By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - “Our phones have been ringing off the hook here at the Chamber of Commerce,” exclaimed Executive Director Natalie Young with a smile on her face. “I think we may have to add a second line in the near future, and that’s a fantastic thought!”
Young has been extremely busy during the past few weeks, as she experiences a definite increase in the nation’s interest in the Tug Valley area that served as home to what has now been crowned “the most famous feud in American history”.
“The increase in those interested in our area all began here in Mingo County with the visit of Mike and Frank with the American Picker’s and it has escalated since then, with the airing of the History Channel shows that were centered around the Hatfield and McCoy feud,” explained Young.
“It’s our turn to shine, and the opportunity is now here for Mingo County to seize the moment and turn this national attention that we have received into a success story that will benefit our communities for many years to come.”
Young told the Daily News that she has been contacted by individuals from all over the United States the day after the first part of the Hatfield and McCoy mini-series aired.
“They watched the series and were fascinated with the history of the feud and wanted to get additional information on the tourist sites of locations where some of the fighting, killings and trials were held,” Young stated. “Their interest was definitely sparked and now they want to see these sites for themselves.”
Next weekend, June 8 and 9, the “Hatfield and McCoy Festival” will be held in Williamson and in Matewan, and local motels along with those in Logan and in Pikeville, Ky. are reporting a full house.
The world famous “Hatfield and McCoy” Marathon which has earned it’s place on the list of top marathon locations in the U.S. has to date, nearly 420 runners registered for this year’s race. The goal of founder David Hatfield who serves as President of the Tug Valley Roadrunner’s Club is to break the 500 mark, which has never been done. With a week remaining for registration, the chances of achieving that landmark is a definite consideration.
The TVCC has purchased “True Hatfield” and “Real McCoy” ribbons for descendants of the feuding clansman to wear during the festival, and Young feels this will be a nice addition to the event. Commemorative t-shirts bearing a logo that reads “Hatfield and McCoys; Them’s Fightin Words” will be available for purchase inside the historical Coal House during the festival, for the price of $15 for sizes up to and including XL, and $18 for those larger. Young has placed an additional order for more shirts after realizing they were already selling like hot cakes, and she is convinced they will be a hot commodity for visitors attending the festival as well as locals residents.
One wish that Young voiced for the City of Williamson and the Town of Matewan is that all businesses will post signage and welcome banners before the festival events begin and the crowds start rolling in, extending a warm welcome to all Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.
“This is the time to embrace our history and show how proud we are of our heritage, and to welcome each and every person who travels to our towns,” remarked Young.
“We will never get this chance again. The time is now to reap the profits of all of the national media attention on our County and to see this grow year after year into a tourist attraction that is attended by hundreds of thousands.”
“We have been given an outstanding gift and if we play our cards right, we’ll see a boost to our local economy that can turn our county around, but we have to work at it steadily and not slack in our efforts to use this for all it’s worth.”
Young said that if local businesses will participate and put their best foot forward and put out their welcome mats, so to speak, the 2012 Hatfield and McCoy Festival could be the ground breaking event for an onslaught of tourism that has never been seen in Southern WV.
“We know that other areas that are now major tourist attractions began just like this and there’s no reason in the world that Williamson and Matewan can’t accomplish the very same feat,” said Young.
“If we all band together and work toward a common goal, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.”
For more information on the festival or other Hatfield and McCoy related events, you may contact Young or her assistant at 304-235-5240 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and you are also encouraged to view their website, www.tugvalleychamber.com , and you also find their facebook page by searching “Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce”.
Both sites are home to a large amount of useful information regarding the famous feud.