Original estimates called for up to 100,000 people to attend the “Friends of America” rally, but a Massey spokesman said the total was closer to 70,000. The state police did not release an independent estimate of the numbers.
Still, thousands of people from West Virginia, Kentucky, New York and even one from Alaska made their way to a reclaimed mountaintop removal mine near Holden, in Logan County.
The crowd started to roll up the mountain as early as 6 a.m. to get front row seats to see Fox News host Sean Hannity, rocker Ted Nugent, and country music star Hank Williams Jr.
People with wearing T-shirts that said “coal is our future” asked visitors to sign a petition against cap-and-trade legislation.
The main stage was on one end of a massive open field, which is a former mountaintop removal site. It’s mostly empty except for a few buildings, including a oil and gas company and wood-products manufacturer.
Despite the size of the venue, the sound system was incredibly loud. Some people stood and some sat in chairs provided by the sponsors, while other chairs remained empty.
First on the stage was pro-gun provocateur, musician Ted Nugent.
“I love America, but mostly I love defiance,” he said. "I like when the punks from England overtax us and we throw the tea in the bay. Isn’t that kind of a cute move?"
"But I particularly like it when the British came to get our guns so we went to Concord bridge and shot them," he added.
"I like dead tyrants. Isn’t that your favorite type of tyrant, a dead tyrant?" Nugent said.
Nugent went on to defend someone he called his “blood brother,” Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. He also defended mountaintop removal mining.
“But you realize, there are some people in this country who think when they turn on a light switch, there’s not a man with a frontloader digging a hole in the ground in West Virginia? People are that stupid," he said.
"Quit regulating us based on some pierced-eared hippie in San Francisco who thinks we’re destroying the environment while she puts on a light switch, and the light comes on.
"On behalf of the Nugent family, I say, start up the bulldozers and get me some more coal, Massey,” he said.
Blankenship addressed the crowd next. He told them he spent $1 million dollars on Monday’s events. He addressed a variety of topics, starting with mine safety.
“As someone who has overseen the mining of more coal than anyone else in central Appalachia, I know the safety and health of my coal miners is my number one job," he said.
"I don’t need Washington politicians to tell me that, and neither do you," he said.
"But I also know that Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miner safety. The very idea that they care more about coal miner safety than we do is as silly as global warming."
Then he blasted cap-and-trade with a series of questions. Each time, the crowd responded, "No."
“Do you want a government that wants to shut down our coal mines?" he asked. "Do you want a government that wants to increase your power bills? Do you want a government that gives your tax monies to your overseas competitors?"
The next big name was Fox’s Sean Hannity. He bragged about the role his network played in the resignation of Obama’s green jobs czar, Van Jones.
“By the way, we got rid of one, and my job starting tomorrow night is to get rid of every other one. I promise you," he said.
Joshua Scott from Kentucky said he came to the event to support coal mining. He is carrying on a family tradition -- both his grandfather and father were coal miners, and so is he.
“Well, in big cities there’s other options, but as far as where I’m from, and where my family is, it’s the only option, other than flipping burgers in McDonalds," he said.
"It’s a hard job, but it’s a good job. It pays well. It supports me. It supports my community,” Scott said.
Massey Energy was just one of several sponsors of the event. One of them, Verizon Wireless, came under fire from environmentalists who threatened to boycott.
Blankenship personally thanked the hundreds of public safety officials who worked at the event. State Police officials said that Blankenship picked up the tab for their overtime at the event.