MADISON — During the third week of June each year, the City of Madison plays host to the West Virginia Coal Festival. This year will be the 21st anniversary of the annual event.
Madison is the county seat of Boone County, where coal was discovered in 1742, and is known as “The Gateway of the Coalfields.”
The major activities at the Coal Festival include a Miners’ Memorial Service; Mine Machinery Equipment Displays; Nashville entertainers; gospel music; a parade; beauty pageants; fireworks; carnival; arts and crafts; food vendors; a downtown Coal Museum; Arts & Heritage Center; and much more.
For five days and nights, Madison comes alive with festivities for all members of the family, and with the exception of the carnival and food, all events are free.
The festival is a great time to get together to celebrate coal mining and its heritage, as well as reminisce about the “good ‘ole days.”
With the beautiful Boone County Courthouse as the backdrop, the opening ceremonies are scheduled for Tuesday, June 17, beginning at 6 p.m.
The Miners’ Memorial Service will be on Wednesday, June 18, also beginning at 6 p.m., and recognizes the memory of those miners who lost their lives mining coal in West Virginia since the last festival. This tradition of recognizing those who gave their lives, so we could have electricity and other necessities, started at the first West Virginia Coal Festival back in 1994.
The guest speaker will Joseph M. Carter, Jr., of the United Mine Workers of America’s Local Union 5770.
Carter has 36 years in the mining industry as an underground coal miner and UMWA representative. He is a fourth generation coal miner.
As a member of Local Union 5770, Carter has served on the mine committee, safety committee and held the position of president.
Carter started working for District 29, UMWA in 1992 as an executive board member and served in that position until the merging of District 29 into District 17, which tool place in July 1996. He then served as executive board member for District 17 until 2001.
In May 2001, he was elected president of District 17 and began serving in that capacity in July 2001.
In Jan. 2005, he became the international vice president of UMWA, District 17.
Carter presently serves as vice president of the WV AFL-CIO, and is a member of the WV Energy Task Force and also serves on the WV Coal Forum.
Carter is a resident of Raleigh County, living in Stanaford, with his wife Becky. They have two children, Matt and Stephanie and a grandson, Cooper.
The VFW’s Women’s Auxilary contingent, the Madison Civil Air Patrol Squadron and various other speakers and singers also attend the event.
Another special event that will be part of the opening ceremonies will be the lighting of the eternal flame. The torch burns throughout the festival and is set up next to the Coal Miner’s Statue on the front lawn of the Boone County Courthouse.
Just across the street from the courthouse is where the mine machinery displays are showcased. Over 20 companies from several states set up their equipment to display to the public.
Many coal miners take this opportunity to show their families and friends the type of equipment they work on deep down in the pits or on a mountain.
The vendors are recognized for their hard work bringing their equipment to Madison with special plaques and a photo-op on the steps of the Boone County Courthouse.
In addition to the Miners’ Memorial, Wednesday night of the festival is the Gospel Music Night, featuring local groups and showcasing their talent. It will take place on the main stage beginning at 7:10 p.m.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the music picks up with country and rock entertainers.
This year, “Little Texas” will be the featured act on Friday, June 20. Matt Stillwell and 7 Bridges, an Eagles Tribute band, will perform Thursday night starting at 7:30 p.m., while Autumn Blair and Katie Ohh take the main stage on Saturday starting at 8 p.m.
Beauty pageants are held at the Madison Civic Center on Saturday, June 14, and those winners are in attendance at various activities throughout the festival.
Gambil Amusements Carnival provides good wholesome family fun at a reasonable price, and our food vendors offer a variety of delicious goodies.
On Saturday afternoon, at 2 p.m., the Grand Parade is held, featuring beauty queens, dignitaries, marching groups and fire and rescue squads. Many of the dignitaries, including the Grand Marshal, ride on the mine machinery that has been on display.
Following the final performers on Saturday night, the Coal Festival concludes with a gala fireworks display starting around 11 p.m. that lights up the skies over Madison.
For more information and a complete schedule of events, look inside the June 18th print edition of the Coal Valley News for a special West Virginia Coal Festival section.