The service is to honor the 29 miners that lost their lives in the April 5 disaster at Performance Coal’s Upper Big Branch Mine at Montcalm, near Whitesville, and four other fatal mining accidents that have occurred in the past year.
“This will be the most difficult service that we’ve ever faced,” said Delores W. Cook, coordinator of the memorial service, which is set to begin around 6:15 p.m., Wednesday, June 16 on the front lawn of the Boone County Courthouse.
Wooden crosses bearing mining hats to memorialize the victims will be set up on the front steps, Cook says.
Also, 34 miners in full mining gear will be in attendance in respect to their “lost brothers,” she said.
The Rev. Frank Frye, pastor of the Madison United Methodist Church will give the invocation and benediction. Be Be Cole, a talented local Gospel singer will perform and Rose Fisher will sing a song she wrote entitled “Coal Miner’s Bible.”
Cook said the usual format is to have the name of the deceased mine victim read aloud on the public address system, followed by the lighting of a candle in their memory.
“This year, a white balloon will be released in memory of each victim,” said Larry Lodato, secretary and publicist of the West Virginia Coal Festival.
“The wooden crosses were made by Mark Vickers’ building construction students at the Boone County Career and Technical Center, and Patriot Coal Corporation is providing the mining hats,” Cook said. “A large wreath also has been donated by Bill Ollie of Michelle’s Flowers in Danville.”
WVCF President Joy Underwood announced the major entertainment for this year’s festival, which includes legendary country music singer Aaron Tippin on Thursday, June 17. That is also United Mine Workers of America night at the festival.
Highway 101 is making their second visit to the festival and will perform on Patriot Coal Corporation night, which is Friday, June 18. Also, the male trio group Savannah Jack, which is being hailed as the next Alabama, is scheduled for Saturday, June 19.
Another main attraction at the festival is the mine machinery equipment, which is always displayed on the parking lot across from the Boone County Courthouse.
James “Jimbo” Clendenen, coordinator, says vendors will be setting up equipment Tuesday, June 15, and they are looking forward to their return visit to Madison.
“Many miners bring their families to the display, so they can get a look at the equipment they work on underground,” Clendenen said. “Many people plan their vacations around the festival, which is always the third week in June.”
Lodato says the local economy always gets a shot in the arm during the five-day event, especially the eateries, convenience stores, retail outlets and gas stations.
“The City of Madison’s police and sanitation departments do a lot of overtime working during the festival,” he said. “Coal Festival officers have made a financial contribution to the city of offset some of those costs.”
The event features live concerts, pageants, miners’ memorial service, gospel music, mine equipment displays, United Mine Workers’ night, Patriot Coal Corp. night, a grand parade, the Bobby Hampton Race for the Cure, fireworks sponsored by Patriot Coal and Hobet Mining, the Coal Heritage Museum and the Pro-Am Basketball Tournament.
The Island Creek Model Railroad Club will have its model railroad system on display at the Boone Arts & Heritage Center, next to the Coal Heritage Museum on Main Street.
Major sponsors of the festival include Patriot Coal Corp., the Boone County Commission, the United Mine Workers of America, the Boone County Economic Development Office, Coal River Energy and Tyler Trucking Company.
For more information on the festival, call the Boone County Development & Tourism Office at 304-369-9118 or visit the online Web site at www.boonecountywv.org