Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 15, 2013

Bad weather halts parade, but skating and craft brew crawl go on

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The rain didn’t necessarily hit the “coming down in buckets” stage Saturday afternoon in Bluefield, but the mixture of snow, sleet and rain that left the city streets slush-covered prompted both marching bands to cancel.

“We still had a parade thou-gh,” Jim Ferguson, Bluefield city manager said. “When Art Riley called it off, I looked over to Fire Chief Jeff Warden and told him to follow me through town. The parade consisted of me driving in front of three fire trucks. To beat it all, there were several people on the sidewalk in front of the West Virginian Manor who waved when we came through town.”

The wind was biting and the rain was as cold as ice, but it didn’t stop people of all ages from queuing up outside the Granada Theater and waiting for as long as 45 minutes or more for a chance to take a few laps around the All Year Sports Galaxy portable ice rink that was set up in the middle of the Granada’s dance floor.

“My crew came out and worked from 3 p.m., to midnight Thursday night to fix this floor,” Chuck McGonagle said. McGonagle of MAC Contractors is a member of the Bluefield board of directors. “The dance floor was recessed, so we had to build it up in order to fit the rink in here. The guys worked hard to make it happen.”

People were already lined up on the Depot District sidewalk in front of the Granada at 11 a.m., when the All Year Sports Galaxy crew was setting up the rink. Even with the long waits and the line snaking around inside the Granada lobby, the lines never seemed to recede.

“It was really fun,” Sarah Blevins said after she turned in the special skates she used to glide around on the synthetic rink surface. “This was my first time ice skating. I’ll probably come again if they have it again.”

Members of the Bluefield Preservation Society hastily moved the rink indoors when rain appeared to be inevitable on Saturday, although Debrah Ammar, president of the society, held on to the hope that the weather forecasters would be wrong.

“Isn’t this crowd just incredible?” Ammar said as she weaved her way through the throng in the historic theater. “It just proves that if you have something like this in Bluefield, people will come out to enjoy it.”

The rink rental was $4,000 for the day, but Ammar said the company gave the Preservation Society a break in cost after another community canceled. “It was going to cost $6,600,” she said. “All of us with the Bluefield Preservation Society are so thankful that the June O. Shott Foundation was able to underwrite the cost of this so we could offer free skating to all kids under 18 years old.”

Doug Jones had brought his daughter to skate, and while she stood in line waiting to get in the rink, he stood almost mesmerized by the ornate trappings of the venerable theater. “We played here once several years ago,” Jones said. He played bass with the Bluestone Wildcats. “I think we were the opening act for another group that played here. The architecture in here is really something else.”

Of course, the skating wasn’t the only attraction in town. People in the 21-and-older-set came from far and wide to enjoy an eclectic assortment of beers in the inaugural Craft Brew Crawl hosted by the Historic Bank Lobby of Bluefield’s old Commercial Bank — one of the incredible structures on Commerce Street.

“This weather hurt us,” Jay Disibbio Craft Brew Crawl organizer said. “Still, I think the people here are having a great time.”

Pete Sternloff, a member of the Christmas parade organizing committee said that Art Riley was reluctant to pull the plug on the event, because it was likely to have been one of the largest Christmas parades in recent years.

“We have been working on it for three months,” Sternloff said. “We only had four floats that showed up, and there were children involved on each float. We didn’t think it would be right to have those kids out in the cold that long.”

Even with the weather, a lot of people seemed to be having a great time in the Depot District on Saturday afternoon.

— Contact Bill Archer at