By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON – The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce met Monday to discuss various matters, including the upcoming Coal Dust Run 5K and newly updated website features.
Executive Director Natalie Young brought to the table the possibility of booking Pineville, Kentucky, native and Season 8 America’s Got Talent third-place finisher Jimmy Rose to perform at the event, which is set to take place Sept. 13. Rose, a former underground coal miner, Marine veteran (who was deployed to Iraq in 2005) and father to two young children, would cost the Chamber $5,000, with a $2,500 down payment required as soon as possible.
The chamber discussed the matter at length, as they tried to figure out how they could afford to pay the cost of the performer. Reportedly Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., a Logan native, who won Season 6 of America’s Got Talent, was considered first but had a much higher asking price.
Rose is known for his original song “Coal Keeps the Lights On,” which he used to audition for the show. Chamber members felt that Rose’s background in coal mining, vocal support of coal and Kentucky roots were all good reasons to consider booking him for the Coal Dust Run 5K. The decision was made in favor of paying for Jimmy Rose and his band to perform at the event, which Young hopes will bring in 500 participants.
The Coal Dust Run’s popularity has been increasing rapidly since it began in 2012. According to Young, more than 80 runners participated the first year, while approximately 390 participated the following year. Her reasoning for expecting 500 runners is validated by the continued success of such races in Williamson, a city that has been honored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for creating a healthier community via physical activity, educating the public and working with small businesses.
Young stressed that she would prefer that general admission for the event be free.
As usual, past events were discussed by the chamber, including the Hatfield-McCoy Festival that took place in Matewan and hosted a concert featuring the band Sundy Best. The concert alone earned 350 tickets sold, which, at $15 a ticket, would have equaled a total profit of $5,250.
Leigh Ann Ray, Tug Valley Inn proprietor, said, “No offense to the Matewan area, but I believe if it had been in Williamson, it would have been so much better.”
Although the Jimmy Rose concert is scheduled as part of the post-race festivities, Civic leader Albert Totten made it clear that Williamson needs to find other things for tourists and local residents to enjoy during and after large events.
“A concert is fine, but there’s nothing for people to do after that. Most tourists come in, race, and then what? They pack up and they’re gone. We need more things to do in this area,” Totten said.
Chamber member Diane Hannah said, “The free needs to be over. If food and water are provided, anything beyond that should not be free.”
Hannah went on to say she would be giving the Chamber a $500 donation for the concert, which Young thanked her for and said, “We’ll put your logo on the T-shirts.”
Young shared news about the Chamber of Commerce website as well, saying the database had been updated with individual pages for each member and enhanced search capabilities. The new update will allow businesses to log in and change their information at their discretion, along with updating the public about upcoming events.
Also present was Dr. Steven Wilson on behalf of his optometry practice, Wilson Eye Care. Wilson introduced the newest doctor at Wilson Eye Care, Matewan High School alumnus Dr. Shawn Sammons.
“Shawn is a young, bright, superstar with vision in our area who has real passion about encouraging young people to contribute to this community,” said Wilson, praising Sammons for his commitment to bettering himself, then returing to his home to better Williamson as well.
“I remember when Shawn was 8 years old sitting on my exam chair, and he asked how you would become an eye doctor,” Wilson said. “I showed him some things and it was then he decided he wanted to be an optometrist. And he did just that. He is a very committed young man who will offer a lot to our community.”