What began as a discussion of upcoming events in the City of Williamson for the remainder of the year including the annual Spookfest, took a surprising turn for the AIM (Action in Mingo) Group.
Tonya Webb, the city’s new event coordinator, made the request following a lengthy discussion concerning Spookfest, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 30, in downtown Williamson.
Afterward, Webb made a requested the Williamson City Council for the city to take over the planning and execution of the Great White Way Christmas celebration.
“The Great White Way isn’t what it use to be,” Webb said. “It is a mess and it is embarrassing. The parades are over in five minutes.”
Mayor Charlie Hatfield agreed with Webb saying, “It is time for a change. We cannot continue with the status quo, or I call it the ‘status slow.’ This is not personal nor vindictive.”
Jade Hunter, president of the AIM (Action in Mingo) Group which organizes the Christmas event each year, was on the meeting’s agenda to discuss the upcoming King Coal Festival. She vehemently disagreed with the request.
“It is personal,” Hunter countered Hatfield. “The Great White Way is our event. It is vindictive. Never in our history have had a mayor turn on our organization like you have. It has become very personal.”
The discussion quickly became heated and emotionally charged with the two hurling accusations back and forth at each other.
“Behind our backs, you have been working against us,” Hunter told Hatfield. “You have been sabotaging our events.”
“I know you work hard and I have tried to support your events as much as possible,” Hatfield replied. “I have walked on eggshells for the past four years and I’m tired of it. Your events have not produced. They are not up to par. The Great White Way is a parade of firetrucks and there are more people on the firetrucks than on the streets watching the parade.”
Hunter said the turnout for events is lower because the population continues to decline and winter weather conditions also affect attendance. She said AIM has been working on the Great White Way since the beginning of the year and has arranged for new activities and parade participants.
Members of the council asked if AIM and the city could work together to improve the festivities. Both Hunter and Webb said previous efforts to do so have been attempted but failed.
Hatfield asked for a motion from the council to allow Webb and the city to plan this year’s event. Following a brief pause he made the motion himself. The motion was eventually seconded by Councilman Ralph Hall and passed on a 4-1 vote. Councilman Mike Casey cast the dissenting vote.