Randolph County has been taken over by carnival rides, fair food, and family-friendly activities.

The Mountain State Forest Festival is celebrating 82 years of being the largest festival in West Virginia, and we’re taking a look back at the decades of tradition and history.

1930 marked the festival’s first year…celebrating the Mountain State and bringing economic growth back to West Virginia.

“The country was starting to slip into the Great Depression.  The idea was to come up with some sort of a homecoming event, as it was initially conceived, to entice people to come back to Elkins,” said MSFF Board of Directors Member Cliff Marstiller.

Officials said the founders started the event to fulfill a need for economic growth and to highlight all the splendor of the Mountain State.  The original homecoming idea changed to a week-long festival but those roots remain.

“In spite of the fact that it was conceived as a homecoming event and then changed to a forest festival, it’s a homecoming event,” said Marstiller.

Through the decades the festival has evolved, but it continued to maintain the traditions of its initial intentions.  Each year, girls are chosen from throughout the state by dignitaries to stand as festival princesses and maids of honor, and one girl is chosen as the festival’s Maid Silvia.

“This is special for them.  They’re like debutantes.  It’s like a debutante ball for them.  Everybody working here makes it special for everyone involved, and I think everyone involved considers it an honor to be chosen to be whatever part they play in our little production,” said Designer and Seamstress Connie Linger.

Throughout the years, the style for Maid Silvia’s dress has changed, and events have been added to the schedule to highlight each year’s theme. 

The week full of activities comes to a head at the Davis & Elkins College campus when the princesses descend and Maid Silvia is crowned during a coronation ceremony.

“It’s a long tradition, a long history that is well rooted in the community, and it’s very well supported,” said Marstiller.