© 2023 NPR Illinois
The Capital's NPR Network Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
9/21 UPDATE: WIPA 89.3 FM is back on the air at low power. Seeking funding for new transmitter. Click here for more information.

Coal Is Still King In This Southern Illinois Town

On a warm Friday afternoon in West Frankfort, Illinois, there’s an avalanche in front of city hall.

Actually, it’s The Avalanche, a carnival ride. A dozen or more rides are jammed onto a stretch of Poplar Street and its adjacent parking lots. The area’s transformed, for a few days, into a midway filled with colored lights, music and the smell of funnel cake. It's part of the Old King Coal Festival, a tradition dating back 75 years for this small town.

The festival got its name because Southern Illinois produces so much coal, boosters call it the Saudi Arabia of coal. No kidding. The coal industry has shaped whole towns in Illinois, and defined their history — towns like West Frankfort. Of course, coal has been pulled right into the middle of the climate change fight. So West Frankfort and its heritage have been dragged in too.

Click here for the full story for Heat of the Moment and see photos from West Frankfort. 

Related Stories