Sweet turnout for Honey Fest

Annual event a draw for would-be beekeepers

BRETT DUNLAP Special to the Times Karen and Ed Wilson, of Belmont, came out Sunday to the West Virginia State Honey Festival being held at City Park in Parkersburg to sample honey and purchase some.

PARKERSBURG — Those involved with the West Virginia State Honey Festival hope people have a better understanding of what bees do as the annual event came to a close Sunday, officials said.

Although the final attendance numbers were not available Sunday afternoon, Wood County Recreation Commission Executive Director Vickie Marshall said the festival had a good turnout over its two-day run Saturday and Sunday at City Park.

“It has been excellent,” she said. “We have had a really big crowd.

“We had a good turnout and the weather has been nice.”

Marshall estimated they had around 1,500-2,000 people attend the festival on Saturday.

As always, many people came out for the honey with producers saying honey production was down this past year, but they still had a good festival throughout the weekend.

Steve Conlon, of Thistledew Farm of Proctor, W.Va., did the bee beard demonstration a number of times throughout the weekend. He said the festival had a good turnout throughout the weekend with people looking for honey and asking questions about beekeeping.

“People are wanting local honey,” he said.

People tend to use more honey as the seasons transition from summer to fall.

“Many people use more honey in the fall as they do more baking and cooking,” Conlon said.

He hoped many people saw the bee beard show. They usually use 10,000 bees in the bee beard demonstration where they put a queen bee, in a container, on his face and the bees gather around it attracted to the queen’s scent.

“The show is about understanding how the bee colony works,” Conlon said. “Hopefully they came away with more accurate information than they had before.”

Even with honey production down this year, producers have to weather the cycles of production.

“It is like cucumbers, you have good years, terrible years and you bounce back,” he said. “It is boom and bust.”

Heather Abbott, of Charleston, came to Parkersburg this weekend to see family in the area, heard about the festival and came out to get some honey so she can make mead, a honey wine.

Abbott enjoyed her time at the festival.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I wished there was a bigger variety of honey.

“It’s OK, I got what I came for.”

Karen and Ed Wilson, of Belmont, had purchased some honey at the festival a couple of years ago, enjoyed it and they came back Sunday to get some more.

“He really likes honey,” Karen said.

“She was bored and wanted to get out of the house,” Ed added with a laugh.

They found some traditional honey they liked and purchased it.

Paul Poling, of the Mountain State Honey Company of Parsons, W.Va., said they had a good weekend with good sales.

“Our shelves were packed tight with honey,” he said. “(As of Sunday afternoon) we are almost empty.”

Poling wished more beekeepers would have come to help the festival. However, there was a meeting of the West Virginia Beekeeper Association in another part of the state that Poling believes pulled some interest away from the Parkersburg festival.

Rainfall this season caused the nectar to be washed out which was why the honey production was down.

“We are down on our production,” he said. “Normally, we should do in the neighborhood of 200 drums during a really good year.

“We are in the neighborhood of 80 drum right now.”

Those in beekeeping and honey production taught a lot about the different flower sources for their honeys. There was also education about beekeeping and work done to get people interested in doing it.

Many customers are coming out to see what is available, Poling said. They had a wildflower honey that sold really well. It had four sources of nectar mixed into it. They had a honeysuckle that also went very well.

“We don’t get the honeysuckle every year and that depends on the weather,” Poling said. “It is a very early spring blooming flower.

“This year, the bees did a really fantastic job getting us a nice crop. We didn’t bring enough of it, because there were a lot of people who really wanted it.”

Ashley Fisher, of Sissonville, and her family make a regular trip to the festival every year.

“We stock up on our honey for the year,” she said. “We eat a lot of honey.”

They use it for baking, a topping for biscuits and pancakes and more.

“We taste all of the honey as a family and we pick our favorites,” Fisher said. “Then we stock up for the year.

“We get enough to last us the whole year.”