Tickets on sale for gala to celebrate state’s coal mining community

KaylaSlone_GrandOleOpryMiners, community members and others connected with the state’s coal mining industry will gather at Tamarack in Beckley on Thursday, Oct. 2, for the 2014 Miners’ Celebration—a gala reception and dinner to celebrate the past, present and future of West Virginia’s coal mining enterprise. Tickets for the event are now on sale.

According to organizers, the purpose of the annual event is to recognize those who play a role in the success of the state’s mining enterprise.

“Every person who works in the industry—whether they are a safety engineer, miner, environmental professional or equipment supplier—contributes to each ton of coal produced, as do countless community leaders, educators and mining families,” said Dr. Tony Szwilski, chairman of the event planning committee and director of Marshall’s Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences.

“What’s really special about this event is that our planning committee is made up of people and organizations from across the spectrum—from industry, education, business, labor and our local communities. Everyone comes together to honor and recognize the contributions of everyone involved and to spotlight the region’s long history in mining.”

At the event, Hinton native Sylvia Mathews Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, will be honored with a special Spirit of the Coalfields award and “Rocket Boys” author Homer Hickam will present the Homer Hickam Collier Award to a working coal miner, Delbert Weaver of Philippi, who epitomizes the spirit, dedication and skills of the mining profession.

Conference organizers also will present “Because of You” awards for significant contributions to West Virginia’s coalfields heritage in a number of categories, including Community Involvement (Coal River East Business Unit of Alpha Natural Resources), Women in Mining (Tanya James of the United Mine Workers of America), Safety Professional (Pinnacle Mining Company Blue Mine Rescue Team), Educator of the Year (Joanne Jaeger Tomblin of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College) and Champion for Coal (Roger Horton of Citizens for Coal).

The Coal Heritage Highway Authority/National Coal Heritage Area will present the Coal Heritage Award for Excellence in the Arts (West Virginia Dance Company for Fire in the Hole:  A Coal History), the Coal Heritage Award for Interpretation (Layland Miners’ Memorial Group) and the Coal Heritage Award for Research and Documentation (Author Jay Chatman of McDowell County).

The evening’s entertainment will be provided by Kayla Slone and the Coal Fired Band. Slone, who lives in Lenore, was discovered while working the checkout at Walmart and got her break when a customer posted a video online of her singing to customers. That clip soon went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views worldwide and propelling her into the national spotlight. She has since appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and performed onstage with Loretta Lynn.

The gala will begin at 5 p.m. with a free reception in the Tamarack atrium. Dinner and the awards ceremony, which require a ticket, will begin at 6 p.m. in the ballroom.Tickets for the dinner and awards ceremony are $50/person. To purchase tickets, call ext.6-4029 or e-mail

For more information about the Miners’ Celebration, visit

The Miners’ Celebration is a cooperative project of the Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences at Marshall; the National Coal Heritage Area; Strategic Solutions LLC; the United Mine Workers of America; the West Virginia Coal Association; and the West Virginia Division of Energy, Office of Coalfield Community Development.


Photo: Kayla Slone and the Coal Fired Band will entertain at the 2014 Miners’ Celebration in Beckley Thursday, Oct. 2.