Boyd's Restaurant in Ararat was the scene of a gathering on Jan. 5 of local residents who are excited about planning a festival for the Ararat community. Participants included Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden. Other interested citizens attending included Janet Epperson, representing the Dan River Park; and representatives of Boyd's Restaurant, Windy Hill Orchard, grow-your-own produce farms, racing, accommodations and other attractions in the area. Jeanie Puckett of Doe Run Farm and Cindy and Gary Hoback of Wolf Creek Farm Bed and Breakfast Inn initiated the meeting. Gary and Alesia Nester of Rolling Thunder Raceway also voiced their enthusiasm for helping increase tourism in the Ararat area. The group agreed that it should build on existing assets including the mountain views, orchards, greenhouses, history, local craftspeople, music, and the Dan River Park. Participants reviewed lists of festivals in Patrick County as well as neighboring areas in North Carolina, and agreed it would be a benefit to the community and tourists to hold a festival in the near future. Anyone who would like to present ideas or make comments, or who may be interested in helping this committee is welcome to attend the next planning session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. at Boyd's Restaurant, located across from Blue Ridge Elementary School on the Ararat Highway. You do not have to be a business owner to participate. If you have questions, please call Jeanie Puckett at 276-251-8287 or Cindy Hoback at 276-251-7645.
For years I tried to form a group like this. Last year we had a festival at the Ruritan Club that only two of these people participated in. I hope this group is successful and I will bring my tent to their festival and sell books to raise money for a cause of my choosing until then I believe that “Imitation is the sincere form of flattery.”
Someone in Henry County recently said to me that unless you are going to Ararat for a reason “Why would anyone go to Ararat?” Well, that is the sort of attitude that I love to hear because I can begin my preaching.
Ararat, Virginia, is the most historic community in Patrick County. No one place has produced the number of famous people. There is J. E. B. Stuart, who never set foot in the county seat that bears his name, but is probably the most important historic figure from Southwest Virginia, much less The Free State Of Patrick
There is Orleana Hawks Puckett, who lived only a short time on top of the mountain and probably not in the cabin that bears her married name. She lived at the foot of Groundhog Mountain, where her own children are buried just up the road from the Doe Run Church and The Hollow History Center.
There is Reverend Robert “Bob” Childress made famous in the most popular book along the Blue Ridge Parkway The Man Who Moved A Mountain. Bob was born and spent half his life in Ararat, Virginia. I have researched and marked many of the places with a connection to his life when he was the “Hellion From The Holler.”
There is the Epperson Family, who made radio stations a business mainly in North Carolina. There are soldiers like the late “Levi” Barnard, who lost his life in Iraq last year and James T. W. Clement, who lies at Hunter’s Chapel, who was with Stuart and Turner Ashby on the day they both received mortal wounds in the Civil War.
There is racing history from the days that Anthony Terry and Bernie Epperson went from Bassett to Martinsville to Bowman Gray Stadium and the Rolling Thunder. There is “The Dinky” or the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad that ran over a hundred years ago through the middle of Ararat to the Dan River. Anthony Terry found some of the rails a few years back and they are now on display at The Hollow History Center.
Janet Epperson asked me to come up with some ideas for historical interpretation for the walking trail at the Dan River Park and these are some of the ideas I gave her. Athletics and history might bring some people to The Hollow as well. These are just some examples of the history in Ararat, Virginia, which if promoted correctly could bring visitors to the community for multiple reasons.
I am working on a book about the history along the Ararat River, which runs from Bells Spur Church to Siloam, North Carolina, that includes all of this. Ararat is and always will be more associated with Mount Airy and it is the “Granite City” that tourism should focus on. I hope they will continue to use my ideas because as I said “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”