Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 21, 2014

Great music, baseball, and a special election kick off summer season

— — What a delightful musical weekend is coming up with an outstanding Second Chance Rocks the Two Virginias concert out at Mitchel Stadium while down at Southwest Virginia Community College the Mountain Music Festival has been underway since yesterday and bluegrass music afficianados will be eager to see the legendary Ralph Stanley tonight. Meanwhile, over at Grayson Highlands State Park, the 20th annual Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition will draw a big crowd, especially with the opportunity to see Vince Gill on stage. No matter what your musical taste, there is something everywhere around Four Seasons Country in this first full fun-filled week of summer.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly of Florida Georgia Line will be bringing a top-notch show and a high-energy performance, as noted by Second Chance Learning Center director Erik Robinson, who coordinates the program in conjunction with former major league All Star Billy Wagner. Erik has not been sleeping much for the past few days as the big event draws near. It certainly does promise to be a fantastic show and will benefit a variety of good local causes.

Just a few days away on July 11-13, the 12th annual Tazewell County Old Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers Convention is “coming home” to the Historic Crab Orchard Museum off U.S. Route 460 just west of Tazewell. Museum director Charlotte Whitted and her staff are very excited about the event which will be held on the museum grounds. Museum neighbor Rick Fisher is helping with logistics and making available a nice parking and camping area for the expected large crowds. Charlotte says a very nice feature of the 2014 event will be the opportunity for fans/musicians to get together and jam with lots of space in a great mountain setting.

The usual parking lots will be available, as well, and more assistance with the weekend activities will be given by the Fort Witten Long Rifles and cattle rancher Mark Bailey to help with the event. All competition will be held on Saturday, July 12 beginning at 10 a.m. and continuing through 11:30 p.m. There will be food, dancing, youth performances, and all of the shows will be held on the stage of the Daniel Murray Homestead Cabin serving as the main venue. Fans should bring folding chairs and sun shades as they wish to view the festival. Sunday morning will officially close the festival with a community gospel singing co-hosted by Dale Elswick and Randy Fielder. Tickets will be available at the gate and weekend passes are among a variety which will be offered. You can call 276-988-6755 for more information.

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At last — baseball has arrived in Bluefield and Princeton. Not many live professional sporting events at such reasonable prices are open anywhere and Mercer County (Tazewell, McDowell, Raleigh, Buchanan, too!) is blessed to have two major league organizations within a dozen miles of each other. The food is great at both ball parks and the promotions are non-stop with prizes and awards being given at junctures all during the games.

A key to the popularity of both the Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays is not just the teams on the field. Management tries hard to make everyone feel welcome and both organziations reach out to groups all season long for extra special nights. Fireworks nights, T-shirt Tuesdays, and a host of other events at one venue or the other truly offers something for every baseball fan.

There is a good deal of interest — pro and con — about the Blue Jays management decision to offer beer at Bowen Field. The Appy League leaders want it, and so once again this will be tried here in Bluefield. As has been noted, there is no beer in Princeton.

That facility is on grounds owned by the Mercer County Board of Education and alcohol is not allowed. It will be a topic to keep a close eye on for the next few weeks. Support, of lack of it, will probably determine the fate of the cold suds here in the Summit City on ball game nights.

Be sure to make your plans to spend some good times at both local baseball parks all during the summer.

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Mike Hymes, who grew up in Bishop and is a member of a coal-mining family, is the Democratic nominee in the Aug. 19 special election to secure the 38th senatorial district seat recently vacated in a stunning move when Sen. Phil Puckett unexpectedly resigned. The GOP mass gathering went late Thursday night before Del. “Ben” Chafin, Jr., R-Russell, was declared the winner of the Republican nomination.

With a dwindling population base in Southwest Virginia, it is more important than ever for our area to have a strong legislator in every position.

When the recent Virginia budget was issued (without Puckett) the Senate voted right down party lines with the Republicans gaining control and having their wishes granted once the resignation gave the GOP an advantage.

There is much ado in Four Seasons Country about the importance of coal and Hymes, who works for a coal company, has already been on record about his support for the industry and the importance of those jobs that it brings. No doubt every candidate around this part of the country would be wise to continue with support for the coal mining business.

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

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