Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 4, 2014

Fireworks erupt on Peel Chestnut Mountain

POCAHONTAS, Va. — Philip Bevins delivered a meaningful invocation, calling on federal, state and local leaders to remember the spirit of America’s founding fathers when they declared independence from the English crown in 1776.

People gathered at the Synan Farm on top of Peel Chestnut Mountain for the annual Independence Day celebration bowed their heads as Bevins prayed for leaders to use wisdom, unity and cooperation in leading the United States into its next 238 years.

Randy Gibson, a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War, said: “Amen,” lifted his head and said he has served on the Mercer County honor guard for years.

“We lost another good man this morning in Jack Grose,” Gibson said. “He was active in the Marine Corps League and started the ‘Toys for Tots’ program back in 2001. It seems like we are serving on the honor guard detail for too many of our veterans any more.

“Every time we bury another World War II veteran, I wonder what language we would be speaking today if they hadn’t done what they did,” he said. “German ... Japanese? Who knows?”

Russell Synan, 86, really can’t remember how long the Independence Day celebration has been taking place at his farm. “Last fall when we had our last pumpkin festival, I figured it was 20 years, but I had a woman come up to me and tell me that she was pregnant with her son when we had the first one, so I guess it must have been at least 23 years.”

Synan was a little concerned that people wouldn’t attend this year’s fireworks display because he announced that there would not be a pumpkin festival this year. “The Pocahontas Lions Club and American Legion are going to keep that tradition going on downtown next year,” Synan said. “We’ll keep this Independence Day celebration going on for as long as we can.”

Bill Hall, also a resident of Peel Chestnut Mountain, took over the job of lighting the fireworks several years ago after “Cracker” Boone stopped doing it. “I used to help Cracker and his brother Pete Boone light them off, but after they quit, I just kept on doing it,” Hall said.

Hall is retired from EIMCO, but keeps his mind on the task at hand when he lights off the fireworks.

“I don’t see them,” he said. “You can’t look up and stay focused on what you’re doing. One little slip-up could cause a good problem.”

There was a long line of people waiting for either a hot-dog or a Peel Chestnut specialty — fried bologna sandwich. The volunteers serving the sandwiches were distributing them and only asking for a donation in return.

“We’ll hold it again next year if we get enough donations,” Patricia Synan, Russell’s wife, said with a smile. “Have a bologna sandwich.”

The mountain filled up with vehicles as four popular blue grass gospel bands performed. When sundown arrived, Hall entertained the people with a show worth remembering.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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