Blue Ridge Muse News, views and musings from Southwestern Virginia Fri, 01 Aug 2014 11:58:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A lot of Southwestern Virginia is poor and uneducated Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:58:16 +0000 080114poverty

By and large, the bulk of residents in Southwestern Virginia are poor, uneducated by standards in the rest of Virginia and struggling to find a job and make a living.

That’s the conclusion of the Weldon Center at The University of Virginia and the Statistical Abstract of the Census Bureau.

For the most part, Southwestern Virginia is the poorest region of the Old Dominion with a median income of $37,663 while Northern Virginia shows $102,499 and Roanoke County weighs in at $61,686.  Overall, Virginia’s median income is $63,636 — almost triple the per capita income of Floyd County of $21,855 and 30.9 percent of county residents are currently under the poverty line.

In our region, only 15 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher from a college or university.  Northern Virginia shows 54 percent of at least one college degree.

If you take Roanoke, Montgomery or Franklin County out of the mix in Southwestern Virginia, the median income drops well below $20,000.

An old joke in Floyd County says the hippies moved in because there were nob jobs.

Yet in Floyd, many of the old hippies now own several of the county’s primary businesses.

Floyd County’s Economic Development Park lost Volv0′s Dex truck recycling operation this summer and the space if still not rented to a new client.

The new Innovation Center lost is anchor tenant when BC Genesis snuck out of the county under the cover of darkness while the center was still under construction and the center may open in the fall with no clients.

But downtown businesses in Floyd remain fully occupied even if some are struggling.

Elsewhere in the region, conditions are mixed.  Some downtowns like Pulaski shows empty spots while others like Galaxi appear to thrive.  In the relocated downtown in Grundy, Wal-Mart is the center of the town square.

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Faces of FloydFest Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:56:25 +0000 073114floydfest1

A few lingering images of FloydFest 13. It’s always about the people and faces.

Many more photos and the story on the 2014 Floyd Fest in Thursday’s Floyd Press.



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Was Maureen McDonnell doing Jonnie Williams? Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:09:11 +0000 Was this what Virginia's former First Lady up to?

Was this what Virginia’s former First Lady up to?

Looks like former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, fighting to try and keep from being convicted and in prison for multiple crime while in office, will do anything to try avoid a guilty verdict — even claim his wife was romantically involved with former diet drug kingpin Jonnie Williams.

Yep, the former governor claims his former Washington Redskins cheerleader wife had the hots for Williams and that he was just an innocent victim of his wife’s passion to accepting gifts from Williams.

Of course, this doesn’t explain why Maureen McDonnell got Williams to get a Rolex for Bobby and other gifts for the governor that had nothing to do with what may or may not have been sack time between the Commonwealh’s first lady and Williams, who has turned state’s evidence against both McDonnells.

As a trial that is expected to last six weeks or more started in Richmond Monday the defense attorneys for McDonnell are dripped with tawdry excitement over expectation of sordid extracurricular activities between Maureen and Jonnie Williams.

Defense attorney William Burck told the jury Tuesday that Maureen McDonald “has a crush on Williams” and considered him a “playmate.”

The marriage between the McDonnell’s was strained, Brurk said, and the first lady of Virginia was starved for affection.  Another defense attorney for McDonnell said Williams was a schemer who manipulated the governor’s wife and took advantage of their troubled marriage.

Burck said Williams “showered with the attention she craved.”  But none of the defense lawyers actually claimed banging private parts together  — at least not yet.

McDonnell was oblivious to any of this, the lawyers incredibly claimed, and was too busy being a good and proper governor.

Prosecutors, of course, say the governor was busy lining his own pockets and selling his office to the higher bidder — especially top bidder Jonnie Williams.

Stay tuned.  This will be a prime soap opera, complete with sex and scandal.

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Farewell to FloydFest Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:14:56 +0000 072914floydfest1

When my story and photos of FloydFest 13 appear in Thursday’s edition of The Floyd Press, my coverage of the annual summer festival ends after a decade of coverage.

The end comes at my own choice.  My increasing physical limitations make it more and more difficult to trek around the 80 acre site and a found 10 years is long enough to cover one specific event.

In the 1970s, I covered pretty much the same length of the annual summer Mississippi River Festival on the campus of Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville just across the river from St. Louis.

FloydFest was mostly fun and an enjoyable event to cover in photography and video but all good things eventually come to an end.

Best of luck to those involved in FloydFest and I hope the next person to cover the event for area media can have some new ideas on coverage.


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Twenty years after his first Brickyard 400, Gordon still winning Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:21:01 +0000 Jeff Gordon at age 23 in 1994 winning the debut Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Kissing him is his then-fiance Brooke.  She took the money and ran later in a divorce.

Jeff Gordon at age 23 in 1994 winning the debut Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kissing him is his then-fiance Brooke. She took the money and ran later in a divorce.

Amy and I crammed into the packed Indianapolis Motor Speedway 20 years ago to watch 23-year old Jeff Gordon win the inaugural Brickyard 400 race.

Two decades later, Gordon — now 43 — won for the fifth time in 20 races but a lot fewer people watched as empty grandstands stood in mute testament to an bad economy and a waning grandstand at the grand old track.

Nearly empty grandstands at Indy for the Brickyard 400 Sunday. (Charlie Nye/Indianapolis Star)

Nearly empty grandstands at Indy for the Brickyard 400 Sunday. (Charlie Nye/Indianapolis Star)

The Brickyard 400 isn’t alone.  The onetime greatest race in motor sports — the open-wheeled Indy 500 — can’t fill the seats nowadays and we ordered front straight tickets online at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday for the night race at the end of August — a race that used to sellout a year in advance.

A lot has changed in the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) and the one-time whiz kid of racing — Jeff Gordon — is middle-aged but currently leading in the points and considered a likely candidate for a fifth championship amid the Sprint Cup series that was called the Winston Cup before another Southern tradition — tobacco — nosedived.

As a Southerner, I didn’t care for Gordon in his younger days.  My wife liked him.  The transported Californian moved to Indy to be at what was then the mecca of racing.  Now, he lives near Charlotte, the current center of stock car action.

Gordon seemed to calculating, too packaged and too lacking in the tradition of stock racing.  That tradition is all but gone now and even Gordon is considered old timely among the veteran racers.

But Gordon can still win and dominated the track like the Jeffie of old Sunday.  His drive is still there.  Too bad the desired for his sport of choice appears to be on the wane.

An older Gordon winning another Brickyard event.

An older Gordon winning another Brickyard event.

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Back to school in less than three weeks Mon, 28 Jul 2014 09:33:13 +0000 Up in the morning and off to school...soon

Up in the morning and off to school…soon

Floyd County public schools open in a little under three weeks.

August 12 is the first day of classes.  Fall sports practice begins a week from today.

A half-century ago — back in my days of public schools as a student at Floyd County High School — classes began right after Labor Day.

No more.  School starts earlier and earlier each year to have “banked” days in case of winter storms.   Students stayed home from bad weather a lot of days in the 2013-14 school year and the system stayed prepared in case it happens again.

Students and parents will venture into stores for “back to school” sales.  The talk over breakfast at the Blue Ridge Restaurant will focus on football and the outlook for the upcoming season.


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FloydFest 13: Smoother, quieter and smaller Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:26:24 +0000 A festival with more control and improvements over last year.

A festival with more control and improvements over last year.

FloydFest wraps up five days Sunday with a relatively-smooth event event that features improved parking conditions, better transport services, more control and less chaos — especially when compared with 2013.

Attendees praised the improvements and welcomed the smaller crowds that allowed more enjoyment and less confinement.  Complaints centered around higher costs and add-on expenses, especially from VIP ticket holders who thought the higher, overall, prices were inclusive but found charges of $100 for a camp site and other expenses.

Lauren Kinberg Colliver of Laurel Fork had high praise.

“Parking and luxe shuttle are awesome improvements,” she said. “Thank you.”

FloydFest 13 appeared enjoyable to young...

FloydFest 13 appeared enjoyable to young…

“A good event, good staff and a good time,” said Lyle Anderson of Spatanburg, SC.  “I wasn’t sure after last year but they made the necessary improvements and turned it into a good, relaxed and worthwhile festival.”

“Having to park offsite could have been a bother but the buses were clean and air conditioned and the transportation took about 10 minutes.  No problem,” said Cheryl Lassiter of Florida.  “This was our first FloydFest but it won’t be our last.  We have had a good time.”

Others were unhappy.

We won’t be going back after the last 3 years it,” said Tim Seel of Buffalo Ridge, VA. “It just kept getting worse & worse.”

“Great vibe and music during the day. However, our campground was placed in the middle of a stage area. Pounding bass from midnight until 3:30 and then drum circle until 7,” said Jennifer Spahn-Lechmanik from Baltimore, MD. “We expected noise while we slept but not the bed shaking head pounding noise that you would only expect center stage. Floydfest staff here is utterly useless.  Everyone is good at passing the buck or telling you to deal with it.  Not worth it!”

Scalpers, however, found themselves with tickets they couldn’t sell because only VIP tickets were sold out and general admission tickets remained available on the FloydFest web site and others were giving away tickets at below face value on Facebook.

...and not quite as young

…and not quite as young

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Music on the streets and fiddler Clyde Williams too Sat, 26 Jul 2014 09:25:38 +0000

Good to see longtime and popular fiddler Clyde Williams playing on the streets of Floyd Friday night.

Williams has been battling cancer for several months and absent from the music scene on the streets of Floyd and with the Friday Night Jamboree.

Welcome back Clyde.

Clyde Williams and his fiddle on the streets of Floyd on Friday night.

Clyde Williams and his fiddle on the streets of Floyd on Friday night.

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FloydFest 13: The beat goes on Sat, 26 Jul 2014 06:55:58 +0000 The Groundation performs on the Dreaming Creek Stage Friday afternoon.

The Groundation performs on the Dreaming Creek Stage Friday afternoon.

More of a crowd arrived at the FloydFest 13 site on Friday but still short of the sellout crowds that clogged the event last year.

Those who attended found a smoother running event than the year before.

With a dry and cooler Friday, a crowd estimated at about three-quarters of the attendance of last year danced to the music, sampled the food and packed the beer garden and tents for music from 10 states while dodging a few mud holds from Thursday’s driving rain storm.

The festival, in a partial rebuilding year after the chaos of 2013 when driving rain turned parking lots and the walkways into mud, washed away tent sites and challenged the resources of the festival, FloydFest 13 continued to show strong improvement with primary parking at the airstrip behind RotoMetrics near Meadows of Dan and transportation to the site on air-conditioned Holiday tour buses out of Randleman, North Carolina, and additional transport from Boy Scout buses from North Carolina.

Floyd County Deputies answered a plea from Patrick County for help on security and helped track down shoplifters and a thief who helped himself to Gators used for transport around the site.

“It’s been a long day,” said Floyd County Special investigator Jeff Dalton standing post outside one of the beer tents.

Among entertainment circles, Lauryn Hill is known as a Diva with a capital “D.”  Her demands backstage and withe entertainment venues are legendary.

Hill demanded that all media photographers sign a special rights-grabbing contract if they wanted to photograph her performance at FloydFest Thursday night.

No big deal since I hadn’t planned to photograph her anyway, so I signed nothing, but it was just one of her demands that sent clucks around the staff.  Her entourage also emptied the media yurt and Roanoke Times blogger Tad Dickens had some comments for that as well.

FloydFest 13 continues today with dry, but warmer, weather expected and closes out Sunday with a chance of rain.

As with most FloydFests, the crowd is the show.

As with most FloydFests, the crowd is the show.

Old and the new:  Air-conditioned tour buses for transport from parking lots to the site and Boy Scout buses for additional help.

Old and the new: Air-conditioned tour buses for transport from parking lots to the site and Boy Scout buses for additional help.

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Rain didn’t dampen FloydFest 13 spirits Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:35:57 +0000 Yeah, it's raining.  So?

Yeah, it’s raining. So?

Yes, FloydFest features musical acts — lots of them — but people attending the summer festival just off the Blue Ridge Parkway are the real show.

Even driving rain showers that came in around 4 p.m. Thursday did not away folks.

After sell-out crowds and chaos from last year’s drenching downpour that left parking lots and the festival midway a sea of mud, the crowd this year appeared ready for anything and more laid back.  With direr weather forecast for Friday and Saturday and only a chance of rain on Sunday, FloydFest 13 appears headed for a good year.

Still, some have complained.

Deborah Robbins of Floyd said she paid big bucks for VIP tickets but said FloydFest wanted another $100 on top of that for a nice camping spot.

“Forget it FF,” she posted on Facebook. ” I was going to give you a chance to redeem yourself after last year’s debacle but you know what? It’s over. Never again.”

Others, however, had praise, saying the festival has rebounded well from the problems of 2013.

“I’m impressed,” said Charles Wayson of Las Vegas.  “The parking was smooth this year and the nice, air-conditioned buses for transportation were very comfortable.  Thumbs up from my wife and I.”

The people started to arrive in force Thursday...

The people started to arrive in force Thursday…

...And at FloydFest, people are the real show.

…And at FloydFest, people are the real show.


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