‘It feels like the Jenny Wiley Festival’: Prestonsburg festival going strong for 40th year

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 9:13 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - The Jenny Wiley Festival is celebrating 40 years of tradition in Prestonsburg.

“We are the only consecutive festival in the state of Kentucky,” said mayor Les Stapleton.

After pushing through with fewer visitors last year, as the only festival to continue during the pandemic, the event, which wraps Saturday, has seen an increase in visitors this year.

“We succeed because of our culture, because of our ethics, and because of our work ethics and the independence and community feeling here in this town,” Stapleton said.

Organizers say the festival comes with years of memories as the tradition continues to build in the Star City.

“It’s just been so heartwarming. And you hear these traditions, whether it be five year traditions, eight years earlier today, 10 years plus of traditions that are made here. And they’re each so unique,” said Prestonsburg Tourism Executive Director Samantha Johnson.

She said the importance of keeping the past alive is met with the ability to see the future unfold as the festival molds into something a little more each year.

“So, you’re getting to meet all the next generation that will define who our next generation is,” said Johnson.

Seeing the 40th year succeed, city officials say they are proud to be able to continue events for their people.

“It’s been really nice,” said Johnson. “Some vendors and the public have stopped several times and told us just how wonderful it is that it feels like the Jenny Wiley Festival.”

“We’re so excited about having these things happen,” said Stapleton. “We want people to just embrace our culture, embrace our history, and embrace what we’ve got going on here today.”

Though music, food, fun, and vendors are large pieces of the event, Johnson said it is cool to be able to continue sharing the story of Jenny Wiley with people who have never heard of her impact.

“To be able to share the story of this really strong, pioneer female figure in Appalachia- the fact that this festival is able to share her story that was so impactful for our region- I’m pretty proud of that too,” Johnson said.

The annual parade kicks off Saturday, and, though candy can not be thrown from vehicles, Stapleton said he encourages people to walk in the parade to hand our treats to the crowd. Organizers expect to see the biggest daily turnout that day as well.

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