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Hillbilly Days and Pigeon Forge Make for a Fun and Busy Weekend

Bobbi and I were invited by Tony Tackett, Director of Pike County Tourism, for a book-signing as part in this year’s annual Hillbilly Days festival in Pikeville, KY.

Begun by the Shriners in 1977, the event has served as fundraiser for the Shriner's Children’s Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky for 39 years. As a showcase of Appalachian music, food, arts and crafts, the festival is one of the largest in Kentucky. It was a pleasure to attend my first Hillbilly Days event in a dozen years.

I remember the impression the festival first made on me in 1999. Bo, Billy Jack and I attended Hillbilly Days in advance of the historic “Hatfield McCoy Reunion” in 2000, both to promote our fledgling festival and to learn the logistics of hosting one. The spectacle of Shiners in their full hillbilly regalia and custom jalopies was a wonder to behold. Hundreds of vendors, carnival rides and games lined closed city streets as thousands of visitors packed into Pikeville for the three-day event. Equally inspiring and intimidating, Hillbilly Days had a profound effect on our reunion planning. Since the festival portion of our annual events could never hope to reach the standard set by the Shriners, we redoubled our efforts to focus instead on the “reunion” aspects of our get-together.

This year’s event was an opportunity to make new family acquaintances. Jack Hatfield of Sarasota, Florida, the great-great- great grandson of “Devil Anse” Hatfield, was on hand to sign copies of his new cookbook. For the first time, members of the cast of the “Hatfield McCoy Dinner Show” in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee were in Pikeville to promote their show and to learn more about Hatfield-McCoy history. On Sunday morning following the festival, I had the chance to escort Barbara Joines, chief operating officer of the theater, and her husband on a guided tour of Dils Cemetery and the McCoy family homestead in Hardy, KY.

At the close of Hillbilly Days, Bobbi and I accepted an invitation from Tony Tackett to visit the Hatfield McCoy Dinner Show theater in Pigeon Forge. The staff of the theater was cordial and accommodating. David Fee, CEO of the theater’s parent company, Fee/Hedrick Entertainment, gave us a personal tour of the facility and highlighted its recent renovations. Jack Hatfield and I also had the chance to advance our modeling careers, posing for a series of promotional photographs.

From Pikeville to Pigeon Forge, the weekend was a testimony to the enduring longevity of the Hatfields and McCoys. As Hillbilly Days enters its fourth decade, the “Hatfields and McCoys” will continue to be part of the celebration for the thousands who visit Pikeville each year. For those making the trip to Pigeon Forge, the Hatfield McCoy Dinner Show presents “feudin’ family values” in a way that only the Hatfields and McCoys can. Now in its fifth year, the Hatfield McCoy Dinner Show is one of the most popular entertainment venues in Tennessee. The legacy of the Hatfields and McCoys continues.

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