2017 Honey Festival

BRETT DUNLAP  Special to the Times
Morgan Stewart, of Parkersburg, and Natalie Lauer, of Rockport, look at a honeycomb display with live bees Sunday during the 37th annual West Virginia State Honey Festival at City Park.

BRETT DUNLAP Special to the Times Morgan Stewart, of Parkersburg, and Natalie Lauer, of Rockport, look at a honeycomb display with live bees Sunday during the 37th annual West Virginia State Honey Festival at City Park.

PARKERSBURG — The 37th Annual West Virginia State Honey Festival came to a successful close Sunday, officials said.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout of visitors to the festival which was held at City Park on Saturday and Sunday.

“We had a fantastic turnout,” said Vickie Marshall, executive director of the Wood County Recreation Commission. “(On Saturday), we had around 2,000 people.

“All of the vendors and exhibitors I have spoken to had really good sales throughout the weekend. Everyone is pleased with it.”

Although the final attendance numbers were not available Sunday afternoon, Marshall said they were on track to having a similar turnout to what they had on Saturday.

As always, many people came out for the honey with producers saying they had a good year of honey production.

“It has been a very good bee year,” said Steve Conlon of Thistledew Farm of Proctor, W.Va. “We started out with a mild winter which means you have more colonies survive the winter.

“The season has been about right. We have had a lot of moisture and that corresponds to nectar production. There was a lot of swarming. Now we are into the fall flow period. We have had a lot of moisture and it should be a good fall.”

Conlon was happy with the turnout of people during the festival over the weekend.

“We have had good crowds both days,” he said. “Everyone has sold a lot of honey this weekend.

“People come here specifically to buy honey.”

Conlon said the spring honey crop was a mix of Tulip Poplar and Locust. During the summer, there was a Basswood flow. All of which has been very popular this year, he said. Thistledew Farm has around 500 hives.

Conlon did a number of live bee beard demonstrations throughout the weekend at the festival, a popular event for visitors. He would strap a young queen bee in a box to his chin and then allow thousands of young worker bees to gather on his face and chest.

Honey bees were not native to North America and came over with explorers and colonists. Over time, their presence has grown and their importance in pollination has grown. Right now, it takes over one million colonies of bees to pollinate all of the almond crops in California, Conlon said.

The crowds are always receptive to the bee beard demonstration. Around one pound of bees equals 3,000 bees.

“We have had a good time,” Conlon said. “We did some bee beards with a few stings.

“It is all part of it.”

It was the honey that brought Linda Clark of Redhouse, W.Va., to the park Sunday.

“It was my love of honey,” she said.

This is the first time she had heard about the festival so she came with a friend to check it out and see what was there.

“I like it and I will probably come back,” Clark said.

She was looking for honey for herself and family. One family member likes parts of the honey comb in the honey. She was leaning towards purchasing the locust flavored honey for herself.

“I have always liked the taste of it,” Clark said. “I know it is good for you.

“I sweeten my tea with it and use it on toast, oatmeal and whatever. It is a good sweetener.”

Shauna Kelley, of Parkersburg, is a first-grade teacher at Martin Elementary. They have been reading stories about food production and one of the things covered was honey.

“I wanted to buy some honey so the kids could try some honey,” she said.

Kelley regularly attends the honey festival every year.

“It is just a good wholesome family event that all generations can enjoy,” she said. “It has all kinds of good activities that everyone can enjoy.”

For the past four years, the festival has been a fundraiser for the Wood County Recreation Commission.

Marshall wanted people to get an understanding of how important bees are.

“I hoped they learned a little bit about the bees and their importance,” she said. “I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.

“I would like to thank everyone for their continued support and everyone coming out, not only the beekeepers and exhibitors, but Wood County Recreation and youth in general.”

Planning has already started for next year’s festival with applications given to the vendors and exhibitors who attended this year’s festival.

“We are working on next year now,” Marshall said.

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