By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON – The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce met Monday to discuss the upcoming Hatfield McCoy festivals and marathon, among other matters.
Natalie Young, executive director of the chamber, started the meeting by addressing her own position, prompting the Chamber to more clearly define her role and what is expected of her.
Other members chimed in, with Leann Ray saying, “We’ve gone from one festival to another. Natalie has been turned into the work mule. We need guidelines for what her role should be, because it interferes with her position.”
It will be expected that those running festivals and activities will take most of the responsibility upon themselves to complete tasks and set up vendors, music and other aspects.
Talk of the upcoming Hatfield McCoy events led the TVCC to discuss tourism, with Tug Valley Roadrunner’s Club President David Hatfield adding his input on the matter, saying, “As you bring people into town, you want them to have a positive experience. It benefits all of us.”
Hatfield went on to say, “You either commit to tourism or you shut it out and let your businesses and town rot to the ground. Those are your two options.”
The upcoming Hatfield McCoy marathon was prominently discussed. The event has been known to bring in large amounts of tourism, with hotels from Williamson to Charleston, and even Prestonsburg, filling up quickly.
“The marathon is only going to grow,” one member said. “Experienced runners have said this is the best terrain around. We don’t want to lose to Pike County, who has similar terrain, because we have the history here.”
1,250 runners currently are expected to participate in this year’s Hatfield McCoy marathon.
Hatfield shared the numbers, saying 25,000 cups, 150 bags of ice, 400-500 pounds of pasta, and a truckload containing copious amounts of water and Gatorade are being used for this year’s marathon.
“I’m not complaining,” Hatfield said. “I’m trying to grow it with what we have. We struggle. We’re not perfect, but we’re struggling to make this event happen and to keep this event with the caliber we have it at now.”
He made it clear that tourism is important for the Mingo County area, and that action, rather than stagnancy, is needed for growth.
“Coal is great,” said Hatfield. “It has served us since the 1800s. There comes a point when you’ve gotta be able to fill a niche. We are missing out.”
The town of Matewan was discussed, as well, with Hatfield saying that “Matewan is poised to do what no other town can do” because of its close proximity to the Hatfield-McCoy trails, options for lodging and spaciousness.
Tourism in Mingo County has become a new source of income for the area, and Hatfield emphasized the importance of taking advantage of this.
The upcoming Fourth of July fireworks show was discussed as well, with chamber members expressing their disappointment that Kentucky has refused to give the Belfry Fire Department any financial assistance for the upcoming event.
Also discussed was the possibility of placing conference facilities in the old Matewan High School building, which currently houses Old School Fitness Center gym.