POINT PLEASANT — As anyone trying to get into Point Pleasant on Saturday can confirm, the Mothman Festival drew a crowd.
The festival made a break with tradition and moved the annual “Mayor’s Welcome” from in front of the Mothman Statue, to Riverfront Park near a memorial for the late Carolin Harris, a co-founder of the festival.
Prior to the memorial being unveiled, several gathered, including Harris’ family and extended family, to hear Mayor Brian Billings and festival co-founder Jeff Wamsley honor Harris.
“This year’s Mothman Festival 2017 will be dedicated to Carolin Harris,” Wamsley said. “I hope I can make it through this. Carolin and I…”
Wamsley paused, unable to continue for the moment and asked Billings to continue with the welcome part of the ceremony.
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to our historic city of Point Pleasant,” Billings said. “I know many of you have traveled many miles to get here, many of us this morning were parking cars out at Krodel Park and what a sight to see…Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and a lot of Ohio. Sixteen years ago, this festival began with Jeff and Carolin putting this thing together with a couple of tents and a table and people were talking about Mothman. And over the years it just grew and grew and with social media and the internet, things began to develop, people started hearing about the Mothman and they understand what Mothman was. We love to see visitors (to Point Pleasant), so please, do me a favor, come back and enjoy our great city.”
Wamsley then explained the plaque placed on the memorial for Harris was temporary, though was a reproduction of what will appear when the permanent, bronze one arrives at Riverfront Park.
“I’m just not good at this,” Marcella DeWeese, Harris’ sister said when being passed the microphone. “Now Carolin was, she could talk for an hour. But, Carolin started this thing and she worked on it from one year to the next, and when one was over she would work on the next one and loved it. I’d like to see it keep going after she’s gone because there’s a lot of things that she did that people don’t realize, I don’t think, until right about now. I thank you all for coming and we love you and she did too, and I know she’s up there looking down at us.”
The plaque, financed by a fundraiser from The Meeting House, and orchestrated by the Downtown Merchants, was unveiled.
Afterwards, Wamsley told the Point Pleasant Register of Harris: “Carolin Harris is what Point Pleasant is all about – welcoming, friendly, and a heart for making visitors feel at home. Her memory will live on as long as we can host the Mothman Festival. I know she was watching over all the fun and festivities this year…I could feel it.”
As for how the rest of the festival went, Wamsley said: “I was very pleased with all the teamwork between festival staff, city workers and the Mason County Emergency Services team. We have a few growing pains to improve on but that’s always expected. The Point Pleasant city crew got us through this festival. I heard all kinds of great comments from both vendors and visitors on how smoothly and promptly any problems were dealt with and taken care of – from the trash, to breakers kicking. They were on the ball.
On Monday, Billings said of the festival: “What a great weekend for our city. Everything went as planned on our (city) part and our staff did a tremendous job. You know when you bring people from as far away as Canada and from states across this great land you’re doing something right. On behalf of our city clerk, council members and myself, we salute Jeff Wamsley and his committee for a job well done.”
Though free parking was available where it could be found in downtown Point Pleasant, the city, along with assistance from the Mason County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, including CERT Team members and the Point Pleasant Fire Department, were assisting with parking elsewhere, including at Krodel Park. The parking at Krodel Park included shuttle service but a fee of $10 was charged. However, this equated to a fundraiser because all that money goes back into a fund to build a splash pad at Krodel Park.
“Those that parked with us were told what we were doing (the fundraiser) and I would say 99 percent of those who used our designated parking were from out of town. We offered a shuttle service to take them to and from the festival at no extra charge along with parking. Overall those that parked with us were very pleased with our efforts and what we were doing to enhance the Krodel Park area with a splash pad.”
Also attending the festival was the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars fans from across the state of West Virginia. The “garrison” raised funds for Holdyn Keefer of Point Pleasant, who has been battling leukemia. Raising funds for children’s charities is the primary goal of the group, as well as the Ghostbusters who were also in attendance.
Jay Parsons, of Mineral Wells, a member of the 501st, said of the festival: “I’m amazed…the town and county should be behind this 200 percent. It’s amazing because these people come from all over the world. I’ve seen people from Germany and England.”
Wamsley said he’d received an email from a festival attendee who said they would definitely be back and said the festival was “a fun paranormal family reunion each year and I’m so happy to have met lots of great new people this year to add to the family.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.