Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 30, 2012

Mercer Street packed with visitors during 2012 Princeton AutumnFest

PRINCETON — By

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

 —  Downtown Princeton was alive with action Saturday as the 2012 AutumnFest attracted hundreds of people to the Mercer County capital to enjoy good food, fellowship, music and fun.

“No, I have never been in a pumpkin pie eating contest before,” Chris McKinney said as he wiped whipped cream off his face. McKinney, 25, of Beckley out-ate his three celebrity competitors in the pumpkin pie-eating contest that required contestants to eat the pies without using their hands. A big crowd gathered for the event and made McKinney the people’s choice.

McKinney is the reigning champion in West Virginia’s Bantam Weight Mixed Martial Arts in the 135 weight category. Several young people posed for photographs with McKinney and his two, MMA belts.

“I think this is the best year for the AutumnFest,” Valerie Hendricks, manager of the West Virginia Welcome Center in Princeton said. This marked the third year that Hendricks has chaired the event. This year, she was joined by Natasha Culver of City National Bank.

“Bringing in the Princeton Senior High School band and the Princeton Middle School band early this year helped with the crowd,” Hendricks said. “The pumpkin pie eating and the pumpkin cook off are new this year, and I think they have been well received.”

“Everything has been going good today,” Culver said as she brought samples of a variety of baked pumpkin treats for the judges to try. “I’ve really enjoyed the pumpkin cook-off. It has been a lot of fun.”

While the results were not immediately in for the cook-off, Hendricks said that the Princeton Health & Fitness Center was the top fundraiser in the AutumnFest scarecrow contest, and said that City National Bank won the popular vote.

About 30 people participated in the AutumnFest 5K Race. The men’s winners were: First, Zack Beckett with a time or 18 minutes, 19 seconds; Second, Michael Canterbury, at 19 minutes, 37 seconds; and Third, Justin Snyder, 21 minutes, 46 seconds. Female winners were: First, Erica Morgan with 22 minutes, 46 seconds; Second, Jillian Sawyers, at 25 minutes, 26 seconds; and Third, Jennifer Hall at 26 minutes, 36 seconds.

“I wish every Saturday could be like this on Mercer Street,” Princeton Mayor Patricia Wilson said. “This was what it was like years ago, only we didn’t have the streets blocked off. Plus, the Princeton Rotary Club has the best roasting ears of corn around.”

Several visitors to AutumnFest took advantage of free flu shots courtesy of Princeton Community Hospital. “This would not have been possible without help from the volunteers of the Bluefield State College nursing program,” Rick Puckett, assistant vice president, Quality and Risk Management of PCH said. “The volunteers make it work.”

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at AutumnFest,” Robert Farley, president and chief executive officer of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce said. “This is great.”

Meanwhile, on another side of Mercer Street, Ron Hinkle was busy meeting with people visiting with customers of the Bronze Look. “I’ve been working with Randolph Evans of the Bronze Look for 5 or 6 years now,” Hinkle said. “I’ve been here and at the store in Bluefield. There’s a nice community feel here,” he said. Hinkle has been working with glass for 39 years.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

 

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