Friends Connection Newsletter – February 2020


Welcome to the February 2020 Friends Connection Newsletter – a newsletter designed to keep you connected with everything – or just about everything – that is underway with the following entities: Southwest Virginia, Friends of Southwest Virginia, The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, ‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network, Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace, and The Crooked Road.

We are excited to keep you in the loop on all our programs in the 19 counties, 4 cities, and 53 towns of Southwest Virginia!

You’ll find contact information for the team throughout this newsletter and here:

Let us know how we can assist you! Thanks for being a ‘friend’ of Southwest Virginia!

Chris Cannon
Executive Director
Friends of Southwest Virginia  |  Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation
‘Round the Mountain  |  Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace


The #SWVA marketing team has two goals: Tell the rest of the world that Southwest Virginia is the most vibrant, beautiful place on earth that’s ready and eager to host visitors from around the world, while also reminding the locals of SWVA that we’ve got the world’s most incredible front and backyard throughout these 19 counties, 4 cities and 53 towns! 

  • Web Platform Update
    A new visitor website for Southwest Virginia launched in 2019. Since that time, we have been gathering feedback from partners for potential improvements. We’re excited to announce the newly improved website is LIVE, including a direct integration with data feeds and content calendar. This platform will allow for an online tool that houses asset data for the region. Our newly refocused digital platform incorporates,,,, and the upcoming the past year, the team has been working on continued development of our database for cultural assets. Content generation has been ongoing over the last year in photography and videography, and our SWVA Storytellers have been working hard on producing stories for our platform. We are focused on storytelling and producing content packages about unique people, attractions, hidden destinations, and more through our great region.If you have questions or feedback about the Friends of Southwest Virginia digital platform and marketing efforts. You can reach out to Jenna Wagner, PR & Marketing Director.
  • SWVA Comprehensive Marketing Plan / SWVA Marketing Investment Program
    Friends of SWVA marketing efforts are ongoing and the comprehensive marketing plan has been updated to reflect the addition of marketing goals for The Crooked Road. The new Marketing Investment Program is set to launch at the beginning of March. If you have questions about either program, reach out to Jenna.

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

Development: Community Collaborative Updates

The Community Development team focuses on working with community groups of varying sizes, from neighborhood blocks to multi-county regions, to build that groups capacity for economic development in the creative economy sector. From arts and culture to outdoor recreation and agritourism, each community holds a special set of natural and cultural assets and this team assists in building the collaborative ecosystem necessary for economic success. 

Appalachian Trail

  • The Town of Damascus has broken ground on the Appalachian Trail Center! The Trail Center is one component from the Friends of Southwest Virginia’s 2016 POWER application, which has a focus of connecting communities to natural assets to expand economic development opportunities and increasing the quality of life for Southwest Virginia communities. The Center will serve as a hub for regional and interstate outdoor economy assets. The center is expected to be completed this Summer. Learn more information here.


  • The Cumberland Plateau Outdoor Industry Master Plan stakeholder group is working to finalize the RFP for a Regional Outdoor Industry Master Plan for the localities of Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, and Tazewell Counties. Please email if you would like to learn more about this process

The Clinch

  • Clinch River Valley Initiative Youth Summit March 14th (Open to area Schools). Learn more information here.
  • Monthly facilitated calls continue with the CRVI Steering committee. Our next meeting is March 4th at 1:00 PM. Email if you would like to learn more about this collaborative along the Clinch River Valley.

High Knob

  • SAVE THE DATE: The High Knob Master Plan and High Knob Regional Celebration will be held Tuesday March 31st at the Norton Farmers Market from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. The event is free and open to the public.

Mount Rogers

  • The Friends of Southwest Virginia met with The Mendota Trail and Virginia Creeper Trail on February 7th to kick off their Appalachian Regional Commission Area Development and Tobacco Regional Revitalization Commission planning grants. The grants will fund three separate plans including a master plan for the Mendota Trail, a master plan for The Virginia Creeper Trail, and a Community Health and Economic Impact Study for both trails.

Community Collaborative Updates

Friends of Southwest Virginia, a 501(c)(3) community and economic development nonprofit, is hitting the road this March for their third annual Spring Break Blitz. The blitz is a series of eight regional meetings over two weeks to educate the public on the creative economy movement reinventing the economy of Southwest Virginia, increase community participation in the dozens of programs currently available, and increase regional partnerships across city and county lines.

Joining Friends on the 2020 Blitz will be associated organizations working in tourism and community development across the region including Heart of Appalachia‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network, and The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.  The organizations invite you to come dream with them about the future of Southwest Virginia, while you meet partners from around the 19 counties and four cities.

Friends of Southwest Virginia represents 19 counties, four cities, and 53 towns in Southwest Virginia and works to develop the creative economy and market the region to the world. Since the inaugural Spring Break Blitz in 2018, Friends of Southwest Virginia has transitioned significantly including merging organizational administration with ‘Round the Mountain to streamline resources and services and renovating the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace in Abingdon for an improved experience and a new, consolidated brand.

Team members will be hitting the road to engage with a variety of partners to discuss the future of the creative economy in the region and opportunities for communities to develop and grow. Programs range from outdoor recreation development, culinary and agritourism development, arts & craft heritage preservation, regional music promotion & education, and regional marketing and branding.

Attendees can expect to hear important regional and organizational updates, meet the teams, and provide feedback on how these organizations can better serve you and your communities. Light snacks will be provided, as well as special guest appearances by regional breweries, wineries, and musicians.

Prior to each session, the team of ‘Round the Mountain invites regional artisans and stakeholders to a feedback session on the future of the SWVA Artisan Trails. A project of `Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network, the Artisan Trails are a collection of 15 community trails covering 19 counties and four cities, each reflecting its own unique culture, heritage, and tradition. Each community’s input will be recorded and used in planning the future direction of each trail.

Save the following dates:

  • March 16th – Daniel Boone Area
    Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center
    371 Technology Trail Ln, Duffield, VA 24244
  • March 17th – Blue Ridge Plateau Area
    Reynolds Homestead
    463 Homestead Ln, Critz, VA 24082
  • March 19th – New River Area
    Pulaski Train Depot
    20 S Washington Ave, Pulaski, VA 24301
  • March 23rd – Breaks Area
    Breaks Interstate Park Conference Center
    627 Commission Cir, Breaks, VA 24607
  • March 24th – Appalachian Trail Area
    Hungry Mother State Park – Ferrell Hall
    2854 Park Blvd, Marion, VA 24354
  • March 25th – Clinch River Area
    Lonesome Pine Brewery
    15 East Main Street, Lebanon, VA 24266
  • March 26th – Mount Rogers Area
    Whitetop Community Center
    16309 Highlands Pkwy, Whitetop, VA 24292
  • March 31st – High Knob Area
    Norton Farmers Market
    8th St SW, Norton, VA 24273
    *Anchor Area Engagement and High Knob Master Plan release
  • April 2 – Region-Wide
    SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace
    1 Heartwood Circle, Abingdon,VA 24210

Meeting Schedules:
2:30 – 4:00 PM – ‘Round the Mountain Artisan Trail Feedback Session
4:00 – 4:30 PM – ‘Round the Mountain Meet & Greet
4:30 – 5:30 PM – Spring Break Blitz Presentation
5:30 – 6:30 PM – Regional Networking

For more information and to RSVP for each event, check out the Friends of Southwest Virginia’s Facebook page or



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

The Product Development Team focuses on packaging projects throughout the region and attracting resources to build new and expanded assets across the entire creative economy with a particular emphasis on creating an economy out of natural and cultural assets while protecting and preserving their importance to the region. 

  • On February 4th a groundbreaking ceremony took place for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Damascus Trail Center.  This center will serve as a hub for regional outdoor and natural assets and is expected to be completed by this summer.  This center was funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Program and the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission’s Southwest Economic Development program.  To learn more about this project, please click here.
  • The Appalachian Regional Commission is accepting applications for the 2020 POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Program. Letters of Intent are due on February 28th by 5:00 pm. For more information, click here.

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

Cultural Heritage Program Updates

‘Round the Mountain: Arts & Craft

‘Round the Mountain’s Arts & Craft programs work to build resources and opportunities for practicing artisans across the region to advance their craft and benefit the regional creative economy. 

  • Membership – ‘Round the Mountain is a membership based network of artisans throughout the Southwest Virginia region that works to advance the artisan economy. To learn more about artisan membership, visit:
  • ‘Round the Mountain’s Art Pickup program for members will resume on March 1st. Juried artisans may deliver their work and inventory sheets to any of the following locations to be picked up by our staff:
    The Lost Pearl Gallery, North Tazewell
    Big Stone Gap Visitor Center, Big Stone Gap
    Wytheville Visitor Center, Wytheville
    Maggie Gallery, Floyd
    Reynolds Homestead, Critz
  • Our Spring jury will be held this April and is open to all current ‘Round the Mountain members. Please notify Jamee Gillespie by April 1st with intent to participate. Submissions may be dropped off at the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace between April 17-30. Submission forms are available at the Cultural Center front desk and may also be requested by email.
  • We are excited to kick off the pilot season of Visions-  a youth art competition for local K-5 students. This year’s theme is “What I Love About the Mountains” and will feature work in 2D, 3D, Literature, Music Composition, and Photography. Student’s works will be on display at the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace throughout the month of May, with a special reception and awards ceremony to be held on May 14th at 5:30 PM.

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

The Crooked Road: Music

  • The Crooked Road will present “The Crooked Road On Tour with Wayne & Jayne Henderson and Martha Spencer & Whitetop Mountain Band” at Barter Theatre’s Smith Stage on Friday, March 6th.  Tickets can be obtained by calling the Barter Theatre Box Office at 276-628-3991.

For more information on The Crooked Road’s programs and initiatives, reach out to Carrie Beck, Interim Director, at

‘Round the Mountain: Culinary & Agritourism

‘Round the Mountain’s Culinary & Agritourism programs work to advance the culinary and agritourism economy of the region through expanded use and knowledge of our local food systems.

The practice of canning, or preserving foods, has been around for millenia. Our ancestors were quick to realize that they had to come up with ways to extend the life of their foods, especially through the harsh winters. In the past 200-300 years, canning became increasingly popular (and needed) in “the South”. People were blessed with bountiful harvests throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall months, and due to poverty and poor living conditions, they would preserve their extra meats/fruits/vegetables so that they and their families would have access to ”fresh” food throughout the year. It seems, however, that this once needed practice has fallen to the wayside, thanks to a better economy and numerous advances in food preservation technology (ie. refrigerators and freezers).

The SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace is ready to help canning make a comeback! We will be offering hands-on classes this Summer, showing you recipes, techniques, and tips, in all things food preservation! Each class will be a different theme, and the best part?…You get to take home what you made that day!

Join us in helping bring back this (delicious) southern tradition. Now, “Let’s Jam!” Event link here!

Sandy Stoneman, REHS, CP-FS, is an area Food Safety Extension Agent, employed through Virginia Tech. She is based out of Wythe County and serves Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, and Wythe counties.

Chef Charles has been asked to do two cooking workshops at the William King Museum of Art in March.  The first one is an interactive workshop for the museum’s “Budding Artists” where Charles will lead a group of kids in building “edible flower arrangements”.  This will be on Saturday, March 14th, from 10:00 – 11:00 AM.  The second workshop will be on Sunday, March 29th, from 2:00 – 3:00PM, as a part of the museum’s “Art in Bloom” series.  This workshop will be half lecture and half demonstrations, on cooking with edible flowers, found in Southwest Virginia.  Tickets to this workshop can be purchased at the William King Museum of Art website.

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

Cultural Center Update

Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace is the gateway to Southwest Virginia’s rich culture and creative economy. Here you can see the work of regional artisans and musicians and find out about Southwest Virginia’s history, heritage, outdoor recreation and scenic beauty via stories and first-person narratives. But it’s much more than a visitor and sales center. It’s the introduction in our effort to build a regional economy focused on our cultural heritage and natural beauty.


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

SWVA Cafe & Mountain Brew Bar

  • The SWVA Cafe Staff have been busy testing recipes and trying to establish the new menu for Spring of 2020.  The cafe is currently running daily features with what is available to them at this time, call or stop by to find out what we are dishing up for the day:  276-492-2400 ext 2432 and our address is:  1 Heartwood Circle, Abingdon, Va 24210.
  • February Farmer of the Month:  Worsham Springs Farm
    Tyler and Courtney Leonard of Worsham Spring Farm located in Bristol, VA.  They are a first generation farm specializing in pasture raised pork. They pride themselves on raising great hogs on pasture from farrow to finish. They are diverse and transparent in their farming practices. They raise and sell pasture raised pork, piglets, cattle and goats.Their livestock is raised as naturally as possible and rotationally grazed, allowing them to always have access to fresh pasture for foraging while building the soil without using chemicals.

    Please call them for a delivery or you can find them weekly at the Abingdon Farmers Market and the State Street Farmers Market. Visit their Facebook page daily to see their new products and posts about life on the farm!

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

Visitors Center

  • The Visitors Center team has had a very informative month, our staff has been busy working with local tourism advisory committees and businesses to better understand our regions assets and tourism draws.
  • On February 11th, our visitors center staff hosted an “Abingdon 101” informational session, where several individuals from different attractions, restaurants, hotels, theaters, and businesses came together to best answer the question “What is there to do in Abingdon?”, so that all of our front of line staff are well-educated, and can provide the greatest feedback to our customers and visitors when in our area. If your county, town, or community would like to participate in an informational session such as the “Abingdon 101”, please reach out to We are excited to learn more about your area, as it will continue to let us provide the best knowledge to our wonderful Southwest Virginia visitors!
  • We are looking forward to your events as well! Any fun upcoming activities your town or community might have going on, we want to know! It could be anything ranging from concerts to food demos, art shows, community days, or anything in between. Our visitors center phone number is 276-492-2400, and you can also reach us anytime at

For more information on the above programs and initiatives, reach out to Logan Hardesty

Special Events

  • The SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace announced the full event and exhibit calendar for 2020! Read the press release here.
  • The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace is excited to announce the Cooking Along The Crooked Road series. Classes will kick off the first Monday of March. Purchase Tickets Here!
  • Don’t forget, you can experience live traditional and mountain music native to SWVA each Thursday for FREE from 6:00 –  9:00 PM!
  • Our 2020 brunch schedule is sure to delight.   Stay tuned for all those delicious details.
  • The wildly popular 2nd Tuesday Jazz Lunch hosted by the Southwest Virginia Community College Jazz Band has returned! Don’t miss the next free concert on the 2nd Tuesday of March, the 17th!

Learn more about our upcoming events here » 

Private Events

  • Events are quickly filling up for the reminder of the 2020 event calendar. We would love to have the opportunity to work with you on your event.   
  • Gatherings at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace can be as intimate or as grand as your heart desires.  Creating memories are the essence of a truly inspired gathering. Our team of talented event professionals are at the heart of each detailed moment.  Allow us to create a personalized event story for you and your loved ones to unfold. Crafting your authentic Southwest Virginia event experience through locally sourced vendors is truly a passion. We look forward to bringing your special moments at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace to life. 
  • Group experiences are quickly becoming popular. Those include Artisan demos/classes, Appalachian Cooking demos/classes, Square Dancing, and Storytelling to name a few.  Gather your friends and book a group experience today!

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