YouTube video showcases West Virginia in positive light

Image Provided Joey DiPiero on the Island Belle in Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — Joey DiPiero is tired of seeing West Virginia portrayed in a negative light.

So he compiled a short video, “The Mountie County Challenge,” that showcases interesting places in West Virginia that he hopes others will visit.

The video opens with the words “Go Explore Almost Heaven West Virginia.”

DiPiero has received positive feedback since posting his four-minute video on YouTube on Sept. 23. Each of the state’s 55 counties gets about four seconds of viewing time on the video at one location in each county.

In the Mid-Ohio Valley, DiPiero is shown dancing in his Mountaineer garb at the following locations: Wood County, on the Island Belle sternwheeler for a trip to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park; Pleasants County, The Boxcar restaurant in St. Marys; Ritchie County, Berdine’s Five & Dime in Harrisville; Doddridge County, courthouse, West Union; Wirt County, courthouse, Elizabeth; Tyler County, Sistersville Ferry, and Jackson County, Appalachian Distillery, Ripley.

DiPiero, 29, a Charleston native, graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown Law.

His aunt Andrea Santer and her husband, Mike, live in Vienna.

DiPiero said he did about a year and a half of research before filming the West Virginia locations.

“I have been brainstorming ideas for several years now on how to change the prevailing narrative on West Virginia,” DiPiero said in an email. “Every morning I receive Google alerts on my phone whenever West Virginia makes national headlines and for years it has been just a constant drumbeat of negativity.

“We certainly have problems in our state, but there are also a lot of great things going on here that the rest of the country would never know about unless they followed our local news. Back in December 2016, after seeing another slough of negative headlines, I finally had had enough and decided to create something about West Virginia that for once just focused on the positives,” he said.

DiPiero’s initial idea was to create an Anthony Bourdain-style show called “The County Hunters,” where he and his brother would travel to each county in the state and interview local businesses.

The DiPieros shot a pilot episode in Lewis County, W.Va., in May 2017, interviewing “some great people.”

“We still want to release that video at some point,” DiPiero said, adding they need assistance with editing and sound mixing.

While that project has stalled, DiPiero said, he decided to visit a local business or landmark in each West Virginia county, “so that every community would be represented in some way, shape or form.”

To ensure the video had a positive impact on the state, DiPiero included “The Mountie County Challenge.”

“I thought that if I could show people some of the great places to visit in our state, that it might galvanize people to go out and explore West Virginia for themselves. I decided to make that the explicit message of the video, and challenge West Virginians to patronize a local business or attraction in West Virginia that they have never visited before,” he said.

“My hope was that if enough people took on the challenge and shared their experience with friends and family on social media, we could seize the narrative on West Virginia for ourselves and change it for the better,” DiPiero said.

DiPiero believes West Virginians are happy to see the state celebrated in his video.

“We have so much to be proud of and it’s good to be reminded of that from time to time,” he said.

DiPiero said he had a great time filming the project and is confident others also will enjoy visiting sites across the state.

“In the long term, however, my goal is to drive people and hopefully jobs back into communities that have struggled in recent years. We have so many beautiful small towns in West Virginia that are just brimming with potential, but many people don’t even know they exist,” DiPiero said.

“I want to keep finding creative ways to cast a positive light on these communities because I believe once someone discovers the charm of a town like St. Marys or Harrisville, they’re going to want to come back,” he said.

DiPiero enjoyed interacting with people in the various communities.

“I remember a family stopped to watch while I was dancing in West Union and a little girl yelled out ‘Hey, that’s my (dance) move!’ It was a lot of fun seeing people’s reactions in real time.”

DiPiero said he has a new project in mind that may feature even more great places to visit in West Virginia.

“This time, however, I want to take a backseat and make the locals in each community the stars of the show,” he said.

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