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Gala event to celebrate state’s coal mining community

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Marshall University is gearing up to host a celebration of the coal mining industry, the state's largest industry. 

Miners, community members and others connected with the state's coal mining industry will gather at Tamarack in Beckley on Thursday, Oct. 3, for the 2013 Miners' Celebration—a gala reception and dinner to celebrate the past, present and future of West Virginia's coal mining enterprise.

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. The community focus of this year's event is McDowell County and its coal mining heritage.

"Many of our graduates find employment in West Virginia's mining industry, which depends upon thousands of individuals in a number of different roles," said Dr. Tony Szwilski, chairman of the event planning committee and director of MarshallUniversity's Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences. "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.

Internationally recognized musician and songwriter John Ellison, who grew up in the mining community of Landgraff in McDowell County, will be on hand at the event to accept a special "Spirit of the Coalfields" award. A member of the 1960s group the Soul Brothers Six, Ellison is best known for writing the song "Some Kind of Wonderful"—one of the most-recorded songs in history. He is dedicating his award to the memory of his father, who worked in the mines in McDowell County.

"Rocket Boys" author Homer Hickam, who received last year's "Spirit of the Coalfields" award, will present a new award, the "Homer Hickam Collier Award," to a working coal miner who epitomizes the spirit, dedication and skills of the mining profession.

Conference organizers also will present "Because of You" awards to individuals for their significant contributions to West Virginia's coalfields heritage in the following categories:  Community Investment, Community Involvement, Women in Mining, Safety Professional, Equipment/Technology Innovation, Environmental Professional, Management Professional, Engineering Professional and Educator of the Year.

The Coal Heritage Highway Authority/National Coal Heritage Area will present the Nick Joe Rahall Award for Outstanding Achievements in Coal Heritage Preservation, the Coal Heritage Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Coal Heritage Marketing Award and the Coal Heritage Research and Documentation Award.

The free reception will begin at 5 p.m. in the Tamarack atrium. Dinner and the awards ceremony, which require a ticket, will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the ballroom.

Tickets for the dinner and awards ceremony are $50/person. To purchase tickets, call 304-696-4029.

For more information about the Miners' Celebration, visit www.marshall.edu/cegas/events/mcc