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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Explore the Trails of Dickenson County!

During the Heartwood Ambassador Tour of Dickenson County in August, we also noted the regional trails that are a part of Dickenson County.   I have described a little about the regional trails and hope you will travel over our way soon to listen to some great mountain music, view some of our artisans’ work, and learn more about the coal mining and miners in our county.  For more information, please feel free to contact me at 276-926-6074 or email rsurratt@dcwin.org.   Rita Surratt, Dickenson County Tourism Director, P.O. Box 1990, Clintwood, VA  24228

The Rivers to Ridges Artisan Trail features fantastic work of our Artisans throughout Dickenson and Buchanan County.  For a preview of our artisans’ trail, you can request a brochure from the Dickenson County Visitor’s Center (chamberdickenson@yahoo.com) or go to Round the Mountain’s website (www.roundthemountain.org) and view all the trails in the region.

You can also download the brochures.  Several businesses in the county as well as the Ralph Stanley Museum offer a variety of artisans’ work for sale.  There are also events throughout the year that feature our artisans’ work such as the Crooked Road Quilters Guild will hold its 6th Annual Quilt Show at the Clintwood Community Center on September 21, 22 & 23, the Haysi Russell Fork Autumn Fest on October 5, 6 & 7th and “Homemaking in the Mountains” an annual craft event that will be held at the Breaks Park on October 20th.

The Crooked Road “Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail” is one of our leading trails for travelers throughout the Virginia counties featuring The Crooked Road.  Venues along the trail are seeing travelers from across the states as well as international travelers.  Bus tours are coming into the counties, just because of the Crooked Road Music Trail.

In Dickenson County, we are fortunate to have the Ralph Stanley Museum, featuring the life of one of the best known old time mountain music artists around.  There are many great musicians in our county and we always like to feature as many as we can when we set up for Dickenson County Day at Heartwood.  We are seeing many more young musicians performing the old timey mountain music.  With the education program that The Crooked Road has been offering in our schools, it is exciting to see the interest sparking among our younger generations.  Don’t forget Jammin at the Jettie Baker Center in Clintwood every Tuesday night and Pickin on the Deck of the Rhododendron Restaurant at the Breaks Interstate Park every  third Tuesday of the month.

The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail, a tribute to coal and coal miners across the coalfield counties is very dear to the hearts of our citizens who have always depended on coal as their survival.  The 300 miles of scenic byway stretches through the seven coalfield counties and City of Norton.  Along the trail, travelers will experience the true heritage and culture of the unique coal mining towns which were formed more than a century ago.

In Dickenson County, our trail begins at the Breaks Interstate Park where you will be able to learn about coal at the Visitor’s Center in the Park.  You will also be able to view the mountain where one  of the oldest mines existed in Dickenson County many years ago- the Domas Mine located at the Breaks Park. The Virginia Coal Heritage Trail continues on to the Town of Haysi  where you will be able to view the opening of the old Splashdam Mine where  10 miners were killed in an explosion in1932. The trail goes through the Town of Clinchco where the Coal Miner’s Memorial listing the names of miners killed in Dickenson County is located.  Traveling on toward McClure, you will see the old Train Depot at Fremont, and in McClure, Old McClure  1 mine, which is not visible from the public highway, was the location of an explosion in 1983 which took the lives of seven including the first women miner killed in the state of Virginia.  In Trammel, you will notice the remains of houses on both sides of the road.  This was Haytertown, a small ten man coal operation run by Charlie Hayter in the 1920’s.  You will also see the old store building, superintendent’s house and boarding house on the right as you travel through Trammel.  You will enter Russell County portion of the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail at the top of Dante Mountain.  For more information on the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail, visit the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority website at www.heartofappalachia.com

Heartwood, SWVA Artisan Gateway is a facility we are proud to partner with and appreciate their help in displaying  and giving out information about our county, our artisans and our musicians  as we move forward  in marketing our county and Southwest Virginia.

Rita Surratt | Dickenson County Tourism Director

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The Abingdon Crooked Road Music Fest & Country Roads Cook-Off

Town of Abingdon Tourism Director, Kevin Costello, and Abingdon Farmers’ Market Manager, Sara Cardinale, talk about the upcoming Abingdon Crooked Road Music Fest and Country Roads Cook-Off on today’s Cultural Heart of Southwest Virginia podcast, which you can hear by clicking the link, below.

Abingdon Crooked Road Music Fest Podcast, Part 3

Get festival tickets online at http://www.abingdon-crookedroadmusicfest.com/; to register for the Country Roads Cook-Off visit http://www.abingdonfarmersmarket.com/?page_id=328.

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Explore Dickenson County!

It was a beautiful Monday morning in Dickenson County when the new Heartwood Marketing Director, Karen Doyle, Event Planner, Brooke Webb and Heartwood Staff members, Mike Venable and Matt Willey arrived at the Dickenson County Visitor’s Center/Chamber of Commerce in Clintwood.  New comers to the county, only one in the group had actually been here before. Tourism Director, Rita Surratt welcomed them to Clintwood and Dickenson County.  Joining Rita to help with the tour was the following tourism committee members: Haysi Mayor Larry Yates, Ron Kennedy and Jack Stanley.  After a tour of the Phipps House, Dr. Phipps Family Museum showcasing hospital memorabilia from the old Dickenson County Hospital that once stood on the grounds, the group headed to the Phipps Family Memorial Garden located behind the Visitor’s Center.

Doc Phipps

A short walking tour of the town showcased our businesses in Clintwood.  Looking in the window of the once popular John Branham’s White Star Restaurant, we were happy to see progress being made to reopen the restaurant.

White Star Restaurant

The wall mural near the Jettie Baker Center told the story of Dickenson County and was beautifully done by Artist Ellen Elmes and students featuring citizens in Dickenson County.

Dickenson County Mural by Ellen Elmes

Even though we didn’t go inside the Jettie Baker Center, it is displayed at Heartwood, so all the tour group had seen the inside of the renovated old theatre, which now features a state of the art facility.

The Jettie Baker Center

One of our Artisan’s shops, Gift Baskets is one of the favorite shopping places for visitors as well as citizens in the county featuring a wide array of items.

After a short tour through the town of Clintwood, we headed to the Ralph Stanley Museum knowing we were on a tight schedule to try and soak up everything we could in only one day; we were limited on time at the museum.  The Director, Tammy Hill, also a tourism committee member welcomed the group to the Ralph Stanley Museum.  Everyone was impressed with the museum and the music.  They all agreed it was one of the biggest assets in the county.  They enjoyed the story of the life of Dr. Ralph Stanley and his brother Carter and their families.

Tammy Hill

After loading up in the rental van, we headed out of Clintwood to Virginia Scenic Rt. 611, the road to Birch Knob Tower. We stopped at Airplane Rock to view the monument tribute to three men who were killed in an airplane crash many years ago.  We walked up to the Airplane Rock Lookout and the group loved the fantastic view.

The View from Airplane Rock

Our next stop was the parking lot at Birch Knob and a short walk to the steps heading up to the tower.  After climbing up 184 steps, we were all excited to make it to the platform- especially  Matt.  It is always so much fun to bring someone new up to Birch Knob Tower and to see their expression when they look out to view 5 states.  This has to be one of the most fantastic views in the region and is well worth the hike to see it.

We made it to the top of Birch Knob!

Heading onto Rt. 611, we stopped at Branham Farm to show the group the birding trail and talk a little about the farm.  On down the road, we took the road off Rt. 611 to John Flannagan Dam.  There we were able to view where the white water releases come from for the October Whitewater releases on Russell Fork River.

John Flannagan Dam

We drove to the Upper Twin Camp ground and then headed back to Rt. 611. We stopped at the SplashDam Bridge in Bartlick, the historic bridge where lumber was dammed up and sent into Kentucky.  The bridge was built around 1915.

Historic SplashDam Bridge

Our next stop was the Breaks Interstate Park where Jenny O’quinn, Marketing Director and tourism committee member met us for lunch.  After a great lunch, we headed out in the park with Jenny giving us a great tour.  The stateline overlook impressed the visitor’s as well as the park in whole.

State Line Overlook at The Breaks

We stopped by the new Splash in the Country Water park and checked out the new cabins near the lake.  The peddle boats looked very inviting and if we had more time, we would all have been on the lake in those.

New Splash Park at The Breaks

After leaving the Breaks Interstate Park, we went to the Town of Haysi for a short tour.  We stopped at the Picnic Shelter across from the Town Hall, viewed the wonderful wall mural done by Shawn Wallace depicting the town of Haysi many years ago.

Town of Haysi Mural

We then walked to the Veteran’s Walk of Fame Memorial Park to view all the names of the soldiers on display.  This is a great tribute to the veterans and very well done.

Veterans Walk of Fame Memorial Park

Veterans Memorial

After a drive through the town, viewing the Russell Fork River and showcasing the businesses in town, we headed on to the town of Clinchco.

The Russell Fork River runs alongside the Town of Haysi

We talked about the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail, the booming days in Clinchco and about the history of our miners in Dickenson County, explaining that the Coal Heritage Trail headed through McClure and into Trammel where the coal camp houses still exist. We stopped at the Coal Miners Memorial in Clinchco to view all the miners, men and women who were killed in the mines in Dickenson County.

Coal Miners Memorial

Heading on back to Clintwood, we pointed out the old Railroad Depot Station, now PSA offices at Fremont.  We were also excited to show the group that progress is being made on the Cranesnest Trail.

After a long day, we returned to Clintwood saying our goodbyes to the great team from Heartwood and asking for at least another day or two on the next trip here to complete the tour of Dickenson County.

We are very proud of our county and the beauty we have here and always happy to showcase it to visitors in the area.  For more information on Dickenson County, please contact Rita Surratt, Tourism Director at (276)926-6074 or email rsurratt@dcwin.org.

Rita Surratt | Dickenson County Tourism Director

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Monarch Migration arrives in Southwest Virginia

The change of seasons signals many things, but for me fall means it is time for the annual Monarch Migration. For those of you who are intrigued by this amazing feat, this is our time of year. Fall temperatures hint that winter will be here before we know it, and nature begins to put on a show as the woods become alive with the reds, yellows, and oranges of fall. How can you not love this time of year?

Butterflies may seem like delicate creatures but when you hear that this same fragile insect can fly several thousand miles it makes you realize they must be pretty mighty. Monarchs are not the only butterfly to migrate but they fly the longest distance on their journey. East of the Rocky Mountains on the North American continent, they will fly to Mexico, West of the Rockies they will fly to the southern part of California.

Monarch Migration

As the days get shorter the Monarchs will begin to head south congregating in larger numbers as they leave Canada and head towards Mexico. Along the way predators or weather may affect them but ever larger numbers will accumulate.

At 11:00 on Saturday Sept 15th.   join butterfly lovers at Flying Flowers at Beagle Ridge for the 3rd Annual Monarch Tagging event. Flying Flowers, Southwest VA’s only walk through butterfly house, is home to many native species of butterflies including the ever popular Monarch.

Take a look at this picture from last years tagging event. This little sticker will stay on the  wing as this beauty makes the journey to Mexico.

2011 Tagging Event

This program which is sponsored by the University of Kansas which has been using the data collected by this program to track the Southern Monarch Migration. Enjoy a program about the lifecycle of the butterfly before we catch, tag and release the Monarchs. By participating in this event you will become one of the many citizen scientists across the country who help collect data as they head off on this journey.

Data Collection

Scientists are trying to learn more about how Monarchs find their way to and from the places where they spend the winter.

The marvel of how such a delicate creature can make such an amazing journey is second only to how they can navigate on a trip which they make only once and from which they never return. Millions will gather in Mexico’s Oyamel fir forests and stay there in diapuase, a kind of hibernation, until spring at which time they will feed, mate, and head north.  And so the cycle begins anew. On the northern migration they will lay eggs and those eggs become caterpillars, chrysalis and the new butterflies emerge and continue the journey. The butterflies that complete this journey are the off spring of those that left in the fall.

Come experience one of nature’s miracles as we release this year’s Monarchs on their amazing journey. Registration is requested. contact us at beagleridge@gmail.com or 276-621-4511 to register and be sure to bring your camera. Enjoy last years pictures at www.flyingflowersva.com.

For further information see Monarch Watch. www.monarchwatch.com or if you are a teacher and would like to add this to your curriculum go to www.learner.org/jnorth. Field trips to Flying Flowers are available as well as in-school visits.

Ellen Reynolds | Beagle Ridge Herb Farm

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