I loved the Henry County promo and now I’ve found that Martinsville has put out a new promo video as well. It’s ironic that the preview slide for the video is skyline of Atlanta, Georgia, I know. For the most part, it’s a really good video. Martinsville really does have a lot going for it. The buildings in Uptown are beautiful. The people are wonderful. There’s a great greenway, the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail, snaking all the way through town and is being expanded. Real estate is cheap. Groceries are cheap. Restaurants are cheap. The local community college puts on several high-quality musicals every year. There is a good improv group in Uptown Martinsville (TheatreWorks Players) and the tickets are cheap. The Rives Theatre, also in Uptown, has good musicians in all the time. All the ingredients are there for Martinsville (and Uptown in particular) to absolutely flourish. All that is missing is the catalyst and it’s anyone’s guess as to what that will be. I, for one, am convinced that it will eventually happen.
Of the last five Memorial Day weekends in Henry County, Virginia, we’ve had rain or threat of rain on four of them. Somehow, this has never been able to really put a dampener on the weekend – at least for us.
There are so many things to do around here on Memorial Day weekend that it would get a little ridiculous to list them. However, there are a couple of events that are a lot of fun that you might not hear about unless you just stumble across them.
Yard Sales & The Local Flea Market on Highway 58
The first is the stretch of Highway 58 between Martinsville and Stuart that fills up with yard sales. This is apparently one of the very best kept secrets in the area. There are a number of individual yard and garage sales at private homes along the highway and then there is one large flea market-style sale just next door to Larry’s Variety (which is a good spot to find new and used furniture). The flea market is not promoted online that I can find and I’ve looked. It shouldn’t be this hard to find, especially when you already know it exists. All I can truly tell you is that it is a large area and it usually has a good attendance regardless of the weather. The flea market rents spaces for $15 a day and I’d guess that they normally have around two acres covered with vendors. I believe that it is put together by an area Methodist Church, but I can’t find which one. There is $1 paid parking but a lot of people park along the highway. The driveway in and out is topped with rock and the parking itself is grass so, even with rain, mud is not really an issue. If someone local has any idea about who puts this on, please let me know.
Although we do not typically go to yard sales, I do make a point to go to this one. There is a lot of kitsch and a lot of junk but there are also some handmade things there from time to time. I usually find at least one thing there each year. One year I found a hand-painted pie safe for $15. Vendor turn out was down this year (70% chance of rain on Saturday and it looked fierce) but we still went and found some home-canned pickles from Moose Country Farm, a local farm that also specializes in goat milk lotion with essential oils. Their dill pickles are delicious and their spicy pickles mean business! They sell a variety of things through their Facebook page. It did not rain on us.
Mountain Valley Brewing’s Anniversary Party
The second is a newcomer. Memorial Day weekend happens to also mark the anniversary of Henry County’s first Craft Brewery, Mountain Valley Brewing, and 2018 was their first anniversary. They had two bands lined up and they tapped the raspberry wheat that weekend.
Virginia Brew Hub, a Roanoke-based magazine that covers all things craft, was on hand with their drone and took the following footage over the course of the day.
It was a great day and, while we only intended to stay for a couple of beers, we ended up listening to the whole set by Faded Travelers (and buying their CD). The video below is just a snippet to give you an idea of the feel of the band.
Mountain Valley Brewing is growing so fast. They started out with just the tap room. Could that really have only been a year ago? Then came the pavilion. Then the covered deck off of the tap room. Now lawn games like corn hole are showing up and I understand that DAM Good Equipment, a Martinsville-based company making hammocks, tents, backpacks and sleeping bags, is planning on putting in a hammock garden. They’ve already put in a couple (see the first video). Take a look at their site too (https://www.damtough.com). Besides their products, they are taking their own photos and not using stock images on their website. It’s fun to guess where the pictures were taken. Hoorah to DAM Good Equipment for that.
There’s a lot going on at the annual Spencer Penn’s Pig Cooking Contest and it can take a while to figure out the best way to see everything. Here are some tips for next year:
Go To The Friday Night Music Performance
There are generally two groups performing bluegrass on Friday night (the first might be a local jam session). Admittance is $4 a person. People start showing up around 5 o’clock and many bring a seat cushion to stake out a seat while they look at the silent auction items and get dinner from the kitchen in the back of the auditorium. The line for the kitchen moves quickly, as do the homemade menu items, so get in line sooner rather than later. The dining tables may be crowded but they turn over fast. Be sure to get one of the deserts. All the food is handmade but the desserts are just really outstanding.
The BBQ contestants will have set up their grills behind the auditorium during the day and will be introduced during the music night performance. Cooking commences in the evening, when the pigs arrive, and will go on all night.
Show Up Early to See The Bike Ride Kick Off
This year’s route did take them up along Highway 58 but they had a Henry County Sheriff’s office escort. I asked a rider from Martinsville what he thought of the ride afterwards and he said that he enjoyed it very much. This was a great week for the bike ride because the roadsides were dotted with purple blooms from wisteria, redbuds, and cherry trees. The network of residential roads by Spencer Penn are just gorgeous for bike riders (J.S.Holland Road, George Taylor Road, Moores Mill Road).
Blind judging of the cooked pork takes place on Saturday morning. If you get there early enough to see the bike riders leave out, you can also see the pigs on the grills and talk to the BBQ contestants. Contestants come from quite aways away, many from North Carolina.
Coming from Texas, I had always thought that BBQ was pretty much exclusively a Texan specialty. Having now lived in Virginia for a number of years, I have had to recognize that North Carolina is also a leader in this field and, don’t tell the folks back home, they may even be better at it.
After the judging, the pigs are carved up to make sandwiches that will be sold, along with a cold drink, chips, and some more homemade cake, back behind the building for lunch. Vendors set up during the morning so you can stay and browse as they set up or pop back home and come back for lunch and browsing.
There are a lot of vendors each year at the Annual Pig Cooking Contest. In fact, it is one of the largest gatherings for vendors in the area. Vendors fill the Banquet Hall, the back parking lot, and spill out onto the front lawn.
We always leave with something. This year we bought one of Mr. Turner’s brass-topped birdhouses and it has already attracted its first occupant, a blue bird. There are booths with jewelry, antiques, hand-made quilts, beautifully hand made cutting boards, jellies, jams, clothes, soaps, and the list goes on and on.
This year they had a childrens’ Barnival set up on the ball field. There was a piggie train, lots of games and activities, and a petting zoo courtesy of Infinity Acres.
There is always a classic car cruise-in too. This year it was in the front parking lot.
Spencer Penn posted over 250 photos of the event on their Facebook Page to the 7th Annual Pig Cookin’ Contest Photo Album. Be sure to go check them out and send them some love. If you couldn’t make it out this year, keep an eye on your calendars for next April. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but this is a hometown event that is better when experienced.
The average temperatures for this area in April should be mid 70’s in the daytime and mid 40’s at night. Talk is that, this year, we’ve been paying for having a warm February and winter has made several encore performances. Still, it officially became spring on March 20th this year and the local festival season is starting to gear up.
This coming weekend is the annual Pig Cookin’ Contest and Craft Fair at Spencer Penn. Come Friday night to see the cooking and listen to live bluegrass. Then come back on Saturday to shop the vendors, see the classic cars, and maybe play some cow-patty bingo.
In getting my camera ready, I realized that I never posted about our last festival for 2017. It was a new one for us … the “What the Hay Festival” in nearby Mayodan, North Carolina.
We shop in Mayodan quite a bit because it is very close (around 20 minutes), there’s not a lot of traffic (it’s amazing how relative that gets), and their Food Lion has had one of the better craft beer selections around (it’s the closest place to get DuClaw). Big round bales of hay started popping up all over town decorated as all kinds of creatures in the weeks leading up to the festival. They did an excellent job with those.
Mayodan has essentially a one-light intersection downtown but downtowns don’t have to be big to have an ambience. Mayodan has a particularly pretty downtown with old brick buildings on all four corners. On the day of the festival, they closed the road that ran through it and set up just a humdinger of a small town festival.
In the center of the intersection, they set up a soundstage and people brought chairs to sit and listen to the music. The little shop that you can see on the left in the photo below is the Mayodan Arts Center. It’s sells a variety of arts and crafts made by local people – pottery, painted glassware, photographs, bookmarks, stationery, and more. We ended up getting a few Christmas gifts from them and definitely plan to go back.
They had a full midway set up for the kids and vendors in tents filled in any space that was left on the streets. Mother got her flu shot at one tent.
It was a great little festival. We also discovered Charlie’s Soap Outlet Store & Cedar Mountain Country Store nestled in the shops along one side of the road. As the name implies, they have Charlie’s Soap but they also have all kinds of knick-knacks for the home and seasonal decorations. If you talk to the shop owners, they’ll open up a second building with metal yard art/sculptures. We are fans.
In short, we loved the festival and we love Mayodan. There’s a lot to see there, I think, and I want to go back when it gets warmer and just spend some time looking around. Perhaps I can find more remembrances like this monument to Mayodan veterans. The engraving on this monument says, “This WWI mortar was originally dedicated to Mayodan veterans of that war. It was rededictated to all Mayodan veterans November 11, 2001”.
So, I’m already planning to spend an afternoon in Mayodan sometime when it gets warm (if that ever happens again). What other unique finds should I look for? Any great boutiques?
I’m a big believer in “clement weather days”. It only makes sense. If there are a few days each year when the weather is just so bad that we get a day off, there should also be a day or two each year that are just too nice to work. I’m not a church-goer and this just seems like a really nice tip of the hat to the Great Engineer. A way to say “Thank you, God, for this day”.
We have a true fall here. This time of year we have spurts of summer where daytime temps can climb up into the upper eighties with nighttime temps in the sixties. But now we also get days that do good to get into the seventies with nighttime temps in the fifties. There are more “open window” days right now that not. As I write this, what was Hurricane Nate is churning its way up the Blue Ridge Mountains and it is gray and drizzly – the mountains are holding the heavy rain to the west. This past Friday was a perfect “clement weather day”.
We took full advantage of it by heading up to the Smith Mountain Lake area. We got there just as Moosie’s opened at 11:00 and walked around for a little while before lunch. Mango’s an open air grill and bar with a live music venue doesn’t open until noon.
Our plan had been to make it up to Beford to see the D-Day Memorial about twenty minutes away but it was such a beautiful day and we were enjoying Bridgewater Plaza so much, we didn’t want to get back in the car.
After lunching at Moosie’s, browsing through all of the shops, and feeding the fish, we took a walk down the boardwalk past Bridgewater Pointe, a condominium that sits next to the plaza.
I’d never noticed the boardwalk before so this was new for us. The sun was shining and warm and there was a refreshing, cool breeze off of the water. Boat slips whispered and creaked and moaned a little in the water.
As you reach the point where the boardwalk bends, you can see the mountain in the distance. It is just far enough away that the camera doesn’t really pick it up. It seems larger in real life.
A wary crane watched us pass and I wished that I had a long distance lens.
But I didn’t. We just enjoyed our view.
The boardwalk ends at the bridge that stretches over Smith Mountain Lake on its way to Moneta. It looks like they are doing some work there building either an extension to the current condos or additional parking. There is a pad site for sale for another condo project. I hope that we’ll still be able to walk on the boardwalk after this site is finished being “built out”.
There was no visible boat traffic as we walked down to the end of the boardwalk but that didn’t last long. As soon as we turned around to start back there were easily half a dozen boats appearing all at the same time. It truly was a beautiful day and a great day for the lake.
This is near the end of the season. The bartender at Mango’s said that they would close for the season by the end of the month. They’ll reopen sometime next March, when spring has returned as well.
For more information about this destination, please check out the following links: