For the past 18 years, one of the highlights of the annual West Virginia Coal Festival in Madison is the mine machinery equipment displays across the street from the Boone County Courthouse. They are featured so that the public can get a first hand look at the mammoth machines that produce coal to fuel the power plants that generate electricity. Over 30 companies from seven states send equipment and representatives to man the displays at the Coal Festival In Madison. It is the largest annual display of mine machinery in West Virginia.
The mine machinery displays are an intricate part of the Festival and features over $20 Million of the latest technology used to mine and transport coal out of the mountains and to the power plants to generate electricity and to make steel. Only the elite companies are invited to the Madison coal show to display their equipment.
The man responsible for the huge task of coordinating all the vendors and getting the equipment to Madison from hundreds of miles away for public viewing is James R. “Jimbo” Clendenen, maintenance superintendent for Patriot Coal Corporation. Clendenen gives up a week’s vacation every year to spearhead the event and to ensure that the vendors bring their top of the line equipment so the public has a chance to see the vast array of machinery. The equipment also is featured during the Festival’s Grand Parade on the final day of the Festival each year.
Clendenen has been selected as the 2012 winner of the Nick J. Rahall “Beacon of the Coalfields” Award for Outstanding Achievement in Preserving Southern West Virginia’s Coal Heritage. He was presented the award on October 4, at the 2012 Miners’ Celebration held at Tamarack in Beckley by Homer Hickam of “Rocket Boys” fame. The movie “October Sky” was about Hickam and his buddies growing up in
the 1960’s in the small McDowell County coal mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia. From Coalwood, the “Rocket Boys” became famous.
Clendenen was nominated for the award by Larry V. Lodato, secretary-publicist for the WV Coal Festival and a Board Member of the National Coal Heritage Authority.
“The average person does not have an inkling of the size and the overall mechanics of the underground equipment and what goes on underground to bring coal to the surface,” Lodato said. “The Festival gives the miners’ families a chance to see and get aboard the equipment that their husbands, fathers and relatives work on underground. Jimbo is certainly deserving of the honor for all his hard work and dedication over the years.”
Clendenen is a Boone County native and grew up within a stone’s throw of where coal was first discovered in Peytona, WV in 1742. His work ethic is second to none and coal mining has been in his blood since starting out as a “red hat” trainee over four decades ago.