Mountaineer Week marks the time when the leaves are turning and the chill has returned to the evening air, setting the stage for a celebration filled with art, unique crafts, and Appalachian culture, heritage, and cuisine. This celebration of the state of West Virginia, held on the campus of West Virginia University, was conceived in 1947 as an event to arouse more school spirit. The initial weekend started with a thuse on the old athletic field the night before the WVU versus Kentucky football game. Following the game, a dance requiring mountaineer garb was held with awards given for the costumes most representative of a true mountaineer.
In 1948, additional Mountaineer school spirit activities were added to this University wide and community event. The other events added to the celebration were floats, hay wagons, and “jalopies” parading down High Street and up University Avenue before the football game.
The first-ever beard growing competition was held in 1949. The idea for a Mountaineer Mascot Statue was initiated during the 1950 Mountaineer Weekend which ended with a carnival in the Field House with the proceeds from the various booths being placed in a fund to help pay for a bronze statue of a Mountaineer for the campus.
Between 1953 and 1958, a fashion show, folk singing events, and a Friday night concert were added to the weekend highlights.
No major innovations were introduced until 1962 when the Mr. and Ms. Mountaineer Contest joined in the festivities. In 1972, the 25th Anniversary of this West Virginia University and state of West Virginia celebration grew into a week-long event now referred to as Mountaineer Week. The theme of the 25th Anniversary was deemed as “The Home of Mountaineers.” In 1972, several diversified events were added to Mountaineer Week, including: the first Mountaineer Week Arts and Crafts Festival, a Mountaineer dinner, various games and concerts, and a Downtown Festival.
West Virginia heritage at its finest was displayed during the 1972 Mountaineer Week with the opening of the first Mountaineer Week Arts and Crafts Festival. In cooperation with the West Virginia State Department of Commerce and the Campus Club, the Arts and Crafts Festival was held in the Gold Ballroom of the Mountainlair. Some crafts that highlighted the event were spinning, wood carving, early American basketry, cornhusk dolls, pottery, leather crafts, blacksmithing, and dulcimer making. Today, the Craft Fair remains to be held in the Blue and Gold Ballrooms of the Mountainlair and features traditional and contemporary crafts of Appalachia with over 60 artisans from West Virginia and neighboring states.
In 1972, the Mountaineer Week celebration also initiated a tradition that lasted many years at West Virginia University known as the Mountaineer Week Cabin Sales. Located in the right front yard of the Mountainlair was a rustic mountaineer cabin which was completely built by the Foresters and was made from native West Virginia materials. Cabin Sales, viewed to contribute to the heritage and culture of our great state, provided a central location in which mountaineer items could be purchased throughout the week.
One of the first Mountaineer Week Dinners was held in 1972 in Summit Hall and at the Mountainlair. The Mountaineer Week Committee in cooperation with Ms. Jean Benson of Housing and Food Service planned a menu that all Mountaineers loved. Today, the annual Country Vittles Dinner Buffet is a down-home feast like Grandma used to make. Mountaineer Week also offers Appalachian treats such as funnel cakes, kettle corn, roasted corn, homemade lemonade, pepperoni rolls, candy apples, and much more!
Tradition was always the predominant element of Mountaineer Week. In 1977, the practice of adopting a quilt pattern was incorporated into Mountaineer Week to add a feeling of unity to the week’s festivities. In 1977, the “Double Wedding Ring” quilt logo was proposed and accepted as the official quilt logo of that year’s Mountaineer Week. The quilt was made by Ethelyn Butler and Mae Long, who won the Bicentennial Quilt Show for the Smithsonian. The “Double Wedding Ring” Quilt is still on display at WVU Jackson’s Mill Conference Center. Each year thereafter, a quilt logo was chosen and a quilt square was made and framed to showcase that particular year. Most of the framed quilt squares are on display in the Mountainlair today. In 1997, the current Mountaineer Week logo was chosen to provide long-term unity and consistency and remains as the official Mountaineer Week Logo today. This year’s Mountaineer Week Quilt Show is being presented by the Country Roads Quilt Guild. Adorning the Mountaineer Room and Ballroom Stage of the Mountainlair will be colorful handmade quilts loved by generations, along with quilters showcasing their talents.
Fiddling has an extensive history and has been studied and written about by many music scholars and history enthusiasts. Fiddlers have provided mountain music and foot stompin’ fun for many years as part of Mountaineer Week. Still today, the Fiddler’s Contest remains a favorite part of Mountaineer Week. Local, state, and neighboring state fiddlers compete in the Gluck Theatre of the Mountainlair for the top awards in the Youth, Junior, and Senior Divisions. Last year, the Heritage Fiddler Award was added to our Fiddle Contest. This year, John Morris of Ivydale, WV, has been chosen for this top fiddler award.
From years gone by to the present time, dancing has provided exercise and friendship to both the young and the old. This heritage form of Appalachian entertainment historically consisted of dancing with partners at an old-time square dance or adding a step to the square dance to enjoy what is known as clogging. These traditions have followed our Mountaineers down through the years at WVU. Mountaineer Week today still hosts an Old-Fashioned Square Dance and folk dancing exhibitions by the WVU Collegiate 4-H Club.
Mountaineer Week has showcased numerous other heritage events in its 68 years of existence. One of the student highlights throughout the years has been the annual PRT Cram. This Mountaineer Week tradition began when the PRT System came to West Virginia University in 1975. Mountaineer Week is certainly important on the WVU campus due to the fact that we have our very own Mountaineer Week PRT Car, designed specifically name and logo painted on the side of our car. The record number of students crammed into the PRT Car is 97, accomplished in 2000 by Chi Omego Sorority.
The Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer Contest has been held in conjunction with Mountaineer Week since 1962. Each year, the long-awaited announcement of Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer is presented to the Mountaineer fans at the half-time festivities of the Mountaineer Week Football Game. Down through the years, the Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer have represented West Virginia University and our great mountain state. This prestigious award honors one male and one female student who have a record of academic achievement and extracurricular involvement. Our 2011 Mr. & Ms. Mountaineers will host their very own Blood Drive in conjunction with the American Red Cross on January 19, 2012, in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. Along with the announcement of Mr. & Ms. Mountaineer, is the naming of the Most Loyal West Virginian, the Most Loyal Alumni Mountaineer, the Most Loyal Faculty Mountaineer, and the Most Loyal Staff Mountaineer for their accomplishments to the state and West Virginia University. Our Mountaineer Week Royalty will be named at half-time of the WVU versus Louisville Football Game to be held on Saturday, November 5th at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The Mountaineer Mascot has represented West Virginia University ’s athletic teams, students, and alumni since 1927. In addition, each Mascot represented something even more—the Mountaineer spirit that is spread throughout the great state of West Virginia. In 1993, the first-ever Mountaineer Mascot Reunion was held during Mountaineer Week. At this humbling event, thousands of blue and gold fans welcomed back home our former Mountaineer Mascots who were chosen by Mountain Honorary for outstanding enthusiasm and character. At this first-ever gathering, it was decided that a Mascot Reunion would be held every five years during Mountaineer Week. In this regard, a reunion has been held in l997, 2002, and 2007. The current Mountaineer Mascot is Brock Burwell, from Harrisville, WV, a second year Graduate Student majoring in Athletic Coaching Education.
Educating our West Virginia University students on the culture and history of West Virginia is our number one priority in planning Mountaineer Week. Down through the years, we have had Greek Games, Mountaineer Week Games, and now the Mountaineer Week Challenge. These games that bring about a good sense of competition and school spirit afford the participants the opportunity to obtain points for various Mountaineer Week events such as the Beard Shaving Competition, the PRT Cram, the photo contest,the scavenger hunt, and a lecture to name a few. Awards are given to the best Student Organization and Greek Organization as part of the Mountaineer Week Challenge each year.
Educating our local school children has always been one of our priorities in planning Mountaineer Week. In 1995, we started “School Days” in which we bussed in the area elementary schools throughout the day and had them take part in various workshops presented by local and state living history museums. In 2001, we introduced “Family Fun Day” to our program. With this addition, we now bring in hundreds and hundreds of families to Mountaineer Week on a Saturday for a day of activities geared towards the entire family. This year’s Family Fun Day will be held on Saturday, October 29th from noon – 5:00pm on the Mountainlair First Floor.
Mountaineer Idol will begin its 12th year on the campus of West Virginia University as part of Mountaineer Week. The WVU version of the hit TV show, “American Idol,” will showcase talented WVU students in this seven-week competition. The 2015 Mountaineer Idol will receive $1,000; first runner-up will receive $750, and second runner-up will receive $250—all donated by Coca Cola. In addition, the winner will sing the National Anthem at a Men’s Basketball Game, perform at the historical Woodburn Lighting, and take part in other University and community functions. Mountaineer Idol is sponsored by Coca-Cola, Coni & Franc, and Daniel’s. For more information on our Mountaineer Idol Competition, please visit the Mountaineer Idol page.
Sixty-eight years of culture and heritage is etched in the minds and hearts of Mountaineers as they remember Mountaineer Week on the campus of West Virginia University. Our WVU Students need to be reminded of the heritage that has made West Virginia what it is today. Therefore, we invite all members of our student body, faculty, staff, community, and state to join us on October 30 – November 8, 2015, as we celebrate Mountaineer Week!