Roanoke, VA

An exploration of music, fine arts and Crafts, history and museums

What comes to mind when you think of Virginia? For me, I think about the Blue Ridge Parkway that goes along the Blue Ridge, a mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. This is the longest linear park (469 miles) in the US and the most visited park except for in 1949 & 2013 (but not sure why). I also think of quilts and other early American crafts, the Clock Tower of the Richmond Main Street Train Station as I’d drive along route 95 enroute to Florida and the most gorgeous views of the Appalachian Mountains.

I was pleased to be invited on a press trip to Roanoke Virginia where over several days we visited among other things numerous artists’ studios, historic sites and museums and of course learned about trains. Traveling with a group of other writers is fun. People ask questions I wouldn’t think to ask and friendships develop.

Our first morning David A. Bowers, Mayor of Roanoke met us at the Roanoke Star and Overlook, an historic landmark that provides a fabulous view of the city. Roanoke is located in the valley immediately west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and east of the Allegheny Mountains. It has been a crossroads since Indian days when people used buffalo trails through the valley as hunting and fighting ways. Salt licks at the valley’s heart drew animals, and Indians to hunt them. With settlement by the white man in the mid-1700’s, roads followed the buffalo trails, one, known as the Great Road, north and south; the other, called the Wilderness Road, east and west. A farming community developed, with a tiny village in the center called Big Lick in reference to the salt licks near by. The completion of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad from Hagerstown, Maryland, to its junction with the newly formed Norfolk and Western Railway in 1882, marked the start of Roanoke’s rapid growth. Mayor Bowers spoke passionately about his city and the great diversity of the population (105 different nationalities). There are 60 languages spoken amongst 100,000 people. He spoke of the cosmopolitan feel of the city and that as a result of their excellent Superintendant of schools the graduation rate is now up to 86%— up from 59% from when he began. The Carrilon Medical center of the Medical School from Virginia Tech is a brain injury research center and a leading economic drive and great supporter of the arts.

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