Shoffner honored on Levitt stage

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2023


Week 2 of the Levitt summer concert series featured Nashville headliners The Royal Hounds, a high-energy trio that combines music with showmanship. These artists have shared the stage with Johnny Cash, The Tennessee Three, Travis Tritt, Wanda Jackson, Southern Culture on the Skids, Shooter Jennings, Big Sandy and The Kentucky Headhunters. The Royal Hounds features Scott Hinds on vocals and doghouse Bass, Matheus Canteri on guitar, and Nathan Place on drums.

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Opening up for the band was local Cumberland Gap artist, Michael Jones, who is known by the stage name Lazarus Lake.

The city also celebrated John Shoffner at the Levitt AMP Middlesboro music series upon his return from a trip to the International Space Station. Shoffner is the first person to ever receive the key to the City of Middlesboro.

In May, Shoffner served as pilot on Axiom Space Ax-2 mission to the ISS. Throughout the duration of his mission, he hosted live events with schools around the world, including an interactive conversation from the ISS with Middlesboro students. While on orbit, Shoffner captured educational videos to excite the next generation of space enthusiasts, facilitated an International Art and Poetry contest that garnered over 930 entries from 26 countries, and participated in skinsuit testing in partnership with MIT that will shape the future of space exploration.

Today, Shoffner aims to showcase the value that space commercialization brings to Earth. With his mission behind him and ambition to support the growth of STEAM education in local schools, Shoffner will continue to advance a robust program for students alongside Middlesboro Independent School’s Director of STEM, Chris Stotts.

A Middlesboro native who now calls Knoxville home, Shoffner is an accomplished aviator, skydiver, race car driver and lifelong space enthusiast. He discovered his love for art and science at an early age. At age 8, he formed a young astronauts club with his friends while attending Middlesboro Public Schools.

Although space was his first passion, he took an alternative career path. Shoffner formed Dura-Line Corp., which developed multiple processes for the placement of fiber optic cable during the 1980s. During his time as CEO, he made a lasting impact on the economic and industrial landscape of the tri-state area, connecting a local industry to a global market.

“John has not only gone off to accomplish an astonishing list of feats, but he will always be remembered as someone who gave back to the community that helped to mold him into the man that he is today,” said Mayor Boone Bowling. “John has not only remembered his roots – he has come back home to water those roots to see others flourish. That is something not just me, but the whole town is thankful for. There couldn’t be someone more deserving of the first key to the city than Mr. John Shoffner.

“John, being one of the youth, I’m very thankful for what you’re doing and what you’re  doing to give back. I wholeheartedly thank you for that and I aspire to be much like you and give back just like you have.”

Bowling also presented Shoffner with the Mayor’s Medal of Merit at the ceremony.

“My hero of course is my dad, and it’s an honor to be up here because you are my dad’s hero,” said Bowling.

A public meet and greet with John Shoffner took place on the corner of the Apex Medical Building immediately following the headlining act.