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.

Kayaking Philpott Marina & Philpott Dam

I actually do work for a living. I technically qualify to join Henry County’s 50+ Club (I’m over 50) but I do have to ask off from work to attend their weekday events. But it has been SO worth it.

Philpott Marina

This month’s kayak was at Philpott Marina. This launch spot is at the southern end of the lake and it is a very short trip over to see the dam.

Philpott Dam

There is a big sign on the dam that says to stay 500 feet back. I have a camera with a really good zoom.

Note the windows in the dam

One of the other kayakers pointed out that there are windows in the dam facing the lake. The bottom of the windows is just a little above the spillway. It must have been an awe-inspiring sight to look out those windows the one and only time that the lake was high enough to go over the spillway.

The River Side of the Dam

When you are over by the dam, if you turn and look north up the lake, you can just barely make out the Blue Ridge Mountains peeking up on the far horizon. Philpott Lake covers 2900 acres and it is long and narrow(ish). It has 100 miles of shoreline.

Bowen Falls is not too far away from Philpott Marina but I found that out too late to try to go take a look. It’s nice to leave something for next time though. We spent our afternoon kayaking up one of the many little spines that branch away from the main channel of the lake.

Exploring

The water is clear by Texas standards but I know that isn’t saying much. It isn’t crystal clear like I’ve seen in maybe Minnesota or Maine, but it is definitely not murky.

Water Clarity by the Launch

The shoreline is a little low. One of the county employees told me that the lake is about three feet down right now. You can see erosion along the shore line and the trees tip over and fall in if they lose enough soil.

Submerged Trees Along the Shoreline

This is great for fishing and two of the county’s chaperones brought out their fishing boat to drop a line in while keeping an eye on us. They were pros and very good about not creating a wake. Our group did get a little spread out as the afternoon went on and it was nice to know that they could respond to any issues quickly.

Our Fishing Boat Escort

It was a beautiful day. We had a small group because there was a competing blood drive in the county and many of our kayaking ladies had volunteered to help with that.

Puttering Around on Philpott Lake

Philpott Lake is a US Army Corps of Engineers lake and there is no development on it. In fact, the only marina on the lake where you can permanently moor a boat or buy gasoline on the water is Philpott Marina.

Philpott Marina

Philpott has requested to expand its slip rentals but the Corps has refused based on their location on the lake. There had been another marina up at Twin Ridge but it burned in 2000. That means that all boat traffic on Philpott Lake, with the exception of the handful of boats moored here, has to be trailered in and launched.

Boat Launch at Philpott Marina

That doesn’t keep the lake from getting busy though. Besides Twin Ridge, I have yet to see other launches but the launch at Philpott Marina is very nice. It has the two accesses separated by a narrow dock. It also has a lot of parking for trailers. I started to take a picture but it’s a parking lot. Trust me. There is a lot of parking.

There are also campgrounds and a trail off by the side of the marina that leads to another parking lot and a fishing spot.

Trail to Fishing Spot

As fishing spots go, it would be good for the able-bodied fisherman. It’s a bit of a scramble to get down to the shoreline.

The Fishing Spot

Philpott Marina is in a cluster of accesses. Right next to the marina is the observation deck where so many photos are taken of Philpott Lake. It is especially beautiful in the fall but I went there one fall day when it rained and it was incredible.

You can also get to the other side of the dam with another access. This is where you find the first access to Smith River for kayaks.

Philpott Dam Access Sign

Class 1 to 3 rapids. I’m comfortable with class 1, a little nervous about class 2, and there’s no way I’m going on class 3 without a guide who’s done it before. The moving water is beautiful though.

There is plenty of parking and a well marked access.

Trail Head

There is a gate across the access that prevents a vehicle from getting down there. Since the strength of the river depends on how much water is let out from the dam, you need to call ahead before just setting out. I don’t know if the gate is an indication of whether or not it is okay to put in or if they just don’t want ordinary folks trying to back down the access.

Philpott Dam Access

That would be completely understandable though, since the access is narrow and a little rough.

The Access

At the bottom of the access, you are looking up at the dam and hearing the water being released. It is a little awe-inspiring.

I will leave you with this last photo that completely took me by surprise. There is a hiking trail that juts off from the kayak access and continues on along the shore of the river. The cool water being released by the dam was reacting with the warmer water in the river and a mist was rising up off of the surface. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Mist Rising Up Off of the River

I hope that this is something that always happens and I can get back and take some incredible shots of that.

#thereissomuchtodohere

Rain and Leaves at Philpott Lake

What a difference a few days makes. When I visited Philpott Lake earlier this week, the leaves were mostly still green. Driving around Martinsville-Henry County right now is a stunning visual feast so, despite a light rain, I went back. Here are the best of my shots (or, at least, my favorites):

Continue reading Rain and Leaves at Philpott Lake