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Heroes, heels hailed at Harriman's Hooray festival

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Wrestling welcomed back to downtown festival

By Damon Lawrence

Wrestler Harley Stone doesn’t mind when the crowd turns against him.

He relishes the role.

“Being the heel means you try to get the crowd upset and make them mad at you,” said Stone, who with his tag-team partner, Jeff Collett, enjoyed being the bad guys during Hooray for Harriman festivities.

The event, held downtown on Labor Day, had many visitors, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam. (His Democrat opponent, Mike McWherter, was in Roane County the same day attending the annual Roane County Democratic Party picnic.)

“We had an estimated in-and-out throughout the day of about 7,800 people,”  said Randy Ellis, director of Hooray for Harriman 2010. “I thought it was a real success.”

Many event-goers found their way to the wrestling ring set up on one of the street corners.

“That’s real popular,” Ellis said, of the wrestling. “We brought that back by demand. A lot of people were wanting it.”

The wrestlers swung each other into the ropes and took their opponents down hard to mat, but interacting with the crowd was a big part of the matches.

Heels taunted and reveled in boos, while the wrestlers playing good-guy roles sought to invoke cheers from the crowd.

“I just like the excitement,” Collett said. “The feel of the crowd, working the crowd. It’s in my blood.”

In addition to battling each other, the wrestlers also had to deal with the heat.

The high in Harriman on Monday was around 90 degrees.

“You just have to grin and bear it,” Stone said.

The participants said putting on a good show is what wrestling is all about.  

“We work just as hard if it’s 100 people or 10 people,” Collett said. “You got to satisfy the ones there. The 10 people might not come back next time. You put on a good show and they’ll tell their friends.”

Collett, 48, has been wrestling for 22 years.

He said he’s been in the ring with some big names, including Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel.

Stone said he met Collett when he moved back to Roane County a few years ago.

Stone said the thing he’s most proud of in his wrestling career is working with Collett.