The History Channel will be shining a light on southern West Virginia and the Hatfield-McCoy Feud beginning next week, and a West Virginia University Extension agent will be a part of it.
The coverage begins when American Pickers, the second highest rated show on cable television, premieres an episode with a Hatfield-McCoy theme called “Feudin Pickers” on Monday, May 21, at 9 p.m.
The episode, which was shot in Mingo County, centers around an old general store that Devil Anse Hatfield was known to frequent. Once pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz make their purchases, the items are taken to WVU Extension agent and professor Bill Richardson for authentication and to determine their value.
Growing up, Richardson didn’t aspire to be a Hatfield McCoy expert. Like many Mingo County natives, he stayed as far away from the Feud and its accompanying stereotypes as possible. It wasn’t until he returned to Mingo County after college to do community development work that he recognized the area’s heritage tourism potential.
It’s not just about the Hatfields and McCoys. The local history also includes the largest battle in the United States since the Civil War, and a significant railroad heritage. Train enthusiasts visit to see an operating roundhouse, and one of the largest railroad switching yards in the world.
“This area has more to start with than Pigeon Forge or Branson did when they got started,” Richardson said. “The challenge now is finding the resources to develop it to a point where we’re a significant tourist destination.”
The American Pickers opportunity dovetails with other upcoming exposure, including a six-hour History Channel miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton that premieres May 28. The May 24 edition of Anderson Cooper’s new ABC morning talk show “Anderson” will feature an hour-long interview with Costner. A Hatfield descendent from Mingo County, Linda VanMeter, will appear as well.
A two-hour documentary, America’s Greatest Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, will premiere June 2, kicking off a daylong History Channel marathon of Hatfield McCoy-related programming. In addition, the show How the States Got Their Shapes will be filming a Feud-themed show in early June in Mingo County.
Richardson appears in the documentary, and is scheduled to participate in the “States” program as well.
Richardson was instrumental in bringing American Pickers to Mingo County as a way to help promote tourism. He estimates that the media exposure the area will be receiving in the next four to six weeks is worth $120 million or more.
And it’s not just about economics.
“Many of the negative stereotypes people associate with the Hatfield McCoy Feud were inaccurate,” Richardson said. “Learning the truth changes the opinions of 150 years ago, and about people today.”
For more about tourism in the area, visit http://hatfieldmccoycountry.com/.
CONTACT: Bill Richardson, WVU Extension
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