The Very First Henry County Fair

We recently saw the very first Henry County Fair. At least, I think it was the very first county fair. Comments on one of the local paper’s Facebook page sugggested that with questions like “Since when have we had a county fair?”.

It was pulled off beautifully and, if this had been a normal year, I think it would have been a big hit. However, this was not a normal year. The annual Martinsville Oktoberfest that was to be held just a week later was cancelled over Covid concerns. From the comments I saw, there was just a general confusion over why sometimes Covid is treated as a concern and sometimes it is not.

The fair was held Wednesday through Saturday at the Martinsville Speedway. A friend and I went on Friday, September 24th, shortly after it opened at 4 o’clock. The Valley Star Credit Union 300 was to be held the next day so the track itself was busy and loud until 6 o’clock. That gave us a couple of hours to kill before the shows started.

Infinity Acres Petting Zoo

Infinity Acres had a petting zoo set up on the lawn just off of the fair grounds. Handlers walked around with the llamas and I’ve seen photos of the camel actually touring the fair.

An Infinity Acres Llama

For 25ยข you could get a Dixie cup of food for the goats. Stand too close to them and they’ll pretty much each anything (like purses, camera bag straps, etc). They would stretch their necks out hopefully whenever anyone came close.

Hungry Goats
An Infinity Acres Camel

After the petting zoo, there was a tent of the typical judged entries – canned goods, quilts, art, crafts, etc. I got so absorbed in the variety of the entries that I completely forgot about my penchant for taking photos. That rarely happens.

We watched them setting up the soundstage.

Setting Up the Soundstage

There was a tent offering covid vaccines.

The Moderna Vaccination Tent

We bought some fried oreos and lemonade. I don’t think that my friend cared much for the fried oreos.

Fried Oreos and Lemonade

And we rode some rides.

Finally, 6 o’clock rolled around. The cars on the track stopped and the shows started.

The first show was the Great Lakes Timber Show. They demonstrated a lot of what you could see in competitive lumberjacking. In one of the first feats, they used a chain saw to quickly whip up a number of small chairs that they handed out to the audience.

Timber Lakes Show Hands Out Little Chairs Cut by Chainsaw

They called on an audience member and showed how incredibly quickly they could saw through a log.

An Audience Member Helped with the Two-Person Saw

And then another audience member was invited up to try to log roll.

An Audience Member Attempts to Log Roll

In the finale, one of the team got up and performed a fantastic log roll perfectly scripted for laughs.

Next up was Circus Shane’s Rock-N-Circus. He juggled. He did acrobatics. He invited kids up to be part of the act.

And then he jumped off a 65 foot platform. It was a very high-adrenaline show.

Circus Shane’s Jumps from 65 Feet Up

The last show was Josh Shilling and Mountain Heart. A Martinsville native, Josh and Mountain Heart put on a brilliant show. Josh is a local boy who went out and has made his way in the music world and there was a tangible excitement to hear him play for us. He and Mountain Heart did not disappoint. He is an excellent pianist and then he stood up and took up a guitar. Judging by the instruments, you know they played a little bluegrass.

Josh Shilling and Mountain Heart

By the end of the night, my camera was dying and we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The sequence of shows would start up again later in the evening. We kept waiting and hoping for crowds to show up but the turnout seemed meager compared to what we expected. I don’t know if there was some political drama that kept crowds away or if there was a fear of covid or something else entirely.

I do hope that they have the fair again next year. Although I failed to get any pictures inside the Exhibit Hall, both my friend and I are excited for next year and are thinking of what we do well enough to be able to enter. She’s got what it takes to enter several categories.

The Bassett Heritage Festival

Bassett is a beautiful community of around 1100 people to the north of Martinsville. It is very close to the Henry County access to Philpott Lake and the Smith River flows through the heart of the downtown area. Papa’s Pizza has a prime position right on the Smith River and has a beautiful stone patio overlooking the water. They serve a mean calzone and absolutely humongous cupcakes. The new Railway Cafe has good food and live music on the patio. The river is stocked with trout.

By all rights, Bassett should be a popular tourist spot dotted with B & B’s, fly shops, and artist studios. But it’s not. At least, not right now.

There was a very good book by Beth Macy called Factory Man that recounts the near demise of furniture making in Bassett due to outsourcing a couple of decades ago. Tom Hanks had bought the rights to turn it into an HBO mini-series several years ago but nothing ever came of it, as far as I know. But all of that is ancient history and history can’t be changed.

Bassett has seemed to me like Brigadoon sitting up there in the mists waiting for true love to break the spell. (If you don’t get the archaic reference, Brigadoon was a 1954 musical with Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, and Cyd Charisse about a village in the highlands of Scotland embattled by witches so the local minister found a way to protect the village by asking God to put a spell on it. Every night, when they fell to sleep, a hundred years would go by. Gene Kelly and Van Johnson run across it by accident on the one day that the village wakes up and can be found. When Gene and Syd meet … well, you can take it from there).

Railway Cafe

And there have been signs of life from Bassett recently. The Railway Cafe opened up within the past year or two and they regularly have live music on a beautiful patio across the street from the historic train depot. That may sound like small potatoes but that’s something.

It sits in an adorable little shopping strip with a lot of still empty storefronts. With any luck, I’ll take a picture in the next couple of years and these storefronts will all be filled. Salons, boutiques, shops of any sort …

Storefronts Next to the Historic Train Depot

Very recently, they redid the historic train depot as a venue rental. It is now the Bassett Train Station Event Center. I had gone up to see it before but it was not open to be toured. When I heard that it would be open for the Bassett Heritage Festival, I had to go.

Inside the Bassett Train Station Event Center

They have really outdone themselves. On one end, they have a multi-media conference room set up. On the other end, they have a beautiful banquet hall with a stage at the far end. Someone was still busy mopping the stage as I was visiting, so the shot below is the best I have of the stage.

Facing the Stage in the Banquet Hall Section of the Event Center

The venue is perfect for any large event and the history of Bassett is front and center on the wall that divides the banquet hall and the conference room.

Timeline for the Bassett Train Station Event Center

In the 1880’s the Bassett family started a lumber mill…

It’s a little unfair that I understand the significance of the humbleness of the beginning when I’m presenting Bassett as such a small community now. It’s too much to go into here but you do know Bassett. There is very probably a Bassett Furniture store somewhere not too far from you if you live in the U.S. There are 100 dedicated Bassett retail locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The corporate headquarters is still here, across the street from the Train Station.

In the 1880’s the Bassett family started a lumber mill…

But my focus is on today. Or, rather, on September 11, 2021, the day of the Bassett Heritage Festival. The festival was held across the railroads tracks in the lot behind the Well Fargo building.

Looking Up Fairystone Park Highway From the Train Station

As small town festivals around here go, the Bassett Heritage Festival is worth a trip. Though small, it had a lot going on.

The Stanleytown Family Ruritans were serving a pancake breakfast. (Stanleytown is another small community that sits on (or near) Bassett’s southern border.)

Pancake Breakfast by the Stanleytown Ruritan

The Southern Gentlemen Band played live music.

The Southern Gentlemen Played Bluegrass

And the proportion of the tent vendors selling handmade wares is high. Very high, actually. I ended up spending quite a bit of money at the festival and I really was trying to behave.

Good Selection of Things to Buy

One of my best finds was Charm Cat. Charm Cat’s booth had a huge selection of cards for different occasions, including blank ones, all drawn and painted by a local artist, Ashleigh Pritchard. She has a very good website and sells online “Pretty Paper Things for Pretty Funny People”.

Charm Cat’s Display

I was pleased to meet author Nancy Naigle, a new resident of Patrick Springs who happily found her way to the festival. She is a talented author and has had several of her novels translated into Halllmark movies. She’s on the left holding a copy of “A Heartfelt Christmas Promise”. That’s right. Christmas romances. Move over Debbie Macomber. I’m currently reading the book I purchased there, “Hope at Christmas”, and thoroughly enjoying it. If you are a fan of the genre, I highly recommend it.

Meeting Nancy Naigle

There were a lot of hand made decorations, pretty and funny – some both.

Handmade Crafts

I was glad to attend the Bassett Heritage Festival this year and am looking forward to next year.

I hope you are enjoying your fall season.

Fall Crafts

If you are interested in Bassett as a community, I encourage you to check out the real estate there. Though these things can change on a dime, real estate there is still relatively inexpensive right now. The screen shot below is a snapshot in time showing the four most expensive properties currently on the market. I sometimes am amazed that Bassett is not bustling with river nuts and artists. It is a beautiful place.

Top Real Estate Available on 10/12/21

Maybe someone put a spell on it. You think?

Children, a Really Cool Museum, and a Cold

I’ve had a cold. It was a humdinger of a cold but it wasn’t covid. I know this because I went and got a test immediately after waking up with a sore throat that I knew was going to become something else. But getting the test was kind of interesting so I wanted to share how that worked.

I called my doctor’s office and said I had a sore throat. I said that I knew something was coming on and needed to know what it was to see if I needed to be cancelling plans for Labor Day weekend. I was so absorbed with the idea of covid that it didn’t dawn on me that I’d be cancelling plans anyway. No one wants my cold either.

They said to come to the office and pull up around back. This was my view. A friend of mine called it sketchy when I texted this picture to her.

The interesting thing was the number of other cars there. There were at least six when I pulled up and several more came in while I was getting tested and talked to a doctor. The nurse said that they are seeing more patients this way than inside. It’s apparently a sign of the times that no one in my circles is talking about. It turns out that the number of infections is ramping up in my area. No one is talking about that either.

I’d had a busy weekend before coming down with my cold.

I went and saw Gypsy Geoff perform at the Piedmont Arts’ 60th Family Day celebration. This turned out to be an exclusively kid-centric event, so I didn’t return with photos. I don’t photograph other people’s kids. I think that there’re laws about it and it just seems creepy in general so I avoid taking pictures of kids.

Geoff’s performance was fantastic though. When I walked up, he was spinning plates and telling the kids that this would work for all of their dinnerware at home too. He spun things. He balanced things. The video below is of his finale. He then did an encore of adorable puppeteering.

Gypsy Geoff Puppeteering

Afterwards, I checked out the Leaves Exhibit at the Piedmont Arts building.

Piedmont Arts

They had a traveling exhibit open. It is called “Leaves of the Tree” and is the work of Charlie Brouwer and Jennifer L. Hand. Piedmont Arts regularly has interesting exhibits and this one is leaving October 9th. I am not sure of the etiquette of photographing inside the Arts building so I only snapped a couple of shots.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a man made tree trunk surrounded by dozens? hundreds? of handmade paper leaves suspended from the ceiling. It was very intricate and I never could get a snapshot that captured the overall effect.

Leaves Exhibit at Piedmont Arts

The art on the walls was varied and is well worth seeing. My tastes are simple. I took only one close up shot of my favorite piece – a single dried leaf cross-stitched with the phrase “This time This place”.

My Favorite Piece

Just down Starling Avenue – a beautiful road, by the way, filled with older two-story brick homes now used as professional offices – is the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Martinsville is difficult to peg as either a small town or a big city (for the area). As a matter of fact, they are currently trying to lose their “independent city” status and meld back in with the county. It’s all very confusing but no one would dispute that Martinsville used to be a lot bigger. My personal opinion is that it is back on an upswing. But the whole point of this prologue is to say that the natural history museum here is big. It is connected to the Smithsonian in some way. This is not a dinky little museum.

Greeting Dino

There are a lot of ancient bones on display. There is the often photographed dinosaur that greets you as you come in but there are also fully articulated bones of water dwelling – are they still called dinosaurs? – critters hanging from the ceiling. I took a ton of photos of the different dioramas but can’t include them all or the page won’t load. I have posted them to the Martinsville/Henry County photo album on the blog’s Facebook Page.

Ancient Beavers

There are, of course, educational placards everywhere. It is, after all, a museum.

But, as I look through my photos, I notice that there seemed to be an underlying theme to them. I am suddenly feeling very sorry for muskox.

Diorama of a Muskox Being Eaten

This is a muskox.

Here we have a muskox being attacked by lions. It might not be a muskox, but it looks very much like the first two.

Muskox Attacked by Lions

And then there was this poor fellow on the wall.

He Looks Sad

The museum has exhibits that change out from time to time and the exhibit on the day that I was there was of big cats. A neighbor recently reported seeing a mountain lion less than a mile from my home about two months ago so, while most of the cats they had were not really relevant to our area, this guy was.

Mountain Lion

The cats exhibit was well done and there were a lot of them.

There was a whole pride of lions and, behind them, some leopards? cheetahs? going after a gazelle in a tree.

The exhibit changes in October, I think. Friday, October 15th, they are having a Dragon Festival. There will be dragon displays and art, a full sized dragon sculpture, fire performances, blacksmith presentations, stilt walkers, medieval LARP performances, sci fi and fantasy authors, live music, a beer & mead garden, a ren faire marketplace, and more.

Exactly what is life-sized for a dragon?

I am pretty sure that I caught my cold taking one of the photos in this post. I am also pretty sure that I will be attending the Dragon Festival. All of these locations require masks and I did wear one when I was there.

For this next trip, I’m stocking up on hand sanitizer.