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Small Town USA - 4th of July Celebration

Updated: Jul 27

For a moment in time, we forgot and we remembered all in one setting. We forgot all about the politics, the hate, the uncertainty that inundates us on the daily and we remembered, we remembered the sacrifices made by our beloved veterans, the freedom we have as Americans and the love we have for our community.


It looked different, but we quickly realized that sometimes forced change actually works out for the better and that we can form new traditions, value old traditions and move forward. It was awesome and for a moment we were just proud, proud to be Americans and proud to be in a Small Town in the USA.


To kick off the weekend celebration, Cornerstone hosted "Bring Back the Drag - Red, White and Blue" and Main Street was lined with smiles, patriotic decor, burnt rubber and music from our favorite Legends 92.9. It was the perfect way to get the party started.


The 4th Annual Janette Umsted Memorial Scholarship Corn Hole Tournament was a huge success with 24 doubles teams and 14 competing in the Best Throw contest. Congratulations to Randall and Deborah Wynn from Memphis on winning the tournament and the cooler and runner ups Cody and Christy from Elk City.


Mitchell Ford and the Volunteers took the stage and gave us one more reason to be proud of our small town! If you missed them or just can't get enough, be sure to check out their website or follow them on their social media pages! We're proud of you guys and look forward to having you back!

During intermission, we hosted our 1st North vs. South Fireworks POP OFF Competition. We learned a few things and plan to make it bigger and better next year, but it was still fun! The 2020 Winner that will have bragging rights for the next year is the NORTH side....

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JW Lane and CR X were ready to play and they sure did bring an energy that was welcomed by all. Wheeler County hometown boys playing in front of hometown crowd, can't beat that!


Although we did not have the 1st Lt. Benjamin Britt Fun Run this year, he still lives on in many of our hearts. In fact, we had a few that still ran in his honor and we couldn't be more moved. The 1st Lt. Benjamin Britt Memorial Scholarship is always open for donations: WAAIC - Ben Britt Scholarship, PO BOX 489, Wheeler TX 79096. All donations are appreciated as they go to local scholarships for high school seniors. We will always remember - HOME of the FREE BECAUSE of the BRAVE. We will never forget. #BrittNeverQuit #KeepTheFaith


Leon and Marianne Smith honored the local veterans with a hot breakfast at the courthouse gazebo. We are forever grateful for those that served and want to continue to honor them.


This year the parade took on a new route and turns out, change can work out for the better because we heard numerous comments on how great it was! It included our Parkview Assisted Living and Wheeler Nursing and Rehab residents, local neighborhoods and ended on the Main Street Square. We appreciate all our participants and look forward to growing our parade! The winners were as follows:

Business: Paleteria y Neveria don jose (ice cream shop)

Club/Organization: Wheeler Bass Club

Classic Car: Bob and Mary Nell Finsterwald

Church: Wheeler Church of Christ

Family: Bradstreet Family

Just for Fun: Roy Gates Family

ATV: Koepke “Wheeler Ink & Threads”

Open: Wheeler Banking Center


The parade ended at the Courthouse Square, where Troop 472 presented the colors, Mali Velasquez sang the National Anthem, our vendors with the Panhandle Handmade Market spread out on the lawn, and many, various food and activity booths filled the space. It was the epitome of small town USA!

Following with tradition we did have the Turtle Race but in the middle of downtown with the direction of Drs. Ben Ed and Lee Ann Hillhouse. The winners of the heats: Heat 1 - Jackson Gallagher / Heat 2 – Javerick Sparks / Heat 3 – Hugo Lopez / Heat 4 – Avery Dukes / Heat 5 – Ava Rameriz GRAND CHAMPION – Avery Dukes.


The annual Horseshoe Tournament was held and the Doubles Champions was TA Taylor and Shane House, Doubles Runner-ups were Steve Timmens and Dallas Owens, the Single Winner was TA Taylor and Runner-up was Payton Leffew


Silent Auction - We appreciate every business, artisan and individual that donated silent auction items. The Wheeler Chamber will determine where the funds raised will go, in order to help other organization(s) doing projects for the community. We will be announcing once decided. Huge thank you to Christie Davis for organizing this fun event. Click on the picture below for a slideshow of all the auction items! Thank you to those that bid on the auction items.

Kids and Art CARE / Kids at Heart – Silent Auction

We appreciate all the kids that donated their artwork to raise funds for community projects. We also appreciate all the patrons that donated to the cause. The Rogue Theatre was decorated with all the artwork and was very impressive to see all the local talents. Also big thank you to the Kids at Heart that donated to the cause to help raise funds. We want to give Commemorative Art Tokens to all participants, so please stop by the Wheeler Vet Clinic. These token were created by Blue Line Laser Designs. Some of the local projects have been (4) raised garden beds for our Parkview Assisted Living and Wheeler Nursing and Rehab residents, purchase local business gift cards and gave them to many front line, essential workers. Money raised from the 4th of July Silent Auction will go towards the cleaning of our American and Texas flags that hang from WVFD trucks as well as purchasing a second set! We are also working on funds to go to the Rincon family that lost their house and belongings in a house fire on Sunday morning. More great things to come, so stay tuned.


Before the parade, one of our local Kids and Art Artist, Hazen Dorris, helped in presenting our local Fire Departments with cases of Gatorade packets.


Wheeler’s Got Talent

1st Place and winner of $300 was Zhadia Flores with her dance routine, 2nd Place and recipients of $200 was Emma Lampert and Sophie Whitener. Other contestants going home with $100 were Slade Rose, Katherine Woollard, Nathan and Grant Cooper. It took a lot of courage to perform in front of a large crowd, but these kids didn't blink an eye and did so well! We're very proud of them and look forward to watching more from them!

1st Place - Zhadia Flores dance routine:


2nd Place - Emma Lampert and Sophie Whitener signing:


Kathrine Woollard's dance:


Slade Rose TicTok Dance:


Nathan Cooper's "Rhinestone Cowboy":


Grant Cooper entertains us with a song:


Friends of Veterans Quilt Presentation:

The Friends of Veterans were able to present (14) Quilts this year to our local veterans. Some were given prior to the celebration and we are still working on getting pictures of all. Special thank you to everyone who took the time and effort to quilt these specials quilts and to Ken and Lanette Hastey with Flying Heart Quilts for quilting 12 quilts at no cost and with love ! A huge THANK YOU to all our service men and woman for their hard work and sacrifice. We want you to know we love you and are very grateful for your dedication to our country.


The mission of the Friends of Veterans is to recognize service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts and give them our deepest appreciation and gratitude for time spent serving our country. Our community is forever grateful. We plan to present quilts to our local veterans annually. If interested in donating to Friends of Veterans for quilts or upkeep of the granite memorial on the courthouse lawn, please make check to “WAAIC – Friends of Veterans” PO Box 489, Wheeler TX 79096. A big thank you to the Wheeler Historical Museum for displaying the quilts.


Here is the link to the LIVE ceremony

Quilt presented to Douglas Rives – Quilt made by Andrew Coomer quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

Doug Rives: I joined the United States Army under the special operations S&E program. My first assignment was all classified. I was then ordered to the Biological Research Facility at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, TX. We did biological research on animals for human related diseases and treatment. I was able to work with General John Hartong in research and development of shock/trauma centers for severe battlefield injuries. Much of our research is commonplace today.

I received orders to report to the Corps of Engineers Waterway Experiment Station in Vicksburg, MS. I was involved in biological research concerning the environmental effects of Corps projects on the Mississippi River.

Doug Rives also requested that we honor his father, William E.M. Rives:

Military service for William E.M. Rives (Doug’s Father) E.M. (Curley) Rives was born November 4, 1922, in Kelton, Texas, to Don Preston and Ruby Mae Teakell Rives. He lived in Wheeler County most of his life. He married Marcia J. Cox on October 9, 1942. He died on April 21, 2007.

E.M. Rives joined the United States Navy in 1942. He was sent to Camp Peary, Willamsburg, Virginia for training. He then went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for training with the Marine Corp. After training, he went to Camp Parks, California, and on to Por Hueneme where he shipped out to the Pacific.

E.M. was with the 107th Seabees Battalion. The 107th left California in 1943 and sailed to Pearl Harbor. After leaving Pearl Harbor, the next stop was the Marshall Islands, the island of Ebeyi and Kwajalein Islands. These islands had been shelled for weeks by Navy destroyers. The 107th went in to clean up any resistance and clean up the shelled-out debris. They then built landing strips for B-24 bombers and latter B-29 Liberators.

The 107th moved on to Eniwetok Island and then to Tinian. After cleaning up Tinian, large airstrips were built for B-29s. From Tinian the B-29s could easily strike mainland Japan. The personal were subject to many Japanese air strikes and bombing runs. After Japan surrendered, the 107th moved to Saipan to clean up the island. They returned to the U.S. in December 1945.

Quilt presented to Bob Rowley – Quilt made with love by Brenda Sparlin quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

Bob Rowley was 19 years old when he went into the United States Army. He served from August 3, 1967 until August 5, 1969. During this time, he was in Vietnam, where he was a Specialist 5th Class USATC Wireman. He was in the 2nd Battalion 13th Infantry. He received the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal 60 Devise, Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars and a Code of Conduct Medal. Bob and his wife, Gale, have been married since June 1978 and have 4 children, 7 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Bob may have grown up in Canadian, but he is proud to call Wheeler “Home” and is even prouder to say he is an American.

Quilt presented to James Hubble – Quilt made by Kathleen Cross, Pam Hill and Rhonda Merriweather quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

James went to boot camp at San Diego, California, then to “A” school for communications in Pensacola, Florida and stopped off at Commerce, Texas at East Texas State University and got married. Then he went off to Midway Island for a year and 15 days. When leaving Midway, he wanted to go to Europe and had a stop in Pensacola for “C” school had him headed that way. But, when the orders came in at school, he was headed back to the Pacific to the hardest duty anyone could have… Naval Communications Station in Honolulu, Hawaii. While there, he volunteered for a two-week cruise from San Diego back to Hawaii. Two days before he was to fly to San Diego, orders were changed to temporary duty in the Philippines. So, he got to see another part of the world. He went to San Miguel on the Island of Luzon. Other US Bases there were the Clark Air Force Base and the Naval Base Subic Bay. This experience made him really appreciate life in the United States (even in the current state of mess). Then he returned to Hawaii and eventually to state side. The job was all types of secure communications from the Pacific to various commands on the East Coast. He was land lubbing sailor (one that never served aboard a ship). All duty stations (even San Miguel) was considered preferred shore duty. Sometimes he felt guilty about the duty. He had family, friends and a good buddy serve time in Vietnam. But states that the part he played, hopefully helped in making their time better.

Quilt presented to Johnny Chapman – Quilt made by Judy Woollard quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

Johnny’s time served in the National Guard was from January 15, 1970 – January 16, 1976. His basic training was at Ford Ord in California. He served in the infantry. Most of his summer camps were in Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

Quilt presented to David Gilmer – Quilt made by Sue Ann Gilmer quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

David was drafted before he could enlist at the age of 18. He took basic training at Fort Lewis in Washington State and then headed to Southeast Asia. It took 17 days to get to Vietnam, three of those days spent circling in the Pacific because they arrived early. He spent two years in the war. David was wounded and received the Purple Heart. Gilmer was a private in the Army.

Quilt presented to Jerry Newberry – Quilt made by Pam Hibler quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

Jerry served the US Navy on the USS Missouri as a deck hand. He was honorably discharged in May 1950.

Quilt presented to Darryl Snelgrooes – Quilt made with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

Darryl served the Marines from August 1966 – August 1970. He was 0331 0 an M60 machine gun operator and later was S2 Intelligence and his designation changed to 02-31. Darryl went to boot camp at MCRD, San Diego, California and from there to camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He served in Cuba for 6 months and then spent time in Okinawa, Viet Nam and Washington D.C. When he was honorably discharged he held the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Quilt presented to Robert Brickey – Lindsey Shirey and quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

In 1972 Robert entered service to the US Navy. He made short trips to Viet Nam and then around the world three times. Robert served aboard the destroyer, the USS Jonas Ingram and was discharged in November of 1976.

Quilt presented to Lon Foreman – Quilt made by Wheeler Quilting Bees & quilted with love by Ken & Lanette Hastey

Lon joined the Naval Air Reserve in May 1969 at Hensley Field Naval Air Station in Grand Prairie, Texas. He transferred to regular Army in December 1969 and left for Ft. Lewis, Washington. From there Lon went to Ft. Story, Virginia and then ump school at Ft. Benning. After that it was Special Forces Training Group at Camp Mackall, North Carolina and then to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver. In August 1971 to RVN, Quang Tri, Bien Hoa, Long Birh. Lon returned to America in 1972 to Fort Bragg and exited the Army February 1974.

Quilt presented to Steve Orr – Quilt made by Rae Wheeler and quilted with love by Flying Heart Quilts

After college graduation there was a draft notice waiting. Steve enlisted in the Navy and went to Naval Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island and became an Ensign. From there he went to Flight Training in Pensacola, FL for 18 months. Then to Kingsville for Advanced Jet Training. Steve spent 4 years at Virginia Beach flying a F4 Phantom Jet He then took a 9-month cruise in the Mediterranean on the SS Independence as a VF84 Flight Instructor Pilot. After 6 years serving the USN, he went to law school in Atlanta using his education credits. Steve as an airline pilot for Eastern Airlines for 16 years.

Quilt presented to Ed Hennig – Quilt made by and quilted with love by Flying Heart Quilts

Ed Hennig was inducted into the Army out of Pampa on February 18, 1970 and had basics in Ft. Ord in Monterrey, California. From there he went to VN from August 1, 1970 to August 3, 1971. First duty station at Phi Pai. From VN to Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas. He was trained as a Wheeler Vehicle Mechanic and was honorably discharged on October 21, 1971.

Quilt presented to Ron Rives – Quilt made by Brenda Sparlin

Ron was in the United States Air Force Nursing Corp and held the rank of II Lt. His time of service was 972-74, serving at Travis AFB in Bacaville, California.

Quilt presented to Roland Miles – Quilt made by Brenda Sparlin

Roland was a member of the National Guard and was stationed several places here in the Southwest. He was a mechanic and kept all kinds of vehicles at the ready.

Quilt presented to Harold Lynn “Bronc” Austin – Quilt made by and quilted with love by Flying Heart Quilts

Graduated from Kelton High School in May 1966. He was drafted into the Army in 1966/1967 and went to Boot Camp, Charley Company in Ft. Bliss at El Paso, Texas. He was sent from there to Ft. Ord, Monterrey, California for truck driving school. In 1967/68 he was sent to Korea, for 13 months. He served in B Company 2nd Division Supply and Transport. He was sent home to Ft. Sill in 1968 for 5 months serving in the 4th Army 471 Transportation Company. He was Active Reserve from 1968 to 1970 and inactive reserve from 1970 to 1972 and was honorable discharged in 1972.

Quilt presented to G.W. Barrett – Quilt made and quilted with love by Flying Heart Quilts

G.W. was 18 when he volunteered for the Draft on March 7, 1971. He went into the army and did his basic training at Ft. Leonard in Wood, Missouri. Upon completing basic training, he received orders to go to Ft. Lee, Virginia to train as a petroleum storage specialist. His rank at that time was PFC-3. He received orders that he was being deployed to Vietnam and was given 30 days leave with orders to report to Ft. Lewis, Washington. He was to be deployed from McCord Air Force Base to Vietnam, but before that happened there was a troop diversion and he and approximately 2500 other soldiers were told to stand down. H was then sent to North Ft. Lewis and promoted to E-4 as the Units Armor Specialist. He was then shipped to the Main Post at Ft. Lewis where he was attached to the 9th MP Division, where he stood a post at the Main Gate. He was with the 9th MP Division until he ETS’D out on March 8, 1973.


Wrapping up the ceremony, the Wheeler Chamber "Of the Year" Awards were presented to those nominated by the community that are deserving of recognition. This year did not disappoint and we congratulate all our winners!

Wheeler Chamber of Commerce 2020 Volunteer of the Year - Shelly Sparks