MADISON — The Boone County Commission committed $5,000 on Jan. 28 to the West Virginia Coal Festival, despite cutting nearly 30% of the county’s budget over the last nine months to compensate for what commissioners have called a decline in overall revenue for the county.
Commissioner Brett Kuhn made the motion to reallocate the funds from the budget to the festival. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Craig Bratcher.
“I just feel that we’ve lost so many things over the last several years, and I feel that there are many people who look forward to the Coal Festival and how it brings family, friends and community together,” Kuhn said of the event, which is in its 27th year. “I think the Coal Festival provides a vehicle for us to come together and celebrate our heritage and allow us to have something positive. We need those positive things in our community and I felt strongly about supporting it.”
Kuhn noted that the county has not traditionally supported the festival outside of accommodating the event with the use of facilities and select personnel.
“It was important for us to try to make up for that in some capacity,” he said.
Coal Festival President and Treasurer Delores Cook, who has volunteered her talents to the event each year of its existence, requested the funding during the Jan. 28 meeting.
“This is one of the things that we’ve worked very hard to keep alive through the years,” Cook said in the meeting. “Some people take their vacations around it and come home for the festival. Unless you’ve been involved, it is hard to understand the magnitude of the work that goes into the planning. We know there are obstacles and we are working to overcome them. The volunteers who work on the festival and those who attend each year are very passionate about it.”
Kuhn said his message for those who question the vote to contribute to the festival is simple, and he would like to express it to CVN readers.
“Reallocated money is all about economic development,” he said. “Any time we have an opportunity to bring folks back to our area, I think tourism can be a spoke in the wheel of all of the things we must do to turn Boone County around and see us flourish once again. The Coal Festival has to be a spoke in that wheel.”
Via West Virginia Code, Article 13A defines “Economic Development Project” as “a project in the state which is likely to foster economic growth and development in the area in which the project is developed for commercial, industrial, community improvement or preservation or other proper purposes.”
The West Virginia Coal Festival is scheduled for June 16-20. Look for a preview story on the festival in a future edition of the CVN.