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Hatfields, McCoys prepare to open themed moonshine distillery

Sep. 18, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

They've feuded, raced, tug o' warred, come together, brewed and now the Hatfields and McCoys are prepping to open the Hatfields and McCoys moonshine distillery.

Of course, that is if the authorities let them.

In the 14th and final episode of the History reality series "Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning," that premieres at 11 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, the two feuding families organize a demolition derby to promote the grand opening of the new distillery in downtown Williamson, W.Va. But in the episode titled, "The Grand Eviction," Mark Hatfield and Jim McCoy are shocked to find themselves locked out and served with an eviction notice from their new landlord. Leaving everyone to wonder if this Grand Opening is really going to happen."

Produced for History by Coolfire Originals and Thinkfactory Media, "White Lightning" is a 14-episode series that has been, since it began airing Aug. 1., following descendants of Randall McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield as they bury past differences to team up to open a moonshine distillery on West Third Avenue in Williamson.

The show is anchored by two modern-day shiners and businessmen. McCoy patriarch Jim Quick is a Chapmanville insurance agency owner, direct maternal descendent of Randall McCoy and organizer of the now famous McCoy Reunion. On the other side is the great-great-great grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield, Mark Hatfield, whose farm near Ripley, W.Va., was used to shoot some of the series. About 80 percent of the show was shot in Mingo County -- Williamson, Matewan and along the Tug River.

Helping with the production has been Hatfields and McCoys expert Bill Richardson, the Mingo County-based West Virginia University Extension agent and associate professor who also was featured in national episodes of Hatfields and McCoy-themed shows "American Pickers," "How The States Got Their Shapes" and "Diggers."

As will be evidenced on Saturday at the King Coal Festival during which there will be meet and greets with the cast, as well as bus tours and airboat tours to Hatfield and McCoy feuding sites, Richardson said the series has done what they'd hoped it would do -- create a continued buzz about coming to Feuding Country that peaked after the History Hatfields and McCoys miniseries but then waned.

"We don't have the advertising budget that other tourism industries do, so basically we've been using free media and these people came in an spent millions of dollars to come in and make eight hours of television that is basically promoting our area," Richardson said. "Basically making a commercial for us."

Richardson said they've gotten good feedback so far from tourists, like at the recent Hatfields and McCoys geocaching trail event, about the show, and the characters, who've been making the fairs and festivals circuit meeting folks around the state.

"During the geocaching, even though people were not specifically coming for the history, it was because of their hobby, they were interested in the history and most of them were very in tune with the show and had been watching it," Richardson said. "We had the geocaches at the feud sites and they really enjoyed that. They got to enjoy our normal hospitality, got to learn about the feud and got to meet people from the show."

Richardson said one thing that came out even better than he'd hoped was the beautiful look on screen of these rugged mountain towns around which twist ribbons of rails and rivers.

"Everybody agrees that it makes the area look beautiful," Richardson said. "It's the best looking reality show I have ever seen. I've never seen one of them take so much care with visual quality. The towns of Williamson and Matewan look great and so does Newtown, up where many of the Hatfields live, and where Mark's farm is in Roane County."

Richardson said while many folks, cast members included, had some trepidation as to how they would appear on screen, he thinks folks have been happy at their portrayals even if accentuated to push the tale.

"There have been some people early on who had concerns about stereotypes and those sorts of things but that seems to have gone away as the show has progressed," Richardson said. "I have known many of the cast members for years and they were wonderful people before the show and they are wonderful people now."

One thing many viewers and fans are concerned with though is when the Hatfields and McCoys Moonshine Distillery will be open to the public and cranking out some mountain shine.

Richardson said that they hope to have product out in stores in November and ready for purchase by the Christmas season.

"One of the things is that this show happened so fast that we basically had the show done before we had the brand licensing finished, so there is a delay with the alcohol being ready," Richardson said, "The intent would be that selling as soon as we finished the first season but there was a hold up with the federal license that got it delayed."

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