Playwright, Actor Vain Colby Named CU’s 2017 Grand Groundhog Watcher

For Immediate Release: 
Jan 13 2017

CONTACT:  Sarah Dalton

Concord University

Office of Advancement

PO Box 1000, Athens, WV 24712

(304) 384-6312,


After 4 p.m.






ATHENS, W.Va.  – Award winning playwright and actor Vain Colby has been named Grand Groundhog Watcher for the 39th Annual Concord University Groundhog Day Breakfast.

The gathering, which includes a prediction by famed groundhog weather prophet Concord Charlie, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 at 8 a.m. in the Pais Fellowship Hall in University Point on the Athens campus.

The Grand Groundhog Watcher honor is bestowed on an individual who has positively impacted life and culture in West Virginia.

Colby is known for his original plays and his work with 4PALS Productions. A popular and successful theater personality, Colby is applauded by audiences across the region and beyond not only for his engaging stories but also for his commitment to providing theater opportunities for his neighbors.

Colby is one of four friends who combined their creative talents to form 4PALS Productions in 2009. Joining Colby in the non-profit organization are Skip Crane, Jim Jenks and Thomas Lester.

According to 4PALS Productions, the organization is dedicated to “bringing original plays and musicals to the stage and promoting the arts through community involvement.”

“Quality theatre should be available to everyone, whatever your status of life, wherever you live or however old you are,” Colby said.

4PALS Productions has provided shows in communities across southern West Virginia including performances at Concord.

“We try to take our shows to small towns where there are no theaters,” Colby said.

Colby’s accomplishments as a playwright are especially noteworthy.  His “The Passing of Pearl” received top honors at West Virginia’s state theater competition in 2010 and was performed as part of a competition at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.

The play takes place in Memphis, Tenn. during the 1980s in a diner next to the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The message of this play deals with secrets, forgiveness, the Civil Rights Movement and friendships.

Colby penned “The Passing of Pearl” as part of a trilogy that also includes “Pearls of Wisdom” and “The Throw Away Family.”

He continues to receive acclaim with his new work, “The Eleventh Hour.” Along with writing “The Eleventh Hour,” Colby also has a leading role in the show.

Another project for 4 PALS Productions, “The Eleventh Hour” opened this past fall at the Summit Players Theatre in Bluefield, W.Va., offering stellar performances and receiving great reviews.

The show, about two churches, one black and one white, is based on the idea that worship at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning may be the most segregated hour of the week. The black church gets destroyed by Mother Nature and the white minister invites his black brothers and sisters to worship at his church.  While the antics abound, the parishioners learn valuable lessons such as people are more alike than they are different.

“The Eleventh Hour” continues its popular run in the area with several encore performances during February in honor of Black History Month including a show at Concord on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Originally from Northfork, W.Va., Colby currently lives in Bluefield. He studied communication arts and theatre at Concord and was involved in several of the University’s productions including “Fiddler on the Roof.”

He has worked as assignment editor and reporter for WVVA-TV in Bluefield. Bluefield College honored him as an outstanding journalist for his work at the station. Colby is currently a manager for Grant’s Supermarket where he also works in advertising.

Colby will address the Groundhog Day Breakfast audience sharing the spotlight with Concord Charlie. Charlie has a standing appointment with the University’s President each year to offer his predictions and insights on the duration of winter. The President relays the forecast to the breakfast guests.

According to Groundhog Day tradition, if the groundhog sees his shadow the morning of Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter can be expected. An early spring will be on the way if he doesn’t see his shadow.

The Concord Charlie tradition was originated in 1978 by the late Professor R.T. “Tom” Hill. As chairman of both the geography department and the Appalachian Studies program at Concord, Hill started the Groundhog Day Breakfast as a means to celebrate a bit of Appalachian heritage and highlight the program.

Cost per person for this year’s breakfast is $10 for guests who RSVP in advance by Friday, Jan. 27. All tickets at the door are $15.

Reservations are requested and may be made online at (click on the Groundhog Day Breakfast billboard), by emailing or calling 304-384-6311.

For additional information about the breakfast including payment options contact the Concord University Office of Advancement at 304-384-6311 or

A photo of Vain Colby, the Concord Charlie logo and a list of Grand Groundhog Watchers are included below.


Vain Colby



Concord Charlie





2017, Vain Colby


2016, Amy Shuler Goodwin

West Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Tourism

2015, Coach Garin Justice

Former Head Football Coach, Concord University

2014, Mr. Greg Puckett

Advocate for youth, community servant, Concord alumnus

2013, Ms. Lou Stoker

Volunteer, playwright, actress, community leader

2012, Mr. Pete Ballard

Artist, educator, Concord alumnus

2011, Mr. Scott A. Martin

Film industry personality – actor, director, producer, started Sorry Dog Productions in 1998

2010, Ms. Beverly Wellman

Executive Director, Retired, Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau

2009, Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret.)

United States Air Force General (Retired); Executive Director, Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation (ALEF)

2008, Mr. Everett Lilly (deceased)

West Virginia bluegrass artist and inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor

2007, Ms. Barbara Hawkins (deceased)

Political correspondent, columnist, investigative reporter

2006, Ms. Kate Long

Writer, bluegrass musician

2005, Mr. Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient

2004, Dr. Ancella Bickley

West Virginian and African American educator, historian and author

2003, Dr. Jay Banks, (deceased)

Physician and author, lived in Union, W.Va.

2002, Dr. J. Douglas Machesney

Concord’s Vice President for Development from 1986 through 2002

2001, Mr. Andy Ridenour, Mr. Larry Groce

Created the radio show “Mountain Stage”

2000, Mr. Andrew Paterno

President of the West Virginia Region for Huntington Banks, a Concord alumnus and Kanawha County native

1999, Mr. Jerry Jarrell

Retired Director of the National Hurricane Center, a Concord alumnus and Raleigh County native

1998, Recent Concord Retirees

Harold Bailey, John Seago, Paul Morgan (deceased), Bill Ryan, Bill Wells, Beryle Santon (deceased), Violet Martin (deceased), Kevin O’Sullivan (deceased), Ed Lowe, Dale Geiger, Carl Chapman, Shelva Rarick, Bernard Kiernan (deceased), Karl Fezer, Kenneth Baker (deceased)

1997, Dr. J. Elliott Blaydes, Jr. (deceased)

Bluefield eye specialist and philanthropist

1996, Mr. Frankie Ferrante (deceased)

Owned Mercer County restaurant, Frankie’s La Salute, and was an active civic and community leader

1995, Mr. Thomas Conlin

Former West Virginia Symphony Artistic Director and Conductor

1994, Ms. Denise Giardina

McDowell County native, successful novelist focusing on the vibrant culture of the coalfields

1993, Ms. Katharine Tierney (deceased)

Bluefield civic leader and longtime friend of Concord

1992, Ms. Jean Battlo

Published poet and playwright from McDowell County

1991, Ms. Nelrose Richards Price (deceased)

Retired Registrar of Concord, 41 years of service

1990, Dr. James Bailey (deceased)

Co-founder of Veterinary Associates of Princeton and a Mercer County civic leader

1989, Reverend Harry Christie (deceased)

Former pastor of Princeton Presbyterian Church

1988, Mr. R. T. Hill (deceased)

Father of the Concord Groundhog Day Breakfast and former Professor of Geography at Concord

1987, Mr. Edward J. Cabbell

Appalachian scholar, founder of the John Henry Foundation

1986, Mr. Ken Hechler (deceased)

Former W.Va. Secretary of State and former Congressman

1985, George A. Daugherty

“The Earl of Elkview,” a prominent Charleston attorney

1984, Dr. Charles Kenneth Sullivan

Executive Director of the West Virginia Humanities Council

1983, Mr. James Dent (deceased)

Humor columnist and cartoonist for The Charleston Gazette

1982, Mr. Don West (deceased)

Director of the Appalachian South Folklife Center, Pipestem, W.Va.

1981, Dr. E. Meade McNeill (deceased)

Professor of Biology at Concord

1980, Mr. Shirley Donnelly (deceased)

Historian and columnist for Beckley Newspapers, Inc.

1979, Mr. Jim Comstock (deceased)

Editor of The West Virginia Hillbilly

1978, Mr. A. James Manchin (deceased)

Former Secretary of State and State Treasurer of West Virginia






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