Wearing blue jeans and sporting black helmets, the famous couple rolled into the United Mine Workers of America Labor Day Celebration here atop a 1999 Harley-Davidson Road King.
Judging by the way his constituents flocked around him, the people were happy to see Manchin. Judging by his comments, he was equally happy to see them.
“This,” Manchin said as he guided his left hand through the air, pointing to the sights and sounds before him, “is a gathering that we look forward to every year.”
Although it was a day of dignitaries, Manchin undoubtedly was the guest of honor at the 69th annual event.
“We are glad to be here,” Manchin said.
“I come from the small, coal mining town of Farmington. I know how hard these people work and I know how appreciative they are for the opportunities they have. We came here today to thank them for everything they do.”
Manchin called Racine “a historical place,” and he is right.
According to the event program, John Peter Salley discovered coal in Racine in 1742, which is the first discovery to be reported in what is now West Virginia.
“Where we came to this river, the country is mountainous, but the farther down, the plainer; in those mountains we found a great plenty of coals, for which we named it Coal River,” Salley, a German settler sent on an expedition by the Virginia governor, wrote in an entry about what is now Boone County.
State Treasurer John Perdue addressed the crowd later that afternoon, telling the Boone County natives and residents in attendance to be proud of their hometowns.
He certainly is.
“During my first speech, I told the crowd I was from Madison,” Perdue said. “When I finished my speech, I asked my dad what he thought about it.
“He told me it was fine except for one thing. He said, ‘Son, Madison is a great city in Boone County. But you’re from Dog Fork Hollow. Don’t ever be ashamed of where you’re from.’ Ever since then, I have told people I’m from Dog Fork Hollow.”
A host of elected officials and other political candidates attended the event.
Among them were Manchin, Perdue, U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, State Attorney General Darrell McGraw, State Auditor Glen Gainer III, Boone County Commission President Mickey Brown, Boone County Circuit Clerk Sue Ann Zickefoose and Boone County Delegate Larry Barker. UMWA President Cecil Roberts and West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue also attended.
Hundreds attended the free event, which also featured music and food.
“That’s why we come,” said Drawdy resident Joe Halstead, 37, who was with his family — wife Valerie, 36; daughter Alyson, 17; daughter Madison, 11; and son J.D., 19 months.
UMWA officials were happy with the turnout.
“I think it went real well,” said Ted Hapney, a UMWA international representative who organized the annual event. “It was a little warm, but I think people were pleased with it. We will be back there next year.”
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