Dinner Theater in Pigeon Forge
Since the earliest days of the feud between the families, there has been an ongoing public fascination with the “Hatfields and McCoys.” The families been the subject of books, movies, plays, songs, television series and cartoons. After nearly 150 years of public scrutiny, the families have come to acknowledge a curious oddity of history. There is inherent entertainment value in the "Hatfields and McCoys."
This point of view has not always been shared by some outside of the families. Over the past twenty years, the criticism most often leveled at our reunion efforts has been that feud history should not be exploited for the benefit of tourism interests. This reproach has never deterred us, however. Since the earliest days of event-planning, those of us involved in organizing the reunions have understood that there has always been a symbiotic relationship between the two. Ongoing interest in the “Hatfields and McCoys” fuels tourism growth and increased public interest ensures the preservation of the feud story.
The same can be said for other venues using the "Hatfields and McCoy" brand for entertainment purposes. So long as the families are not depicted in an exploitative or unseemly way, we have been active in supporting these efforts. In the past, we have partnered with the Hatfield & McCoy Arts Council in Pike County, Kentucky, the Theatre West Virginia in Beckley, WV and the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. Supporting these entertainment venues serves to promote their endeavors and to encourage further interest in feud history.
The "Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud" theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is perhaps the most successful "feud" venture in history. The show began in 2011 on the site of the former Black Bear Jamboree, purchased by David Fee and Jim Hedrick in 2002, after an extensive multi-million dollar renovation. The lively, two hour performance features a large cast of dancers, singers, musicians and comedians as well as many unexpected surprises. The popular show has produced record-breaking attendance at the dinner show in Pigeon Forge. Fee-Hedrick Entertainment recently purchased the RFD-TV Theater in Branson, Missouri and intends to open a second "Hatfield McCoy" show there in late 2018.
I recently an unexpected invitation to participate in an appearance at the theater from my friend, Reo Hatfield. Reo, Judy and Jack Hatfield had been working with Kimball Keller, general manager and executive producer of the “Hatfield McCoy Dinner Feud” to set up a presentation there. Reo felt there should be some "McCoy" representation and asked if I would be willing to attend on behalf of the family.
On September 24, Reo and Roxanne Hatfield, Jack Hatfield and Miguel Castillo-Diaz, Judy Hatfield and I were met backstage by Owner/Producer Jim Hedrick, Public Relations Director Deborah Fee Newsom and Mr. Keller. Mr. Hedrick and Mr. Keller accompanied us onstage for a brief presentation, prior to the 5:00 o'clock performance of the show. Reo spoke on behalf of the families, expressing our appreciation for the theater’s ongoing success. Reo loaned the theater his commemorative Henry rifle as well as a pistol once carried by "Devil Anse" Hatfield. The guns will be on display in a sealed glass case in the lobby of the theater for the next year. Following the early performance, we met audience members in the theater lobby and signed DVDs, flags, and many copies of Jack’s family cookbook.
With four venues in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Fee-Hedrick Family Entertainment Group continues to build a company that focuses on quality performance entertainment that is appropriate for all age groups. In the "Hatfield McCoy Dinner Feud" in Pigeon Forge, the Hatfield and McCoy families are well represented in a show that is engaging, energetic...and entertaining. We look forward to working with Fee-Hedrick Family Entertainment in the development of Hatfield-McCoy events in Pigeon Forge and Branson in the near future.
(Photos courtesy of the Knoxville Daily Sun/Fee-Hedrick Entertainment)