Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 7, 2014

An event to fire up the fun in mid-June roars across the mountains

— — June is busting out all over with plenty to do from Tazewell to Marion and just about everyplace in between as I found out recently over at the Tazewell County Visitors Center located near the Sanders House just off Route 460 here in Bluefield. Tourism director David Woodard and assistant June Brown were in the office when I had an afternoon hour open before closing time. We had a great talk and not just about tourism — although that was the main idea for the meeting.

David is chair of the Tazewell County School Board and since I have been a teacher for many years we always get around to education. Everyone is concerned right now about the Virginia budget and whether the schools will be funded. The state needs to kick in about $1.7 million and that money should be forthcoming but right now nothing has happened.

It is a disturbing trend in recent years. We used to get the budget done early and employees would sign contracts right after April 15. Now we might get contracts any time between today and the beginning of school in August.

More and more, the counties are at the mercy of whatever goes on in Richmond. Few decisions are made at the local level any more. The word “mandate” rears its ugly head more and more these days. So, after we wondered about the immediate future for a while, we got down to the serious business of tourism — and music.

David was in the band over at Pocahontas before going on to major in music at Concord and Mrs. Brown, who worked for many years at Graham High School, certainly knows much about the music business, as well.

Her son, Mike, long-time band director at GHS, is retired (again) after coming back for a few months this past year to take over the band until a new director comes on board. James H. “Jimmy” Jones and Mike are two of the best directors in area history, and much like Mel Saunders, legendary in their field. Mike usually had a band at Graham with well over 100 members and fans not only wanted to watch the G-Men at football games but equally enjoyed the big G Marching Band on football Friday nights.

David is excited about several upcoming events in and around Tazewell County. He said the highly popular motorcycle extravaganza known as the “Back of the Dragon” is set to sail between Friday, June 13 and Sunday, June 15 with a total of six bands, a parade, a bike show and trophy presentation, and lots of fun from Tazewell all the way to Marion. The event continues to grow and from an original crowd of a few hundred souls the affair now attracts thousands in both Tazewell and Smyth counties.

The draw, of course, is the highly popular state road, Route 16, which covers an incredible amount of scenery over 32 miles and an estimated 270 curves between the famed Frog Level community below Tazewell all the way across three mountains past Hungry Mother State Park and into the historic town of Marion.

It is truly a great place to ride and the scenery is spectacular. Few places are more picturesque than the majestic view above the rolling hills of Thompson Valley. Another unique item in that specific area is the thick blanket of kudzu which literally frames the road in several places. For bikers, that combination simply does not get any better.

On Friday, June 13, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium the first three bands will kick off the concert part of the 2014 Back of the Dragon festivities and then another concert will be held on Saturday evening also beginning at 5:30. In between the big parade will roar (slowly!) down Main Street in Tazewell starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and then a registration, bike show, and trophy presentation will all take place in turn after that. There will be lots of food, fun, and fellowship all around.

Much of the funding comes through local business contributions and quite a bit of the proceeds return to the community for a variety of worthy causes. It is truly a win-win situation.

The “main event” is set for Sunday, June 15 at 1 p.m. when the bikes all take off, onward and upward, from Tazewell across the Dragon to Marion. If you are planning to ride, then be sure to register with officials before the start of the run. If you just want to watch, that is almost as much fun. All the information can be found at the Back of the Dragon website.

Many riders have visited the great rallies in places like Sturgis, S.D., where thousands of riders descend on the area for a few delightful days. It is quite a sight, a boon to the local economy, and as much of an “event” as it is a happening. Some people — maybe you — would like to visit the Back of the Dragon event just to say you were there.

Be sure to tell the organizers that David, June, and I sent you.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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