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Parkersburg festival creates buzz about honeybees

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Brett Dunlap Laken Johnson, the 2015 West Virginia Honey Princess, looks at a collection of honey bees held in a display case Sunday on the final day of the 35th Annual West Virginia State Honey Festival at City Park.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Brett Dunlap
Laken Johnson, the 2015 West Virginia Honey Princess, looks at a collection of honey bees held in a display case Sunday on the final day of the 35th Annual West Virginia State Honey Festival at City Park.

PARKERSBURG — Visitors to the 35th Annual West Virginia State Honey Festival received a better understanding of the impact honeybees make within agriculture and what goes into honey production.

The festival wrapped up Sunday with an estimated 4,000 visitors for the weekend, organizers said. The honey festival featured a variety of activities, entertainments and displays. The focus was to promote the honey industry, as well as having crafts, entertainment and other activities, they added.

“It has been fantastic,” said Vickie Marshall, executive director of the Wood County Recreation Commission, for which the festival has become a fundraiser. “We have had a huge crowd, great entertainment, there has been a lot to see and the weather has been fantastic.”

Attendance was up a little bit from last year, she said. Marshall hoped families came out and enjoyed themselves.

“I hoped they learned a little bit about bees,” she said.

The 2015 West Virginia Honey Princess Laken Johnson said there is a lot of fear from people in dealing with bees. With honey production and pollination, the bees serve a specific important function, she said.

“I think it is important to know that some bees do not hurt you,” Johnson said.

Steve Conlon, owner of Thistle Dew Farm at Proctor, W.Va., has been participating in the honey festival for years and does the bee beard demonstration. He said the festival and his demonstrations had good crowds throughout the weekend, with a lot of people interested in purchasing the varieties of honey he and other vendors had.

“We are selling out,” he said Sunday afternoon.

Many people come to the honey festival with questions as well as a few misconceptions about bees.

“We try to set the record straight,” Conlon said.

People are concerned about why they haven’t seen the number of bees they use to for their garden. People are also concerned about the welfare of their garden.

“There aren’t as many beekeepers as there used to be,” Conlon said. “There aren’t as many wild colonies as there use to be.

“People are seeing fewer bees, but they haven’t disappeared. They are still here, just fewer of them.”

Conlon said there were still a good number of pollinators for people’s gardens.

Mountain State Honey from Parsons, W.Va., has attended the honey festival annually for many years in Parkersburg.

“The people keep buying our honey and we keep coming back,” said Alisa Poling of Mountain State Honey. “We have had a very good weekend. People have been very good to us. We have done well this weekend.”

Mountain State Honey was offering three types on honey, locust, tulip poplar and basswood honey. The locust and tulip poplar come in the spring. Locust honey is a nice sweet honey while tulip poplar is a dark rich honey, Poling said adding basswood honey is a summer honey and it has a little minty taste to it.

They sold out of the five-pound containers of honey by Sunday afternoon.

“People like the honey in this area so we have sold a lot of the big containers,” Poling said. “People are more health conscious and are using honey rather than refined sugar. They tend to be into more natural foods like honey.”

Marshall said next year organizers will have more information and exhibits centered on the honeybees and honey production.

For many people, the honey was the biggest reason they came out to the festival.

“I came to buy local honey,” said Louverna Tomer, of Belpre. “This honey is not the same kind of stuff you buy in the store.

“This is a much better quality.”

She wanted to support local vendors who produce their own honey so they can keep producing it.

“Their honey is so much better,” Tomer said. “Right now, I am set (having bought a number of different types of honey Sunday afternoon).”

It has been a couple of years since she has been to the honey festival, but she decided to come back this year.

“It is a nice festival,” Tomer said. “I like the entertainment and the crafts that everyone has to offer.

“It is a nice way to spend Sunday afternoon.”

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