News Column

It's Virginia Highlands Festival time!

July 28, 2013


July 28--ABINGDON, Va. -- Get ready to party.

Abingdon's mid-summer extravaganza, the legendary Virginia Highlands Festival, returns this coming week -- a few days shorter that last year, but, organizers say, still packing all the fun and excitement of yesteryear.

"I think it's more exciting to squeeze it down," said longtime festival volunteer Sandra Parker.

Originally launched in the late 1940s by Barter Theatre founder Robert Porterfield, the Virginia Highlands Festival offers a mix of arts, antiques, theatrical productions and outdoor activities each August.

Look for canoe rides, hikes, a bike ride and bird talks.

Opening day is Friday, Aug. 2 for events. The antiques market at Virginia Highlands Community College runs Aug. 3-11. The theme of this year's festival is "The Jewel of the Blue Ridge."

The festival's signature artist, Nadya Warthen-Gibson, who lives in Abingdon, and is a member of the Arts Depot, has created a signature piece of art called "The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts" on a large acrylic painting on plywood. This painting is on display at the Abingdon Visitors Center.

"This piece contains my thoughts on the Virginia Highlands Festival and memories from the town of Abingdon as a whole," the artist said in a statement.

The festival's signature art is an annual commission, which carries a $1,000 prize for the chosen artist.

'New vendors'

The festival hosts more than 100 artisans during this year's Arts and Crafts Show, held Aug. 2-11, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Remsburg Drive between Cummings and Wall Street in downtown Abingdon, just off I-81 Exit 17.

Handmade jewelry, pottery, woodworking, iron work, home products and artisan foods will be available for as little as $1.

"We're pleased to have several vendors new to the festival, along with returning favorites, including some that have been absent for a few years," festival president Julie Donovan said in a release.

Some artists travel hundreds of miles to be in the Festival -- from Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. And many have been participating in the festival for more than a decade.

This year, the festival includes book signings by authors like Rodney Smith of Bristol, Va., plus demonstrations by artists featured at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway in Abingdon.

Additional demonstrations in basket making, chair caning and more will be offered by the members of the Holston Mountain Artisans Cooperative at the group's shop, located at 214 Park Street in Abingdon, throughout the festival.

Music and Food

Parents can bring the kids to the youth tent, located in the middle of arts and crafts, for free activities and shows throughout the day.

The festival food court is situated at the Farmers Market end of Remsburg Drive.

On weekend days and most week nights, the Farmers Market Pavilion rings with live music, including a Celtic music weekend, local rock, country and Americana bands and a special youth concert and talent show.

Look for Celtic weekend shows on Aug. 3-4, featuring Sharon Knight, Maidens IV, Tempest, Rathkeltair and the Appalachian Highlanders. "I'm always excited about Celtic weekend," said Sandra Parker, the chairman of the festival's music committee. "And every night there's something going on, music-wise."

Also on tap: a gospel music concert featuring Paul Williams and Victory Trio as well as the Primitive Quartet, held on Thursday, Aug. 8, 7 p.m., at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center's Grand Hall. "It's going to be a great concert," said show organizer Major Pounders. "These are the same groups we had last year."

History and Haunts

The popular Colonial Trade Faire is being held at the Muster Grounds, along Colonial Road, on Aug. 2-11, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with demonstration in woodworking and pottery.

The Civil War Weekend happens Aug. 3-4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., also at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.

You can find a lecture series on weekdays, Aug. 5-9, at 2:30 p.m. on various topics of local history at the depot of the Historical Society of Washington County, Va., on Depot Square. "The festival's roots were the heritage and culture of this region," said Martha Keys, a historical society member.

Look, too, for showings of Jerry Sword's documentary film "This Place is Haunted," featuring an interview with Bristol historian V.N. "Bud" Phillips and Abingdon storyteller Donnamarie Emmert.

"This Place is Haunted" shows at 8 p.m. on both Aug. 2 and Aug 3 at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.

"I am excited to have the opportunity to show it at the festival, and I'm excited about the fact that it's going to be an outdoor show, and I think that's going to be a lot of fun, and I still think that there are lot of people out there who need to see it," said Sword, a filmmaker from Russell County, Va.

"The festival is woven into the fabric and history of this town," Sword said, "and one day this film will be woven into that same fabric, so I think it's only fitting that it's here." -- 276-791-0704

You Should Know

--What & Where: Virginia Highlands Festival, Abingdon, Va.

--When: Aug. 2-11

--Information Tent: A festival information tent is located in the arts and crafts area, next to the kettle corn booth. Volunteers are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to answer questions about any festival events.

--Info: 276-623-5266

--Fax: 276-676-3076


Want more?

All details are featured in the Highlander Magazine, available at various locations in the Tri-Cities, including Abingdon and Bristol.


(c)2013 the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.)

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