Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Charles Owens

May 30, 2012

Festival may be over, but there is still plenty to do across the region

The waning days after all of the big Memorial Day weekend activities in Bluefield can be a little sad. You go from large crowds and carnival rides at city park to the site of carnival rides being quickly disassembled.

Suddenly, the park that was once brimming with families and children appears devoid of the impressive crowds that were just there a few days ago. It’s a gentle reminder that the long Memorial Day weekend — the unofficial start of summer in the two Bluefields — has come and gone.

But the perception of an empty park isn’t necessarily a correct one. There are still plenty of people out and about at Lotito Park. If you don’t believe me, just take a ride or even a walk around city park. The place is buzzing with activity on any given weekend or week day, just like the Princeton City Park and the adjacent recreation complex in Princeton. The same goes for the Falls Mills Dam and Recreation Area.

But the carnival rides in Bluefield are gone. They are now in McDowell County for the McDowell County Fair, and they will soon be heading to the town of Richlands, and then to the Tazewell County Fairgrounds for the annual Tazewell County Fair. The next big summer attraction we can look forward to in the Bluefield and Princeton areas is the return of the Bluefield Blue Jays to Bowen Field and the P-Rays to Hunnicutt Stadium. But until then, we can expect a little bit of a lull at least in terms of headline-generating activities at the two city parks.

I didn’t spend much time at the carnival this year. Mom used to always enjoy going to the midway area, and the carnival at Lotito Park. She was always drawn to the exotic animals and, of course, the carnival games that can quickly break your wallet. However, an admittedly personal favorite of ours was the dreaded little token slot machines. You know — the game where you have to keep buying tokens and then strategically aim them inside of the moving glass case in the desperate hope of knocking out additional tokens, or even a prize (something that almost never happens). We would spend way too much money trying to get more tokens to come out of those machines. It was always a losing battle. But it was fun. So I guess that is what counted.

Driving by the carnival without Mom in the car seemed a little different this year. I was tempted to play the slot machine game just for her. But I didn’t. A year has not yet passed since her death. So it is still a little hard at times. But in the end I knew I would simply be throwing my money away. And Mom wouldn’t want me to do that. Maybe I’ll try it next year, or later this year at the Tazewell County Fair.

I am also hoping to catch a couple of Blue Jays games this summer as well. Getting to the minor league games is something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. It’s important to support our local teams, and local attractions, if we expect them to say in our area.

And for those in our area who are feeling a little adventurous, you may want to schedule a ride on the new Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in Mercer County. It opened for business last week near Bramwell, which should see a tremendous increase in visitor traffic to the historic town thanks to the new trail system. Hundreds, and with time thousands of visitors, will be riding the new Pocahontas Trails near Bramwell.

I had a chance to ride the Indian Ridge segment of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system back when it opened a couple of years ago in McDowell County during a media day tour. It was quite an adventure, and I suspect the new Pocahontas Trail system will be equally challenging.

I’ve operated an ATV a time or two. It’s a lot of fun. But I drive safely. No fancy stunts for me. I’ve written enough stories about ATV accidents to know that safety must be paramount when operating the off-road vehicles. I leave the stunts to the professionals. I’m satisfied with just taking a ride through the yard or up the mountain, but not the main road. ATVs really shouldn’t be operated on paved roadways traveled by regular vehicles. Doing so is simply an accident waiting to happen.

The best place to operate an ATV is in your own yard, or on the new Hatfield-McCoy Trail system. By comparison, U.S. Route 52 is simply not the best place to ride an ATV.

So there you go. The carnival may be gone, but there is still a lot to do in the two Bluefields, Princeton, Falls Mills, Bramwell and everywhere in between. And there will be even more to do next month with the Bluefield Blue Jays and the P-Rays. And if you miss the carnival, you can catch it in McDowell or Tazewell counties.

If you are still looking for something to do, consider a ride through Lotito Park or Princeton City Park. You can still have fun at city park without a carnival and a midway packed with vendors. And just because the Mountain Festival is over, it doesn’t mean summer is over as well. In fact, summer is just beginning. And if our above-normal spring was any indication, the summer of 2012 should be a scorcher. Get read to crank up the air-conditioner.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com.

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