Honey festival gets off to a sweet start

PARKERSBURG – Clear blue skies made for a great turnout for the first day of the West Virginia State Honey Festival at City Park.

Tom Riddle, chairman of the annual event, said the weather and variety of items made for a great turnout.

“We have a good mix of entertainment,” he said. “The crowd has increased from last year and the weather is great for us.”

Riddle said the festival may have more vendors this year than were on hand last year. The honey festival continues today at City Park, which has been its home for most of its 33 years.

Steve Ritter, of the Ki No Kaze Bonsai Club, said this year’s event is the club’s first year at the honey festival, although it has been part of the Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival for a couple of years.

“We’ve only been a club for two or three yeas and we’re finding a lot of interest in bonsai in this area,” he said. “This is our first time at the honey festival.”

Ritter said the members have been involved in bonsai for 20 to 30 years.

“People don’t get up in the morning and say ‘I want to look at a bonsai tree,'” he said. “But when they see one they are drawn to it. There is something intrinsic about bonsai that people find.”

Ritter said bonsai is a living art form and many call themselves bonsai artists.

“That may sound a little pompous, but we feel like we are because they are never finished,” he said. “They are living and growing, you might do something to them and do something different next year.

“These trees can outlive us, it almost brings a tear to my eye, they are amazing.”

Ritter said Ki No Kaze is Japanese for Wind in the Wood.

Michael DeVaughn, owner of Indian Run Apiary in Marietta, said he is selling honey-related products that are made locally or are made by others in the United States with U.S. honey. He has been a beekeeper for several years and learned the U.S. Department of Agriculture has listed him as a bee farmer.

“I never dreamed I’d be a farmer,” he said.

DeVaughn said he sells a mix of items made from his bees and items he buys from others at the honey festival.

“We buy honey sticks from a company in Oregon,” he said. “We make out own lip balm we sell in local stores, we have blocks of bees wax and we make bees wax candles called ‘Cute as a Bug.'”

He also sells beekeeping supplies.

DeVaughn said the wet summer of 2013 has hurt honey production.

“There is no honey,” he said. “It’s been too wet and honey is scarce now.”

Today’s schedule of activities includes:

* 10 a.m.: Festival opens; Arts and crafts, honey exhibits and Honey Sundae Ice Cream Booth opens

* Noon: Live bee beard demonstration by Steve Conlon (Pavilion Stage); Honey presentation by 2013 American Honey Princess Emily Campbell (Pavilion Stage)

* 2 p.m.: Sheppard Brothers Bluegrass (Main Stage)

* 3:45 p.m.: Buck and Company Bluegrass (Main Stage); Live bee beard demonstration with Steve Conlon (Pavilion Stage)

* 5 p.m.: Festival closes.