Sweet Treats, Emergency Preparedness Fair, and Youth Performers to kick off the Rhododendron Festival on May 13 at the Beckley Intermodal Gateway

Sweet desserts and music by local youth will be featured at Beckley’s annual Sweet Treats dessert event planned for Saturday, May 13.  Dessert-tasting hours will begin at noon and run until 3:00 p.m. (or while supplies last).  Activities will take place at the Beckley Intermodal Gateway Plaza (top level of parking facility) on Neville Street (or rain location: the transit level by Prince Street).   Several Emergency Preparedness Fair booths will join the Sweet Treats vendors to help kick off the Rhododendron Festival.

    Everyone is invited to visit the plaza to enjoy the free performances by local youth groups – New Hope Baptist Youth (The God Squad), Woodrow Wilson High School Choral/Theatre students, How Great Thou Art Theatre Group’s youth, Beckley Children’s Theatre Ministry, and Faith Community Church’s youth worship team will be featured.

   Dessert-tasting tickets can be purchased for $5 (includes a strip of five sample tickets that can be used for dessert / drink samples, and a Peoples’ Choice voting coin). Advance tickets may be purchased at the Youth Museum or Exhibition Mine or online at beckley.org. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket booth during the event as well. The proceeds will benefit the United Way of Southern WV and the Bill Withers statue bronzing fund.  

     Sweet Treats offers an opportunity for local businesses and organizations to promote themselves or their special dessert recipe, plus the event helps raise funds for the United Way and the proposed Bill Withers statue. About 15 dessert booths will provide samples, and they may also sell larger portions. Dessert booths include Holy O’s, Raleigh County Community Action, Tea Time, Little Sicily, The Lunch Wagon, Sugar Attack Cookies, JoAnna Vance, Francie’s Sweets, Hebrews, Affilachian Historical Society, McDonalds, City/Black Knight, Beckley Children’s Theatre Ministry, Greater Beckley Christian School, and the United Way of Southern WV. 

     Some of the desserts to be featured as samples include baklava, kunafa, brownies, cake pops, chocolate-dipped rice crispy treats, cookies, donuts, cotton candy, pound cake, snowball-themed dessert, candy bars, tea, and coffee.  Several of the vendors will be selling lunch items. Other booths plan to sell beef sticks, slime, and Thirty-one items. Balloon animals will be created by Greater Beckley Christian School, plus enjoy playing cornhole (provided by the Chamber) and creating drawings with chalk.

    Emergency preparedness booths will include the Local Emergency Planning Committee, Beckley CERT, Beckley-Raleigh County Health Department, Beckley Water Company, AirEvac Lifeteam, National Weather Service, and the Beckley Fire and Police Departments. 

    Jill Moorefield of Beckley Events says, “Our committee enjoys teaming up with the United Way and the emergency preparedness booths for this community event.  We are excited to kick off the Rhododendron Festival and look forward to the festival activities planned during the month of May.” For more event details, visit “Beckley Events” on Facebook, or on the city’s website, or call 304-256-1776. Rhododendron Festival brochures are also available listing activities. 

Entertainment schedule:

Noon – 12:20 pm – New Hope Baptist Youth (The God Squad) 

12:30 – 12:50 – Woodrow Wilson High School Choral/Theatre students

1:00 – 1:20 – How Great Thou Art Theatre Group’s youth 

1:30 – 1:50 – Beckley Children’s Theatre Ministry 

2:00 – 2:25 – Faith Community Church’s youth worship team

2:30 – (tentative) Exercise/Dance to work off those sweets consumed during the event. 

Other Rhododendron Festival events and updates

The pickleball tournament originally scheduled for May 13 has been postponed until the pickleball courts are ready at New River Park.  The daily low temperature needs to be over 50 degrees for three consecutive days. Contact Dave Barksdale at 304-673-8390 for details.  

Active Southern WV is hosting the Rhododendron Photo contest accepting entries between May 14 and 27. Submit a photo of rhododendron to the 2023 Rhododendron Festival Photo Contest event page with the hashtag #WVRhodofest23 by May 27 for a chance to win a prize with the most “likes”. The contest is for amateur photographers only. Please enter only one or two of your favorite photos per person to be judged. 

The Raleigh County Public Library will offer a few activities during the festival. Their Rhododendron Painting Class on May 16 is full – only 20 participants were accepted.  The library will offer a couple of youth activities. Children will be invited to create their own wooden Rhododendron flower for the library’s outdoor spring garden – “Grow with the Library” garden from May 15-20, as supplies last. Children will decorate and design a wooden flower to be planted in a special flower bed to brighten up the outside patio that fails to get enough sunlight to grow natural flowers.  Between May 22-27, a Lego Garden contest is planned. Children 13 and under can participate by creating their own flower garden made solely of Legos. Prizes will be awarded for 1st and 2nd place best Lego creation. 

A new event, Clean for Spring Blossom, is planned at Black Knight. It will feature a silent auction, speakers, and performance by The Sparklers and Kamron Lawson (American Idol). This charity event benefits the new Blossom Boutique at WIN WV. Call 304-WIN-7083 for tickets – none will be sold at the door.

Shade Tree Car Club will host a Car Show at Little Beaver State Park on May 20. Park visitors can also enjoy fishing, paddle boating, or walking around the lake or along the park’s Rhododendron Trail.

The Raleigh County Historical Society’s annual Founders Day at Wildwood is planned for May 20 beginning at 11 am. The event includes tours of the home of Alfred Beckley, who founded the City of Beckley.  Learn more about Beckley’s history by attending this event.

Festival organizers suggest taking a Sunday afternoon drive to Grandview on May 21 to view the beautiful rhododendrons in bloom. A ranger with the National Park Service will offer guided walks at Grandview at 3:00 and 4:00 pm – Meet at the Visitors’ Center to begin the walk. 

The festival ends on Saturday, May 27 with the Rhododendron Car Show at Beckley Intermodal Gateway, downtown. The show will feature music by Jack & Davis Reid from 5:30-7:30 pm. The talented duo from Staunton, Virginia, enjoys playing music and making people smile. They are the sons of Wilson Fairchild, and grandsons of The Statler Brothers. 

Vehicle registration for the car show will take place from 4-6 pm; the show hours go until 8 pm. With the $10 car show registration fee, entries will receive a festival challenge coin and be eligible for awards. Trophies presented at 7:45 pm. 

Following the car show, Beckley Area Shag Club is hosting a Dance at the Woman’s Club, from 8-10 pm on Saturday evening. The club may dance to a few songs around 4:30 pm, before the concert at the car show, at the Beckley Intermodal Gateway.

A flower-themed art exhibit, Les Fluers, is at the Beckley Art Center May 5 – June 10. The center is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 am – 7 pm. 

Also, a dual pageant to crown festival royalty for the Rhododendron and Appalachian Festivals was held on April 22. The 2023 Rhododendron Festival Miss Queen is KalLee Ellis. 

For more festival details, follow Beckley Events on Facebook, or call Beckley Events 304-256-1776.