It's no secret that the coal industry is on a slow downward spiral because of cleaner, cheaper forms of energy. But what people may not know is that there is a whole coal culture, including coal-themed beauty pageants for teens, small children and babies.
According to ThinkProgress.org, there are pageants such as the WV Coal Festival Children's Royalty Pageant in Madison W. Va., the Miss Coal Miner’s Daughter Pageant in Jasper, Ala. and the Miss Coal Hearted in Virginia.
The winners of these pageants, which are open to boys and girls, are dubbed coal queens, coal princesses and coal princes who are given crowns with black rhinestones (to simulate the look of coal).
One of the driving forces behind these unusual activity is Maxine Cole-Tinnel, who promotes the WV Coal Festival Children's Royalty Pageant.
"In the past we have had some coal industry sponsors, but this is the thing, I don’t ask the mining companies, because they support the festival. If the mines were booming, it’d be no problem,” Cole-Tinnel told ThinkProgress.org.
Cole-Tinnel uses the babies and children’s pageant entry money to fund the contests and provide a scholarship award to the teen winners because their families have suffered financially due to the decline of the coal industry.
“My goal to give them a double scholarship this year,” added Cole-Tinnel. “At least give them another 500 dollars, that’d give them their parking passes and their soup cards.”
Coal families have been loyal to an industry that has often not been loyal to them, and their lives are not likely to get better anytime soon.
The Atlantic reported in 2012:
Natural gas production gains from domestic shale gas formations began to rapidly increase starting in 2005. Rising shale natural gas production outpaced natural gas demand growth and contributed to falling natural gas prices, while coal prices rose. Starting in 2009, these trends began to alter the relative economics affecting the dispatch of generators relying on Appalachian coal and natural gas, in the eastern half of the country.