A statue honoring miners stands in front of the Boone County Courthouse in Madison, W.Va. The memorial flame stays lit for the duration of the town’s week-long Coal Festival. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post) Boone County claims to be the birthplace of America’s coal industry, the rich and abundant black rock discovered in these verdant hills almost three centuries ago. Coal gives name to nearly everything in these parts — the Big and Little Coal rivers, the weekly Coal Valley News, the wondrous Bituminous Coal Heritage Foundation Museum and the West Virginia Coal Festival, celebrating, as we arrive in town, its 24th year. The festival is more state fair than true celebration of coal. There’s a carnival, a talent competition, seven beauty queens (from Little Miss Coal Festival to Forever West Virginia Coal Queen). Late in the afternoon of the second day, high on a hill graced with the […]