The Bituminous Coal Queens of Pennsylvania documents the odyssey of Hollywood actress Sarah Rush back to her roots as a 16-year-old pageant winner, growing up in Southwestern, PA. “Coal Queens” is filled with colorful local characters, and is a humorous look at small town America.

The town of Carmichaels (population 556) and its vanishing way of life is a far cry from Hollywood. Coal mining has shaped this area of the country, instilling a strength and pride in its citizens. The film captures the spirit of the community during the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Coal Queen Pageant and the King Coal Festival in August of 2003. 

The film documents Sarah’s travel back to her hometown and subsequently to the State Theatre in Uniontown, where rehearsals for the pageant are underway. The contestants have won the right to represent each of 14 high schools from the area in the competition, which is comprised of talent, ‘the impromptu’ question and answer session and the evening gown display. Through the lives of the girls and the events surrounding the pageant we learn more about them and the ties that bind the wider community. The film moves between trials of the pageant and the lives of the locals, especially the coal miners, who toil beneath the earth, knowing that the demise of their livelihood is just around the corner.