Princeton, WV – The Grassroots District of Downtown Princeton will come alive on New Year’s Eve as The Downtown Countdown returns to ring in 2024. Mercer Street is experiencing major growth as new businesses open their doors; there is a palpable buzz on the street. The 11th Annual Downtown Countdown will showcase the colorful and thriving neighborhood, with this family-friendly New Year’s festival. The event features seven stages of live indoor entertainment plus outdoor performances and activities including live music, circus performers, ice sculptors, kids’ activities, a gaming theater, horse & carriage rides, a Pokemon Scavenger Hunt, delicious food options, games and more, plus a countdown, ball drop and fireworks at midnight. Jimmies Restaurant, Sophisticated Hound, Wild Roots and Jamaica Wi Hungry will offer food and beverage options. General admission is free, and guests may purchase one “All Access Entertainment Pass” that will gain access to all live performance venues for $20. Seniors Citizens 65 & over and students are $15. Children 10 & under are Free.
Mercer Street will be closed to traffic and family friendly activities will take place in the area surrounding Dick Copeland Town Square. There will be performances in the street, contests, games and creative activities. MC Doc Atwell will DJ and host the night from the Town Square stage, and Erica “EJ” Atwell will MC other venues. General Admission is FREE and includes all outdoor activities as well as the gaming theater and craft activities. In addition, several businesses will be open to explore and enjoy. “All Access Entertainment Passes” grant entrance to all indoor live entertainment venues including The Room Upstairs, a beautiful turn of the century ballroom-turned small theater, Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company (Mercer County’s first microbrewery), a pop-up venue called “The Listening Room,” Stages Music School and The Sanctuary at Wild Roots. Other Mercer Street businesses that will be open for business (no ticket required) include Jimmies Restaurant, Blue Ridge Bee Company, Daydream Games, The RiffRaff Art Boutique and Danny’s Bar.
There will be a special Pokemon Scavenger Hunt brought to you by Daydream Games, located at 925 Mercer. There will be free face painting and craft activities for kids and a gaming theater featuring the latest video games on the best gaming systems available including Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, and Playstation 4. A New Year’s Wish Tree, created by artist Isaac Preston out of up-cycled copper wire, will offer guests the chance to write their wishes for the new year and hang them on its branches.
There will be delicious food and drinks for sale in Jimmies Restaurant, Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company, Wild Roots Coffeehouse, and Jamaica Wi Hungry. Organizers suggest planning to eat a delicious dinner at the event and plan for plenty of sweet treats. The majority of activities take place in heated spaces indoors, so this event is rain, snow or shine.
This year’s roster of entertainers includes the following:
- In Stages Music School: Known as the Appalachian Soul Man, West Virginia native, Aristotle Jones has become a fan favorite in West Virginia, Central Appalachia and beyond. With engagement, connection, and passion, Aristotle Jones leaves it all on the stage with uplifting music influenced by artists like Bill Withers, Leon Bridges, Ray Charles, Darius Rucker, and other Genre blending musical pioneers. On stage with his 9 piece “Amazing Appalachian Soul Band”, Jones captivates audiences with his range, emotion, authenticity and originality. With his full band Aristotle expands the arrangement to include a stellar horn section, a solid rhythm section, and feature soloists. The music is modern but the feeling of Aristotle’s full band shows transport the audience with the nostalgic energy of Juke Joints found throughout rural Appalachia. A central theme of Aristotle’s music and community projects is shedding light on the contribution to art in culture provided by Black Americans living in the Appalachian Mountains. He is the descendant of coal miners, and farmers who against all odds made a life in the poor coal town of Osage, West Virginia. Jones’ music reflects the values of courage, fortitude and determination that were taught to him while porch picking with his grandfather, a regional Gospel and Soul singer who traveled to segregated coal camps performing for black coal miners in the mid 20th Century, and Aristotle is proud to carry on the legacy of Soulful Folk music inspired by Doo Wop, Gospel and Blues in Appalachia.
- In The Room Upstairs: Conor & The Wild Hunt animates soulful original songs with fresh perspectives on Americana, Folk, and Pop traditions. They encompass a wide dynamic range, from contemplative cinematic ballads to anthemic explosive peaks, with story weaving lyrics, artful and driving instrumentation, impassioned duets, blooming three part harmonies, and a compelling stage presence. The band consists of three professional and committed multi instrumental musicians working together to create immersive experiences. Conor & The Wild Hunt released their debut album titled ‘You’re Not Alone’ in September of 2019. They’ve shared bills with bands such as The War and Treaty, Stella Donnelly, Christian Lopez, Illiterate Light, Satsang, Falls, Ruen Brothers, Ezra Bell, Kelsey Waldon, Yarn, Dustin Thomas, and Crack the Sky. Conor Brendan has performed with artists such as Peter Yarrow and Trevor Hall. Conor Brendan won Gold (1st, ‘Ghosts’, Adult Contemporary) and Silver (2nd, ‘You’re Not Alone’, Americana) in the Mid Atlantic Song Contest. He also won an Emergentseed Microgrant for a stripped down performance of unreleased song, ‘Sometimes I Forget’. New single, “On Your Side” out now on all platforms! conorandthewildhunt.com
- Outdoors: Shannon Gerasimchik, a performance pumpkin carver and finalist on Season 7 of Halloween Wars on Food Network and a Gold Medal ice carver, will be joined by a second carver this year; they will wow and amaze audiences as they transform large blocks of ice into New Year’s masterpieces! Shannon has performed at dozens of festivals and events up and down the East Coast, has won many awards in competitions, and has appeared on television many times in his performance career.
- In The Listening Room: Laney Sullivan and Jameson Price make up the world fusion folk band Holy River. They are also the founders of the Earth Folk Collective and Fonticello Food Forest Project in Richmond, Virginia. Deeply dedicated to environmental and social justice, when traveling they carry in the music a message of humanity’s need for reconnection with the earth. While at home they spend time community organizing and running their homestead and donation based education center The Earth Folk Collective. They have traveled around the country extensively sharing their music at festivals, schools, yoga centers and healing retreats. CassiRaye is an emerging artist whose creative vision is as expansive as her soul. Now based in Shepherdstown, WV, she was born in the MD suburbs of Washington, DC, and was strongly influenced by her southern roots. Audiences find themselves captivated by her earthy, sensual voice, and her original songs lead listeners into the most intimate depths of the human experience. In addition to being a gifted musician, she is also an accomplished visual artist, and in all her creative work, she is inspired to transform the heaviness of life into beautiful expressions of healing that are uplifting and playful. Her debut album Open was released in Spring of 2015. Cassiraye.bandcamp.com
- Outdoors: Fluidity Performance is a talented troupe of circus performers specializing in high-energy, creative fire, acrobatics and other skilled performances. You will be mesmerized and captivated by their variety show at The Downtown Countdown! They have performed at numerous festivals, corporate events, theaters and street fairs, and fueled by a passion for movement and performance art.
- At Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company: Alabaster Boxer, hailing from southern West Virginia, has been referred to as an assembly of all-stars of the state, featuring Nick Durm, Drew Bailey Lawrence, Jason Lockart, Randy Gilkey, Chandler Beavers, Bill Fraley, Brian Bell & F.M Turner, each with decades of musical experience under their belts in a variety of popular projects. Offering up a full length original debut album releasing in April 2023; Alabaster Boxer’s design blends fusions of rock, pop, bluegrass, americana and more. With instrumentation amongst the group consisting of guitars, bass, drums, keys, mandolin and fiddle overtop of harmony driven original anthems, Alabaster Boxer aims to create a new yet familiar listening experience for any audience. The band has received high praise for their live performances and also noted for a story telling setlist, taking their audience along for an experience rather than just a concert.
Other performers include Tim & Maggie in RiffRaff Art Boutique and The Town Square, Jacob Brooks in Jimmies Restaurant, and Barry Cline, who will play Aud Lang Zyne at midnight.
In addition to the main event, there will be additional activities downtown, including “It’s Midnight Somewhere Piñata Party: An Early Bird Countdown” at Princeton Public Library, in cooperation with Daydream Games and Hatter’s Bookshop. The event will include snacks, a live DJ (John Baldwin), crafts and a special “ball drop” and piñata smashing in the library parking lot at 8pm. Botany Tropicals will present “Plants and Intentions,” a fun project for planting your vision for the new year. They will be open from 11am-8pm at their shop at 749 Mercer Street. Jamaica Wi Hungry, the newest addition to downtown, will be open from 3pm-10pm.
RiffRaff Arts Collective teams with several area organizations and individuals to make the event possible. Princeton Fire Department will lower the ball once again and Chief Matthew Mould is instrumental in orchestrating logistics with the ball drop. LLyniuM entertainment in cooperation with RiffRaff provides production of the event, including sound, lighting and logistics, and the fireworks are made possible by The City of Princeton, and executed by Pyrotechnica. Special appreciation to Mercer County Schools and First Christian Church for their cooperation. Big thanks to Mercer County Commission and sponsors that make the event possible including Ramey Toyota, The Denver Foundation, Princeton Storage, Princeton Health Care Center, WVU Medicine/Princeton Community Hospital, Fairfield Inn, Country Inn & Suites, Seaver Funeral Home, WVVA, Star-95and a host of advertisers in the program. Special thanks to the downtown venues for opening their doors to host activities. Cooperation from The City of Princeton, Public Works, Princeton Renaissance Theater, and Mercer County CVB are greatly appreciated. Artist Stefani Slaughter-Burchfield designed and created the ball for the inaugural celebration with a group of volunteers from the local group JumpStart and in 2017, the ball received a makeover to allow for long term sustainability courtesy of New River Community and Technical College and several volunteers.
The event begins at 8:30 p.m. and will continue until midnight. General Admission is FREE and includes all outdoors activities including the gaming theater, craft activities, and face painting. In addition, several businesses will be open to explore and enjoy with no ticket required. All Access Entertainment Passes granting entrance to live entertainment venues including The Room Upstairs, Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company, Stages Music School, The Sanctuary in the back of Wild Roots Coffeehouse, and The Listening Room are $20 for adults, $15 for senior citizens and students, and veterans and kids 10 & under are free. Tickets may be purchased in advance online at www.downtowncountdown.org, or in person at The RiffRaff Arts Collective at 869 Mercer Street. Tickets may also be purchased at the gate. Everyone is welcome to come enjoy the winterfest atmosphere, enjoy the new businesses and celebrate the 2020 Vision of Downtown Princeton. For more information, visit www.downtowncountdown.org, or call 304-320-8833.