“It’s a thing to see when a boy comes home.”
Thus writes John Steinbeck in his novel” The Grapes of Wrath.”
How about when an entire county comes home? Wouldn’t that be a thing to see?
You can find out this weekend when Putnam County celebrates its annual homecoming for the 92nd year. When local families reconvene for reunions after a year or more apart. When Redskins, Generals, Dots, and Bison gather to solidify their common bonds as citizens of the same county.
“As far as I know, Homecoming is the only event in Putnam County that has been going on for over 90 years. It is a very special weekend,” says Winfield Mayor Randy Barrett.
A thing to see, indeed.
Barrett has been attending the event with his wife, a Winfield native, for the past 35 years.
This year, Homecoming weekend will take place on Saturday, Sept. 11, and Sunday, Sept. 12, on Main Street in Winfield.
Saturday’s events will kick off at 1 p.m. with a 9/11 Memorial Service honoring first responders, hosted by the Winfield Legion.
From 1:30 on, the afternoon will be packed with entertainment and fun for the whole family.
“The petting zoo from Buffalo is always a lot of fun for the kids,” Barrett states. “They especially love the pony rides. Kids will also enjoy Joey Stepp’s magic and comedy shows on Saturday afternoon.”
Young and old alike will enjoy browsing the food and arts and crafts vendors. Water lovers will migrate down to the Kanawha River on Saturday for the State Paddling Championships.
“On Sept. 11, the West Virginia Waterman Challenge will be going on,” Barrett explains. “Check out https://paddleguru.com/races/WestVirginiaWatermanchallengeStatePaddlingChampionships for more information and to register.”
There will also be a couple of new things to see at the Putnam County Homecoming this year.
“For quite a few years, we have tried to get an inflatable BB gun range, and we are excited to announce that we have finally secured one for Saturday,” Barrett enthuses.
Boy Scout Troop 164 has indicated that this inflatable range will be ready for play by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, with knowledgeable instructors on hand to ensure safety.
Another new event at the Putnam County Homecoming this year is the inaugural cornhole tournament sponsored by Yes Chevrolet of Hurricane and Yes Ford of Huntington.
“First-place winners of the cornhole tournament win $1,000 plus a set of custom-made boards and custom bags worth over $400,” Barrett says. “That is an amazing prize.”
Teams who wish to enter the cornhole tournament must register and pay a $40 entry fee either online at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/PutnamHomeComing or at the Winfield Municipal Building.
Free entertainment for kids and adults will include live music throughout Saturday afternoon and evening, culminating in a 7 p.m. concert by The Highlanders, which is sure to have Homecoming guests dancing in the streets.
“I am not sure how long the street dance has been going on,” Barrett says, “but it is one of the most beloved parts of Homecoming.”
It has taken months of planning to orchestrate two jam-packed days of fun.
The Putnam County Homecoming Committee actually starts planning for the next year’s Homecoming only two weeks after the current Homecoming concludes.
“Within two weeks of the event, our nine-member committee meets to discuss what worked and what didn’t,” Barrett explains. “In January, we start meeting monthly. Then as September approaches we meet twice a month.”
Of course, putting on events of this scale isn’t cheap.
“We receive a yearly grant from the West Virginia Fairs and Festivals division, plus we have different sponsors every year,” Barrett states. “This year our main sponsors are Yes Chevy and Yes Ford, who sponsored the cornhole tournament, and Valley Outdoors, who donated $1,000 to the Putnam County Homecoming Queens.”
While the crowning of the Putnam County Homecoming queen is the culmination of the weekend, other events on Sunday are popular as well.
The day starts at 10:30 a.m. when the Winfield High School band plays for the flag-raising ceremony at the fire department.
Then from 10:45 a.m.-12 p.m. is the Community Church Service.
“The church service has really taken off in the last five years,” Barrett notes. “About four churches in town team up and have a great service that has brought out over 150 people.”
He adds, “The churches usually bring in a special speaker, but one year every pastor from every church took part in the message, which was really neat.”
At 1 p.m. Sunday, the Grand Parade will take place, another favorite Homecoming tradition.
“The Lions Club has always taken the lead on the Grand Parade,” Barrett remarks, “and they let people register on the day of the parade. Everyone is welcome to register.”
Two of Mayor Barrett’s favorite Homecoming memories stem from the Grand Parade.
“The parade, always features all the high school bands in the county,” he recalls, “and a few times in the past they have all marched together and played the same music, which was just awesome.”
And then there was the year that Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. participated in the Grand Parade the day after he had performed for the Saturday night crowd.
“Homecoming has provided me and many in our county with a host of special memories like that,” Barrett says.
Following the parade and the cornhole championship, Putnam County Homecoming will conclude with an award ceremony at 4 p.m. that crowns the queen, plus doles out several other awards.
“We give out all sorts of plaques that afternoon,” Barrett explains. “We recognize who has driven the farthest to attend Homecoming, who is the youngest in attendance and who is the oldest. We have a lot of fun with those awards.”
All in all, it certainly will be “a thing to see” when Putnam County comes home this weekend.
For detailed, up-to-date information on Putnam County Homecoming, check out the City of Winfield’s Facebook page.