For our West Virginia trip we found two festivals that allowed us to set up the photobooth and they could not have been more different from each other. The first was the 14th Annual Hatfield and McCoy Family Reunion, Festival, and Bi-State Marathon that took place in both Belfry, Kentucky (McCoy side) and Williamson, West Virginia (Hatfield side). It was an all encompassing festival that included lectures, films, tours, a street fair, 5 marathons, and a circus.
The festival had grown from several dozen the first year to 5,000 this year, and since there are only a few hotels in the area the Belfry Fire department let overnight guests sleep inside on cots where the fire trucks are normally kept. We camped out back next to a creek for a fee of $20. We had dinner with the organizers at the Belfry High School, which, besides the fire department, was the nicest building in town. Both were built with coal company funds.
The festival relied heavily on the Hatfield and McCoy feud allure and their affiliation with The 50 Staters, a club for marathoners who aspire to run in all 50 states. The Marathon started in Belfry, Ky and ended in the fortified town of Williamson, WV. Williamson had a street fair, where we set up our booth. Hatfield and McCoy impersonators high fived every runner at the finish line. In the downtown area, about 90% of the store fronts are law offices or private practice medical offices. The runners were mostly tourists, and the festival were townspeople proud of their heritage. In this, the Festival has succeeded in bringing in commerce as well as incorporating the existing population.
On our way to the next festival we stopped in Matewan just to pay respects to the history there. I stood in the spot Smilin’ Sid Hatfield stood his ground in the shootout against private coal company security. Matewan was holding a festival too, but we hadn’t seen any mention of it anywhere. This seemed to be a festival for the people of Matewan, although it could easily become as big as the Hatfield and McCoy Festival with the right networking.
West Virginia Part 2
For our second leg through West Virginia we spent Saturday and Sunday at the New River Fest in Fayetteville, West Virginia by the New River Gorge Bridge (the largest arch bridge in the western hemisphere), and then two days at Babcock State Park in Danese, West Virginia (as well as day trips to Hawk’s Nest and Mystery Hole).
The Festival in New River was the second annual and was trying to jump on the eco-tourism fervor that is greatly talked about in Appalachia. But most, if not all, of the people we talked to there were from the area and attendance was lighter than they expected. The booths and entertainment were all related to education (we were allowed because we were research based). However, this festival is new and did join up with several Appalachian organizations. Their information was easily found, so perhaps in the upcoming years it could grow as big or bigger than the Hatfield and McCoy Fest.
New River, Hawk’s Nest, and Mystery Hole WV blog: http://www.magbooth.com/magbooth-portrait-of-appalachia-week-3-2/