By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - “They’re coming from near and far,” stated former Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Cecil Hatfield from the historic Coal House on 2nd Avenue in Williamson on Monday, where he was called to come in and give Natalie Young, the current director a hand.
“They’ve all caught the Hatfield and McCoy fever and they want to know everything they possibly can about the feud and about the sites where the events played out,” said Hatfield. “We’ve also seen a definite spike in the interest of our locals who have grown up hearing about the feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s and who want to learn more about this important part of the Tug Valley area’s history.”
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone, but we all need to work together to take advantage of this incredible opportunity for growth and long-term prosperity for our county.”
Hatfield remarked about a family from Ohio who visited the Coal House Monday morning to see artifacts and memorabilia from the days of the feud, and explained that during the visit, he had been joined by Charley McCoy, Chamber of Commerce President and finance specialist for the 1st National Bank who is a descendant of the McCoy clan.
“I told the family that I was a Hatfield descendant and Charley was a McCoy descendant, and nothing would do them but for us to pose for a photo with their children,” said Hatfield with a laugh. “Of course, they had to have Charley and I on the opposite sides, with the kids in the middle. “
When asked about the amount of feud fans that were visiting Williamson, Young stated her assistant told her approximately 200 visitors passed through the Coal House doors on Saturday, and has noticed that merchandise that is Hatfield and McCoy related is flying off the shelves.
“We have to restock as fast as our suppliers can ship to us,” said Young. “The Hatfield and McCoy t-shirts are selling fast, along with books and other memorabilia.”
With the Hatfield and McCoy annual festival and Marathon scheduled for this weekend, Young is trying to replenish their existing stock and has also added a variety of new items from other local artists that include paintings, woodwork and coal carvings.
“Everything has happened so fast this year that we haven’t had the time to actually plan and prepare, but we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that the tourists who visit us during the festival leave here with some type of Hatfield and McCoy feud souvenirs, along with some awesome memories that will hopefully prompt them to come back year after year,” stated the director.
Young also wanted to remind all downtown businesses to please post welcome signs in their windows and storefronts extending a special greeting to all Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, and stated that she is hopeful that business leaders will cooperate and join the TVCC in their attempt to put Williamson’s best foot forward.
“We are standing on the brink of an opportunity for our county that could explode into something that we’ve only dreamed of,” said Young. “It’s finally our turn for success, and all I can say is to please don’t let it slip through our fingers.”
“There’s no reason we can’t become as big of a tourist attraction as Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri,” Young remarked. “The history of the feud is the talk of the entire nation right now thanks to all the media attention we’ve been given, and now is when we need to act on this.”
“I hope and pray everyone will do their part and we don’t miss the boat.”
Young invites everyone to stop by the Coal House to see the collection of items related to the famous feud, and reminds you to make sure you sign their guest book so that accumulative totals of those who visit can be recorded.
The contact number for the TVCC is 304-235-5240. Young also suggests visiting their website at www.tugvalleychamber.com, and also the immensely popular site created by WVU Extension Professor Bill Richardson that has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of Hatfield and McCoy fans, www.hatfieldmccoycountry.com.
“Make sure to plan to take part in the Hatfield and McCoy Festival this weekend!” reminded Young. “We have more runners participating in the marathon than ever before, and the goal set by race founder David Hatfield to exceed 500 runners is a definite possibility.”