested and should be an exciting start to the summer and an exciting end to the festival.

"With everything going on with the concerts and the festival this really will work hand-in-hand together," Cinalli said. "We're just thrilled and this is going to be a great weekend in Fairmont and Marion County."

For a full schedule of events for the festival, visit www.wvthreeriversfestival.com/events.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.