Skip to main content

McDowell County: Returning with Pride

Aug. 28

Just because I have visited all 55 marvelous counties of West Virginia, that does not mean my mission is complete.

Back in May, I toured McDowell County, or what some folks call “the Free State of Mack-Dowell.” At a luncheon with community leaders, I asked, “What can West Virginia University do for McDowell County?”

Extension agent Donald Reed piped up, “What would it take to bring the Mountaineer Marching Band to McDowell?”

President Gee and Donald Reed

I told Donald he was fired for putting that kind of pressure on me. Just kidding. Everyone applauded Donald’s idea, and why not? The nickname of the Mountaineer Marching Band, after all, is the “Pride of West Virginia.” And we are proud of West Virginia.

So we made that trip happen Thursday (Aug. 28), thanks to the willingness of Band Director Jay Drury and the rest of the wonderful staff.

Nearly 400 members of our Band loaded into six buses at the Coliseum that morning to head south on some windy, country roads to McDowell County.

Band formation on McDowell County football field

Believe it or not, but it had been 26 years since the Band played in that county. We will not let another 26 years pass by like that again.

After zipping around the hollows and majestic mountains in that part of the state, it was exciting to reach River View High School in Bradshaw. There, I was greeted by some of McDowell County’s finest officers, who were out directing traffic for the Band’s performance at the football field. Our Band offered up a lively pre-game show for the ‘Battle of the Views,” which is the annual clash between local football teams the River View Raiders and the Mount View Golden Knights (The Raiders routed the Golden Knights 53-14).

President Gee with Battle of the View T-shirt

McDowell County came out in full force to see our Band, and we love them for it. Every inch of the stadium was packed. We even had an overflow crowd outside of the stadium peering over the fence to enjoy the sights and sounds.

I want to thank the fine folks at River View High School for accommodating us and cooking up enough dinner to feed 400-plus hungry Mountaineers. It was a pleasure meeting up with the likes of River View Principal Michael Tye (you rocked that lavender suit), McDowell County Superintendent Nelson Spencer, State Sen. Truman Chafin and many other local leaders. I must also give a shoutout to Extension Interim Director Steve Bonanno for navigating those curvy roads and leaving us unscathed.

River View Principal Michael Tye, President Gee and a fan

I also took photos and chatted with some of the youngsters in McDowell County. I made my best recruiting pitch to bring those students to West Virginia University.

Everything about this day was perfect – the sunny weather, the adoring fans, the ‘Pride of West Virginia’s’ performance.

Hearing more than 2,000 McDowell County residents lead a ‘Let’s go Mountaineers’ chant is something else.

This was the true culmination of the 55-county tour. We returned where we started it. But this time we brought the ‘Pride of West Virginia’ and the Mountaineer spirit to the people.

President Gee takes a selfie on the band bus.