Kanawha Valley is latest stop on Crooked Road

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

DUGSPUR — Kanawha Valley Arena has just come out of the gate with its Crooked Road affiliated partner designation, but the place ropes in much more than mountain music.


Kanawha Valley has separated itself from the herd of other venues on the Virginia heritage music trail through the variety of its offerings.

Just look at the events that have taken place there recently: soldiers and Southern belles overran it during a weekend for Civil War buffs; the place hosted a wagon train; it raised money with camping and riding in Saddle-Up for the Shriners; it opened up the Carriage House Saloon; it hosted barrel racing and pole bending; gear heads turned out for Smokin' Up Kanawha truck pull.

And the weekend of June 4-6 features the Virginia High School Rodeo State Finals, promising a close look at "rising rodeo stars."

All of these things going on makes Kanawha Valley a unique destination for Carroll County and Southwest Virginia, say tourism officials.

When he attended to present the Crooked Road banner, music trail co-founder Joe Wilson noticed a bunch of motorcycle riders had descended on the place.

The saloon served some very fine barbecue, he said. And he visited the Civil War encampment.

"I think they're a little different than other venues and things along the road," he said. "It makes it a unique place."

Owner Tommy Brown has probably invested as much in his facility as any other attraction along the Crooked Road, Wilson suspects, and that bodes well for tourism in the region.

"If we're going to have visitors come to the mountains, we need different things for them to do," he noted.

Brown says his philosophy about booking events is simple: "It's whatever the crowd likes."

Right now, they offer karaoke on Friday nights and dedicate the third Saturday of the month to bluegrass. He could see putting on more bluegrass, if people want to hear it.

People have started calling and asking about the music more, and Brown is listening. "We want to start getting ahold of bands and try to get them lined up," he said. "I believe it's going to bring a lot of people in."

Brown, who can regularly be seen in local parades steering a horse-drawn wagon, has landed the state finals for the high school rodeo for the first time.

That's going to bring many visitors in from out of town, he expects.

"Carroll County doesn't have rodeo in their school, so everyone that comes in will be from outside the county," Brown said.

Each contestant will probably bring mom and dad, grandparents and other family members and fans.

Brown uses the facility to help the community in other ways, too, like letting the Masons and the Shriners — organizations he is a member of — work the gate and keep the proceeds and making a donation to search and rescue to park cars at two events.

Amanda Bourne — Carroll's assistant tourism director, who also works with Kanawha Valley — notes that the state rodeo finals coming here, over any other venue in Virginia, is a big deal.

"We owe much thanks to Tommy Brown of Kanawha Valley Arena as he has donated the performance portion of the facility and all gate admissions collected to the Virginia High School Rodeo," she said.

Bourne expects to see a spike in visitors because of the event, based on the informational requests her office has been getting.

"The tourism office has already been receiving calls for hotel, bed-and-breakfasts and cabin info," she said in an e-mail. "So from a tourism perspective, it is bringing folks to Carroll County that might not otherwise venture to this part of the state, which is good news."

• More information about Kanawha Valley Arena is available by visiting its website, www.virginiarodeo.com, calling (540) 789-2084,

or e-mailing kanawha@virginiarodeo.com.