September 5, 2023 - On Labor Day, the town of Pocahontas gathered to honor the people who not only help keep the lights on but were a huge force that pushed to establish collective bargaining for people working under ground and those riding the rails above ground.
The “Coal Miners and Railroad Workers Reunion” is an annual tradition held annually for the last 31 years. A reunion organizer from Historic Pocahontas Inc. says while this event is fun for everyone, the reunion honors the coal heritage that built the area and the people who forged that legacy.
“Our roots run deep. All these guys, you know, most of them was coal miners. Grew up if up if you weren’t a coal miner, your dad was, your grandpa.... Or worked on the railroad. It’s one of the two. That was what usually everybody did in our area,” says Melissa K. Gibson, secretary and event coordinator for Historic Pocahontas Inc.
A parade through downtown Pocahontas features many retirees from the coal industry. One such parade participant shares what keeps him coming back for this event.
“The reason we ride in the parade and the reason we gather together, this is such a great thing is because of the comradeship and the fellowship of the people that was raised in the mining industry and knew what it was about, and we’re just proud to ride with them and proud to be down here gathered with them and talk about old times...” says Kenny Crotty, a coal industry retiree who rode in the parade.
The coal and railroad workers are not the only ones featured in the parade, it’s veterans, firefighters and other groups who come together to pay tribute to workers on Labor Day.
The coal miners and railroad workers reunion has been a labor day fixture in this Tazewell County community for more than three decades. Organizers say they’re pleased with the turnout this year, attributing the crowd to the beautiful weather on Labor Day.