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?

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.


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.


Paddling For Polio

Recent rains triggered a warning that flow from the Philpott Dam had been increased and the flow of the Smith River would be 800 CFS, up from 350 CFS. The water would likely be a bit muddy. Paddling was not advised for anyone without experience. So, just hours before the scheduled event, the question was “are you experienced”?

Continue reading Paddling For Polio