Editor's note: This is the first in a regular series called "On the Porch," which will feature interesting people throughout the area.
Cade meelah foyle-ta row-ott! That's Gaelic for "A hundred thousand welcomes to you!"
As part of the standing-room-only crowd at the Brazen Head Inn in Mingo on St. Patrick's Day, I certainly felt the warmth and the welcome. This is the sole goal of proprietor Will Fanning.
Will and Jill Fanning welcome guests to the Brazen Head Inn in Mingo.
"When you leave the Brazen Head and feel as though you've experienced the hospitality of any pub or home in Ireland, I have done my job," he said.
Dublin-born Fanning is the proprietor of the inn, which also serves as a pub, restaurant and conference center.
"It's all about the music and the people," he said. "There is never a cover for music except for New Year's Eve and a special outdoor events. We want people to come here and experience the talents of our West Virginia musicians."
The story of how this Irish pub and restaurant came to be in little Mingo may be astonishing.
"I did not choose West Virginia, West Virginia chose me," he said.
In 1977, Fanning had become frustrated in his two-year search for farmland in the area of Medina, Ohio. He decided to take a break from driving around looking at property every weekend. After dinner one evening, he picked up a guitar he'd recently bought at a yard sale and searched for his John Denver songbook.
"As I started chording and singing along, I sang the words, 'Almost heaven, West Virginia.' At that moment, a bolt of lightening came through the front picture window. It went through the room, down the hall, through a wall, then through the back hallway and window. There was no damage, scorching or broken glass. There was also no sound. I felt this was a clear sign that we should move to West Virginia."
Just two weeks later a buddy asked Fanning to go on a road trip - destination, West Virginia! Two months later, the family moved to Webster County near Big Ditch Lake at Cowen. After many years at a farm at Elk View, Fanning was drawn to the area for work during the early development of Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
The local inn is named in honor of the original Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin, Ireland. It was built in 1198, and the West Virginian Brazen Head broke ground exactly 800 years later.
The log shell was put under roof in five months over the harsh winter of 1998-99. The first bundle of lumber was nailed on Oct. 17, 1998. The last piece of tin was placed on the roof March 17, 1999 - St. Patrick's Day!
Opening day was Oct. 17, 2000. The Brazen Head's continued success is from a dedicated family working hard and well together. Fanning works closely with his wife, Jill, who teaches fourth and fifth grades at Valley Head; and their son Stuart.
An exciting musical spring and summer is planned as usual in Mingo. The eighth annual "String Break" led by Robin Kessinger will be held April 12-14. The workshop starts on Thursday ending Saturday evening with a full jam session.
The 10th annual Folk Singer Weekend will be held May 26-27. The weekend is full of jam sessions, song swaps and the famous after-dinner song circle.
Through Aug. 18-19, the Mountain Road Fiddle Camp for all ages will be led by Alex Caton. Highlights include student entertainment, a Saturday-night jam session and square dance.
This weekend, the Brazen Head is hosting an intimate "Celtic Evening with Eadhmonn Ua Cuinn" for the Mingo Historical Society. Dozens of privately owned sculptures are being gathered for the private exhibit, lecture and traditional Irish dinner.
Presently the pub offers free music every Saturday night, and a range of menu items.
Future plans include hosting more weddings, music and dance events in their conference room and new 2,000-square-foot, covered pavilion.
The inn includes 20 guest rooms accommodating 64 people, with two handicapped-accessible rooms. Primitive camping and trout fishing also are available.
More information is available by contacting the Fannings at 304-339-6917 or www.brazenheadinn.com.
I hope you join me next time and sit "On the Porch." I will continue to share interesting stories about interesting people - you might be next! Sl'n go fill! (Goodbye for now!)