Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 5, 2013

City of Princeton pays tribute to independence

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Chaplain Danny Gunnoe of the Princeton Rescue Squad asked the Hunnicutt Stadium audience to remember the families of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives earlier this week in the Arizona wildfires, and to keep them in their prayers. Police, fire and rescue squad members throughout the stadium bowed their heads, as Gunnoe opened Princeton’s Second annual 4th of July Celebration with prayer.

Randy Brown, chief operating officer of the Princeton Rescue Squad, thanked the squad, the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce and Elke Doom, city manager of the city of Princeton, for making the celebration possible. Brown asked the rescue squad color guard, Zane Fitzwater, Aaron Walkup and Loren Watkins to post colors, and Casey Gunnoe sang an inspiring version of the National Anthem.

A team of skydivers from Huntington was supposed to be a part of the opening exercise, but an overcast sky with intermittent showers delayed their arrival. “We have until 5 p.m. on the skydivers,” Brown said. “We can’t control the rain or the weather.”

The weather didn’t seem to bother the young people who were playing on the bouncy rides at the stadium or tossing corn-filled bags back and forth in the west end zone that had several corn hole games in progress.

“Aren’t you glad for freedom?” Brad Rose, program director of Appalachian Teen Challenge asked the audience in the home-side stands. “We’re excited about what the Lord is doing today at Teen Challenge. What you see behind me are former heroin addicts and former oxycodone addicts,” he said, pointing in the direction of the 25-voice strong choir. “It may be raining, but we’ve still got freedom — you and me. These people have found freedom in Jesus.”

In addition to singing several selections, the young men and young women of the Appalachian Teen Challenge Choir shared their testimonies of the lives of desperation they lived before finding their way to Teen Challenge. “Four years ago, I was left to die,” one young man said. “I was so depressed,” a young woman said. “My mom prayed to God,” another young man said. After making it to Teen Challenge, “He’s given me back everything I lost,” he said.

“I hated the person that I had become,” a young woman said. “I overdosed to attempt suicide. God saved me three times. He had a plan in my life.” Another young girl said she started smoking marijuana when she was 9 years old and a man injected her with oxycodone when she was 14. “I remember being so scared for my life,” she said. She found Teen Challenge in 2009, and now, she is an intern.

“These kids put a lot of emotion into everything they do,” Robert Farley said. Farley is president and chief executive officer of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce. “They were here all day (on Wednesday) putting up all of these fences, helping set up the stage and setting up all of these games. They all worked hard.”

The band, “Transit Times” got things rolling at the celebration followed by the opening ceremony and the Teen Challenge Choir. Thomas Taylor & the Highrize Band, Taylor Made, Adam Tucker followed by Rick K and the Allnighters were scheduled to perform before the fireworks display at dark.

“This crowd will build through the evening and eventually fill the entire stadium in time for the fireworks,” Cpl. S.A. Sommers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department said.

“This is something we do to express our thanks to the entire community,” Stacey Hicks, chief executive officer of the Princeton Rescue Squad said. “It’s an honor for us to be able to serve the community.” Along with the activities in the stadium, there was a car show from 9 a.m., to 2 p.m., in the parking lot.

Other sponsors in addition to the squad, chamber and city included the Princeton Health Care Center, the Hunnicutt Foundation, Ramey Motors, the Mercer County Board of Education, the Mercer County Commission, Recycle West Virginia, Princeton Community Hospital, First Community Bank & Insurance Services, Bill Cole Automall, Trophies & More, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Star 95, and Appalachian Teen Challenge.

— Contact Bill Archer at