#MoveToMartinsville

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.

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Memorial Day in MHC

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.

I’ve never seen a hammock garden.  Have you?

Could ‘Factory Man’ Still be a Catalyst for Eco-tourism?

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Tom Hanks will produce ‘Factory Man’ mini-series for HBO – Roanoke Times (09/16/2014)

Only about half of the business books that I have started, I have also finished. Books about business can be the driest fare around but, luckily, Factory Man is one of the good ones.  Beth Macy, a Roanoke journalist, did an amazing job relating the history and ultimate effective extinction of the furniture industry in this area.  It goes a long way towards explaining why we have so much infrastructure here without the obvious foot traffic to sustain it.  That seems to be leveling off, though population numbers are still continuing to decline.

Everyone here was abuzz when Tom Hanks bought up the rights to Factory Man for an HBO mini-series; however, that was three years ago and the project still shows as “in production” on imdb. It is unclear as whether the bulk of filming, should it ever get started, would be here (in Bassett) or in Galax, or a little of both. We still have our fingers crossed.

Today, Bassett is a little community on the river waiting to be rediscovered.  The Smith River does not run through it as much as the town itself is wrapped around its banks.

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There is a burgeoning interest in kayaking the Smith River. There are also trout in the Smith.  Smith River Outfitters has been running excursions down the river and Hamlet Vineyards has created some events for combining a trip to the vineyards with a trip on the water.  Papa’s Pizzeria is a restaurant on a picturesque road in Bassett that has a great outdoor patio right on the Smith.  It has the unique position to cater to river traffic.  All they would need would be a a little kayak parking and a path up from the river.  With elbow grease and luck,  it could really be an enhancement that could cause a noticeable increase in eco-tourism in the area.  Property values there, in my opinion, are still undervalued (see MLS). This could just be my experience with development in Texas talking but, if and when the ball ever does get rolling for Bassett to emerge as a river excursion destination, it is poised to gain momentum quickly.

I realize that that is a big “if” … that there are quite a few “ifs” in there, actually.  But I do still have my fingers crossed that this project will bring people in to see Bassett.  All it will take is the right person to see it.

Another Roger Carroll Mural and the Great Goblin Gallop 5K

While looking up information on muralist Roger Carroll, I found a link to an archived WDBJ 7 article about how he had also painted murals at Druid Hills Elementary School. I immediately recalled a mural that I saw there when I ran in the 2014 Great Goblin Gallop 5K.  The article said that “he tried to make the indoors appear like they’re outdoors.  The theory behind that is if the children feel less confined, feel good about where they’re at, they’ll just naturally do better.”

Druid Hills is the name of one of the neighborhoods in Martinsville that, along with its neighboring community of Forest Park is known for relatively pricier homes surrounding a private community lake called Lake Lanier.  The annual Great Goblin Gallop is put on by Henry County Parks and the run really is beautiful.  Continue reading “Another Roger Carroll Mural and the Great Goblin Gallop 5K”

Murals at Spencer Penn Center

One of the nice things about living on the west side of Henry County is that it is very close to the Spencer Penn Center.  The Spencer Penn Center was an area school until sometime around 2004 when it was slated to be closed and was instead converted into a community center by local residents and alumni.

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The Spencer Penn Center

It really is a beautiful place with a baseball field out back, a paved walking trail, a “wild” walking trail, pretty gardens, lots of arts and exercise classes and a library.

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The Garden in front of Spencer Penn Center

There’s even a little free library out back by the playground and the baseball bleachers.

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Free Little Library, Playground and Bleachers at Spencer Penn

The walking path runs around the Mary Jordan Ball Field and is a good, level path.  This is a safe area where anyone can walk without fear and the quiet country surroundings mean that you are more likely to hear birdsong than cars.

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The Mary Jordan Ball Field

I’ve already blogged about the Charles & Rose Hylton Library there, though I didn’t mention that it has a active reading program for kids.

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The Charles & Rose Hylton Library

And something else that rarely gets mentioned is their collection of beautiful murals.  Per Mary Jordan, Director of Spencer Penn, the murals are the work of Mt. Airy muralist Roger Carroll. The longest stretch of murals is a chronological storyboard that begins shortly before the office and ends at the end of the hallway just outside the auditorium.

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

Light conditions in the hallway are not optimal for photography, so I’ve brightened these photos considerably.

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Hallway Mural and Spencer Penn

If there is a trick to getting better photos in a hallway with light constraints, I’m all ears.  I wouldn’t mind taking these photos over and over until I do them some justice.

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

I don’t remember what was on the walls of the schools that I attended.  I grew up in Texas and I’m fairly certain that we just had single color brandings of our football team’s logo.

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

The history does end at the Civil War but, in fairness to Spencer Penn, the wall space ends there too.  I love the idea of the murals and I wonder what pieces of our history would have been selected if there had been room for more.  The Spanish American War, maybe.  Henry Ford, almost undoubtedly.  The moon landing. Would they have nodded to the tobacco industry? The textile or furniture industry? Which wars … WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Storm, Iraq? Which people? Martin Luther King, Jr. is an easy choice.  What about Jonas Salk? The Suffragettes? Hemingway and the Lost Generation? It’s fascinating to me to think about. What and who contributes to the definition of “American” after 1864?

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

But there is one mural at Spencer Penn that is my absolute favorite. The mural below of Spencer Penn “back in the day” is in what they call Alumni Hall.  Mary tells me that this is from a photo in the 1940 school annual.  The school kids and cars were possibly added. There is a lot of love in this painting and you can feel it. This is a big mural – maybe, say, eight feet tall or more.

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Gymnasium Mural at Spencer Penn

Spencer Penn is a vital community center and I hope that you give it a visit, even if it is just to their website.  There is always a membership drive on and they can always use funds.

For more information, please see the following links: