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Flip Flop Festival celebrates the outdoors

By Staff | May 4, 2018

Toni Milbourne/Chronicle Harpers Ferry Mayor Wayne Bishop and Laurel Ziemianski enjoy a taste of the craft beers offered at the first beer garden event in Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry marks the center point of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. For the past four years, the annual Flip Flop Festival, sponsored by the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Trail & Town Alliance and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, has celebrated those who choose to start the hike at the mid-point rather than at the beginning or end.

According to the ATC, this is classically referred to as a “flip-flop thru hike.” The group says this flip-flop practice helps minimize the environmental impact by spreading the hiker load at any given point on the 2,190-mile trail.

To encourage more of these mid-point hikers, organizers of the festival began offering a kick-off weekend four years ago to celebrate the hiking season. The event has broadened into a two-day, fun-filled weekend where visitors to Bolivar and Harpers Ferry-both hikers and non-hikers-can enjoy many different events and activities.

A variety of classes and workshops were held at the historic Curtis Freewill Baptist Church that covered topics from Health and Wellness on the Trail, to Hiking for Beginners and Introduction to Birding, to Leave No Trace, Trail Etiquette and Trail Magic.

Saturday’s attendees were able to visit the grounds of the Virginia Lodge No. 1 Odd Fellows Lodge, where vendors were set up and food was available for purchase to support the Odd Fellows.

Toni Milbourne/Chronicle Dina Spanomanolis, of Trego Nature Center, a vendor at the Flip Flop Festival, holds “Jeremiah,” a red-tailed hawk. The event took place last weekend in Harpers Ferry.

“There was a great turn out of vendors and visitors,” said Phil Folk, Grand Master of the Lodge. “I’d like to personally thank all those who came and supported the Lodge by purchasing lunch and our members who helped put it together.”

Live music was provided by Ickeroo and later by Copper Canyon, as guests enjoyed visiting the vendors and took advantage of some games on the lawn of the Mather Training Center.

A bit further down the hill from the Odd Fellows Lodge, the Harpers Ferry Parks and Recreation hosted its first Craft Beer and Food Tasting event at the gazebo on Washington Street. Done in conjunction with the Flip Flop Festival, the event offered three beer vendors who set up their trucks, showcasing four different West Virginia craft brews. Those who purchased tickets for the beer garden received a signature glass embossed with the Harpers Ferry town logo.

“It was a good-sized crowd for our first event like this,” said Pat Morse, chair of the Parks and Rec Commission for the town. “I was very pleased overall.”

Local restaurants including The Anvil and Mena’s Pizza offered food inside the beer garden as well.

Several activities were also held at The Barn of Harpers Ferry, located in upper town on Washington Street, including a “Celebration of Flip Floppers” that offered live music by the Speakeasy Boys. It was a gathering place for those who have chosen a Flip Flop Thru hike, as well as a reunion for those who have attended the Flip Flop Festival in the past.

“The beautiful weather and music enhanced the experience of those who came to visit the event,” Morse said. “We may try our hand for another such event in the fall.”

Plans are already underway for the 5th annual Flip Flop Festival next spring.

For more information about the festival or hiking the trail, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, located at 799 Washington St. in Harpers Ferry, or online at www.appalachiantrail.org.