A! Magazine for the Arts

The Crooked Road makes list of leading U.S. Heritage Destinations

February 8, 2010

The hits just keep on coming for Virginia's Crooked Road.

On Wednesday, February 3, 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the 260-mile Southwest Virginia route among this year's top U.S. heritage destinations. The Crooked Road, Virginia's Historic Music Trail, is the lone regional entity on the list. The trail focuses on the area's country and bluegrass music heritage and includes Bristol, Va., and sites stretching from Scott, Wise and Dickenson to Floyd and Franklin counties.

"The Crooked Road pays homage to a rich Appalachian heritage," National Trust President Richard Moe said during a Wednesday ceremony at the Floyd Country Store - one of eight primary destinations. "The trail weaves together unique historic districts that share a past steeped in a rare and uniquely American music culture."

Others communities on this year's list are Bastrop, Texas; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Chestnut Hill, Pa.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.; Marquette, Mich.; Provincetown, Mass.; Rockland, Maine.; Simsbury, Conn.; Sitka, Alaska; and St. Louis.

"The fact that every other selection is a city and we are the only region shows one of our great strengths - the music is what ties us all together," said Bill Hartley, executive director of the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance and a member of the Crooked Road board of directors.

"The Crooked Road has gotten a lot of attention over the years and that is a testament to the area's music and culture and the hard work a lot of people have put into this," Hartley said.

USA Today named The Crooked Road one of its top 15 most desirable destinations to visit in 2007. The program, established in 2004, also has received state and regional recognition, interim Executive Director Jonathan Romeo said in a phone interview.

"This will be great exposure for The Crooked Road for national and international marketing," Romeo said. "Our mission is to promote the region's cultural heritage and assets. Hopefully, we'll be able to leverage this as much as possible."

Since 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's program has recognized cities and towns that offer an authentic visitor experience, according to information provided by the agency. Selections are made based on dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization.

A new addition to the National Trust program this year is a people's choice award, which will be decided by visitors to the Web site.

Activated Wednesday, the poll will continue through the end of this month. After one day, the Crooked Road appeared to rank in the middle of the dozen entries.

Any legal U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older, can vote as often as they like for their favorite destination. The winner of the popular vote will be announced online March 1.

Prime Crooked Road venues include the Carter Family Fold in Maces Springs in Scott County, the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood, the Country Cabin near Big Stone Gap, Rex Theatre in Galax and Blue Ridge Music Center near Roanoke.

The Crooked Road also has about 40 affiliate members, including the weekly Pickin' Porch show at the Bristol Mall and the Twin City's annual Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival.

According to a 2009 economic impact study by Sustainable Development Consulting International, based in Lebanon, Va., The Crooked Road has boosted the area's economy. Combined visitation to the major venues in 2008 was estimated at 109,450, while all venues, partners and festivals claimed attendance of 264,000.

The trail is credited with direct visitor spending of $12.9 million and a total economic impact of $23 million in 2008, according to the study.

-- Doug Thompson of the Floyd Press contributed to this report.

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