By Huntington District Public Affairs StaffAugust 27, 2019
Over the Independence Day Weekend, Burnsville Lake hosted the First Annual Burnsville Freedom Festival. This was a community wide celebration that was nearly a year in the making. The genesis of the plan to hold a Freedom Festival began with a discussion that Ranger Lisa Hess was having with some of her co-workers about holding some sort of musical event at the lake.
The group was in agreement that it was a great idea. They also agreed that it would take a lot of time and effort to come to fruition. With a new addition at home Lisa Hess had even greater demands on her time. This is where friends can make a real difference.
Burnsville Lake is the benefactor of a group of local residents and regular visitors who organized in November 2007 with the stated mission to "provide the opportunity for more community involvement at Burnsville Lake by raising funds necessary to build/repair amenities". They are the Friends of Burnsville. And they do even more than just build and repair.
"The Friends of Burnsville and other groups set up a committee and really stepped up for the festival", said Hess. After months of planning and a lot of hard work from the Burnsville Freedom Festival committee, the Town of Burnsville staff, the Burnsville Lake U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff, the Friends of Burnsville Lake, the Burnsville Lake Volunteers, and the many dedicated members of the local community and surrounding counties, the Burnsville Freedom Festival kicked off Friday, July 5 in downtown Burnsville with a parade. An all-star cast of Bobber, the Water Safety Dog, Smokey the Bear and Uncle Sam got the chance to spread the message of safety to a town full of people. After the parade was over, there was a doggie pageant that rewarded the most patriotic dogs in small, medium, and large categories.
The main event day for the festival was Saturday, July 6, with doubts of its success because of the weather forecast predictions, the committee moved forward and chanced the day. Over the course of the day Burnsville Lake had over 5,000 visitors to its grounds and got to view the 25 ft. by 40 ft. American Flag that was draped over the Burnsville Dam. The festival had something for just about everyone, to include: a cornhole tournament, a diaper derby, The Dam Bike Show, free live music, a giant waterslide, a bounce house, face painting, the West Virginia National Guard gaming trailer, a spouse calling contest, various games to interact with the crowd, memorial luminaries, food vendors, and much more! The day ended with the sky over the Burnsville Dam being illuminated with a fireworks display that could be enjoyed and seen by land and water.
The Freedom Festival was such a huge success that the committee and all other entities have decided to make this an annual event and the date of next year's celebration is Saturday, July 4, 2020.
Hess credits the ability to keep the diverse groups working together for the common goal of the festival had to do with a shared desire to help each other out. "I went to a lot of meetings and functions of different groups to help them with their activities", said Hess.
As an Interpretive Ranger she also coordinate with volunteers at the lake's Bulltown Campground where visitors can get an appreciation of life in the mid-nineteenth century Appalachia. Visitors are regularly treated with opportunities to make rugs, ropes and other crafts using tools and techniques of the mid-nineteenth century.
If all this does not keep Hess busy, she also works with the Friends of Burnsville on numerous other community events throughout the year. During her two years at Burnsville, Hess has become a critical and beloved member of the Burnsville Team and the Burnsville Community.
Burnsville Lake's authorized purposes include recreation, flood risk management, fish and wildlife, and water quality control. Its land area includes nearly 13,500 acres. There are ten recreation areas on the project, including Corps operated campgrounds and day use areas. The lake is impounded by a rock fill embankment and impervious core dam with a gated concrete ogee spillway. The dam was completed in January 1976 and serves a drainage area of 165 square miles. The dam is 89 feet high, 1,400 ft. long, and 24 ft. wide at the top. The concrete ogee spillway is controlled by three 42ft. by 35 ft. crest gates. The raceway and stilling basin is 240 ft. long.