A country music and variety show that has entertained tens of thousands of West Virginia tourists over the past four years is about to get a national audience.
In January, the cable network RFD TV will begin airing 30-minute shows from the American Mountain Theater in Elkins, organizers announced Monday. RFD, which bills itself as "Rural America's Most Important Network," already broadcasts similar shows, including the Marty Stuart Show, Crook and Chase, and Presleys' Country Jubilee.
"Our viewers will appreciate the quality, and we look forward to showcasing the best West Virginia has to offer," said Kelly Kantz, vice president of programming.
RFD reaches more than 41 million U.S. households and claims more than 13 million weekly adult viewers. According to Nielsen Media Research, it's the top cable network with adults over 50. Most programming focuses on rural life.
AMT President Kenny Sexton said his new subsidiary, Freshest Sound Productions, will deliver 26 TV-ready segments per year, and they will run three times a week.
A top destination for bus tours in West Virginia, AMT has drawn visitors from 43 states and 12 countries. Attendance has more than tripled since the first show in 2007, and Sexton expects as many as 37,000 visitors by the end of this year.
AMT stages more than 200 shows a year in a 527-seat, $1.8 million theater in the historic Elkins rail yard.
Last year, it won the West Virginia Division of Tourism's Mountain State Award, reserved for "the facility that stands above the rest in excellence in programming, distinctiveness, marketing efforts and economic impact."
Meggan Sexton, vice president of operations, said AMT will be selling four minutes of advertising time as part of each TV production to promote tourism.
"This state and its people have been great to us," she said, "and we want to use the broadcast as a showcase to bring even more people to this beautiful area."
AMT's home, a nearly 13,000-square-foot brick structure, sits in a rail yard that has become an attraction in itself.
The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad operates three tourist train tours from the restored depot, as well as a special dinner excursion and a Polar Express holiday tour.
Diesel locomotives pull the New Tygart Flyer 46 miles over four hours, from Elkins to a 150-foot-wide waterfall.
The Cheat Mountain Salamander is a self-propelled railcar that makes a 6½-hour, 88-mile journey between Cheat Bridge, High Falls and the Big Cut.
The Durbin Rocket, ideal for children, follows the Greenbrier River on a 2-hour, 10½-mile run, powered by Old No. 3, a 55-ton steam locomotive built in 1910. It's one of only three of its kind still in operation.
American Mountain Theater: http://www.americanmountaintheater.com/
RFD TV: http://www.rfdtv.com/
Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad: http://www.mountainrail.com/