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Parkway's 'gateway communities' to celebrate

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Anniversary events planned in Galax, Independence, Hillsville, Fancy Gap

By Staff Reports

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the date construction began on the 469-mile "All-American Scenic Byway."
Work on the Blue Ridge Parkway began Sept. 11, 1935, at Cumberland Knob, near the North Carolina and Virginia border at milepost 217.


A celebration of this special American treasure and its importance as a cultural, historical, and natural resource includes events and activities throughout the year in the Twin County area.
A list of events — which may be searched by community, region or month — is online at the Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Web site and is updated regularly.  To date, more than 400 events are part of the year-long celebration.
Plans are underway for the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th Anniversary Weekend Celebration Sept. 10-12 at Cumberland Knob.
The Blue Ridge Music Center (at milepost 213 near Galax) and the neighboring communities of Fancy Gap, Hillsville, Independence and Galax will be other sites for this multi-day, multi-venue celebration.
The opening ceremony launching the 75th festivities will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 10 at the Cumberland Knob Recreation Area, near the border of Virginia and North Carolina.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue will present remarks, as will U.S. Congressional leadership.
National Park Service and United States Department of the Interior officials also will participate.
On Sept. 11, a remembrance will be given by Dan Matthews, who was rector of Trinity Church on Wall Street in the shadow of the World Trade Center when the events of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred. The church became a place of refuge for hundreds seeking shelter from the massive cloud of debris.
A Sept. 11 night concert at the Blue Ridge Music Center will feature the legendary Ralph Stanley as well as other notable musicians from the region, including Junior Appalachian Musicians. The entire weekend will have traditional and regional music jams and performances as its centerpiece.
Communities along the parkway will have live music, craft displays, car shows, food and more on Sept. 11.
The City of Galax is planning two days of events, starting next Friday.
 On Sept. 10, Galax will host a sidewalk sale and Groovin' on Grayson free concert with James King Band, a well-known bluegrass group, from 7-10 p.m. and a cruise-in, with streets closing at 3 p.m.
“This is going to be a huge draw, and James King, who's from this area, usually brings in a great crowd,” said Judy Brannock, executive director of the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
On Sept. 11, downtown Galax will be closed off to allow people to shop and enjoy festivities from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., which will include local restaurant and antique shop vendors, artisan demonstrators and others.
Some merchants have already dressed their windows for the 1930s, the time period in which the Blue Ridge Parkway was built, said Brannock. And bluegrass and old-time bands and cloggers will provide entertainment at the center of Main and Grayson streets.
Local historian John Nunn, who — along with his sister — wrote a pictorial book on Galax for the “Images of America” series, will have his last personal book signing on Sept. 11 in front of Chestnut Creek School of the Arts.
Also, Matthews Museum will bring artifacts and share information on events it will hold this month.
“It doesn't cost anything,” said Brannock said of Galax's offerings. “We just ask that everyone come out and have a good time.
“Galax, Carroll County, Grayson County, the towns, downtown association and the chamber thought this was great time,” she added. “September is usually a quiet month for us, but this affords us the opportunity to have a wonderful event.”
One highlight will be the parkway’s automotive heritage. As part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the parkway’s beginnings were deeply rooted in America’s new love affair with automobile travel.
Representatives from the 1,000-member Tin Can Tourists organization will display vintage campers spanning the 75-year period.
This year also marks the centennial celebration of the American Recreational Vehicle Association. Interested owners of vintage campers can apply to participate in the event.
In conjunction with the annual apple festival at Fancy Gap that weekend, a parade of 1935-1945 antique cars will begin in Fancy Gap and travel along the parkway to the Blue Ridge Music Center, stopping at community celebrations along the way on Sept. 11.
Through the Parks in Classrooms programs, students from throughout the region are submitting handmade birthday cards to the parkway, which will be on exhibit that weekend.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was part of the Good Roads movement, which began in the late 19th century.  In the September 1985 edition of Southern Living magazine, an article titled "The Good Road of the Blue Ridge" captured the essence of this modern wilderness road: "[The parkway] is a good road, a road that does not fight the mountains — their geography, geology, or history — but rather follows their every twist and turn, every ascent and descent. The parkway never seems an intruder among these mountains."
The Blue Ridge Parkway is "one road that has kept its promises, lived up to the idea behind it."
The parkway's 75th anniversary is an opportunity for this "good road" and the region through which it passes to once again embrace its rich history and take measures to ensure the twists and turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway are there for generations to come.