KINGWOOD — Deanna Schwilke and Norma Jean Rosenau traveled more than a few miles for the Buckwheat Festival.
Schwilke is from Wenatchee, Wash., and Rosenau is from New Jersey. Schwilke said she changed planes three times before arriving at her destination. Rosenau traveled by car.
“I try to come every year. I love West Virginia, it’s my roots now,” 87-year-old Rosenau said. “I’ve cherished Preston County for as long as I can remember.”
She fell in love with West Virginia while attending West Virginia University.
“I like coming here because it’s the one place left that I have family,” Rosenau said.
Schwilke said she lived in Kingwood from 1970-75.
“I was a flower girl in the Buckwheat Festival,” she said. “One year I was the Litter Bug Queen and got to throw candy to the crowd.”
“I come this time of the year to see my relatives,” Rosenau said. “There’s not a lot of them left. My mom was a Hoffman. She was born on top of Caddell. She was the fifth of 14 children.”
Rosenau said her Aunt Ruby married Charlie Whetsel, and her aunt Sheila married Dale Frum.
“This is the only place in the world I have roots. My dad’s family in Uniontown are all gone.”
“I came back when I was about 12 years old and stayed with friends,” Schwilke said. “It was interesting coming back here because its hardly changed. I remember Marion Mace was my pre-kindergarten teacher. She is a sweet lady. She went to see my mom because I didn’t eat a lot and I was skinny. I didn’t like kindergarten food so I waited and ate when I got home. Kindergarten was only a half day.
“I learned to twirl a baton from Dorinda Westbrook when she was a teen,” Schwilke said.
“My favorite part of the Buckwheat Festival is the fairgrounds and seeing the vendors,” Schwilke said. “We come to visit mom this time every year. I love the tradition of the Buckwheat Festival and seeing people.”
“I remember writing a check to save The Inn,” Rosenau said. “There was a committee to save it so I helped by writing a check to keep it alive. A lot of the buildings are gone. But I love it here. It’s great to come back.
“My cousin told me not to sit on The Inn porch [Thursday] to watch the Fireman’s Parade. He said it was going to be cold,” Rosenau said. “Three years ago I was sitting there waiting for the parade to start and a huge bolt of lightning struck and rain begin pouring down. That’s the only time I remember of a parade begin canceled.
“I would rather be here than anyplace else in the world. I almost cry when I see the West Virginia ads on the TV and hear John Denver sing Almost Heaven West Virginia,” Rosenau said. “I don’t get around as well as I used to. So I need someone to go with me. My youngest son is going to take me down to the grounds Saturday. I love seeing the concessions. I’m going to come back every year for as long as I can.”