Southwest Virginia's Premier Motorcycle Trails! See why bikers nationwide come to ride these trails!
Ballads Rock! Featured at Heartwood
Abingdon, Virginia – Folk song collectors, sometimes referred to as “songcatchers,” have wandered the mountains of Southwest Virginia for over a century in search of traditional ballad singers. The region’s wealth of songs and singers has been well documented in the work of folklorists like Olive Dame Campbell and Englishman Cecil Sharp who published “English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians” in 1917. Fast forwarding 100 years, the region is still a rich treasure trove of singers preserving the traditional songs that represent a connection to the cultures that settled the region and the region’s history as America came into its own as a new country.
On October 27, five of the region’s finest ballad and traditional singers will gather at Heartwood in Abingdon to share that legacy of song in Ballads Rock, an evening concert hosted by The Crooked Road. Ted Olson, music historian and ETSU scholar of Appalachia will serve as emcee and performer for the event and provide the context for the ballad and songs traditions that he has written about extensively in such publications as the “Encyclopedia of Appalachia.”
“Southwest Virginia is certainly one of the most fertile areas in the world for the proliferation and preservation of the English-language ballad tradition,” says Olson. When Olson recently compiled a new album anthology for the Great Smoky Mountains Association that showcases ballads sung by many leading contemporary ballad singers in Appalachia, several singers had Southwest Virginia connections, including Elizabeth LaPrelle, Trevor McKenzie, Corbin Hayslett, Eugene Wolf, Dale Jett, and Carol Elizabeth Jones. “I have listened to and have sung ballads most of my life, as it is always an adventure to go on imaginative journeys to faraway times and places and to vicariously witness the experiences of fascinating ballad characters in universally relevant situations,” Olson added. Olson’s repertoire includes songs with roots that reach deep into British Isles history like Old Bangum, the universal favorite Froggie Went a-Courtin’, as well as distinctly American ballads such as John Henry.
Joining Olson on stage will be Kathie Hollandsworth of Christiansburg, Kay Justice of Wytheville, Rich Kirby of Dungannon, and Katie Hoffman of Jonesborough, TN. All are known for the extensive repertoire of the region’s traditional songs and ballads they preserve.
“I am always amazed by the traditional ballads and songs that musicians along The Crooked Road carry around in their heads,” said Jack Hinshelwood, Crooked Road director. “These are songs that they don’t normally present in bluegrass and old time jam session settings but they are perfect for sharing in a program dedicated to storytelling ballad songs. The format includes some singing and playing with instruments, but the focus is on presenting these songs a cappella. “When you strip the music away,” Hinshelwood says, “that’s when the songs themselves and the powerful stories they contain really shine. These songs have endured because their stories have entertained people for hundreds of years.”
The Ballads Rock concert will be presented from 6:30 to 9:00 pm on Thursday, October 27 at Heartwood in Abingdon. Tickets, available at Heartwood, are $10 for adults and $5 for children 6-12. Advance tickets are $5 until October 24. Children under 6 are admitted free.
Barter Theatre Returning To Marion with The Perfect Murder
Marion, VA – Mystery, murder, and mistresses; those are some of the elements of the thrilling production of The Perfect Murder coming to the historic Lincoln Theatre on October 29th. Produced by the world-renowned Barter Theatre, the play is adapted from Peter James’ best-selling novella of the same name.
Victor Smiley and his wife Joan have been married for a long time. But their marriage has reached a crisis point, and Victor has decided there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever. But Joan is hatching a sinister plan of her own. “It’s a night for everyone, with horror, intrigue, mystery and yet plenty of comedy.”
This is the latest production from Barter Theatre to be hosted by The Lincoln. “Barter shows are one of our most-requested and well-attended events of the year. There’s nothing like the experience of Barter Theatre’s world-class productions in the unique setting of The Lincoln.”, Interim Director Brian Tibbs. “The Perfect Murder is witty, engaging, and the perfect night out in downtown Marion.”
The Perfect Murder is presented with touring assistance from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts. Tickets are $15 for individuals, $8 for students, reserved seating, and may be purchased at The Lincoln Theatre Box Office, by phone at (276)783-6092, or by visiting www.thelincoln.org.
Kaitlyn Baker Project Update
Over the past several months the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority has worked with Pound native Kaitlyn Baker, an up and coming artist in Nashville, to create a song and music video highlighting the assets and heritage of our beautiful region.
NEW! Southwest Virginia TRAILS brochure. MAPS, PHOTOS and DESCRIPTIONS of
12 Southwest Virginia Hiking, Biking and Horseback Riding Trails! Click here to view online. FREE GUIDES available on request. See page 28 for more information.
Nathan Stanley Brings Celebrity Concert Series
To The Lincoln Theatre
Marion, VA – Dove Award winner Nathan Stanley celebrated his birthday last year on stage at The Lincoln Theatre alongside his grandfather, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley. Sadly, Dr. Ralph passed away earlier this year at the age of 89. To commemorate his over 70-year music career, Nathan will return to The Lincoln on September 10th with a special performance, “A Tribute to Papaw, Dr. Ralph Stanley”. His appearance is the first in a series of five concerts presented by Nathan Stanley Entertainment. Over the course of the next few months, Grammy® nominees, Grand Ole Opry legends, and a Country Music Hall of Famer will grace the stage of Marion’s revived Mayan theatre. "I'm so honored to be hosting my celebrity concert series at the beautiful, historic Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia. The people are great, the venue is great, and we are very excited." said Nathan. Following his performance, Grand Ole Opry favorite Whisperin’ Bill Anderson appears on November 23th, followed by ‘Funniest Man in America’ James Gregory on December 2nd. Gospel greats Jeff & Sheri Easter will be joined by The Little Roy & Lizzy Show for a special Christmas celebration on December 11th and country music chart-topper Gene Watson will appear January 20th. “With our new expanded guest area, Lola’s at the Lincoln, we are ready for record attendance at The Lincoln, and Nathan’s Celebrity Concert series is a perfect addition to our season.” Brian Tibbs, Interim Executive Director. The Lincoln is offering a discount for those interested in attending all of the shows. Prices and ticket information can be found at thelincoln.org or by calling The Lincoln Theatre Box Office at
Trips close to home: Marion, Va.,
called ‘America’s coolest hometown’
By Clayton Hensley, Special to the News Sentinel
Every Saturday night, thousands of people in East Tennessee and across the country tune in to "Song of the Mountains" on PBS. The showcase of old time Americana and bluegrass music originates from a historic theater along Main Street in Marion, Va.
The Lincoln is one of only a handful of Art Deco Mayan Revival theaters still operating in the United States. It opened in 1929 as a movie theater and then closed twice in the 1970s. In 2004 the Lincoln reopened following a $1.8 million renovation.
This Main Street Marion treasure blends art inspired from an ancient culture with the history of the state of Virginia. This is probably the only place to see Mayan figures and artwork surrounding larger-than-life portraits of Daniel Boone and Gen. Robert E. Lee. The juxtaposition of the artwork provides the perfect setting for performances as well as lessons in history. The historic murals were originally painted at a cost of $50 each, but it took $20,000 each to restore them.
Behind the stage is a wall made of dark bricks, a sharp contrast to the multiple shades of gold throughout the theater. Because there is an alley on the other side of the wall, the stage can't be expanded, and it is more suited to musical acts than theatrical productions. From the stage you can look into the rows of the balcony. Looking closely, you will notice a wall dividing the last couple of rows from the rest. During the renovations, the division was left as a reminder of the era of segregated seating.
The Lincoln Theater's neighbor, the General Francis Marion Inn, provides guests with a mix of elegance and history while they spend the night. The Speakeasy Gastropub inside the hotel serves up creations like Fried Green Tomato BLTs and Sweet Tea Chicken. It's just one place to grab a bite to eat before a show at the Lincoln. Wolf's BBQ, Macado's (a regional chain) and the Wooden Pickle are all part of an expanding menu of options in this small Virginia town. You can even lift your spirits with a visit to the Appalachian Mountain Spirits Mercantile & Stillhouse Store on Main Street. In the back, visitors of legal drinking age can sample the company's award-winning Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine and War Horn Whisky.
While there are many dining options downtown, folks heading out on U.S. 11 will find a real taste of Marion tradition. The Dip Dog stand opened in 1957. A few years later, Interstate 81 was finished and traffic by the stand dropped dramatically. However, the unique version of corn dogs served there remained a local favorite, and the Dip Dog stand is still going strong. In addition to its spin on the corn dog, this greasy spoon offers mouth-watering onion rings and a wide variety of items you would come to expect from a drive-in restaurant.
Marion is also home to a drive-in movie theater. The Park Place Drive-in shows first run movies and offers guests rounds of mini-golf. You can also immerse yourself in art, antiques and local crafts at the Herb House on Pendleton Street.
The crowning jewel of the area lies just a few miles out of town on state Highway 16. Just before the road winds its way through the mountains, the sparkling waters of the lake at Hungry Mother State Park come into view. A white sandy beach stretches out along the shores of the lake. In the summer months, thousands of people head to this "beach" to enjoy the cool waters of this mountain lake. Fishermen and kayakers also come to the park, which offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation and plenty of amazing views.
The name for the park comes from the legend of Molly Marley, an early settler in the region who was taken by Native Americans who ravaged the frontier settlements. Marley was said to have escaped with her child. After collapsing, Molly's child apparently wandered down the mountain looking for help, only being able to tell the people he found the words "Hungry Mother."
Today, the mountain where the legend unfolded is called Molly's Knob. The hike to the top can be a grueling one but offers the reward of a stunning view of the rugged landscape surrounding the park. Just beyond the state park is one of the most popular stretches of road for motorcycle riders. Called "The Back of the Dragon," this 32-mile stretch of road boasts 260 curves and elevations up to 3,500 feet.
Stepping back in time is easy to do in this part of Southwest Virginia. In fact, one town boasts that it has been preserving history for more than 10,000 years. Coming into the town of Saltville from I-81, there is an overlook along Highway 107. The town of about 2,000 stretches along the valley floor where the Saltville River flowed for thousands of years. Eventually, the river backed up, creating a lake and later a marshy area that provided perfect conditions for preserving plant and animal remains. Remnants of the lake and marsh are still clearly visible from the overlook.
Today at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in downtown Saltville, visitors get a chance to see what's been unearthed along with a detailed history of life in the valley. The prizes of the collection are a mastodon skeleton and a woolly mammoth skull and tusks. Both animals roamed the valley floor in the days when the Saltville River flowed. The water and the ground around it were filled with abundant amounts of salt, which attracted a wide variety of animals, and later those deposits of salt would help fuel an army and the industrial revolution.
During the Civil War, the salt deposits helped cement the town's status as the salt capital of the Confederacy. Later, the salt below the soil became a key ingredient the Olin Company's production of chemicals used to make fuel for the Air Force and the U.S. Space program. The Olin Company built homes, schools and stores for workers and Saltville became a company town, much like its coal country counterparts. Gypsum mining also became an important part of Saltville's economy. The mine was one of the deepest of its kind in the country. The mine and the chemical factory are both gone, but Saltville continues to use its historic assets to bring people into town.
While not as well known as its neighbor Abingdon, Marion and the surrounding area is filled with surprises. Marion recently received a top honor from a national marketing firm, which named it "America's Coolest Hometown." It's an image the town seems to be happy with adopting as Marion welcomes people not only to Main Street, but the surrounding area filled with more than 10,000 years of history.
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Travel Photography and Blog by Jason Barnette
Great article on Marion from Jason Barnette!