Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 26, 2007

Mountain Festival offers fun on the cutting edge

By Bill Archer

BLUEFIELD — When it came to throwing a birthday party this year for Ethan Emmons, the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce outdid itself this year. Emmons, now 11, the son of champion chain saw wood carver, Jason Emmons, celebrated his birthday Saturday by riding a “bunch of rides” at the James H. Drew Exposition during the 2007 Comcast Mountain Festival.

“I got a Super Bowl poster too,” Ethan Emmons said. The family is from rural Branchville, Ind., and they are all big Indianapolis Colts fans.

“His sister, Payton, was named after Peyton Manning, but spelled differently,” Cindy Emmons said as her husband worked his artistic magic with an Echo chain saw. The Colts drafted Manning in 1998, and Payton Emmons is eight years old. Her 6-year-old sister Macey was busy enjoying Ethan’s birthday as well.

“Last year was our first year here in Bluefield,” Cindy Emmons said. “We really liked it because we could bring the kids with us. I’ve gotten so that I can trust Ethan to go along with his dad. Ethan is carving now and sold a few of his pieces too. This is the second fair we have been to this year. I’ll drive back (tonight) and let Jason rest.”

Jason Emmons is one of five champion chain saw carvers in Echo’s national chain saw carving team. He recently won a chain saw carving competition in California, and also appeared on an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and carved the series logo on a home the team built for a cancer survivor.

“Jason goes to a lot of schools in Indiana and Tennessee and talks to kids about staying in school even if they’re having a hard time with it and telling them to eat healthy foods,” Cindy Emmons said as her husband slowly transformed a log into the image of a bear cub climbing on a limb. “We went to Alaska last year and he got a lot of ideas for his carvings,” Cindy Emmons said.

“This is only half of what Jason is doing this year,” Marc Meachum, president and CEO of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce said. “He’ll be working all day (today) and at the end of the day, we plan to auction off all the pieces he has created.” Kyle Hurt, chairman of the Comcast Mountain Festival Committee said the proceeds from the auction will be divided between the Salvation Army, Bluefield Union Mission, Appalachian Teen Challenge and Community Foundation of the Virginias. The auction will be from 6:30 to 7 p.m., at the Chamber trailer on the carnival grounds.

“This is about as big as it can get,” Meachum said as he relaxed beneath the awning at the Chamber’s temporary headquarters that straddles the Virginia-West Virginia state line near the city tennis courts. “We’ve been blessed with great turn-outs for all of our events. We had 25-30 dogs of all sizes in the Fun Dog Show, and a guy named Larry set a new Four Seasons Country record by eating 37 hot jalapeno peppers in two minutes. The folks at El Mariachi Restaurant said the previous record was 27 peppers. He shattered the old record.”

“Hey Carrot Top! They got another shirt just like the one you’re wearing at the Goodwill shop,” the Mighty, Mighty Bozo said from his perch at the back of his ball-pitching booth. Bozo — the Mighty, Mighty Bozo — responded to a question as to where he was from by reciting a litany of states and cities across the nation. “Sure hope that wasn’t somebody important,” he said over his loud speaker system as his visitor walked further down the midway. A moment later he was talking about the offerings at a nearby food vendor’s booth. It was all in good fun.

“I want to go again,” Katherine Asbury, 7, of Bluefield, Va., said, immediately after she got off a ride that riders enjoy in a prone position. Her grandfather, Jack Asbury, former Bluefield, Va., police chief, smiled and handed the person tending the ride his ticket.

“This is daughter’s day, but I hope they don’t mind that I brought my granddaughter,” Asbury said. Katherine is a rising second grade student at Dudley Primary School and is the daughter of Carol and Dr. Donald Asbury. She said she likes the ride, “Because you really fly high.”

Gary Courneya was willing to share an infinite amount of details about raising ponies with anyone who would listen. The Vale, N.C., man named his ride the “Little H Ranch” after his 5-year-old daughter Heather and operates a five-pony operation with each pony having its own personality.

“I travel all over with Jimmy Drew,” Courneya said. “I’ll be going to Roanoke, Va., next,” he said.

Fourteen-month-old Riley Hess took his first pony ride aboard Silver with his father, Paul Hess walking beside him in case he needed assistance and with his mother, Joanna Hess taking photographs on every round. “It’s his first pony ride,” Joanna Hess said.

The Comcast Mountain Festival will continue through today with a fireworks display tonight starting at about 11 p.m. Signs were already appearing on some of the rides offering jobs for helpers to start dismantling the carnival.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com