POINT PLEASANT — The countdown is on to the Mothman Festival which is expected to bring 10,000, or more, people into Point Pleasant over two days this weekend.
“It was an eyeopener last year when we all realized just how many people come to our great city (for the festival),” Mayor Brian Billings said at Monday’s regular meeting of Point Pleasant City Council.
Also at the meeting was Jeff Wamsley, festival organizer, updating council members on efforts to keep the event safe and fun for those who live here and those who make the trip to Mason County.
“Thanks to the mayor and Randy (Hall) and everyone with the city for helping,” Wamsley said. “When Carolin (Harris) and I started the festival back in 2003, we did it for the first five or six years just on a wing and a prayer. We did it on our own with some help from (the city) but now we couldn’t pull it off without the help we do get from the city.”
Wamsley said he felt the crowds would at least match last year’s record attendance. He added though the festival kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday and continues into Sunday until around 5 p.m., the festival has added a “kickstarter” event on Friday evenings to accommodate those who arrive early. This year’s kickstarter event is a showing of “The Mothman of Point Pleasant” at the State Theater, starting at 8 p.m., admission is free. In fact, admission is free to the entire festival.
Wamsley said the festival is about promoting landmarks in the area, not just the statue or the museum, with hayrides taking place at the West Virginia State Farm Museum and bus tours of the TNT Area planned, as well as encouraging visits to local museums and shops.
Wamsley explained the people who travel to the festival all compliment Point Pleasant and “want to come here.” He said the first person through the Mothman Museum last year at the festival was from Australia. He said the man traveled all that way with his son as his birthday present.
“These people are just passionate about Point Pleasant,” Wamsley said.
Councilman Rick Simpkins complimented Wamsley’s efforts and talked about at least one person who approached him in the last six months who said the Mothman isn’t real.
“I said, ‘I don’t care if he’s real or not but the festival’s real and brings 10,000 people to my town,” Simpkins said.
“I learned a long time ago, I’m not in the business of trying to convince anybody of anything,” Wamsley said. “I get cornered by these TV shows, asking me ‘What do you think?’ I tell them, ‘you know what, I don’t know but let’s just keep the book open.’ No one will be able to figure out what it was, everybody has their own opinion. I’m not in the business to sit down and say this is what it was, or I know that’s what it was because I don’t. I just know something happened here and even if we had a press conference tomorrow and said those people made the whole story up, it’s not going to matter. People are still going to come because they want to see for themselves….so let them come.”
As for some of the logistics of the festival, it will start at Sixth and Main Streets and continue down Main Street to about Second Street. Wamsley said this will help with the congestion around the Mothman Statue which also becomes a safety hazard when too many people become crammed in that small space at Gunn Park.
“We want to start at the State Theater and go clear to the end (of Main Street)…we can’t go any other direction, it has to go that way,” Wamsley said.
The city also benefits from the festival by vendors paying a permit fee and it receives B&O taxes. Wamsley said the vendor fee he gets for the festival helps pay for event insurance and expenses which can add up.
“I lose money,” Wamsley said. “The bigger it gets, the more expensive it gets. Insurance goes up every year.”
Mayor Billings reported the Point Pleasant Police Department would be operating with a full staff during the festival and the Mason County Sheriff’s Department would be assisting with any calls the city receives during the festival.
In addition, the city, like last year, is stepping up to assist with parking. There will be parking lots at Krodel Park and the Mason County Board of Education Office, as well as at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School for a fee. The majority of those attending the festival are from out of town and a parking fee of $10 per car will be charged with all proceeds going to the Krodel Park Splash Pad project. Volunteers from the City of Point Pleasant will be parking the cars in shifts. Last year, the city volunteers parked 800 cars at Krodel and ran out of room. Assisting with parking management will be personnel with the Mason County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Shuttles from the parking lots to the festival, and back, will be provided as will bottles of water for those waiting on a lift to downtown. The clubhouse will be used at Krodel for a shelter for anyone who would like to get out of the sun, as the weather is supposed to be warm this weekend.
Wamsley added this year’s festival will be dedicated to Harris and she will be honored during the opening “mayor’s welcome” speech at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Mothman Statue.
Note: Downtown is expected to be extremely congested, especially Saturday. If you’re not attending the festival, this area should be avoided.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.