POINT PLEASANT — Whether or not people believe something happened in Point Pleasant with the Mothman 50 years ago, something big certainly happened this weekend.
The 15th annual Mothman Festival has appeared to have broken an attendance record with an estimated 10,000 people attending the event on Saturday alone. The crowd, coupled with the 4,300 people who already live in the city, means, for at least several hours over the weekend, Point Pleasant was roughly the size of the city of South Charleston, in terms of population. Despite some rain and cooler temperatures, the crowd remained steady on Sunday as well.
For months now, festival organizers have been meeting with Point Pleasant city officials about the anticipated crowd which appears to have even surpassed what was expected. Most of those meetings have concentrated on providing more parking for visitors which included utilizing Krodel Park this year. On Sunday, Mason County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Denny Bellamy said around 1,000 people had been parked at Krodel Park and when that filled, motorists were parked at the boat landing until at capacity on Saturday afternoon. The city charged $5 per car and there was a shuttle that ran between 6th Street and the parking lots at no extra cost.
Mayor Brian Billings, members of his staff, as well as City Attorney R.F. Stein, and Police Chief Joe Veith and some of his staff, volunteered to park the cars.
Prior to parking cars, Billings gave his traditional welcome speech to those gathered downtown on Saturday.
“I have never seen so many people on the streets of downtown Point Pleasant,” the mayor said to the Point Pleasant Register after his speech. “It was a beautiful sight. I want to thank Jeff Wamsley and his entire committee for a job well done. People from Nebraska and as far away as Australia graced our city streets…truly amazing. Many shared stories with us and spoke of the kindness of the great citizens of Point Pleasant. Our city staff did a great job working with the Mothman Committee in preparing for this past weekend event. I am so proud of this city and its people. A job well done.”
Wamsley, who is one of the festival’s founders and organizers said: “We’re very happy with the turnout and the comments from those visiting. Many mentioned how clean the town was and how friendly the people here are. We will tweak and adjust issues such as parking and traffic flow, port-a-potty placement and availability. The fact that we were able to use three full blocks on Main Street, eased the crowd issues and allowed us to spread things out so people can see and visit more downtown merchants.”
Wamsley added: “Most food and merchandise vendors were totally out of product by late Saturday and have all expressed interest in returning again next year on Sept. 16-17. I want to express our thanks to city crew and volunteers who helped with festival. It was a huge challenge and undertaking but it was well worth the effort. Several of the vendors donate their sales to charities in the local area.”
There were lines, several deep for the port-a-potties (pardon the imagery on that one) and at one point Saturday, it was estimated the line to get into the Mothman Museum was three hours. One of this year’s festival hits was the appearance of the cast of Mountain Monsters, with some fans waiting a reported six hours just to have a chance to meet them on Saturday – day when the line stretched across from the post office to below Second Street on a very hot day, with fans saying the wait was worth it. The Mothman Festival organizers reported the cast took their time with each person and though the line went slow at times, it was because everyone was given special attention.
“There were a lot of happy people excited to visit and meet the cast from Mountain Monsters, check out all the cool exhibits and vendors, and best of all, mingle and meet with the people here in Point Pleasant,” Wamsley said.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.