The following weekend found us in Huntington, West Virginia on a Saturday morning for the 11th annual West Virginia Hot Dog Festival. This is a charity event benefiting Huntington’s Children’s Hospital, and featured a 10K Run, entertainment from local artists throughout the day, Hot Dog Eating Contest, and Root Beer Chugging Contests. The best events however were the Pooch Parade, Dog Costume Contest, and especially Dachshund Dash.
Huntington had once been a center of locomotive construction, and their history is much celebrated throughout the city. Much like the cows in Chicago, guitars in Cleveland, and Brutus the Buckeyes in Columbus, Huntington has a number of decorated fiberglass locomotives throughout the downtown area. The most impressive one was dedicated in the memory of the Marshall University football team that died in a plane crash in the 1970.
There was also a custom car show being held during the festival, the highlight being a Batmobile, complete with Batman and his female companion in bat shoes
Eventually thought I got the first of the two things I was there for, a hot dog. My first came from a local legend, Stewarts, which earned me a photo with Stewie the Hot Dog.
After a really cool Pooch Parade, which featured about 100 dogs of all breeds it was time for the main event, the Dachshund Dash. They had 10 heats of 8 dogs each, followed by the championship. These little dogs can really move when motivated, and they are an absolute hoot to watch race.
But you can only have so much fun, so we headed south to continue our day. Our route took us along the Big Sandy River, eventually leading us to the Tug Fork, running along the border between West Virginia and Kentucky. Coal built this area, and they celebrate it with the Coal House in Williamson, WV is a unique building built of coal. In 1933 the coal was quarried as blocks and dressed as stone using 65 tons of coal from the nearby Winifrede Seam, then varnished for weather-resistance. Located adjacent to the Mingo County Courthouse, it houses the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Just south of Williamson is the infamous town of Matewan This towns has two claims to fame, neither particularly endearing. First, it is the center of the Hatfield–McCoy feud involved two families, the Hatfield’s of West Virginia, led by Devil Anse Hatfield, while the McCoys of Kentucky were under the leadership of Randolph McCoy. The feud has entered the American folklore as the most infamous bitterly feuding rival parties.
The area plays it up to the fullest, driving the tourist trade. While we were in Matewan we were walking along the flood wall heading for the very nice restored train station/museum when I asked an elderly man for directions. He gladly gave them to us, then proceeded to proudly less us he was a Hatfield.
Matewan’s second notoriety comes from the days when local co-workers were trying to unionize to improve their horrid working conditions. In 1920 local miners who were supporting the union were being kicked out of their company owned housing by the mine owners, by hiring private detectives.
When the detectives arrived, Matewan chief of police Sid Hatfield intervened on behalf of the evicted families. After carrying out several evictions, the detectives ate dinner at the Urias Hotel then walked to the depot to catch the five o’clock train back to Bluefield, Virginia. They were intercepted by Hatfield, who claimed to have arrest warrants from the county sheriff. Detective Albert Felts produced a warrant for Hatfield’s arrest. The detectives didn’t know they had been surrounded by armed miners, who watched intently from windows and doorways along Mate Street and, while Felts, Hatfield, and Testerman, faced off, a shot rang out. The ensuing gun battle left 7 detectives and 4 townspeople dead
In 1987 a movie about the incident, called Matewan, was released to critical acclaim, making the small town even more famous. A small museum memorializes the battle, and the plight of the workers. All in all the small town of Matewan does a nice job of telling their history.
As we reached Beckley we stopped at Tamarac, a tourist destination featuring the best of West Virginia, located above the Beckley service area of the West Virginia Turnpike. It features a red peaked roof and landscaped grounds that draw over 500,000 visitors annually. This large arts and crafts facility is run as an economic development project of the West Virginia Parkways Authority and sells West Virginia craft products, such as wood, glass, textiles, pottery, metal, jewelry, as well as specialty food items, fine art, and West Virginia books and recordings. There are five resident artisan studios and most weekends from Spring through Fall there are also craft demonstrations, including the day we were there.
After watching a fabric craftsman, we went to the other side of the building where they house the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. With our long day coming to an end, we finished with that traditional West Virginia food, an Outback Steakhouse.