Friends Connection Newsletter – October 2019


Welcome to the October 2019 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!

Earlier this month, Friends of Southwest Virginia released the new Southwest Virginia Creative Economy Strategic Plan: 2020-2022, a new guide for the future development of natural and cultural assets as economic development throughout the region. The plan was created through a partnership of dozens of community development organizations representing 19 counties, 4 cities, and 53 towns. Learn more and read the full plan here »

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 vibrate, 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! 

  • SWVA Storytellers
  • 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. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to Jenna.
  • ‘Round the Mountain Urban Art Forest, Southwest Virginia Mini-Stage & the #SWVA Experience at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
    • Southwest Virginia and ‘Round the Mountain took over Cumberland Park at the 2019 Festival to create an Urban Forest of SWVA Art strung throughout the hundreds of trees in the park!
    • In addition, several activations will bring the 8 Anchor Areas of the region to the forefront of the visitor’s experience!
    • In partnership with the Floyd Country Store and the Birthplace of Country Music we showcased a weekend full of #SWVA music.
  • 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 first session is this Sunday, October 20th at the SWVA Cultural Center!
    • 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.


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. 

Blue Ridge Parkway

  • Chris Cannon, Logan Hardesty, and Emily Mayo facilitated the Anchor Area Engagement Strategy with the Blue Ridge Parkway Plateau Region on October 8th.The parkway DMO’s selected the following as their 5 themes: Blue Ridge Heritage, Downtowns, Outdoor Recreation, Sports Cars Motorcycles and Scenic Drives, and Golf. Over the next two months the action team leaders will be working to collect content for these themes. Please contact Emily Mayo at if you would like to submit destinations or high resolution photography for these themes.

The Clinch

  • Clinch  River Valley Initiative (CRVI) Regional Meeting: October 15th in Cedar Bluff
    • Key Takeaways: CRVI is the transition team are working hard to carry out the goals outlined in the strategic plan including: a 3 year funding plan, Board Development, Communications and community outreach plan, and pursuing necessary steps to incorporate at a non profit organization.
  • Tazewell Trails will meet at the end of October to discuss next steps in the development of a Cumberland Plateau region Adventure Tourism asset assessment.

High Knob

  • High Knob Enhancement corporation and High Knob Regional Initiative join forces through a facilitated conversation with DHCD’s Doug Jackson on October 21st at 5:30 at the Norton Community Center. These accomplished groups are looking forward to taking on the challenge of working with the High Knob Master plan document to accomplish goals and opportunities set forth by the master planning team. 


Community Development Opportunities:

  • Community Coaching Summit
    • Registration for the 5th annual Community Coaching Summit is now live and open for anyone to register! The Community Coaching Summit will be held on October 28 -29th in Floyd Virginia.This year’s theme is What is Rural for the 21st Century. Register Here »
  • Resource Fair
  • Small Scale Development Workshop
    • A Small Scale Development Workshop will be held  on October 30th, 2019 from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM at the Institute Advanced Research and Learning Center in Danville, VA. Early Bird Registration is available until October 11th, 2019. Registration can be found here »
  • Outdoor Economy Conference
    • The Friends Development team along with the City of Norton, and the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy attended the Outdoor Economy Conference in Asheville, NC. The Outdoor Economy Conference is the Southeast’s premier event for those looking to grow the outdoor industry in their communities, and craft an economy that’s intimately tied to the quality and health of their places. Building on and connecting the vibrant outdoor community of businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, and supportive governmental & academic leaders in Western North Carolina and the surrounding area, this conference sold out in 2018, and has expanded into a new home in its second year! For more information on the Outdoor Economy Conference please visit »
  • IBMA
    • Development and Visitor Center staff joined forces to represent SWVA in Raleigh, NC at the International Bluegrass Music Awards, ion Partnership with VTC and local partners we had the opportunity to introduce our rich culture assets and musical heritage to visitors and industry professionals.
  • Adventures on the Gorge
    • We had the opportunity to accompany VTC on a benchmarking trip to Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia to meet with  industry leaders in outdoor recreation and develop opportunities for SWVA to further develop top notch outdoor recreation destinations.


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. 

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

  • The Stoney Creek Park project, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission POWER Initiative, will begin early October.  This project will provide a much-needed parking area for Devil’s Bathtub trail users while also providing a park and picnic area. Construction for the Stony Creek Park at Devil’s Bathtub will begin this month.

High Knob Destination Center

  • The design phase for the High Knob Destination Center will convene in the coming weeks.  Thompson & Litton will be the Architect & Engineering Firm for the Center.
  • High Knob is a land mass that stretches through Wise and Scott Counties and borders the city of Norton with recreation opportunities ranging from hiking and biking to camping and fishing. POWER funding will support the construction of a High Knob destination center at the entrance to High Knob in the city of Norton. This center will serve as a gateway between Norton and High Knob and offer maps and exhibits that highlight the recreation opportunities and ecological wealth of the region. Additionally, funding will go to enhance the existing assets of High Knob Lake and Devil’s Bathtub to make them more accessible and visitor friendly.

AmeriCorps Vistas

  • Friends of Southwest Virginia received final approval for 5 AmeriCorps VISTAs.  1 VISTA will build capacity within the Southwest Virginia Marketing program under the supervision of Jenna Wagner, Friends of SWVA’s Director of Marketing & PR.  The remaining 4 VISTAs will serve as new VISTA Community Builders under the supervision of the Office of Economic Development at UVa-Wise. These VISTAs will build capacity and build partnerships in the following regions: The Clinch, High Knob, Mount Rogers, and New River. 

ARC Area Development Grant

  • Friends of SWVA received final approval from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the ARC Area Development grant entitled “Trail Development, Sustainability and Connectivity in the Mount Rogers Anchor Area.”  This project will create a plan for long-term development and sustainability of two trail systems in the Mount Rogers area while identifying feasible physical and programmatic connections to enhance the overall economy of the region through continued and sustainable economic development in the outdoor recreation cluster; outputs include three separate and interconnected master development plans for the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Mendota Trail, and Outdoor Recreation Interconnectivity in the Mount Rogers Region.

Regional Cluster Development

  • Friends of SWVA was recommended by the Staff of the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission for a $330,000 Southwest Economic Development Grant entitled “Recreation Cluster Development, Connectivity, and Sustainability”.  These funds were confirmed by the Tobacco Commission on October 10th.  This grant will provide additional funding to the master plans listed above as well an Outdoor Recreation Interconnectivity plan for the Cumberland Plateau Region. 

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Damascus Trail Center

  • The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Damascus Trail Center will go out to bid for construction mid-October.


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. 

  • Current Membership – 296
    • Artisan-246
    • Business- 50
  • Fall Jury
    • We have 17 artisans submitting to jury this season.
      • Drop offs began October 14 and will end October 25.
      • Jury will convene on the first week of November
  • Autumn Market – November 2nd
    • With the success of our Spring and Summer Markets, we will host our RTM Autumn Market on November 2nd. We are looking to have artisans inside the Cultural Center with live music, children’s events, and more! Interested in reserving a booth? Both juried and non-juried members are welcome to participate in our seasonal markets. 19 Artisans participating in Autumn Market, selling and demonstrating craft.
  •  American Craft Week and “Present Tense: 2019″ Conference – October 4-13, 2019
    • Melissa Mullins attended American Craft Week and the American Craft Council Conference in Philadelphia
    • Themes for Conference:
      • Community & Agency: The Ecology Of Craft 
      • Intersections & Innovation: Craft In Action
      • Storytelling & Narrative: What We Talk About When We Talk About Craft


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

The Crooked Road: Music

  • The Crooked Road held its Thursday jams at the SWVA Cultural Center during the month of September, with a large number of attendees on Thursday, September 19 due to visitors to the area for Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Reunion.  During that jam, we saw attendees from California, North Carolina and Florida with about 75 + in attendance. Other jams for the month were also well attended with approximately 40-50 people in attendance, with guests from Pennsylvania at the 9/26 event.
  • Jack Hinshelwood has resigned as Executive Director and Carrie Beck has assumed Interim Executive Director duties. Additionally, Deb Holley has moved to a full-time position.  Jonathan Romeo is still serving as Program Director.
  • The Crooked Road was represented by Jack Hinshelwood and Deb Holley at the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Conference in September.  The 2019 Mountains of Music Homecoming was nominated as “Event of the Year” and although it did not win, there was successful networking for The Crooked Road during the 4 day event.
  • The Mountains of Music Homecoming will be produced by The Crooked Road again for 2020.  Details are in early planning stages, and the event structure is under review, but more information will be forthcoming.
  • The Crooked Road on Tour was featured on the stage during the State Fair of Virginia with several performances throughout the week.  SWVA performers were engaged for this event, representing SWVA and The Crooked Road.
  • The Crooked Road will be undertaking a website redesign soon, with intents to better serve the potential visitor to SWVA, performers and provide a new calendar of events interface.


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

  • On September 21st, chef Charles and Chase Brown (Cafe Associate) set up an interactive “table/booth” for the Children’s Day part of Bristol Rhythm and Roots. Charles brought ingredients for kids to come and build their own granola snacks, and also had information posted to show how much more beneficial it is to make your own food, and to list the ingredients that are in an average granola bar, bought from a grocery store.  This was a HUGE success, and the kids and parents really liked and appreciated it!
  • Chef Charles was invited to be a speaker at the Paramount Theater in Bristol, for their live show of “Farm and Fun Time”.  Charles got to talk again about how and why local food is important to him, and some memories involving food and him growing up in our region.  It was a packed theater with over 600 attendees, and it was also posted on Facebook Live. His segment was well-received!
  • On October 8th, chef Charles was asked to be one of two local chefs in a fun “culinary showdown” at The Market Place, in Pulaski.  He went against Chef T, of Radford/Hell’s Kitchen. It was a wonderful event, meant to celebrate and support the local farmers.
  • On September 23rd, chef Charles did a farm to table dinner for the town of Christiansburg, at the “Great Road on Main” location.  90% of the ingredients that were used, came from the Christiansburg Farmers Market (and from other Christiansburg farmers who were unable to be at the market), and were procured on the 19th of September.  This was their first big farm to table dinner, and they had a small turnout, but everyone loved the food, and they are already planning another one (with Charles), for next year! On a side note, BIG thanks to  Chase Brown for all of his help with this!


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.


  • Sales are steadily rising! Our new extended hours have been a success with us seeing several early morning visitors and groups each day.
  • Our highest priced item sold was a hand-made Hammered Dulcimer by Wade Blevins from Meadowview, VA.
  • Our highest selling artists were Beagle Ridge Herb Farm of Wytheville, VA and Marilyn Peacock of The Glass Peacock Stained Glass in Abingdon, VA.
  • Our artisans have been hard at work on getting us stocked up for the holiday shopping season. New inventory is arriving daily and the holiday shoppers are beginning to roll in as well.
  • New and restocked SWVA merchandise is scheduled to arrive next week and will be on the shelves soon.


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

SWVA Cafe & Mountain Brew Bar

  • OctoberO Farmer of the Month
    • Lynda Bracken with My Shepherd’s Farm in Rural Retreat, VA. My Shepherd’s Farm is a family owned and operated farm that is dedicated to producing clean, healthy, and delicious foods for markets, restaurants, and families. They raise everything from non-GMO pastured chicken, eggs, and pork, to grass fed and finished beef, to raw honey. They also produce homemade deodorants, soaps, and lip balms. They are returning to the self-sustaining, traditional family farm – where you might find just a bit of everything. Visit My Shepherd’s Farm to taste and experience the difference!
  • We are working on the new menu roll out which will include Chef Charles award winning “Coconut Curried Butternut Squash Soup”
  • We will be bringing more fall inspired flavors to our menu as well as keeping our staples like the “Best Chicken Salad Sammy” (Self Titled but true in our opinion). We get our chickens from Old Rich Valley Farm located in Saltville, VA and you can always find them at the local farmers markets or email them: 
  • Did you know that we offer catering of “Boxed Lunches” for your small business needs? If you or someone you know would be interested in this type of catering please don’t hesitate to contact Gwyn Hill via email or 276-492-2400 ext. 4001.


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

Special Events

We announced our Fall lineup of Sunday Brunches, which includes a partnership with local caterers and restaurants. The brunches, held every Sunday from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM during the months of October through December, will showcase local businesses and products from around the 19 county, four city footprint of Southwest Virginia.  See the full press release here!

The full schedule of Sunday Brunches is as follows:

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 November! 

Don’t forget, you can experience live traditional and mountain music native to SWVA each Thursday for FREE from 6pm to 9pm!

The SWVA Cultural Center & Marketplace will offer a one-day workshop called Feast of Your Life on October 24, 2019. The course, taught by Miriam Sauls (writing) and Vernessa Foelix (visual art) uses food memories for inspiration, looking at food and the role it has played in both our lives and our culture.  Participants will learn about vivid writing and form and color and will use words and drawing, painting and collage to respond to the memories and sensations of their food experiences. All work will be done in a safe and supportive environment where process, exploration and creative play will be the focus. A special lunch prepared by Chef Charles Parker, the SWVA Cultural Center Culinary Ambassador, is included in the registration.

Miriam Sauls is from NC and has published articles and essays in local, state and national magazines. Vernessa Foelix lives and teaches in Switzerland and has shown her artwork in many venues internationally. Chef Charles Parker fell in love with food at age 5 and helps others do the same, while celebrating local farmers, growers and producers.

Learn more about our upcoming events here » 

Have you been naughty or nice? There is only one way to know……Attend the SWVA Cultural Center Santa Brunch. You won’t to miss Brunch with Santa on December 8 from 11:00am-2:30pm. Catering brought to you by Four Seasons Catering and Bakery. 

Private Events 

  • Events are quickly filling up for the reminder of the 2019 event calendar. We would love to have the opportunity to work with you on your event.
  • Gatherings at the SWVA Cultural Center and 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 and Marketplace to life. 
  • Group experiences are quickly becoming popular. Those include Aristan 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