MATEWAN - “This is my dream, it’s the dream of the mayor of Matewan and all our council members; it’s the dream of those who have lived, worked and served in this historical town for many years, and we’re ecstatic to announce that our first official meeting on this subject is only a day away,” stated Donna May Paterino, as she spoke with the Daily News about the “I Have a Dream” organizational and planning session slated to take place Friday evening, at 6 p.m.
“We’ve talked about the need for an amphitheater in Matewan for years, we’ve spoke with state officials, the Department of Tourism, the Historical Society, our local and county officials – we’ve pushed this issue for a very long time,” commented Paterino.
Paterino explained that following the 1984 flood that devastated the Town of Matewan, a “Master Plan” for the flood wall that was completed in 1996 allowed and planned for the location of an amphitheater, but the funding allocated for the completion was not enough for the entertainment portion of the floodwall to be completed.
“Our flood wall and the one in Huntington were completed right around the same time, but there’s did include a really nice amphitheater,” said Paterino. “When we inquired about what the reasoning was behind this decision, we were told that the creation of the Matewan floodwall was done with the foremost concern being the protection of our residents from high water, while the one in Huntington was planned to also include a means of entertainment for those who attend city functions in that location.”
“Larger town equaled more funding.”
Friday evening at the Matewan United Mine Workers Association (UMWA) Hall, Paterino, along with Matewan Mayor Shelia Kessler, city council members (past and present), local UMWA President Frank Collins, COMPAC President Butch Collins, Johnny Fullen and several other community and county leaders will be meeting to discuss the exciting news released earlier this week by the office of UMWA President Cecil Roberts’ Communications Director, Phil Smith, who informed Paterino that Roberts was seeking all avenues of funding that may be available to construct the long-awaited amphitheater in Matewan.
“President Roberts whole-heartedly supports the idea of an amphitheater in Matewan,” stated Smith, as he spoke with the Daily News. “It’s very important for us to have the adequate facilities and resources to share not only the history of coal with the rest of the nation, but to share our rich heritage that includes the Matewan Massacre and the Hatfield and McCoy feud.”
“It’s time Matewan and Mingo County are on even playing fields with other towns who use the history of the coal wars and the feud that began and was birthed right here for profit in other locations,” Smith remarked. “The UMWA is behind this project, and with dedicated people involved that keep the faith and don’t give up the dream, Matewan has every chance in the world of seeing an amphitheater built.”
Paterino asked to remind the public that Friday’s meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend, and she is extending a special invitation for county and state leaders to attend, to be a part of the first official meeting concerning this project.
“We want your input, your ideas, and most of all, we want to build a strong group of volunteers who will work together toward a common goal of seeing our dream become a reality,” concluded Paterino.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been to seeing this project begin, and I can’t say how happy that makes me.”