The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 5, 2014

Alderson’s Fourth has special meaning for locals, old and new

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

ALDERSON — Flags waved and patriotism was in the air in Alderson as people celebrated the Fourth of July on Friday. Locals who had gathered said the holiday meant many things to them.

One man said the Fourth of July is about tradition.

“It means carrying on the red, white, and blue and honoring our soldiers,” parade co-chairman Richard Parker said. “It honors those who fight to keep us free. We have a large veterans’ group in our little town. We draw some national attention from veterans for that.

“I always look forward to seeing another generation getting involved. As I get older, these younger generations get older too. They take on the traditions that we have.

“It’s a lot of work by a small group of volunteers, but it’s very rewarding when you see generations coming back. We have a large group of people that come from the coalfields and other places to come to our river. They remember the traditions of Alderson and they carry those on.”

Parker said the celebration in Alderson is a very traditional one.

“It encompasses everyone from 3-year-olds up to the elderly,” he said. “We have reunions, banquets, fireman’s rodeo, and all sorts of things that go on. We have the largest celebration in West Virginia. It has just grown to the point where so many people come back and enjoy the fellowship and the river. We have several river events that happen, like the Rubber Ducky Race that draws about 2,000 people.

“We have an old saying that goes, ‘You can’t get away from Alderson,’ because so many people are related. We have family reunions. We have the high school that used to be here and they have class reunions. This has just become a tradition of 50 or more years. People enjoy the clannishness of the mountains. The people of West Virginia are very friendly. This seems to encompass all of that.”

One man from out-of-state said the Fourth of July in Alderson gave him a new tradition to enjoy.

“I do Hillbilly Spin Art for the kids now,” Daniel Flickinger of Greensboro, Pa., said. “It’s spin-art, but it’s done in a specially modified washing machine. I’ve always been upset with the bad rep that hill-folk get. They’re the most ingenious engineers that walked the earth, and I plan on letting the world know about it.

“You just can’t help but love the reaction you get from the young ones. I figured if I can make some young ones happy, that’s what it’s all about.

“The Fourth used to just be another day to work,” he added. “Seeing the parade in Alderson today made me remember the Fourth of July parades that I’d see when I was a kid. I admit that I got kind of emotional over it. It really brought back a lot of fond memories.”

For another former local, the Fourth of July is about being where he grew up.

“I wanted to be back home,” author Paul Dodd of Syracuse, N.Y., said. “The Fourth of July is a great day. I’m very much a history buff and it’s a special day for me from that standpoint.

“I write about West Virginia because that’s what I know. Everything I write goes back to my childhood. I also wrote a book called’'My Invisible Friend’ as if I was friends with George Washington and I explain to him all the changes the nation has gone through, from electricity to the automobile.”

One man said he always comes to the celebration because he feels so welcomed by the town.

“I’ve been coming here for the last five years,” the Rev. Kevin Carpenter of White Sulphur Springs said. “I love how they treat you here. They welcome you in and make you feel welcome. I do this because I enjoy interacting with the people.

“When I can give the word of God to them, I take the time to evangelize. The Fourth of July is about new beginnings, to me. When you think about everything that happened with the Declaration of Independence, you can’t help but think that way and I tie that into my sermons.”

The Fourth of July Celebration didn’t end Friday; there will be events in town all weekend.

For a full schedule of events, including the Rubber Ducky Race, visit www.alderson4th.com.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com