ANSTED — Country roads lead many of us home, and home is a big part of the Ansted Lions Club’s 26th annual Country Roads Festival, set for Sept. 16-17 at Hawks Nest State Park.

The festival is a nice time to enjoy the outdoors, visiting with friends, doing a little shopping and listening to some good music, according to Brian Parsons, one of the festival’s organizers.

“It’s a good chance to come out before the weather starts to turn bad and before everybody gets caught up in the holiday shopping and the fall schedule, it’s a good chance to come out and see neighbors,” he said.

The members of the Ansted Lions Club know that neighbors are important, and much of the civic club’s focus is on helping those neighbors. All the funds raised by the festival are used by the club for a variety of projects to aid others.

“As a civic organization, not only do we do projects that help people who have sight impairments and for free eye glasses, but also for hearing impairments.

“Our club also tries to support our local community as much as possible,” he said.

“Charity starts locally and spreads outward. We try to concentrate on our neighbors first.”

The festival is the largest fundraiser of the year for the club in its quest to help its neighbors, and it is a laid-back, homey event.

“We have arts and crafts, including the making of handcrafted wood toys, wood buckets and carvings, candles. We’re going to concentrate a little more on fall and Christmas decorations this year.

“We’re going to have our usual pulled pork barbecue sandwiches and chicken,” he said, “And the Episcopal Church will be making apple butter.

“Also we’ll have the Country Roads Market, featuring West Virginia-made specialty foods, and Hawks Nest State Park will have reduced rates for tram rides.”

Music is a big part of the festival, as well, Parsons said.

“Saturday is Country Music Day and Sunday is Gospel Music Day. We have a lot of good music.”

And the kids aren’t left out, as well.

“We’ll have the lip sync contest. The kids like that.

“And Dr. (Ghassan) Dagher will be there on Saturday to give free eye screenings.”

All in all, the annual Country Roads Festival is just a peaceful kind of place to be.

And that’s good, since it’s all about home and helping neighbors.

“There’s nothing wrong with helping people abroad,” Parsons reiterated, “but it would be a shame to help people in other countries when someone needs help right here in our community.

“We try to focus on home first.”

(For more on the 2006 Country Roads Festival, see the special tabloid inside Thursday’s edition of the Tribune.)

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