Festival season marches into Mercer County, W.Va., with drumming, zany art, and a parade of giant puppets, masks, and creatures. The Bluefield/Princeton area has a rich heritage of coal and railroad history set against a rugged mountain backdrop. But May 7–14, during the All Together Arts Week festival, gallery hops, concerts, healing poetry, and the beloved Parade & Day of Merriment celebrate arts activities in this southeastern West Virginia county that’s a five-hour drive from Washington, D.C.
“The downtown Princeton parade is the grand finale,” says Karen Morris, who promotes the county. “People dress up in fairy wings or carry big paper mache art objects. Anyone is welcome to join the parade as well as the drumming and dancing on the square afterward.”
Another notable spring festival, the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival, draws crowds into Bluefield City Park May 31–June 5 for a carnival, performing horses, wrestling, a magic show, praise band, 8K run, and fireworks on Sunday night.
In the little town of Bramwell, home of coal millionaires in bygone times, Victorian mansions open up for visitors during the Spring Home Tour. Held the afternoon of June 4, this self-guided walking tour is hosted by interpreters eager to tell the stories of the town’s glory days. (800-221-3206) Visitors may also head two miles down the road to
the coal miners’ town of Pocahontas to experience the humid subterranean environment of Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine and its museum.
For the outdoor adventurists, Mercer County offers hunting, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and the amenities of three state parks at Camp Creek, Pinnacle Rock, and Pipestem Resort. Some of the Mountain State’s best waterfalls are hidden in these hollows. Camp Creek State Park’s cascading Campbell Falls and Mash Fork Falls are two gems.
Pipestem Resort State Park is the all-season jewel of the Mountain State’s parks. Enjoy two lodges, cabins, or camping and overlook views of Bluestone Gorge. Ride the aerial tramway into Bluestone Gorge to a 30-room lodge. Take advantage of an “Ultimate Outdoor Spring Adventure” package for fishing and hiking, from $80 beginning May 15 and $90 May 27–June 12.
The area is paradise for ATVers: The famous Hatfield-McCoy Trails start here. More than 700 miles of off-road trails wind through these southern mountains, and it all begins with Mercer County’s Pocahontas trailhead in Bramwell. This convenient access point to I-77 has a spacious parking lot and rest area. Economical lodgings await nearby.
The Princeton Railroad Museum offers additional information on railroad history and the railroad’s role in developing Mercer County into a hub for a flourishing region. Spend spring and summer evenings cheering on one of two Appalachian league professional baseball teams, the Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays.
There’s plenty to do at the southern end of West Virginia.
For more information:
Mercer Co. Tourism: visitmercercounty.com