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2023 4th of July Recap

Updated: Mar 25

Our wonderful, Wheeler Chamber of Commerce 38th Annual 4th of July Celebration would not be possible without the generous donations of our local community members. Many of these sponsors not only donate some big bucks, but they often donate supplies, labor, and materials. Please consider shopping local and supporting our following businesses that make fun events like this possible! They MAKE A DIFFERENCE every day by being a part of the community and giving back as often as they can. YOU can MAKE A DIFFERENCE by choosing to shop and support local businesses when you can! TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in our community!


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Here are some of our winners of the 4th of July festivities.

1st Lt. Ben Britt Fun Run (71 participants):

  • Male (10 & under): Kamden Lawyer 18:35

  • Female (10 & under): Izzy Sloan 25:00

  • Male (11-18): Tazlan Brown 13:07

  • Female (11-18): Skylynn Lawyer 15:27

  • Male (19-30): Miles Keith 19:24

  • Female (19-30): Taylor Sparks 14:31

  • Male (31-50): Shane Whiteley 16:43

  • Female (31-50): Brittany English 16:43

  • Male (51+): Steve Zybach 31:55

  • Female (51): Kimberly Porch 32:07

  • Bicycle: Stratton Lee

  • Oldest Participant(s): Steve Zybach

  • Youngest Participant: Charlee Sue Hibler


  • Business: Wellington State Bank

  • Organization: Wheeler County Historical Commission

  • Classic Car: Bob & Mary Nell Finsterwald

  • Church: DV8 Youth

  • Family: Heltons

  • Just for Fun: Rhines & Moudys

  • ATV: Koepkes

  • Open: WHS Cheerleaders


  • Heat 1: Adelynn Gallardo

  • Heat 2: Hunter York

  • Heat 3: Clancy Jahnel

  • Heat 4: Lila Goad

  • Heat 5: Jason Oswalt

  • Heat 6: Azrael Griffin

  • Heat 7: Elvin Cinajero

  • Grand Champion: Lila Goad

PUNT / PASS / KICK (Dustin & Taylor Weatherly):

  • Kindergarten and Younger: Ava Cooper

  • 1st – 2nd Grade: Stratten Lee

  • 3rd – 4th Grade: Henry Reid

  • 5th – 6th Grade: Ernesto

  • 7th – 8th Grade: Preston Hampton

  • High School: Zack Keith

  • Adult: Miles Keith

2nd Annual MUD Volleyball Tournament (Hosted by: DV8 Youth)

  • 1st Place: Notorious M.U.D.

  • Runner Ups: ACES


  • Doubles Champions: Toby Leffew and Derek Doss

  • Doubles Runner-Up: Tera and Madison Finsterwald

  • Singles Champion: TA Taylor

  • Singles Runner Up: Tera Finsterwald

2nd Annual Wild & Free on 83 Car Show (Hosted by: Kelly & Casey Cook)

  • Best in Show: Kirk Clay - 1938 Pontiac Chieftain

  • People’s Choice: Kathy Ensley 1965 Ford Mustang

  • Poker Run: Phillip Woodard

7th Annual Janette Umsted Memorial Scholarship Cornhole Tournament

  • 1st Place: (Advanced) Randall Wynn & Juan Silva

  • 1st Place: (Backyard) Derrick Doss & Marcus Rose

  • Runner Up: (Advanced) John Connelly & Tom Lambert

  • Runner Up: (Backyard) Trenton Gaines & Jacob Widener

Mr. and Miss Firecracker Pageant/Talent Show

Harlow LaJoy Taylor, Huxley Salas and Jasper Allen Lenz with their rendition of “Baby Shark”, Callie Lynn Koepke with “Delta Dawn”, Adlee Koepke and Lucy Moudy with Dolly Parton’s “Working 9 to 5”

2nd Annual “King of the Grill” Red, White and BBQ Contest (Hosted by: Market Square Thriftway)

Chicken: Pork ‘n Things / Ribs: Pork ‘n Things / Pork: Pork ‘n Things / Brisket: Spare Parts BBQ Cook’s Choice: Pork ‘n Things

Overall Grand Champion and winner of TRAEGER Grill given away by Market Square:

Pork ‘n Things

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We like to take a moment to honor the incredible winners of the Wheeler Chamber of Commerce winners for 'Of the Year' awards.

This year's MAN of the YEAR is Mayor Dan Sams and has always been a man of service. He began giving back to his country when he joined the Navy and became a helicopter crewman serving as an anti-submarine warfare operator and a search and rescue swimmer while flying off the USS Saratoga out of Florida. In 1988 he moved his wife and children to Wheeler where he worked in the oil and gas industry until his retirement in 2020. He has been involved in many aspects of our community and Wheeler County. Including serving on the Wheeler ISD School Board, assisting with Boy Scout Troop 472, being involved with his church, and generally helping out with any activities where he was needed. Most recently, Dan became the mayor of the City of Wheeler. When Dan saw the vacancy in our town's leadership, he knew he was willing to step up and serve once again. Since becoming mayor, Dan has been instrumental in acquiring the new city offices and making sure the office is user-friendly for customers, staff, and the city council. He works diligently to make sure all aspects of city government are run legally and efficiently. From attending classes to learning more about his responsibilities as mayor, even mopping up rainwater in the city office! This guy is a leader in every sense of the word. He has made it known that he is all about the improvement, success, and progress of the City of Wheeler. And we are grateful.

Our winner of WOMAN of the YEAR is Lauren Guest. She graduated from Canyon High School in 2010 and WTAMU in 2013 with a major in Ag Business and Economics and a minor in Animal Science. Lauren married Hayden Guest in 2015 and they have since resided in Wheeler with their 3 boys: Slayd (8), Seadyr (5), and Flynt (1). Lauren and Hayden started their business, now Branded Metalworks in 2015. Lauren is a happy-go-lucky spirit that you can find smiling and ready to help. She has a wise soul and thoughtfully thinks through situations to find practical solutions - which has come in very handy this past year in planning the 4th of July Celebration as 4th of July Chairman. We are enjoying much of the fruits of her labor today! Her leadership skills are evident in what you have seen during this year’s celebration. She has also started Women at the Well this past year, which allows ALL women in our community to come together once a week and be filled. A place for ALL women of our community to find UNITY. She serves her family, church, community, and business with 150% and we are so grateful to reap the benefits.

This year’s Employee of the Year is Chief Deputy Caden Walden, a young man who is employed by and serves all of Wheeler County. Rather than a summary of his attributes, we want to quote the nomination letters that the chamber received from his coworkers. “He has a good working relationship with his staff. He goes above and beyond…to take care of the citizens of Wheeler County.” “He is the go-to guy for the personnel. He covers shifts when there is a need, answers phone calls 24 hours a day, and is always easy to approach with concerns or problems.” “...(He) is a living example of what it means to lead by example.” “I have worked with him for the past 8 years…and I’m continually impressed by his leadership skills, work ethic, and enthusiastic attitude. He is extremely professional, dedicated… and does his work with a calm confidence that speaks volumes to his character.” And finally from an important coworker, Sheriff Johnny Carter, “This officer produces a high volume of work while consistently maintaining high standards. The success of the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office is a direct result of his efforts and dedication.”

This year's Volunteer of the Year is actually a whole team of volunteers. The Wheeler Volunteer Fire Department was established in 1948. It began with one fire truck. Through many years of working to improve the department, they now operate 15 trucks for saving lives and protecting property in the City of Wheeler, Wheeler County, and the surrounding areas when called. They currently have 35 active members and are celebrating 75 years of service in 2023!

Breeley Harris is our Teen of the Year and is one who is heavily involved - not only very present on the front end of getting things done but also serving in the background. She is a hard worker, a strong leader, and a very wise, smart young lady with a charming personality. She’s not afraid to take risks, as she was a Chamber Member for 3 years before we started the Chamber Youth Ambassador Program this year. She also was willing to be the first in the pilot program that is now kicked off for the Ogallala Commons Internship Program, being the first in Wheeler. We are sad to see her leave since she just completed her Senior year and headed off to WTAMU - Nursing, but we are confident that she is going to do great things and we can only hope to see her back here someday. Thank you, Breeley, for your dedication to helping us in numerous ways with your time in Wheeler. GO get ‘em and make Wheeler, TX proud, you already have this far!

Keopke Sales and Keopke Legacy Insurance is our winner of Business of the Year. This couple’s business was heavily nominated last year for this award, but just like we expected, they were nominated heavily again this year, and for good reason! As soon as this couple moved to Wheeler, Texas they were on fire to serve the community and that is just what they do! They are heavily involved, provide continuous financial support in many aspects, and always have willing hands to serve in whatever capacity is needed. Their business structures always seem to have a way to help this community, not just provide personal gain. They were an integral part of building the baseball park, providing youth opportunities to grow into leaders and so much more. We are grateful they call Wheeler home.

We wanted to also recognize the Wheeler Historical Commission and their amazing, consistent efforts with the Texas Historical Commission. They recently received their 10th consecutive award “Distinguished Service Award”. They go to workshops on maintaining the Courthouse and all Wheeler County Assets to make sure they are up to the THC standards. Ada Lou Lester, who is part of the team, is our Pioneer of the Year winner! She has served as the Chairwoman for Wheeler County Historial Commission since 2011 and is relentless in her role working for Wheeler County to preserve our history, so we can continue to share it with anyone that will listen! And boy do we have stories to tell! Ada continues to work hard every year with events such as Texas Independence Day, Wild and Free on 83 and currently working on Route 66’s Centennial in 2026 as well as helping lead the charge in celebrating Ft. Elliott’s 150 years in 2025 - just to name a few recent events, but the woman doesn’t quit when it comes to Wheeler County events! And we couldn’t be more grateful and proud of her. Ada was the postmaster for Mobeetie from 1974-1990, then served as postmaster in Wheeler from 1991 - 2007. Ada, thank you for your devoted service to keeping Wheeler County History a priority that won’t be lost.

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BOB MARTIN - Bob is a lifetime resident of Wheeler County. He graduated from Briscoe School in 1959. In 1963, he married Elaine McCasland and they settled on his family farm to raise his family - Teresa, Randy, and Angie. Bob served in the National Guard in Shamrock, Tx from 1963-1969. He attended Boot Camp at Leesville, LA, and Lawton, OK, and summer training each year in Fort Hood, Tx. His quilt was made by TINA LEE and quilted by Flying Hearts.

MACK SIDES - Mack entered service on November 22, 1966. He went through basic training at Ft. Bliss and his AIT training was at Ft. Ord. He later trained at Ft. Knox, learning how to track vehicles. Mack spent 18 months at Bad Hersfeld, Germany. His work was valuable to the Vietnam War effort as he kept the tanks and trucks running that were being sent there. He was discharged on November 6, 1968. Mack’s quilt was made by Jeannie Hennig and presented by Ruth Irvine.

RUSTY HAZZARD - Rusty joined the USMC in January 1992. He was honorably discharged in October 1992 due to injury. His quilt is made by 4H kids, including his son, Jake Hazzard, and quilted by Ken Hastey.

JOEL MICHEL (MIKE) HULON - Aviation Electrician’s Mate Second Class. He joined the Navy in April 1971 and was shipped out to boot camp in Orlando, FL in July. Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, FL for electricians school. Naval Air Station in Moffett Field, CA, Patrol Squadron VP-40, a squadron of 9 P3 Orion Aircraft, 11 aircrews with twelve men each, and around 250 ground support personnel. VP-40 deployed to Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan for two different deployments. Temporary assigned duty to the Philippines, Utapao Thailand, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Bandar Abbas Iran, and Missawa, Japan. Mike was released from active duty on June 30, 1975 and honorably discharged from Navy Reserves in April 1977. The P3 Orion Aircraft was designed for anti-submarine warfare and capable of locating, identifying, and tracking enemy submarines. They participated in combat missions out of Utapao Thailand, flying across Cambodia, South Vietnam, and into the Tonkin Gulf where they patrolled for enemy subs. After the United States withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, VP-40 continued to contribute to the Cold War effort by maintaining surveillance on foreign fleet movements. Missions were long, usually 12 to 14 hours, and mostly boring except for an occasional few moments of fear when enemy radar would locate the aircraft and “lock” on them and the beeps would become a steady tone. At that point, they’d pray the tone wouldn’t end with a boom! Fortunately, that never happened and the aircrew made the same number of landings as they did take-offs. Mike stated, “It was an honor to serve my country and I would gladly do it again if needed.” The quilt was made by Abby Bond Lenz and Lanette Hasety and quilted by Ken Hastey.

CECIL PIERCE - Cecil enlisted in the Army National Guard of Texas and as a reserve of the US Army on January 23, 1961 He did his training at Ft. Ord, CA, qualifying as an Expert Marksman with an M-1 rifle. After 6 months of training in the infantry division, he returned to Shamrock and served in the artillery division as a Fire Director. Cecil’s summer training would take him to Fort Hood and Fort Polk in Texas. He was discharged on January 22, 1967 from the artillery division, Texas Army as Battery B, 2nd BN 131 Artillery. Cecil’s quilt was made by the Wheeler Quilters and quilted by Ken and Lanette Hastey.

TIMOTHY SANCHEZ - Timothy enlisted into the Texas National Guard on March 12, 2004. The summer before his senior year at Clarendon High School, Timothy attended Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. During his time at basic, Timothy learned many things including teamwork and marksmanship. After basic training, Timothy returned home on August 7, 2004, to finish his schooling. In 2005, after graduating, he went back to Fort Knox, and went on to specialize in Bradley System Maintainer/ Mechanics. While there, he learned to diagnose, repair and maintain Bradley Fighting Vehicles. He graduated from Fort Knox on October 28, 2005, being recognized as the Soldier of Steel with a PT Score of 282 out of 300. Timothy then returned to Clarendon, where he worked and attended drills monthly. Then on July 24, 2006, Timothy volunteered to deploy to the southern border to assist the Border Patrol. While there, Timothy did surveillance and later switched to Maintenance of the Border Patrol vehicles. Timothy, attended Fort Polk, to train to become an infantryman (11 Bravo). There he learned about different formations, communications, and weaponry. June 6, 2008, Timothy’s home unity, Delta Company 2-142 Infantry, was activated to deploy to Iraq. Timothy served as a mechanic from August 2008 to November 2009 in Al Asad, Iraq. During his time there, he specialized in the Armored Security Vehicle (A.S.V.) Toward the end of his deployment, Timothy was sent to Kuwait. While there, he trained the next maintenance personnel on teh ASV. After returning home, he was sent to Fort Lewis, WA to attend the Warrior Leader Course. As an E-4 Specialist, he attended the WLC in hopes to be promoted to NCO or Sergeant. He returned home for a year, before being sent to attend Air Assault Class. While there, he trained on how to rig loads for air transport and repel from Black Hawks. Timothy fell short, because of the Ruck March. He said, “if only I was taller, I could have completed the task at hand. In time.” On March 11, 2011, Timothy left the military after fulfilling 6+ years with an honorable discharge. Tim’s quilt was made and presented by the Celebrate Recovery Group and quilted by Ken Hastey.

WILLIAM UMSTED - William was an Army Engineer, training at Fort Bragg, NC and he was stationed in Guatemala. He entered the service in 1973, was active for three years and was inactive for three years, ending his service in 1979. He is one of a few who have received an Above and Beyond the Call of Duty medals during peacetime. William’s quilt was made by Melba Darnell and quilted by Flying Heart Quilts.

TIMMOTHY RODGERS - Timm joined the Army National Guard on May 31, 1989. He was assigned to the 2nd BN/142 Inf., 49th Armored Division. He served there until November 16, 1993. On November 17, 1993 Timm joined the Army and was stationed in Ft. Stewart, GA with the 3BN/15th Inf 24 Inf Division. From there, he served a 6 month tour to Kuwait. He was honorably discharged on November 16, 1996. On November 17, 1996, Timm joined the Texas Army National Guard. He was assigned to the 2nd Bn/142 Inf 49th Armored Division. He attended PLDC (leadership course) in Ft. Polk, LA and was promoted to E5. A six month tour in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during Iraqi Freedom was next. Timm was separated from service on November 16, 2006. Timm’s quilt was made and quilted by Jeannie Hennig.

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