Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 26, 2013

Festival fun hits full stride under sunny skies

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — There was something new under the sun Saturday at the 2013 Cole Chevy Mountain Festival. Well, actually, it was the sun that was joined by a clear, albeit chilly sky above as the festival turned the corner and headed down the home stretch into its final day today.

“I’m going to take a week off and drive to Minnesota to see my wife,” Charles Misenheimer said. Misenheimer and his close up magic act — Magic by Chaz — has been a mainstay at the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival for the past 10-12 years. “I can’t remember how many years,” he said. “I’ll have to say 12.”

With that, Chaz vanished to get in costume for his performance. “I told him he could change here in our RV, but he always changes in his car,” Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce said. “All he does is put on a different shirt and a hat. Chaz does a great job here every year.”

Kyle Hurt, general chairman of the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival, said that the Marvelous Mutts show has been drawing large crowds to watch the dogs run through agility drills, play Frisbee and demonstrate their dock diving skills.

“It really is an amazing show,” Hurt said.

Kara Gilmore and Nadja Palenzuela travel extensively to perform with their talented canine friends and deliver a message about responsible pet ownership. “We travel with a total of 16 dogs, but of that number, only 12 are performers,” Gilmore said. “Every dog is different. Some can be trained in about a year, and others are naturally talented.”

Gilmore started out training dogs as a hobby, but has been doing it full time for the past 6-7 years. The Marvelous Mutts perform in 15-20 states each year, and have also made special guest appearances on several national television broadcasts including “Late Night with David Letterman.” Gilmore said she and Palenzuela took the amazing canines through their paces in Arizona earlier this year, and performed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., last week.

“That was our first time performing at a military base,” Gilmore said. “Everyone really loved the dogs.”

She brought one dog out of the trailer — an 18-month-old mixed breed dog named Shazam. With a brief spoken command, Shazam leaped up into Gilmore’s waiting arms. “All of our dogs are adopted from shelters or rescue organizations,” Gilmore said. “You can find talent in any dog. We go all over the place spreading a message about animal care.”

The James H. Drew Carnival brought a variety of rides and attractions to the midway. “The rides are really cool,” Abby Shoemaker, 9, of Bluefield, Va., said. “If you can only ride one ride, you should ride the Himalaya.”

Her mother, Dee Shoemaker, didn’t personally share her daughter’s enthusiasm for the Himalaya ride.

Bobby Hill and Jerry Peacock picked up a guitar and bass respectively to do a few minutes of a  sound check, and started wailing away on some pure rock-n-roll licks. “We haven’t played in months,” Hill, 61, said. “We play a lot of different instruments.”

Indeed, the small, converted travel-trailer that Hill, Peacock and Shirl Udich perform on is muck more than one instrument. All three sing through vocal sequencers. Hill and Peacock perform on multiple keyboard/synthesizers and the two also operate several puppets using foot pedals and hand controls. “Everything we do is manual,” Hill said.

Hill has been on the road with his Puppetone Rockers act for 35 years. Udich has been with the show for 30 years and Peacock has been with the show for 15 years. In just a few minutes of a sound check, a crowd had gathered around the rolling stage venue to watch the players and the puppets go through their performance.

“We go all over the country enlisting kids to join the Puppetone Army and do the right thing,” Hill said. “We’ve signed up more than a half million kids so far. We call them Super Kids. Our show is all about encouraging kids to make good choices and do the right thing.”

Hill was born into a family of singers and has been an entertainer all of his life. The Puppetones perform at parades and law enforcement events nationwide, and Hill also does a solo song, dance and comedy act. The Cole Chevy Mountain Festival is the first time the Puppetones have been with the Drew Carnival.

“We’ve performed with many big carnival shows before,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago, we were doing a show in Anderson, S.C., and while I was taking a break, a man came up and started talking with me about the show,” Hill said. “I had never met Jimmy Drew before, but he introduced himself to me and said he had a little spot in a show coming up, and asked if we were interested. The date was open, so we worked out the details, and here we are.”

The James H. Drew Carnival opens at 11 a.m., this morning and provides fun until closing. The 4th Annual Memorial Day Classic car show opens at 9 a.m., in the parking lots of Bluefield Middle School. Showtimes today for the Marvelous Mutts are 3:30 and 6 p.m., with Rock-It the Robot at 4:15 and 6:45 p.m. and fireworks at 11 p.m., for the grand finale.

— Contact Bill Archer at