By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - Tourists and locals alike flocked to the City of Williamson on Saturday to take part in the 13th Annual Hatfield and McCoy Festival and Marathon that played host to a record-breaking 575 runners.
“I never thought I’d be able to say that we had achieved our goal of 500 or more runners, but we did it!” exclaimed Marathon director and founder, David Hatfield.
“With the recent national media attention we’ve received with the Hatfield and McCoy mini-series and other shows, I figured we would have somewhat of an increase but I’m ecstatic that the numbers are over the 500 mark,” said Hatfield.
Hatfield laughed and remarked to the Daily News that before the documentary and national news coverage no one knew his name or face, and since the airing of the shows, he can’t go to the grocery store without someone recognizing him.
“We’re on the map, and I’m loving it,” remarked Hatfield.
“Seeing our town come to life and hearing the stories about the Chamber of Commerce’s phone ringing off the hook and local motels booked to capacity is a very good problem to have,” stated the race director.
Among the marathoners in town for this year’s race was Eugene DeFronzo, an elderly Connecticut attorney who was preparing to reach a milestone in his running career by participating in his 500th marathon.
“I’ve ran in the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon 8 times,” DeFronzo commented. “It’s truly one of my favorite races. The way you’re welcomed here is wonderful.”
“God willing, I’ll be back next year.”
Charley McCoy, the finance officer for the 1st National Bank in Williamson who is now the President of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce (TVCC), commented that the media attention bestowed on our town has been incredible, and said that foot traffic and phone calls has escalated in the Coal House where the Chamber of Commerce is housed and added that this is the goal he’s always dreamed of achieving.
“America’s interest has been peaked,” remarked McCoy. “Now it’s our job to keep it that way.”
The festival had something to offer all age groups, and food and craft vendors lined 2nd Avenue offering a variety of treats and hand-crafted items that included paintings, woodwork, t-shirts and much more.
Natalie Young, Executive Director for the TVCC said that t-shirt sales were through the roof and an order for another shipment has already been placed. Wall to wall people were inside the historic Coal House at any given time during Saturday’s event, and several commented about the Hatfield and McCoy memorabilia on display.
“Charla Griffin, a family member of a marathon runner from Pennsylvania told the Daily News she had watched the “American Picker’s” episode filmed in Mingo County that featured the Coal House, and said it was wonderful to be able to visit it in person and see the court summons for Devil Anse Hatfield that was picked by Mike and Frank in the Meador community of Matewan that was then purchased by WVU Extension Professor Bill Richardson and is now on display.
“It’s great to be able to visit somewhere that the pickers filmed a show and better yet, to see with your own eyes what they picked,” said Griffin. “You have a wonderful town here and I wish you all the luck in the world.”
The excitement of the festival may be behind us now, but exciting events are still in our future including the casting calls for Hatfield and McCoy descendants on Tuesday at the SWVCTC from 1-8 p.m., for those ages 15-85 who are interested in auditioning for a Hatfield and McCoy unscripted series. For more information, you may call Richardson at 304-235-0370.
“It’s not over by a long shot,” stated McCoy. “In fact – I think we’ve only just begun.”