Friends Connection Newsletter – August 2019


  • Comprehensive Marketing Plan
    • Friends of Southwest Virginia has been working on a comprehensive marketing plan, alongside our Joint Board Marketing Committee and the SWVA Regional Marketing Roundtable. This plan encompasses marketing for Friends of Southwest Virginia, the Southwest Virginia brand, ‘Round the Mountain, the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace and the SWVA Mountain Brew Trail. This plan approaches sustainability and streamlining programs, in order to use resources effectively and promote Southwest Virginia as a destination for authentic stories and experiences. The full plan will be released in the next month.
  • SWVA Storytellers
    • We had over 240 applicants for our SWVA Storyteller program. Our Joint Board Marketing Committee, along with staff, selected 6 final participants for this program in 2019. A press release will be sent next week with the final Storytellers and more information about the program.
  • SWVA Insiders
    • As a result of over 240 applicants for the SWVA Storyteller program, we decided to launch a program called the SWVA Insiders.
    • This group of people truly love #SWVA and we want them to be involved with our organization. To become an insider, all they need to do is complete a 4-hour training and share their love with #SWVA!
    • This group of initial 50 will receive a special designation and certification. Upon completion, you will receive a hat, bag, t-shirt and certificate for completion of the program. Lunch to be provided. You must register to participate.
    • The certification course will consist of information on Friends of Southwest Virginia and our programs, social media best practices, storytelling and resources. We will give you the tools to be able to talk about Southwest Virginia and all of the incredible work that’s being done across our 19 counties, four cities and 53 towns.
  • Co-op Marketing Program
    • The staff at Friends of Southwest Virginia will be working alongside regional partners and Virginia Tourism Corporation on forming a joint co-op marketing program for FY 2019-2020. More information and details to be announced in the coming months.


For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Jenna Wagner at 

Development: Community Collaborative Updates

Blue Ridge Parkway

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway team will be meeting to finalize and develop their top five itineraries as part of a Anchor Area Engagement Strategy. The Parkway is planning to unveil their product line this fall.
  • The City of Galax kicked off their Rally meeting this July in partnership with UVA-Wise, Opportunity SWVA, and UVA-Wise SWVA Community Builders.
  • Friends of SWVA met with the Reynolds Homestead this month to learn more about operations and AIR Shift.

The Clinch

  • Virginia announces 39th State Parks: Clinch River State Park
    • News Release
    • Congratulations to the Clinch River Valley Initiative for years of hard work and planning for this news!
  • Clinch River Valley Initiative
    • Save the date for the next steering committee meeting – Thursday, October 17th: Location TBA
      • Steering Committee Meeting at 3:00pm
      • Public Meeting at 5:30 pm
    • The Clinch River Valley Initiative Transition Team is actively executing the strategic plan for the future incorporation of this initiative. Updates will be presented by the co-chairs at the next Steering Committee Meeting.

High Knob

  • The High Knob team will be meeting to finalize their top five itineraries as part of the Anchor Area Engagement Strategy. The High Knob region is planning to unveil its product line in 2019.

Community Development Opportunities:

  • Community Coaching Summit
    • Friends of SWVA is working with Opportunity SWVA and the Town of Floyd to plan the 2019 Community Coaching Summit. The Summit is scheduled for October 28 – 29th. The theme for this year’s summit is Visioning Rural Communities in the 21st century.


For more information on the above community development programs and initiatives, reach out to Emily Mayo at or Idalina Walker at 

Development: Product Development Updates

Appalachian Trail Center – Washington County

  • The Town of Damascus and the trail center management team is working to finalize bid documents for the Trail Center. Once bid documents are finalized they will go out to bid for a third time.
  • The trail center management team will be discussing best practices on exhibitory, funding, and partnerships in the future.

Russell Fork Trail – Dickenson County

  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Russell Fork Trail took place on July 27that the trailhead at Kiwanis Park in Haysi, VA.  This trail is a multi-use trail that connects the Town of Haysi to Breaks Interstate Park. This project was made possible through partnerships between Friends of Southwest Virginia, Breaks Interstate Park, the Town of Haysi, and Spearhead Trails.  This project was funded through the Appalachian Regional Commission POWER Initiative and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

Stoney Creek Park (Devil’s Bathtub) – Scott County

  • The Stony Creek Park project, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission POWER Initiative, will start construction soon.  This project will provide a much-needed parking area for Devil’s Bathtub trail users while also providing a park and picnic area.  A pre-construction conference with Glass Machinery and Excavation Company took place on August 12th.

Tazewell Trails – Tazewell County

  • Tazewell Trails Steering Committee continues to manage Thompson Charitable funding for trails and Richlands River Walk planning
  • Multiple trail concepts are currently under development by the steering committee
  • To get involved in this project, contact Ida Walker –

Virginia Creeper Trail – Washington County

  • Friends of SWVA was recently awarded $150,000 to conduct a masterplan and economic impact study for the Virginia Creeper Trail and Mendota Trail. Friends has continued to seek additional funding for the master plans and new market impact through the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

Mendota Trail – City of Bristol / Washington County

  • The Mendota Trail is set to celebrate the grand opening of the first three miles from Bristol to Mendota! The event will be held on August 16th at 10:00 AM at the trailhead on Island Road.
  • Friends of SWVA was recently awarded $150,000 to conduct a masterplan and economic impact study for the Virginia Creeper Trail and Mendota Trail. Friends has continued to seek additional funding for the master plans and new market impact through the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.


For more information on the above product development programs and initiatives, reach out to Marcia Dempsey at 

Cultural Heritage Program Updates

‘Round the Mountain

  • Current Membership – 262
  • Student Membership
    • A new membership level for young artisans throughout the region is ready to launch in September! This new, free level of membership will be available to all students in the 19 counties, 4 cities and 53 towns of Southwest Virginia to encourage their skills and talents and carry the arts of the region into the next generation.
    • High school and University/College art instructors will be contacted in September to pass information along to their students.
  • NEW RTM Website
    • The new RTM Website is live! The redesigned site aligns with the updated brand and features new tools and features to showcase the artisans of the region!
    • Website Training Sessions
      • Training sessions for membership to be held in August (We will also touch on our new E-Commerce opportunities available to juried members of the Cultural Center at the end of the sessions):

Tuesday, August 20th 3:00 – 4:30 PM
SWVA Cultural Center and Marketplace
1 Heartwood Circle
Abingdon, VA 24210

Saturday, August 24th 2:30 – 4:00 PM
SWVA Cultural Center and Marketplace
1 Heartwood Circle
Abingdon, VA 24210

  • RTM Celebration & New Member Reception
    • Active RTM Members are invited to a reception and evening of music, drink and food to thank you for your ongoing support of our organization.

Friday, August 16, 5:00 – 7:00pm
SWVA Cultural Center and Marketplace
1 Heartwood Circle
Abingdon, VA 24210


For more information on ‘Round the Mountain’s programs and initiatives, reach out to Melissa Mullins at

The Crooked Road

  • CY 2018 Audit
  • MoMH 2019 closeout
  • Wayside Exhibit work
  • Grant reporting and reimbursements
  • Changing Banking Services Provider
  • Community Signs
  • Radio Transmitter project w/ VHCC
  • Planning for Guitar Summit with Henderson School in November


For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Jack Hinshelwood at


  • You can find chef Charles Parker at one or two different farmers markets each week, throughout the market season!  Charles procures local ingredients that are available that day at that market, and does cooking demos, letting the patrons watch him cook and taste what he comes up with.  This helps drive sales to the farmers at the market, and keeps the public engaged in “local foods”.
  • The VA Highlands Festival committee had asked chef Charles to participate in the festival two ways, this year:
    • Do a live “Chopped Themed” competition at the Abingdon Farmers Market.  Charles set up a “mobile kitchen” in front of the main stage at the Abingdon Farmers Market, on Saturday, August 3, bringing only his cooking equipment and a few locally-sourced “pantry items”.  At 11:00 AM, he was presented with a basket filled with mystery ingredients from the farmers market that morning, and was given 30 minutes to execute one dish that incorporated all ingredients!  His ingredients were breakfast sausage, patty-pan squash, shallots, purple potatoes, green beans, and heirloom grape tomatoes. He and teammate Gwyn Hill made a “Sausage Breakfast Burger”, with sauteed green beans and potatoes (using the fat from the sausage), and an heirloom tomato salad, with a light vinaigrette and fresh basil.  The judges “Loved it”.  After the judging took place, he and Gwyn made more of that dish so that all of the farmers market patrons could come sample the dish.
    • Be one of the “Featured Chefs” at the VA Highlands Festival Grand Finale Dinner.  Charles was asked to do a course that truly represented SWVA to him.  He did his take on an “Appalachian Kilt Salad”, with charred pork belly and an applesauce vinaigrette.
  • Charles has been going to local wineries, and farms to create “Farm-to-Table Dinners”, in order to help celebrate and promote SWVA farmers!  Most recently he was asked to make a 5-course locally-sourced dinner at Iron Heart Winery, to help them celebrate Virginia’s “50 Years of Love” campaign!  Then he was asked to prepare a farm to table “buffet” at Highlands Farms, in Lebanon, VA.
  • August/September Farmer of the Month
    • For August, Laurel Springs Farms / Courtney Umbarger (Marion, VA), will be highlighted at the Cultural Center and across our social media channels.  In weekly “Sunday Specials”, we will be highlighting different cuts of their beef, and promoting their product!
    • For September, Richard Moyer (of Moyer Family Farm, in Castlewood, VA) will be featured as our Farmer of the Month!  We will be working with Richard in highlighting some of his products throughout the month of September, and we will help “tell his story” and promote his farm all month long!


For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Chef Charles Parker at 

Cultural Center Update


  • After 4 months of a ‘soft’ opening, the full marketing plan for the SWVA Cultural Center is in action! As a result, sales have picked up over the past two weeks. Our totals for Art and Merchandise sales were $7,666.15 in just two weeks with the top selling categories of 2D and Woodwork.
  • The highest priced item sold was a painting by James Turner.  James came out to meet the new owner and sign the painting for her. They talked and took photos… it was a great experience for our guests.
  • We have hired two new Marketplace Associates: Grace Brown and Amanda Able. Welcome!

Calling all Mount Rogers partners! We have our full product line of Mount Rogers themed now available! From posters and t-shirts to patches and pins, stop by today to discover the full collection! All partners may purchase these products at wholesale rate to retail at their own location or use as a giveaway! Friends staff recently ventured up the mountain to do a photoshoot with the famous ponies of Grayson Highlands to promote the new line!


For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Jamee Gillespie at 


SWVA Cafe & Mountain Brew Bar

  • The cafe is currently sourcing 90% of all food products from Southwest Virginia! Currently we are supporting the following farms:
    • Old Rich Valley Farms – Saltville
    • Highlands Farms – Russell County
    • River Valley Farms – Abingdon
    • Ziegenwald Dairy – Gate City
    • T-N-T Farms – Meadowview
    • Pick-n-Grin Farms – Bristol
    • Abingdon Farmer’s Market – Abingdon
    • Abingdon Olive Oil Company – Abingdon
    • VHCC Horticultural Program – Abingdon
    • Harvest Table Farm – Meadowview
    • Bristol Gardens & Grill – Bristol
    • Laurel Springs Farm – Marion
    • Pop’s Veggie Basket – Rural Retreat
    • My Shepherds Farm – Rural Retreat
    • Moyer Family Farms – Castlewood
    • Appalachian Sustainable Development


For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Gwyn Hill at

Special Events

Grand Finale: Farm to Table Gala Dinner – Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace ​hosted a dinner following a welcome reception from 5:00 – 6:00 PM. Retail areas were open exclusively for Gala Dinner guests during the reception. Premier culinary artists of the region created an exquisite multi-course dinner made from locally-sourced ingredients and complete with wine and cocktail pairings.

Chef Lineup:


Paranormal Bigfoot – July 31, 2019

Southwest Virginia Cultural Center presented an evening of the mysterious “Paranormal Bigfoot”!  This is one of the latest films written and directed by Bill & Amy Lancaster. Together, they are small business owners in SWVA who also enjoy following cryptozoology and other fringe subjects. “Paranormal Bigfoot” is an investigation into a segment of the Sasquatch Community that believe there is more to the mysterious creature than a simple animal. “Paranormal Bigfoot” exposes an uncomfortable and divisive topic for those who look to represent themselves as scientifically credible. Yet the question remains, can the scientific process validate even the strangest of evidence?

Square Dancing – 3rd Friday of the Month

Square dancing with Tyler Hughes and old-time strong band, The Stone Mountain Serenaders is a fun filled experience for all ages! The calling consists of traditional square dance calls and is encouraging to beginners, as well as advanced dancers. The dance is FREE and open to the public!

Mi-mo-sa Flow – Last Tuesday of the Month

Join Nicole Dyer, Founder & Owner of White Birch Food & Juice and RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher), for Poses & Mimosas. This event is offered every last Tuesday of the month.   Brighten your mood with an uplifting yoga flow followed by mimosas made with fresh, cold-pressed juice from White Birch.



For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Leah Kidd at