The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will celebrate its new exhibit, 75 Years of the Mountain State Forest Festival, with a gala opening in the Balcony Gallery and reception in the Great Hall on Monday, July 25, in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. Activities will begin at 6 p.m. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

The show will focus on the young women who have served as Queen Silvia throughout the life of the festival. There will be 31 gowns on display, as well as shoes, a crown, trains, kneeling pillow, jewelry, mantles and photographic images of the queens and their court. The gowns are made of velvet, brocade and other rich fabrics, and the queen’s gown can be a different color year after year, but no one knows what it looks like until the day of the coronation.

Connie Linger of Elkins has been making Queen Silvia’s coronation gown as well as the royal court’s gowns and attire since 2001. She designs the gowns to reflect the personality of the queen. All of the court costumes repeat themes that are part of the queen’s gown.

The evening’s event will include a program in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater featuring Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith of the Division; Cabinet Secretary Kay Goodwin of the Department of Education and the Arts; Mark Tomblyn, president of the Mountain State Forest Festival board; and Carolyn Capelli, vice-president of the Maple Leaf Society, an organization established to promote and preserve the heritage of the Royal Court of the Forest Festival.

This year marks the 75th Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins, which originated in 1930, and immediately attracted national attention. Dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the state’s natural resources, it attracts approximately 125,000 visitors annually. The Forest Festival is one of the largest and oldest festivals in the state of West Virginia and is considered a major homecoming for those individuals who previously lived in the Elkins area. The festival has always had a strong tie with the state’s agriculture and forestry industries. Each year there are exhibits which include wood products. During the coronation ceremony, the new queen plants a seedling tree, which is planted in the forests of West Virginia.

For more information, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner of the Division, at (304) 558-0220.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.