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Backroads of Appalachia works to drive tourism into Harlan, hosting charity event

Backroads of Appalachia, a non-profit organization dedicated to tourism and economic development, is hosting a meet-and-greet event with artist Johnny Pop Day in Lynch this upcoming Saturday in support of the Ronald McDonald House.

Erik Hubbard, founder of Backroads of Appalachia, invites everyone to the Dragon Slayer Welcome Center between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. for free music, great food and a chance to spend valuable time together while following social distancing guidelines.

The event will be in support of the Ronald McDonald House, which sets out to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families. The organization also strives to create a world where children have access to medical care with their families there every step of the way.

Hubbard said he grew up in Letcher County, often riding KY 160 over into Lynch.

“Tackling that mountain drive, which is the state of Kentucky’s highest point, is just something all motor enthusiasts need to experience. There is no other feeling,” he said. “Although I’ve been around the world a few times, I’ve never forgotten how riding a motorcycle over Lynch mountain made me feel. Like the old saying goes, wherever you roam, there is no place like home.”

Although Hubbard’s father moved his family to Bean Station, Tenn., after a mining accident left his father paralyzed at the time, Hubbard said he could never shake the urge to travel, especially if it meant cruising atop a motorcycle.

After recently opening a welcome center at the Lynch Depot, Hubbard is working diligently to promote eastern Kentucky and bring tourism into the area with the help of his board of directors and local support. He added we are all “rooted here” and “this is home.”

“Look all around. We have some of the world’s most fascinating coal mining history all around us. People from all over the nation are excited to come here not only to ride the Dragon Slayer, but to enjoy our history and to see all these wonderful, old, historic structures as well as the unbelievable scenic beauty we have here.

“We’ve got all kinds of motor groups scheduled to come here along with special events. That’s people coming here. That’s revenue. That’s money being spent in our community, and we believe this is going to open up our home to the world.”

Hubbard said he gave back roards in eastern Kentucky the opportunity to thrive because of the isolation of the area, adding bikers didn’t like red lights and opted for long drives like those right in Harlan County’s own backyard.

He also is excited about a number of events being scheduled, which will bring more people and more revenue to the county, including Mazda on the Mountain (Sept. 11).

In addition to tourism and new revenue for eastern Kentucky counties like Harlan, Backroads of Appalachia entered a partnership with Fahe’s Transformation Employment Program through the Cumberland Hope Center in Evarts. Hubbard hopes to help recovering addicts return to a life of normalcy by employing them for different jobs, like running the information booth at the Dragon Slayer Welcome Center.

“We are not just about motorcycles and a good time,” Hubbard said. “Our whole purpose is to help this area’s economic development and its people who are struggling. We are bringing people in from all over the nation to enjoy the ride, but to also help our people get going again.”

For more information regarding this Saturday’s event, follow Backroads of Appalachia’s Facebook page by searching “Dragon Slayer Hwy 160.”