Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 5, 2014

Princeton celebrates nation’s independence

PRINCETON — Click here to see video

The West Virginia Sky Divers from Huntington put on a dramatic show Saturday afternoon as the Princeton Rescue Squad, the City of Princeton and the Princeton-Mercer County teamed up to give the community a spectacular Independence Day celebration.

“With the way things are, a lot of people just cannot afford to take their families to shows like this,” Stacy Hicks, chief executive officer of the Princeton Rescue Squad said. “We love doing this for the people. When we see the smiles on their faces ... That’s our reward.”

Hicks said it took about 14 hours to set up Hunnicutt Stadium to stage the event that included an opening ceremony, a performance by the Appalachian Teen Challenge choir as well as performances by Transit Times, Taylor Made and Rick K and the All Nighters. Of course, the final act was the fireworks display.

“We experienced a change in the wind right above the field this year that threw us a little off course,” Rocky Martin of the West Virginia Sky Divers said. Martin landed on the 30 yard line with the West Virginia flag while Andy Ferguson with the small American flag landed in the Princeton Tigers’ east end zone. Phillip Henry, carrying a small American flag brushed a few branches on a small tree on his landing while Ralph Osborne with the large American flag narrowly missed hitting a school bus.

“Last year without the wind changing on us, we landed one, two, three, four all in a row,” Martin said. “The group packed their chutes and gear and returned to the Mercer County Airport for their next appearance of the day at Hurricane.

Randy Brown, Rescue Squad chief operating officer, served as master of ceremonies for the event while Squad Chaplain, Danny Gunnoe, offered a prayer  at the start of the event.

“This is a day that we can all be very thankful that we can stand together in this kind of a gathering,” Gunnoe said.

Miss Central West Virginia Casey Gunnoe of Princeton, a rising sophomore at New River Community and Technical College, did an incredible job on singing an a capella version of the National Anthem, with the audience adding some excitement with their cheers for Martin when he touched down near the stage.

A few of the Appalachian Teen Challenge residents shared their personal stories as part of their concert. “By the grace of God, I came to Teen Challenge,” one young man said.

“Teen Challenge came over and helped us get set up yesterday,” Hicks said. “We had a cook-out after we were done and spent the evening in fellowship. Teen Challenge is a wonderful program for these young people,” Hicks said.

Newly elected Princeton Mayor Tim Ealy was glad to be able to enjoy the event as a spectator. “I can tell you this,” he said. “Sky diving is one of the most exhilarating things you can do.” Ealy said that he had an opportunity to try sky diving in recent years, and said it was an unforgettable experience.

Keith Circle, administrative assistant of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce said that the car show earlier in the day was also a huge success. “This is just a great way to celebrate our freedom,” Circle said.

The celebration continued into the night.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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