Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Maple Syrup puts Pickens on the Map

There are many wonderful benefits to being a magazine editor. Traveling to small towns, the tiny unincorporated enclaves nestled in the mountains, is a highlight of my job. I love the historic buildings, the pristine churches, the park benches where the old timers gather, and the mom and pop restaurants. 
But this past weekend, I drove deep into the mountains of Randolph County--down and around dirt roads that clung to the mountainside of Holly River State Park--to Pickens, home of the Maple Syrup Festival. (In all fairness, I chose the more "rural" route. You don't have to travel down dirt roads to get there, although it does add to the experience!)

Pickens is a quaint town that time forgot. It has the smallest public school in the state -- approximately 45 students for 13 grades, with two graduating seniors. And it is charming.  Folks from around the state with ties to Pickens return each year to help organize and man the festival.  There's music in the Opera House, arts and crafts, and games for children. People from around the state line up at the Legion Hall for an all-you-can-eat pancake frenzy replete with maple syrup tapped from local trees. While you wait in line, you talk to the folks behind you -- and by the time you eat, you feel like you are a part of the community, and you make plans to attend the following year, because it is too important. 

Festivals like this one are the lifeblood of our small towns. But they also keep us connected and grounded.  Join me this year in supporting our small towns.  Take a day trip, attend a festival, or hop in the car for a Sunday drive. Discover West Virginia.