CUMBERLAND — Del McCoury, wife Jean, and the extended McCoury family are inviting Verso Corp. paper mill employees to attend DelFest for free on Sunday, May 26.
In an interview with the Cumberland Times-News, Del McCoury said he saw the tragic news of the paper mill closure set for June 30. The shutdown will impact 700 on-site works and hundreds of ancillary contract workers.
"It affects so many people," said Del. "If we could offer them jobs we would, but we just can't do that. We think it's the least we can do."
The Verso employee, spouse and children will be admitted free on the final day of the four-day bluegrass music festival which is Sunday. The festival takes place May 23-26 at the Allegany County Fairgrounds.
McCoury was saddened to hear that the mill, which operated for 130 years, was closing its doors.
"It's heartbreaking," said McCoury. "You have all those folks ... I'm sure many have years in. We thought we would give the families a little entertainment for a day."
The decision to offer the free day of entertainment was finalized on Wednesday in a phone call between Del's family and Brandon Butler, Allegany County administrator.
"It's fantastic news," said Butler. "The McCoury family has extended family in Allegany County and this shows that they are part of the Allegany County family."
The McCoury's were moved by a message Butler posted on Facebook on Wednesday. Butler had attended a job fair for the Verso employees on Tuesday where nearly 80 employers and support agencies showed up to offer help.
"Community, it’s a word that I thought I knew what it meant," Butler wrote. "I can now clearly say I didn’t have a clue until today. Hundreds of people took over an old high school. Over 70 employers and every resource that our region could marshal were there. When the affected workers left, they got a bag of food from the Maryland Food Bank. What I saw was a community wrapping their arms around their neighbors in need. With every pat on the back, with every hug, with every knowing glance, our community was healing itself. While tough days are still yet ahead, today was a good day."
Del McCoury worked in the timber industry prior to becoming a professional entertainer, which didn't occur until he was in his 50s. While living in York, Pennsylvania, he played music on the weekends at area events at clubs. For his primary income, Del, through the week, harvested timber and took it to the local mill.
"I cut timber and for a long time," said Del. "We were raising kids. My father-in-law had a sawmill, and my dad had a sawmill. I know what those jobs meant to the families. It's sad. I wish we could do more. Maybe this will let them take it off their minds for a day."
For more information, visit the festivals officials website, DelFest.com.
The Sunday lineup opens with a Gospel set at 11:25 a.m. featuring Dre and The Gospel Collective. Employees are asked to bring a form of identification from Verso for admittance.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.