A warm holiday weekend accompanied the annual Thomas showcase that is Mountaineer Days. Many commented on the surprisingly low numbers of visitors traveling to Tucker County this year, possibly because the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday.
With a holiday that falls smack dab in the middle of the week, those interested in traveling may choose the weekend before or after. Thus, this upcoming weekend may see a comparable number of people as last weekend. Some speculated this year’s numbers were a third of the average.
Regardless, with all the events, beautiful weather, and impeccable planning, there was a lot of fun to be had in Thomas. “It’s a lot slower than other Mountaineer Days, but in a way, there are a lot of benefits to that,” Gallery Owner and Thomas Council Member Seth Pitt said. “You get to talk to people a little bit more. Sometimes there’s so many people you don’t get to actually have conversations with people.”
People milled about the different galleries and shops in between events and before the fireworks set the evening alight.
The organization ArtSpring hosted an exhibit in the Cottrill Opera House of Jamie Lester’s watercolor paintings of coal miners. Lester is the artist whose design was chosen for the West Virginia state quarter. “It’s a really proper display for Mountaineer Days,” Pitt said.
Choosing to stay in the warm sun, lifelong Tucker County resident Scott Buckley enjoyed the afternoon with friends. “The best thing about the Fourth of July in Tucker County: the people,” Buckley said. As a member of the Knights of Columbus, he also helped grill and prepare food under the Knights’ tent.
Visiting from Beverly, Christine and Doug Wood enjoyed their first Mountaineer Days relaxing in reclining chairs. After a stroll through Thomas, they found a prime location to view the fireworks. “Our friends come here every year, and they told us to go to the post office and find a place,” Christine said.
And of course the evening ended in typical Thomas fashion with an outstanding fireworks display courtesy of Thomas Volunteer Fire Department. The fireworks decorated the night sky with a decadent display of every color and pattern imaginable.
Behind all the action is Organizer Mary Sagace. For the last 25 years, Sagace begins organizing the event in January. “I actually volunteered to help some people organize it in the 90s,” Sagace said. “After they dropped out, I got appointed organizer.”
Sagace estimated the event has grown three fold over the two and a half decades. “When it first started it was pretty small, we only had 10 vendors, and this weekend we had 42 vendors,” Sagace said.
She also commented on the lower turnout this year. “Two years ago, we had close to 6,000 people. I think the Fourth was on a Friday that year,” she said. “People truly plan their weekend around mountaineer days when they come for vacation.”
Like many, Sagace’s favorite aspect of the event is the camaraderie. “It’s always been a family event for me, and I enjoy giving back to the community,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy seeing people coming back into town. It’s just a great weekend for people to get together.”