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Marble Festival Shoots for Success

By Staff | Sep 21, 2016

SISTERSVILLE – A kiln has fired up on Main Street in preparation for the 17th annual Marble Festival.

The temperature inside the oven may exceed 2,100 degrees when its ready to melt the glass that will be shaped into memories for thousands of people who will attend the festival between Friday and Sunday.

Fourteen-year-old Michael King of Sistersville knows a little something about the marbles and the craft of glass making.

“Making marbles is something that I enjoy a fun hobby,” he said.

A third generation marble maker, Michael is the son of J. J. King (James Michael King Jr.) and the grandson of Jim King (James Michael King Sr.). Michael has been making marbles for less than a year, but he is advancing faster than either his father or grandfather. While other kids are playing video games, this 14-year-old is busy making his own marbles because it allows him an opportunity to express his creativity. He will be demonstrating his marble making skills along with his father J. J. at this year’s Marble Festival

“I like the way the glass rods can become something beautiful,” the teen said. “I like to put my own designs into each marble that I make.”

Master craftsman who can twist and turn into glass will be displaying their skills.

“I’m looking forward to the festival,” Michael King said. “I can learn other techniques from glass making artists so I can become better at making my own marbles. It’s something fun to do and to be creative.”

King’s father, J.J., added, “I think he’s interested in working with glass. He does very well at making miniature fruit. He has an insatiable thirst for knowledge for glass making. Every time someone talks to him about that, he asks questions and wants to learn.”

Legos may have inspired Michael King’s creativity.

“I do enjoy glass making, but I’ve enjoyed watching him more,” J.J. King said. “He has that passion. When he was younger, he always created with Legos. I used to watch him make elaborate stuff when he was little. I have a lot pride watching him make marbles now.”

The hobby allows father and son can spend time together

“My favorite part about doing this is that it provides us a wonderful bonding experience,” J.J. King said.

The family has crafted its own unique marble design that was initially created by James King many years ago.

“The marbles are made by twisting and pulling the ribbon through that’s probably Michael’s favorite design,” J.J. King said. “Our family is probably the only one who does that design. That is part of the enjoyment for him, for me for our family.”

The family-friendly Marble Festival offers something for everyone.

“There’s always a lot of new sites to see at the festival,” said Jim King “It’s absolutely an educational experience. It draws attention to the fact that this heart of marble country.”

For decades, West Virginia was the world capital of marble manufacturing. James King said the factories that were concentrated in a 60-mile radius made marbles for children to play with all over the world. Today, Sistersville is located between two of the remaining American-based toy marble manufacturers: Marble King located four miles north of Sistersville in Paden City and Jabo Vitro Marble Factory, located 25 miles south of Sistersville in Lower Newport, Ohio. The festival recognizes such history and heritage and provides a variety of yearly traditions, including: handmade marble making demonstrations by world-renowned glass artists, a children’s marble tournament, a silent marble auction, more beautiful marbles than most could imagine and flea market items, plus a lot more.

“We hope to draw attention to the marble making history,” James King said.

Kids don’t play marble nearly as much as they did during the marble “heyday” in the 40s, 50s and 60s but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to learn more at the festival.

“We want children to learn how to play marbles,” Jim King said. “They can participate in a marble tournament. It will be a lot of fun for the children. And they can learn more about how the contemporary handmade marbles are being made.”

Marbles has changed from being a child’sgame to an adult’s passion.

“This has evolved from children playing with marbles to people collecting them,” James King said.

The festival is about more than marbles, but community.

“The festival as a whole is a marble festival, but it is much more than that,” James King said. “It’s a big reunion for a lot of people who love coming to our beautiful small town, love the atmosphere and the people of Sistersville. I hear it time after time from those who say how friendly the people of our community are.”

For more information about free vendor setup for selling marbles, other collectibles or baked items, or to be added to the Sistersville Marble Festival mailing list, contact Jim King at 304-652-3032.