Annual celebration draws large crowd

COALTON – The streets of Coalton could be described as very warm Saturday, both from the sun beating down and from the warm exchanges of folks from all over, greeting one another.

This week was the 20th year for Coalton Days, the popular celebration that features live entertainment, food, carnival rides, a parade and stories of the heyday of the mining town, traditionally known as Womelsdorf.

Hundred of local and former residents and friends gathered in area businessman Mike Ross’s front lawn to join in the celebration, including a lunch featuring spaghetti and meatballs, Italian sausage, chicken, hotdogs and homemade desserts.

Robert Anderson, a Parkersburg resident, said he was having a great time Saturday talking with those gathered for the Coalton Day celebration. Anderson, who is 92, traveled back to talk with old friends.

Anderson said he lived in a house across the bridge, and thought his house was the only one that had a bathroom back then.

“I lived in Coalton in 1925-1930,” Anderson said. “My father was an electrician in the mines. My parents were Brooks and Ann Anderson.”

Anderson said this was his first time back during Coalton Days.

“I tell everyone what a great town Coalton is,” Anderson exclaimed. “Compared to other West Virginia coal mining towns, Coalton is the most renewed, most revitalized of any from the state. I am proud to be from Coalton. There are many successful folks from Coalton. Back in the early days, everyone worked hard, and that is the key to their success.”

One of the friends Anderson visited with was Oreste Leombruno. Leombruno said he has been to every Coalton Day celebration. He shared some of his memories of the town’s past.

“When I was a boy, the field across from Mike Ross’ was a baseball diamond,” Leombruno said. “The coal company brought in the best ball players and gave them jobs in the mines. There would be teams from all over that would come in to compete. When there would be ball games, the field would be full of old-time cars and horses with buggies.”

Leombruno said he worked in the coal mines. He described what Coalton had during the past.

“There were 12 or 13 groceries stores at one time,” Leombruno said. “There was a theater and a meat market that sold fresh meats every day. There was about three or four passenger trains passing through each day.”

Leombruno said he would get on the train to travel to Elkins.

“You could get on a train in Coalton and go to Norton – they called it the junction,” Leombruno said. “At Norton, you could catch a Western Maryland train to go into Elkins. B&O Railroad did not go into Elkins.”

Leombruno said everyone would turn their cattle loose each day and rein them in at the end of each day.

“They would feed the cows, milk them and turn them loose again,” he said.

For some folks, Saturday was their first time celebrating Coalton Days. Elkins Middle School teacher Richard Leitner said he enjoyed his day.

“I love this community, and this has been a wonderful experience during Coalton Days,” Leitner said. “They should be proud that they have a strong community like this with the support of Mike Ross.”

Leitner said he ran into a lot of students during the day that remember him.

“It is a nice experience,” Leitner said.

Carnival rides lined the space next to those eating and visiting. Kids could ride the big slide, take a spin on the carousel, ride a train and have fun on a mini ferris wheel. Entertainment on the stage included Johnny Cochran and the Trailblazers, live accordion music and the High Street Jazz Band from Morgantown.

Later in the day, the streets of Coalton came alive with a parade featuring the Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College, twirlette groups, local elected officials and fire trucks from across the area.

This year, Endre Samu, an Elvis Presley tribute artist, performed on the steps of Ross’ home.

“He’s back by popular demand,” Ross said.

Saturday kicked off with the Vince Ross 5K Walk and Run, followed by the famous Coalton Days tractor pull and lawnmower race. Other activities during the day included a concession and craft vendor sale, a miniature horse show and a book exchange.

Finally, as Coalton Days came to a close, the “Nothin’ Fancy” bluegrass band performed in the Coalton Elementary School gymnasium.