Whitesburg KY
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Organizers say conference will look at region’s future

A Saturday night square dance at Carcassonne, including dinner at Mike and Marcia Caudill’s 200-year-old house, is among the events for the Appalachia’s Bright Future weekend sponsored by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.

Organizers describe the weekend as “a transition adventure, a multi-day tour and celebration that will give participants the opportunity to meet and learn directly from people and communities on both sides of Pine Mountain who are working to build a healthy and diverse local economy.”

Events on Saturday morning and afternoon will focus on efforts to build a local economy that enables people do well in communities where they choose to live. It will explore many of the factors that make communities desirable places to live – from good jobs to a diversity of cultural opportunities to ways for people to plug in and help make a difference.

After a morning group workshop, participants will be given more than 20 options for places they can visit during the day to learn about some of the unique and important endeavors taking place in Harlan and Letcher counties. (See list at www.kftc.org/ abf/2014-program).

Tour stops are categorized as “arts and culture” or “food and energy” related and include crafts co-ops, art studios, places where music and culture are celebrated, coal mining exhibits, local food production and an energy efficiency project, among others.

Before heading off to the dinner and square dance in Carcassonne, participants will have a chance to gather again to reflect and share insights from the day.

“(Appalachia’s Bright Future) will showcase businesses or tourist activities that are unique to Appalachia,” said Mike Caudill, a retired educator whose grandfather built the Carcassonne School, where the square dance is held, in an area rife with Civil War-era history and houses. “I’m optimistic about Whitesburg pulling out of the bust. It’s good to see new businesses open up. We know that coal will in our lifetime remain a dominant force, but at some point we have to look into our future when coal is not the major chapter of our economy and decide what we are going to do to get ready for that.”

Other activities during the weekend include a Friday night awards ceremony in Lynch honoring Bennie Massey and Stanley Sturgill, two KFTC members who have worked for many years to protect the region’s land, water, workers and communities. The Appalachian Community Fund is presenting them with Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Hero Awards for their commitment to civic engagement and social justice in eastern Kentucky. The celebration will take place at the Eastern Kentucky Social Club in Lynch.

Registration cost for this event is a sliding scale of $15 to $100 per person and covers participation in the weekend program and entrance to the awards ceremony and dinner on Friday night, dinner on Saturday night, and entrance fees to the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham and the Portal 31 underground coal mine tour in Lynch (spaces limited).

Registration and more information is available at www.kftc.org/abf.

The Appalachia’s Bright Future weekend is a follow-up to a conference by the same name hosted by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth in April 2013. More than 200 people gathered in Harlan County to shape a conversation about the opportunities and challenges for building the next economy in the mountains.

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