KINGWOOD — The first Preston County Buckwheat festival was held in 1938 as a way to promote the local buckwheat industry. Buckwheat had been a staple crop since the early 1800s.
Now, it serves as a major fundraiser for Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department. The department serves a mostly rural area of 54 square miles, including Kingwood and surrounding communities.
This year’s festival will run Tuesday through Oct. 1.
Buckwheat Festival General Chairman Harry Hayes said this year’s festival has two new events: The Buckwheat Festival music stage that will feature regional and national touring bands, and a cornhole tournament.
Shannon Wolfe, mother of Queen Ceres Autumn Wolfe, said she has been with her daughter through the entire process — Shannon has previous experience with that role, serving as Queen Ceres in 1988.
She said Autumn is the first daughter of a queen to also take on that role.
“Carson Stone’s (King Buckwheat) mother was also Queen Ceres, and Marli Phillips’ (Maid of Honor) father was King Buckwheat,” she said. “They (the court) understand the commitment and appreciate the historical significance of this.”
Stone, son of Kevin and Samantha Stone of Reedsville, said he was a shy kid and FFA and 4-H helped him become more outgoing.
“My friends encouraged me to run for King Buckwheat,” he said. “My mom is a past Queen Ceres.”
Stone said he is looking forward to visiting elementary school classrooms with Queen Ceres and reading to the children.
“I want to encourage the kids with agriculture backgrounds to run for King Buckwheat,” he said. “You meet a lot of people when you’re in the parades, and it’s a great time spent with the members of the court.”
He said every day is different, and the weather seldom cooperates when you are participating in a parade. So far the court has been in seven.
Stone said he is going to work over the summer and then apply to WVU Potomac State College.
“I want to find a field in agriculture I like. I like working with animals, so maybe large animal veterinarian. I want to encourage everyone to come to the festival. There is a lot of new things this year.”
Queen Ceres Autumn Wolfe, daughter of Dr. Lorn Wolfe and Shannon Smith-Wolfe, said she loves connecting with the community.
“I didn’t do that before. Now I am going out, being in parades. I am getting connected to people,” she said. “My mom was Queen Ceres in 1988. We’ve been in Preston County for nine generations. I’ve been participating in the Buckwheat Festival for as long as I can remember.”
Wolfe said she showed market hogs for seven years and participated in the parades just as long.
“I want to attend WVU and major in exercise technology, and then go to med school and become a pediatrician,” she said.
“The big reason I decided to run for Queen Ceres is so I can speak with kids and let them know it’s all right to speak up about addiction and mental health issues. Being queen gives me this opportunity. I decided back in November that I wanted to be a role model.”
Wolfe said she won first place in Medical Law and Ethics in the West Virginia HOSA State Conference.
“I’m really grateful for the experience this gives me and for the people I get to share it with,” she said.
Maid of Honor Marli Phillips, daughter of T.J. and Bridget Phillips, said her goal was to be a part of the court.
Phillips said she either wants to go to Potomac State College then WVU and become an animal nutritionist, or to Pierpoint and then WVU and become a radiologist.
“I want to thank the chairman and assistant chairman for dealing with us. They wished me a happy first day of school It meant a lot to me. It’s like having a new family,” she said.
Phillips was also crowned 2023 Lady of Agriculture by the Preston County FFA.
Maid of Honor Piper Slinka-Petka, daughter of Michele Hoffman and Louis Petka, said being a maid of honor is a great experience.
“It has given me the opportunity to get closer to the community and the generations that have done this before me and after me. It has also given me a deeper meaning of what the Buckwheat Festival is,” she said.
She plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and on a pre-med tract.