By Jim Davis
FAIRMONT — Coal miners can swap stories while others trade mining memorabilia at a special event next week in Fairmont.
The first Coal Mining Appreciation Day Swap Meet will be held from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday at the Knights of Columbus, 1529 Mary Lou Retton Drive.
The Northern Appalachian Coal Mining Heritage Association is organizing the free event.
“The association was founded to perpetuate the culture and heritage of coal mining in Appalachia,” said Blair Montgomery, a volunteer with the nonprofit organization and former president of Pierpont Community and Technical College.
“Coal is responsible for the whole culture in this part of West Virginia,” Montgomery said. “While they exported the coal in southern West Virginia, we industrialized it here. We built power plants to burn the coal.”
The Swap Meet will coincide with National Miner’s Day, which recognizes the contributions miners have made to the nation’s well-being. The day always falls on Dec. 6, the date of the nation’s deadliest coal mining disaster in Monongah in 1907.
Mike Rohaly, the association’s president, said the main purpose of the swap meet is to network with collectors of mining memorabilia.
The association has a small museum at the Coal Country Miniature Golf Course off Interstate 79 between the East Park Avenue and Pricketts Fort interchanges, Rohaly said.
“One of our reasons for organizing this was to help ourselves to connect with folks that have these items as a source for expanding our museum collection,” Rohaly said.
“Ultimately, we’d like to move into a bigger facility, where we can have ongoing displays about coal mining,” Montgomery added.
At the swap meet, there will be 28 tables set up where vendors from across the country can display, sell and swap memorabilia such as hard hat stickers, safety lamps and photos, Montgomery and Rohaly said…