A Conversation with Heartwood Artisan, Lily Kusmik

`Round the Mountain artisan, Lily Kusmik, will be at Heartwood this Friday & Saturday, November 23rd and 24th to share her approach to creating beautiful, very TOUCHABLE sculptural vessel forms in porcelain like this.

One of Lily Kusmik’s sculptural vessel forms in porcelain

Click the link, below, to hear Lily talk about her work, then come meet her at Heartwood this Friday & Saturday, and bring one of her lovely creations home for the holidays!

A Conversation with Artisan, Lily Kusmik

Heartwood artisan, Lily Kusmik

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Grayson County Community Day

Earth Mama, Joyce Rouse, talks with Wytheville radio personality, Danny Gordon, about Friday’s Grayson County Community Day in this podcast of The Cultural Heart of Southwest Virginia, which aired earlier today on WEHC 90.7FM.

Hear what’s in store, then head to Heartwood this Friday, November 16 from 10am-4pm for Grayson County Community Day, and receive a 2013 SWVA Collectible Calendar valued at $19 if you’re among the first 50 people through the door!

Click the link, below, to play the podcast

Grayson County Community Day Podcast

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There’s No Place Like Heartwood for the Holidays!

Heartwood Executive Chef Barry Boothe and Group Sales & Marketing Manager, Alex Veatch, talk about what’s in store in today’s podcast of the Cultural Heart of Southwest Virginia: Authentic, Distinctive, Alive, which airs each Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time on WEHC 90.7FM streaming live at http://www.ehc.edu/wehc.

Hear all about what Heartwood has in store for the holidays by clicking the link, below.

Heartwood Holidays Podcast

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`Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network

Catch the conversation between `Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network’s Neva Bryan and Debby Loggans in today’s podcast of The Cultural Heart of Southwest Virginia: Authentic, Distinctive, Alive.  You’ll learn more about the organization’s entrepreneurial approach and about their Handmade Fighting Hunger Food Drive, which kicks off tomorrow.

Click the link, below, to hear their conversation and learn more.

`Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network

`Round the Mountain Food Drive

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Blues Plate Special!

Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) presents Blues Plate Special, a fundraiser featuring Mac Arnold and the Plate Full of Blues Band, this Saturday, October 6, 6:30 p.m. at The Cradle, 618 State Street in Bristol.

Mac Arnold

Mac’s musical past includes James Brown, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, BB King, and Soul Train; he is now an organic farmer, whose Greenville, SC-based “I Can Do Anything” Foundation’s mission is similar to ASD’s.

Nicole Vachon Hanlon shares a taste of what’s in store in this Cultural Heart of Southwest Virginia podcast, which you can hear by clicking the link, below.

Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Blues Plate Special with Nicole Vachon Hanlon

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Abingdon Crooked Road Music Fest Takes the Stage October 5-7!

The first weekend in October, the air will be filled with the sounds of bluegrass and traditional music in Abingdon as The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Music Heritage Trail and the Town of Abingdon team up to host this first ever Crooked Road Music Festival that will feature musical performances, workshops, and competitions.

On Friday, October 5, at Latture Field, The Crooked Road will spotlight their Youth Music from 7 to 9 p.m.  There will be performances by three amazing regional youth groups: The Iron Mountain Ridgerunners, Adam McPeak & Mountain Thunder, and The Wright Kids. The Wright Kids, a young sibling band from Rocky Mount, Va., won national acclaim as Top 10 finalists on season three of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

The Wright Kids (Photo Credit Michael Vest)

Adam McPeak & Mountain Thunder was formed in 2009 and this dynamic group has performed at venues, festivals, and competitions throughout the East Coast.

Adam McPeak & Mountain Thunder (photo credit Debbie Frye)

The Iron Mountain Ridgerunners, formed in the mountains of Grayson County, Va., play a wide variety of traditional old time dance tunes. Tickets to the Youth Music Showcase are $5 in advance and $10 the day of the show; admission for children 8 and under is free.

Iron Mountain Ridgerunners

On Saturday, October 6, the event continues in downtown Abingdon at Latture Field with an evening full of music, traditional dance and song workshops, great local food, regional crafts, and a tent devoted to the Abingdon Farmers Market Country Roads Cook-Off. The music will be presented on two stages, one main stage and a workshop stage from 3 to 10 p.m., where audiences can hear performances and presentations that provide context for the music. The workshop stage will feature a dance and singing styles workshop and the Bluegrass and Old-Time Band Competitions.  Bands competing in this competition are first or second place finishers from the various music festival competitions in Virginia.  The headliner for the main stage is Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, who is nominated for the 2012 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Album and Song of the Year; they will perform at 8:30 p.m.  Other performers on the main stage are Les Moore (blues artist), Whitetop Mountain Band (old-time music), Séamus Connolly (Irish fiddler), Good Shepherd Quartet (gospel) and the winners of the Bluegrass and Old Time Band Competitions.   Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day of show; admission for children 8 and under is free.

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

The final event will be Sunday, October 7, at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway with its weekly Farm Fresh Sunday Gospel Brunch beginning at 10 a.m. The feature group will be The Jackson Family.  Tickets to the Farm Fresh Sunday Gospel Brunch are FREE but must be ordered online in advance to reserve a seat. The brunch is not included in the ticket and can be purchased at an additional cost.

For more information on the performers, the full schedule and to purchase tickets, visit www.abingdon-crookedroadmusicfest.com/ or call the Abingdon Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-435-3440.

Tenille Montgomery | Town of Abingdon

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West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery

This might sound trivial if it wasn’t so heartfelt — I love everything about West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery. From our Wytheville front door, we can be there in 20 minutes; but when we arrive, I feel transported. It’s one of those places that my husband and I stop and consider could be any where in the world — of course, Napa Valley comes to mind when I think of West Wind — when, in fact, we’re in Southwest Virginia.

West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery

For starters, West Wind Farm is just so incredibly honest. The 4th generation farm turned vineyard at the hands of proprietor, Paul Hric. The vineyard draws you in, and you are immersed in authentic wine country, at once and completely removed from all distraction of everyday life.

Paul Hric talks about the West Wind Farm bottling process

According to a series of Facebook posts, this week finds them in the midst of harvest and production. On Monday, “A big week of picking ahead!” followed later that same day by “Today we picked the remainder of the Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. Up next: Vidal Blanc.” By yesterday, “In the press now: Pinot Gris. Later this week we start picking Vidal Blanc. Busy times!”

Next weekend marks the finalé of their summer concert series with Wine & Swine — wine & BBQ paired with Envision’s live Motown, soul, and beach sounds — Saturday, October 6 from 4-7:00 p.m.

Catch the podcast of today’s Cultural Heart of Southwest Virginia radio show as David Manley talks more about what makes their West Wind Farm family operation so special by clicking the link, below.

West Wind Farm Vineyard & Winery Podcast

West Wind Farm’s Jason (L) and David (R) Manley

Karen Quina-Doyle | Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation

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Burke’s Garden Fall Festival Celebrates 25th Year!

Look for silver and gold this year in Burke’s Garden for the 25th year of the Fall Festival, to be held this Saturday, September 29th 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. According to event chairman Mike Bell, “It’s the silver anniversary, and there is sure to be golden fall foliage to provide a warm welcome for visitors to The Garden.”

“This year we are making the festival really special with several new features, including a 1700’s pioneer encampment calling to mind James Burke’s original visit, live music, storytelling, kids’ activities, geocaching and much more.”  The Community Association has assembled an active group of volunteers who have been planning and preparing for this year’s event all year.

Of course, the festival has always featured homemade, homegrown, and handmade items to celebrate the harvest, and this year is no exception.  Delicious food, autumn decorations, high quality crafts, fresh produce, beautiful quilts, tasty apple butter, and gorgeous scenery are the hallmarks of this annual event.  The Community Center and Burke’s Garden Methodist Church provide the hub of activity, but don’t miss an opportunity to drive the loops guided by the new painted quilt squares on several barns to take in pumpkins and gourds at Wolf’s Lair Farm, camels and llamas at Lost World Ranch, and a remarkable view at the historic cemetery at Burke’s Garden Lutheran Church.

Burke’s Garden Fall Festival

The Community Association has added a website, www.burkesgardenfallfestival.com, and a Facebook page with the schedule on-line. Printed brochures are available at many locations too, including Crab Orchard Museum and J.R.’s Convenience Store. Commemorative 25th Anniversary t-shirts will be available for sale at the festival.

Admission is free, but donations to the Burke’s Garden Fire Department are encouraged for their part in directing parking near the Community Center, which is the old Burke’s Garden School.  For more information contact Mike Bell, 276-472-2565 or burkesgardenfallfestival@bgtco.net.

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Swinging Bridge Hopping in Lee County

Scouting potential sites for future public boating access canoe ramps along the Powell River recently, I found myself having a ball playing around on swinging bridges here in scenic Lee County.  “Swinging bridge hopping” (i.e., visiting more than one swinging bridge) is a delightful way to spend the day!  There are about a dozen public access VDOT-maintained swinging bridges in Lee County.  I was on two of them.  Both of them are on the Powell River. The Powell River is a very special place.

Here is a photo of me on the first one.   This swinging bridge is located on State Route 666, so it’s known as “Rt. 666 Swinging Bridge.”  Lee County has recently gotten new 911 addresses, and the new name for State Route 666 is “Swinging Bridge Road.”  As you drive along in Lee County these days, you’ll find both the old state route number signs and the new blue road name signs.

Here are views from the Rt. 666 Swinging Bridge.

This bridge is way up in the air and it sure gave me “butterflies in my stomach” as I ventured out onto the bridge.  First, I started giggling, and then, I was laughing out loud with nervous delight as those butterflies in my stomach got even rowdier with each bouncy step.  I thought about turning around and going right back down those stairs I’d just climbed up.  But no, my thrill seeking nature started kicking in, and I just laughed louder and ventured onward.  There were a few moments when I reminded myself to look up and out, because if you’re looking right off the side of the bridge down, down, down into that water way down there, well, those butterflies go totally haywire instantly.

Of course it’s all beautiful.  Whether you are looking down at the water watching a big turtle float along with it little legs moving (well, they look little from a distance), or you’re looking at the upstream or downstream views of the river and its luscious green riverbanks, or whether you are looking up along the horizon at the not-so-distant mountains, it’s all stunningly beautiful.  Those moments, simply pausing to just enjoy the scenery and wildlife here in God’s Country, are priceless.  In addition to the floating turtle, I saw three deer and big beautiful hawk while I was there.

And here is a photo of me on the second one.

This “Snodgrass Ford” swinging bridge is located on State Route 854, now named Virgil Minor Road.  Here is a sign on the bridge with the general guidelines for using swinging bridges.

And here is a view of the Powell River from The Snodgrass Ford Swinging Bridge.

By the way, those butterflies calm down fairly soon.  By the time I was venturing onto my second swinging bridge of the day, it already felt like “old hat.”  I walked straight across that swinging bridge with no hands and no hesitation.  What a hoot!

When was the last time you were on a swinging bridge?  Need an excuse to plan a delightful vacation day in Lee County while the leaves start to turn this Fall?  For more information about finding these and more public access VDOT maintained swinging bridges in stunningly scenic Lee County, please feel free to contact me.  My name is Joan Minor.  I am the part-time Lee County Tourism Director.  If you want to chat on the phone, the easiest time to catch me sitting at my desk in the courthouse is on Wednesdays between 10AM – 2PM.  My telephone number is (276) 346-4629.  Or you can leave a message and I will call you back.  Or you can email me at jminor@co.lee.state.va.us.  For swinging bridge hopping and other authentic Appalachian adventures, come to Lee County!

Joan Minor | Lee County Tourism Director

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Fall is Best of All in Southwest Virginia!

One of my favorite things about Southwest Virginia is the change of seasons, and fall is hard to beat!

The colors are second to none. Two of my favorite places to take them in are Big Walker Lookout and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Fall Big Walker Summit

Fall Blue Ridge Parkway

It was on a beautiful Sunday drive last fall that I first discovered the other hidden treasures along the Parkway — Foggy Ridge Cider, which is currently receiving troves of hard-earned national media acclaim; Blacksnake Meadery, where I enjoyed my first and eighth tastes of mead on the establishment’s unassuming front porch; Chateau Morrissette, where I had the good fortune of stumbling upon one of its ever-occuring afternoon concerts and cookout; and the iconic Mabry Mill.

Chateau Morrissette

Foggy Ridge Cider

Blacksnake Meadery

Mabry Mill

I must admit that the top of my to-do list this fall has nothing to do with the foliage. I’m a bit of a whitewater junkie, and having just learned about the dam releases that happen on Dickenson County’s Russell Fork every weekend in October, I’m looking forward to getting my fix in the coming weeks.

Two of those weekends sound particularly intriguing — the October 13-14 BADDLUN (a 13 mile Bike, 8 mile pADDLe, and 3 mile rUN mashup finished off with a 20 yard swim), which attracts extreme athletes from all parts and coincides with Paddlers’ Appreciation Weekend, and the October 27-28 Lord of the Fork class 5 downriver race and Russell Fork Rendezvous, when the water kicks up to a mighty 1100cfs (cubic feet per second in dam release jargon) from the respectable 800cfs of the preceding 3 weeks.


I love the whole whitewater subculture, and I’m like a kid at Christmas in anticipation of my first Russell Fork release season.

What’s your favorite part about fall in Southwest Virginia? We’d love to know.

Karen Quina-Doyle | Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation

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