Friends Connection Newsletter – January 2020


Welcome to the January 2020 Friends Connection Newsletter – a newsletter designed to keep you connected with everything – or just about everything – that is underway with the following entities:

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! 

  • Recent Press Releases & Media Coverage
  • 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.
  • Website Platform Update
    The Friends of Southwest Virginia marketing staff has been working on internal alignment of our programs, which includes a reset of our digital platform. We are working with Stellar Studios out of Johnson City on updates to functionality, design and content. The enhanced platform will be live on February 1, 2020! If you have questions, concerns, or specific issues, reach out to Jenna.
  • SWVA Storytellers and Content Planning
    The “SWVA Storytellers” consist of six writers, photographers and videographers journeying throughout the 19 county, four city footprint of Southwest Virginia discovering the region’s untold treasures. The storytellers are currently producing content packages about unique people, businesses, attractions, hidden destinations, and more throughout the region. The stories of the region will be cataloged at starting in February 2020 to promote Spring travel throughout the region, and continue throughout the year. These stories will be marketed to the world to showcase the authentic and distinctive culture of Southwest Virginia. We need your help identifying the hidden stories of authentic people and places. If you have an idea to pitch, send an email to and include as much information as possible! We’ll follow up if one of the Storytellers can craft a unique story around your pitch! 

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. 


  • February 11th will kick off collaborative planning meetings for the Cumberland Plateau Outdoor Industry Master Plan stakeholder group. Please email if you would like to learn more about this process.

The Clinch

  • The Friends of SWVA development team had the opportunity to present to the University of Virginia Batten School January class called IMPACT INVESTING IN ACTION: APPALACHIA. Learn more about their travels:
  • The CRVI Transition Team is moving along and has set goals for 2020 based on the strategic plan. This January, the team is working to finalize nomination for the 1st CRVI board and will work with a CPA and an attorney to finalize necessary paperwork.
  • Monthly facilitated calls continue with the CRVI Steering Committee. Our next meeting is February 12th at 1:00 pm.
    The team is excited to welcome Scott Bowen the new Clinch River State Park Manager to the group and look forward to continuing to work together in the future.

High Knob

  • High Knob Master Plan public event is tentatively set for Tuesday  March 31st in the High Knob Region. Details to follow.

Community Collaborative Updates

Development Team Announcement – On December 21st, 2019 the Friends of Southwest Virginia development team met with Executive Director, Chris Cannon, to plan and discuss the timeline of all development projects, strategies, and programs for 2020- 2021. The development team is excited to announce they will launch a new development programs 1-sheeter with detailed information on how to engage with the Friends of Southwest Virginia development team during our annual Spring Break Blitz.

The Blitz is scheduled for March 16th – April 2nd 2020. Stay tuned for more information and Blitz locations, and please contact Emily Mayo or Idalina Walker with questions.

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace will host a second round of Virginia AIR Shift facilitation training. The training will be held on January 27th – January 29th and will be followed by an Evolve training on January 30th – 31st. Friends of Southwest Virginia will host and AIR Shift information session on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 at 2:30 PM at the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace.  For more information and registration please visit

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. 

  • The Appalachian Regional Commission will open their application portal for the POWER 2020 (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative on January 13th.  The POWER Initiative is a congressionally funded initiative that makes federal resources available to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.  To read the full 2020 Request for Proposals (RFP), click here.  To learn more about important application dates and the POWER Initiative, 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
  • As we start a new year, we are looking forward to working with artisans in 2020. Be on the lookout for more opportunities to get involved with ‘Round the Mountain and the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace, as we prepare for traveling season. Our member website and the private Facebook group for members is the quickest and easiest way to stay up-to-date on all of the happenings with ‘Round the Mountain and your fellow members.
  • Stop by the SWVA Cultural Center to see the newly juried artisans’ work on exhibit. This display highlights these members and tells their unique stories:
  • Winter Hours at the SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace
    The SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace will be adjusting operating hours slightly to accommodate the winter season. Hours information is included below:
    Monday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
    Thursday: Additional Hours 6:00 – 9:00 PM
    Sunday: 11:00 AM – 3:00 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’s Youth Music Festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 9th from 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace.  Mark your calendars for a fun day of music from the region’s best youth musicians, including local JAM programs!
  • Weekly jams happen every Thursday night from 6:30 – 9:00 PM at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace.  Free – bring an instrument and come pick!

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.

  • Chef Charles Parker and Dirk Moore have partnered-up to bring canning classes back to the Southwest Virginia Cultural  Center and Marketplace in full-force. They have developed hands-on canning classes to be held every other month, beginning in February.  The attendees of the classes will learn a little culinary history and heritage, as well as make their own product, and take home what they’ve made!  Each class will be lead by either Charles, Dirk, or a local “canning expert”. The first class of the year, in February, will be lead by Sandy Stoneman, REHS, CP-FS.  Sandy is Washington County’s “Area Food Safety Extension Agent”, through the Virginia Cooperative Extension. She will inform the class about the rules and regulations for “everyday people” to be able to make and sell their canned goods.  Below is the tentative schedule:
    • February – Sandy Stoneman
    • April – Strawberry Salsa
    • June – Blueberry Jam
    • August – Tomatoes
    • October – Apple Butter
    • December – Sauerkraut
  • Charles has also been working on reviving “Cooking Along The Crooked Road”, a culinary training program that was originally housed at the Higher Education Center in Abingdon.  This program will invite the public to the kitchens at the SWVA Cultural Center and Marketplace, and will have local chefs teach a hands-on culinary class, on the first Monday of each month.  These classes will begin on March 2nd of this year. The full class schedule, along with the local chef instructors and the theme for each class, will be posted in next month’s newsletter, so stay tuned!

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 has recently partnered with Tumbling Creek Cidery.  On January 8, 2020 Gwyn Hill (Cafe Manage) and Krystal Mosley (Operations Manager) traveled to Meadowview to visit the cidery and farm for a tour and tasting.  The cidery prides itself on their from-scratch approach to cider making. They press 100% of their juice, allowing them to control their craft. Their apples are sourced from the “backyard” of Southwest Virginia. This is cider from and for the people and friends of their southern Appalachian home. Tumbling Creek Cider uses heritage cider varieties, with flavors reminiscent of America’s cider legacy, while using a modern approach to finishing. The Cafe will be selling the cider two ways, on tap and for retail purchase.
  • The SWVA Cafe will be taking inventory during these slower months to regroup and establish new partnerships with farmers, growers, and producers, as well as, ensuring that we are taking care of our existing partnerships and giving them all some time in the spotlight.

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

Visitors Center

  • Visitors Center Staff has welcomed and introduced numerous groups and buses from all areas of the country not only to our facility, but to everything Southwest Virginia has to offer. We were thrilled to pass along information about our region to travelers from Louisiana, Ohio, Florida, and Michigan amongst others over the last two months.

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

Special Events

  • 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. Stay tuned for all the delicious details.
  • 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 January!

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