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Charity event raises thousands for Ronald McDonald House

A charity event organized by Backroads of Appalachia raised roughly $6,000 total in donations for auction and cash to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. Backroads of Appalachia Director Erik Hubbard said over 400 motorcycles and a slew of cars rolled up to the Dragon Slayer Welcome Center on Saturday in support of the event.

Participants enjoyed music performed by Johnny Pop Day, food prepared by Backroads of Appalachia member Jim Wills and refreshments made by Mr. Tibbs Trading Company. A number of Dragon Slayer merchandise was also available for tourists and locals, created by Game Day Designs.

District 3 Magistrate Paul Browning, a major advocate of Backroads of Appalachia in his magistraterial district and the county, said the organization had a “great turnout” of out-of-towners getting to know his home and locals sharing the experience.

“Motorized tourism is certainly one of the keys to our future, part of the total tourism picture and the economic development that the Harlan County Fiscal Court and I have been working on tirelessly,” Browning said.

Although there have been a fair share of complaints that Harlan County needs better roads and a slew of other items, Browning said Harlan has everything “we need already here to fit exactly what Backroads of Appalachia is bringing to the table.”

“We have something extremely special here, and the only reason we’ve not been able to focus on tourism, I feel, is that we didn’t have exactly the right combination. But this is it.”

Browning said he believes, with the eventual opening of the Looney Creek Bed & Breakfast in the old Lynch City Hall building directly across from the welcome center, even more tourists will be able to come across the Dragon Slayer and potentially spend a night or two in Harlan County, where they would spend their money and enjoy other attractions throughout the area.

“That’s another key to our area. Even if you’re a local, you still get the positive effects of that by having different avenues for dining, like Mr. Tibbs Trading Company that made drinks you can’t find anywhere in the world but here,” he said. “You’re going to get to experience some new and different and exciting things, even if you’re just John Q. Public, Harlan Countian, you can still come and reap the benefits of tourism.”

Browning said he believes the new tourism opportunities could also help the Benham Schoolhouse Inn “continue to grow and prosper.” He added the group sent multiple motorcyclists to an eatery in Cumberland, where the tourists nearly cleaned the local business owner out.

“The old saying is ‘high tide raises all boats,’ and that’s what we’re doing. Everyone in the area should be able to gain something from the increased tourism. There’s so many aspects of this that are just primed to take off. It’s like having a line of new cars, but we’ve just not had the gas to put in them. Tourism is the fuel that is going to drive us forward in Harlan County.”

For more information, follow Backroads of Appalachia and Dragon Slayer HWY 160 on Facebook.