Friends Connection Newsletter – September 2019


Welcome to the September 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!

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 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.
  • Virginia Tourism Orientation
    • Two of the newest marketing staff members are headed to Richmond this week to attend the VTC Orientation! Look for our next newsletter in two weeks to see a feature on Logan Hardesty, the SWVA Travel Advisor & Visitor Center Coordinator!
  • 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.


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

  • Friends of SWVA will be facilitating a conversation with the Blue Ridge Plateau DMOs on October 8th to further plan their Anchor Area Engagement Strategy. Blue Ridge DMO partners should reach out to Emily Mayo at for more information. 
  • Friends of Southwest Virginia will be meeting with Patrick County Tourism on October 8th to learn more about what is happening in Patrick County and where we can lend assistance. Check out what we are about to discover


The Clinch

High Knob

  • The High Knob Enhancement Corporation will be working with Friends and Doug Jackson, Community Capacity Builder for the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, to hold a facilitated meeting around Championing the High Knob Strategic Plan. Partners can join us on October 21st 5:30 PM at the Norton Community Center. High Knob partners who would like more information on this meeting should reach out to Idalina Walker at 
  • The High Knob Regional Initiative Marketing team continues work on Anchor Area Engagement Strategy. High Knob partners who would like more information on this meeting should reach out to Idalina Walker at 

Mount Rogers


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. Register Here »


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 Stony 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.  A pre-construction conference with Glass Machinery and Excavation Company took place on August 12th.

High Knob Destination Center

  • The High Knob Destination Center project in Norton is officially under contract.  Pre-construction activities will commence soon! 
  • 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.
  • Learn more from this informational video produced in partnership with Emory and Henry mass communication students last spring:

Bridge Builders

  • Friends of SWVA was recently awarded $100,000 for planning around interstate collaboratives. The Pilot planning will take place between SWVA / NC and SWVA / TN in 2020 with plans of expanding to KY and WV in future years.


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 – 287
  • Fall Jury
    • It is the time of year where we look ahead to Fall and our upcoming Autumn Jury! ‘Round the Mountain is excited to announce we will hold our next Jury Session in October, 2019!   Active 2019 members whose work pass the jury process will be eligible to have their work for sale at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace.
    • Members interested in submitting to jury must e-mail or call (276.492.2410) Melissa Mullins with notice of intent by October 1st, 2019.
  • 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?  Email Melissa Mullins and we will get you squared away!  Remember – Both juried and non-juried members are welcome to participate in our seasonal markets.


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

  • Staff members Chef Charles Parker and Chase Brown will be hosting a table/booth at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion’s “Children’s Day” on Saturday September 21st from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM at Anderson Park!  We will have ingredients (local when possible) for kids to come and build their own “Granola Balls”! Our aim is to show kids and their parents just how easy making your own food can be, and to show the health benefits of doing so, by having a chart of all the ingredients that are in your average store-bought granola snacks! This is a free service!
  • On September 23rd, Charles will be providing a “Farm-to-Table” buffet for the Town of Christiansburg!  All ingredients for this dinner will be sourced from the Christiansburg and Pulaski Farmers Markets. The dinner starts at 5:00 PM and is at “The Great Road on Main” building.
  • On September 28th, Charles will be doing a cooking demo and tasting of his “Pumpkin Chili” in Hillsville, for their “Pumpkin Festival”.  This will start at 11:00 AM and go through approximately 3:00 PM.
  • Also on September 28th, Charles has been asked to be a judge for the Hillsville “Pumpkin Festival’s Chili Showdown” where he will judge multiple entries of personal chili’s and award a winner based on preset criteria.
  • On October 8th, Charles will be competing against Chef T (from Hell’s Kitchen) for a rematch at Pulaski’s Chef Showdown!!  The competition is at the train station and starts at 6:00 PM.
  • On October 23rd, Charles will be providing the Town of Pulaski a plated “Farm-to-Table’ 5-course dinner!  Details are still in the works, but if you would like more information, email Chef Charles Parker!


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.


  • The marketplace is seeing lots of activity: there are lots of shoppers for the close of summer vacation and the start of the “Leaf Peeper” season and have hosted several motorcoach shopping groups over the past two weeks. All of our guests had a wonderful experience and were impressed with our changes.
  • Our highest priced item sold was “Banjo Guy”, a painting by Jarata from Sugar Grove, VA.
  • Our top selling Artisan was Seth Guzovsky of Poor Farm Pottery in Floyd, VA.
  • We have new inventory from:
  • We have approved and purchased several new books for sale in the Marketplace including: The Miraculous Journey by Diana Bodmer from Lebanon, Stray by Greg Lilly from Abingdon, Blue Ridge Christmas by Chrissie Anderson Peters from Bristol, and Abingdon- A Sketchbook by Carole Blevins from Abingdon.


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

SWVA Cafe & Mountain Brew Bar

  • September Farmer of the Month
    • 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!
  • Look for an exciting new selection of regional #SWVA Wine and Beer to hit the shelves for the fall months!


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 – 3:00 PM during the months of September 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 October! 

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


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