Anyone with interests including carbide lights, mine stickers, sticking tommies, coal-company script and labor-union artifacts might be interested in attending and participating in the third annual Eastern Mining Association reunion and show on April 5 at Carter Caves State Resort Park.

“This year we will have as part of the show a person that buys/sells/trades coal mining stickers along with other specialty stickers,” said Colin Gatland, one of the annual mining show’s organizers, along with Chris Hacker. “Coal mining sticker collecting is actually quite a big deal with folks that collect mining-related items. Kentucky is one of the largest mining sticker collecting states in the nation. So, we encourage folks that enjoy this part of mining artifact collecting to come on down and bring plenty of stickers to trade and see what can be found.”

The reunion and show is the largest of its kind in the eastern United States, Gatland said, and is expected to attract mining enthusiasts from at least 20 states.

“We will have people flying in from Alaska and driving up from Florida,” he said, adding the crowd will include “some of the top collectors in the world.”

Gatland said he and Hacker, who are both veteran volunteers at Carter Caves, enjoy having the mining show “in coal country” even though the event also features equipment and artifacts from the “hard-rock mining” industry, where miners use different types of equipment and techniques to collect and deliver raw materials, including gold, silver and copper. Collectors and organizers also encourage visitors to bring old mining tools or equipment they may have, explaining free appraisals and historical information will be provided by associates at the show. Gatland said participants are also interested in hearing stories from families with several generations of coal miners.

Gatland said this year’s show will include a presentation by Wess Harris, who he describes as “an Ohio University educated sociologist, currently more often labeled  a historian.” Harris, he said, “has worn many hats over the years, including being a Black Hat — a certified miner in the state of West Virginia.  He briefly served as UMWA LU 1555 president and is also a longtime labor/social issues activist.  

In addition to farming for more than 40 years, Wess currently teaches labor history and environmental issues to university students from around the country. He offers Truth Tours of the coal fields that tend to explore and explode myths perpetrated by those more interested in coal than coal miners. Wess has perhaps the most important collection of Union artifacts in existence and shares them with students and residents of the coal fields in his “WHEN MINERS MARCH Traveling Museum.”

Members of the Northern Appalachian Coal Mining Heritage Association, will also give a presentation during the Saturday-evening portion of the event.

The show will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5, with additional presentations at the park lodge that evening. There is no cost for admission, and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, call Gatland at (937) 367-6295.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at

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