Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 29, 2014

From fried pickles to plane rides, weekend events offered fun for all

— — Every time there is an outdoor event anywhere in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s coverage area, the first thing I think about is the weather. Is it going to rain? I’ve helped publicize some outdoors events such as Civil War re-enactments and music festivals, and I’m always looking skyward when the day of the show arrives. A few dark clouds threatening rain can reduce attendance.

The Cole Chevy Mountain Festival usually has at least one rainy day that dampens midway fun a bit, but this year the festival was free of rain just about every day. I think there were some brief showers in the early morning hours, but they didn’t impact the carnival. More than one person remarked to me that it was the first festival they could remember that didn’t have a rain day.

I visited the festival almost every day, and every day it was well attended. It had what I call the sweet fry smell of corn dogs, funnel cakes, and fried novelties like pickles and candy bars. I can’t indulge in such things anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the smell. It brings back childhood memories.

The sunburn I got on my arms and assorted sections of my neck and head brought back memories, too. Getting a first sunburn was almost a summer ritual for me when I was growing up. I would forget about covering up and get a good scorching. The year 2014 was no different, but I put on sunscreen after my first visit to the festival.

This year we had a new event at the Mercer County Airport. Private pilots brought their aircraft to the airport so the public could get a closer look at them, and the owners of classic and antique cars set up a show in a neighboring field

One major feature of this air show was the fact that local pilots were taking children on flights over the county. For many of these kids, it was the first time they had ever flown in an airplane. I saw many children with big smiles and wide eyes running to their family after enjoying this new adventure.

I knew the show was going to have good attendance when I arrived there. The lane from Airport Road to the airport’s parking lot was lined with cars, and almost every space where you could fit a vehicle was full. I managed to find a spot above the runway.

People were constantly coming and going while I was there, so I’m sure attendance was in the hundreds. Helicopters and planes flew overhead while visitors walked among the vintage cars. One little boy who was about 3 years old walked down a line of cars and called out their colors. “Black, red, blue...,” he said as his family followed.

The children had some more excitement when a Soviet-era jet arrived over the airport. The L-29 was used by the Russians and East Block countries as a trainer and a light attack aircraft. Owner Tony Royal, who flew the fighter jet from Blacksburg, Va., said he bought it about three years ago from a Minnesota resident who, in turn, bought several of them when the Iron Curtain fell.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact broke it, a lot of East Block air forces and armies were left with almost no money. It was practically a going out of business sale. Royal said getting a Soviet-era jet like his L-29 is almost impossible now. Any examples that were not sold off quickly were soon rusting away.

One collector running a tank museum in Danville, Va., told me that Soviet equipment was once the holy grail of any military collector because it was so hard to get. Naturally, this inspired the unscrupulous among us to make copies. He told me that these fakes tended to look better than the Soviet originals.

It’s hoped this air show and car show will become an annual event like the festival in Bluefield. Filled parking lots proved that the public liked the event and will surely support more of them. Future air shows could attract more and greater varieties of aircraft once owners know that the public will come out to see their planes. I think the main challenge for future air shows will be the parking situation. People in this region are adept at squeezing their vehicles into odd spaces, but I’m sure more parking would be appreciated if finding it is possible.

The fact both the air show and the festival could be hosted on the same day, and both have good attendance, indicates that big events like them will bring plenty of people to the Mercer County area. While visiting the festival and the show, I encountered both county residents and people who had traveled from outside the area to attend.

My plan for the rest of the Memorial Day weekend was to go nowhere at all and enjoy the serenity of staying in one place. Going an entire day without getting behind the wheel of my car was a novelty.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.

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