The West Virginia Peach Fest is quite possibly the centerpiece event for Romney, if not all of Hampshire County. Dedicated and newcomer attendees alike flock in from across the state and its surrounding ones, especially Maryland. It’s an odd and tender spectacle in which all shapes and colors of cuisines and cultural attitudes flourish among each other—frozen peach lemonades, pit beef sandwiches, bluegrass jams, Amish handmade wares, and Confederate Flags hiding in dark corners.
Our visit began on Saturday with the Parade down Main Street. Hundreds of bodies lined the sidewalks yet left plenty of space for each person to comfortably fidget under a blazing sun that seemed to boil the ground below. As police cruisers, trucking rigs, tractors, and horse-drawn carriages cascaded down the parade route, children stuck their hands out to catch a seemingly bottomless supply of free candy that flew from the windows of the passing floats.
By noon, the festival was in full swing. I spent most of that afternoon at the greenspace behind Anderson’s Corner, listening to musicians such as @betsy play bluegrass tunes while sipping Peach-a-Ritas from the tiki bar, which had been built by the Artist’s Co-op in town. As the sun kept getting hotter and the yellowjackets kept growing in size, I trudged down to the main event, which was held at the WV School for the Dead and Blind. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking the campus and taking in the sights and sounds, scarfed down some delicious tacos, and relaxed at the beergarten with a pint.
The next day was the motorcycle show, which while a bit hard to handle due to a combination of being held in a newly paved asphalt parking lot and on a day with an even higher heat index than the one before it, made for a good time. But the day was cut short by yet another rough combination of severe thunderstorms and a yellowjacket sting on my ribs.
What’s interesting about this year’s event is some of the planning behind it. Historically, the Festival takes place on the sidewalk of Main Street. This drummed up a lot of business for the vendors in town, most of which are on Main Street or one block over. But earlier this year, the center building for the Deaf and Blind School burned down, leaving even more space on the campus. Apparently this year’s festival also managed to get a healthy chunk of change from the state government as well. So the Festival was moved to the Campus for 2023, which caused a lot of political drama for this small town once the small business owners on Main Street felt they had been shafted.
It’s always so hard to choose what photos will best display an event like the Peach Festival. There are so many things you see and people you meet that guilt can often take over when it comes time to narrowing down one’s options. That’s the charm of events like this in places like Romney, WV—they highlight the importance of and fundamental desire for a sense of community that can be shared with all who are willing.