RICHWOOD, W.Va. -- Cars traveling along Richwood's Main Street slowed to a creep Saturday, noticing many vacant and dormant buildings filled with workers and signs of life.
Since mid-September volunteers have been working on Saturdays to clean up 16 buildings along Main Street that will host stations for the Create West Virginia Conference that is taking place in Richwood from Oct. 24 to 26.
"There's a community spirit that has been revived here," said Rebecca Kimmons, the conference's director.
Each Saturday, 10 to 20 volunteers have helped Kimmons pull up old wooden floors, pick up trash, patch concrete along the sidewalks and ready the Nicholas County town to host the conference, Kimmons said.
"It has been the most challenging thing I've ever done in my career," Kimmons said of the 11-month project of bringing the conference to Richwood. "It's been exciting. It's an idea of what could be."
Create West Virginia aims to bring together businesses, artists and entrepreneurs to spark new, creative economic opportunities throughout the state. By holding the conference in a town like Richwood, which boomed in the middle of the 20th century before falling into decline, the conference hopes to showcase how small towns can reinvent themselves and their economies.
One Main Street storefront, now standing completely vacant, will house a 3-D printer station that Kimmons hopes will open up new ideas to area residents and conference attendees. Across the street, The Mall of Richwood building will become a café.
This was Catherine Moore's first weekend volunteering. She'd never been involved with any Create West Virginia projects before, but this year's conference caught her attention because it is in a small town, instead of an urban area.
The 31-year-old Fayette County resident said the conference is putting its money where its mouth is and she wanted to be involved.
"There's a lot of work to be done but, like all of these small towns that are kind of skeletons with a lot of spirit here in Southern West Virginia, there's just so much potential," Moore said. "It's exciting to think about the possibilities here."
Previous conferences have been held in Charleston and at Snowshoe and Stonewall resorts.
When Nancy Leffingwell found out the conference was coming to Richwood she became excited about the potential impact.