Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 29, 2013

Tazewell County fireworks, Gettysburg milestone, and civil rights debate

— The Declaration of Independence was publicly announced 237 years ago this coming Thursday, while the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg took place 150 summers back this very weekend. Both proved decisive in the direction of our lives. A couple of local events that also have a celebrated history include the annual July 4 celebration in the town of Pocahontas and the delightful gathering up at Russell and Pat Synan’s farm on Peel Chestnut Mountain the night before that, on Wednesday July 3.

The Synans put together a package of music, food, and fireworks in one of the most beautiful spots in Tazewell County. It is a treat for everyone. Locals as well as visitors from distant spots come every year for the get-together.

It is comfortable, friendly and free. Many of you already know that but every year new people come by and get introduced to one of the area’s most special events.There will be three or four bands set up on the Peel Chestnut stage/sound system area with seating available. That includes Country Pride featuring Jim and Patsy Croy and the band, with Five Strings for Jesus also scheduled to play, along with Booge and Linda Monk, and I believe the Whites of West Virginia are also on the program. Local singers and pickers always love this part of the evening.

Holiday food includes the famed grilled bologna sandwiches (remember that lots of coal miners and their families will be in town) along with hot dogs and lemonade and tea will be available. There will likely be a few other goodies and there is no charge. A donation table will be set up to help with the expenses, as you wish. Kiddies like the event in part because of the hay rides around the mountain top farm and many adults love to find spots on the wagon, too!

The big fireworks show will start at dusk and it truly is the perfect setting. High up on the mountain, those exploding rockets look spectacular. Almost every year, first-time visitors are amazed at how long, how many, and how impressive the firework display is. All around, it is simply a true treat to tap your feet, tickle your tonsils, and have a country reunion all at the same time. Russell and Pat welcome all to come and visit this Wednesday night. If that weren’t enough — and for many residents it is the opening act of a two-night spectacular, the next evening will feature the Pocahontas event.

Jean Boone has long coordinated the fireworks display and she does a great job. That show takes place at Laurel Meadows Park in the heart of the historic old coalfield capital town.

There is plenty of parking and it is another outstanding setting to watch the show. Town clerk Sabrina Davidson reports that there will be a hot dog sale, with nachos and cheese, and a bake sale. The food will be coordinated by the Pocahontas Fire Department. Officials indicate there may be a parade, as well, but those plans are still being discussed so stay tuned for further developments. There are always good times, and a host of related events taking place on the grounds there in town.

It is free to the public and everyone is invited. Sabrina notes that the fireworks begin at dark and will continue until around 10 p.m. and maybe later. Pocahontas always has one of the top fireworks shows around. Just like the Synan spectacular, you have to see it to believe it.

It’s local, friendly, and free.

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Much ado has been made of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which took place on July 1-3, 1863. Historians generally believe it turned the tide of the Civil War. Gettysburg was not the bloodiest day of the war but it stands alone as the turning point.

The South came within a few hours of winning on the second day, but at the end the Union triumphed and that saved America. As historians have noted, the South came in from the north and the North came in from the south for that battle. The rebel army was looking for shoes and the Union soldiers were following the Confederates.

There was hope on the Southern side that a win would provide a sure means to sue for peace, put an end to the war, and create two separate nations. For President Lincoln and the remainder of the U.S. side, Gettysburg was the battle to determine whether the United States would be able to remain a country or fall less than a century after its founding.

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It is truly a reflective week, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down portions of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act. Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed the decision “stabbing the Voting Rights Act in its very heart.” Lewis went on to say that in the 11 states of the former Confederacy, attempts are being made to take citizens of color back to another period, minus the beatings and jailings of generations ago.

Perhaps the war will go on in one way or another for years to come. Psychologists often say that great social changes take a similar time to be enacted and/or changed. After all, slavery persisted for some 250 years in America and there are five-score years to go before that number evens out. The United States remains a work in progress a century and a half after Little Round Top.

Larry Hypes is a teacher at Tazewell High School and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph..

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