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).
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
The Southern Gentlemen Band played live music.
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.
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”.
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.
There were a lot of hand made decorations, pretty and funny – some both.
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.
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.
Maybe someone put a spell on it. You think?