Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Children with colorful faces and American flags waved in Chicory Square while visitors lined up for free hot dogs and apple pies. Baseball players signed autographs while patriotic music played, and everyone stood for the national anthem. The Fourth of July was Thursday, but Friday was still a good day to celebrate America.
Almost 200 people came to Chicory Square in downtown Bluefield for the annual All-American Celebration. Sponsored by Cole Chevrolet, the Independence Day show featured free hot dogs prepared by the Internet Cafe and free apple pies provided by Hardee’s on Bluefield Avenue. Free popcorn and free American flags were among the celebration’s treats.
Children and adults added to their identities with free face painting by Brandi Huffman and Emilee Huffman of BEfaced. Baseball players with the Bluefield Blue Jays signed autographs while Bluefield Daily Telegraph Senior Editor Bill Archer and fellow musician Karl Miller performed patriotic music.
The celebration offered plenty of reasons to visit downtown Bluefield.
“We came out today just for this sort of thing, and to meet the Blue Jays, eat a hot dog and walk around town,” said Edna Scarberry of Bluefield, Va., who brought her grandchildren, Chevy Bane and Jazmin Scarberry.
Chevy was going to get a skull face, but he opted for a green dinosaur mask. Jazmin’s face paint mask had a new look for a classic super hero.
“It’s Batman with a goatee,” she said. “A sparkling goatee.”
In the nearby line for free hot dogs, Brenda O’Donnell of Brushfork had brought her great-grandchildren, Emily and Ashly Boswell, to the celebration. Her goal was to teach the children more about their heritage.
“This is our fourth time,” O’Donnell said. “I bring them every year because it’s just tradition. I just want them to learn, and they enjoy it so much.”
Baseball players Angel Rojas, Tom Robson, Matt Dean, D.J. Davis, Garrett Custons and Joe Lovecchio lined up for hot dogs. They also asked for six apple pies.
“It’s nice,” Lovecchio said of Friday’s event. Fans who has seen a recent game stopped to say how much they had enjoyed it.
“They talked about how well we did and how exciting it was,” he said. “It’s good to have the town involved.”
Plenty of people from the Bluefields joined the celebration, but other visitors came from Princeton and well beyond Mercer County.
“It’s awesome,” said Janet Jennings, who came to Chicory Square with people from Southern Highlands Mental Health Center day program. “Today’s a celebration, so we brought them.”
Other people were fans of the day’s musicians.
“We like Karl Miller and Bill Archer,” Roscoe Matney, 73, of Bluefield said while he set up chairs on the lawn. Space under the square’s tents and benches were quickly filled up. “And we had friends, Henry and Janice Farmer, who came up all the way from Grundy.”
“We just wanted to listen to Bill and Karl, and see our friends,” said Janice Farmer of Buchanan County, Va.
Archer and Miller started their show with “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem. They then honored the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. They followed the patriotic medley with tunes such as “Lean on Me.”
“You can see all the families with small children enjoying the day,” said Marc Meachum, president of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce. “It’s things like this that continue to bring an awareness of downtown.”
Art Riley, president of the Bluefield Downtown Merchants Association, looked at the audience filling the square.
“How about that crowd?” Riley said as Archer and Miller performed. “There’s probably about 150, 175 people here. Bill and Karl are putting on a heck of a show. There are a lot of people here we haven’t seen before, and that’s good.”
Across the square, Larry and Paula Mlynczak, the owners of the Internet Cafe, worked with their employees to keep the free hot dogs and other treats coming.
“I think it’s a great turnout today,” Larry Mlynczak said. “This is our third year of doing this, thanks to the Telegraph and Cole (Chevrolet). I don’t remember seeing this many children before. We’re just glad to add smiles and hot dogs, the best in town.”
Editor Samantha Perry said the Daily Telegraph appreciated the sponsors and volunteers who made the celebration possible.
“I want to thank the people at Cole Chevy, the Internet Cafe, Hardee’s on Bluefield Avenue, BEFaced, the Bluefield Blue Jays, the city of Bluefield, and Art Riley who did a fantastic job coordinating the celebration,” Perry said.
The team of Archer and Miller capped off their show with a song for veterans.
“This is what it’s all about,” Archer said.
“Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, this is for you!” Miller proclaimed. They then performed a song for the Fourth of July, “I’m Proud to be an American.”