A! Magazine for the Arts

A variety of vendors offer antiques and collectibles at the Virginia Highlands Festival, Abingdon, Virginia.

A variety of vendors offer antiques and collectibles at the Virginia Highlands Festival, Abingdon, Virginia.

Virginia Highlands Festival has old favorites and new locations

June 29, 2021

The Annual Virginia Highlands Festival, July 23-Aug. 1, is back with the events audiences love and that many missed during last summer’s shut down.

Organizers are offering a new festival experience by bringing together most programming at one venue: The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center. These include the Antiques & Vintage Show, Writers’ Day, the Juried Fine Art and Photography exhibits, and a series of daily lectures. The live music concerts also move to the grounds at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, outside under a giant tent.

The Juried Arts & Crafts show has always been a downtown Abingdon attraction and continues in its traditional spot on the Barter Square on Main Street. The two locations will connect by shuttle service.

For many attendees the Antiques & Vintage Show is the highlight of the festival, and the move to the Grand Hall at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center will be a welcome escape from the mid-summer weather. Antiques lovers can browse through booths filled with formal and primitive furniture, silver, jewelry, porcelain, china, rugs, vintage clothing, linens, paintings, and many other collectibles. The event is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $5.

The Juried Arts & Crafts Show at Barter Square features handcrafted pottery, jewelry, clothing, paintings, unique home and garden decorations, specialty foods and soaps. It was recently named “Best Art Show in Region” by Virginia Living Magazine. The show is open daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is free.

The Juried Fine Arts and Photography Competitions support regional artists with their annual competitions and galleries. Intake days for the fine arts exhibit are Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18 from 2-5 p.m. Photography intake dates are July 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and July 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center. Entry forms, rules, and other information are available on the festival website.

This year’s weekend concerts under a tent at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center feature many musical artists from the region: a farewell concert by Folk Soul Revival, Virginia Ground, Fritz and Company, the Band of Oz, the Honey Badgers, plus a Johnny Cash Tribute concert and several more bands. All tickets are general admission and are $10.

A special event this year is an afternoon with Vivian Howard, celebrity chef and television personality. She will be featured in conversation with local chef Travis Milton from Taste in Bristol, Virginia. Howard is a best-selling author and semifinalist (four times) for a James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Southeast” award. Howard and Milton chat on stage under the big tent at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center Sunday, July 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person. The ticket price includes a signed copy of Howard’s cookbook and a special jar of her “Community Organizer” sauce.

Writers’ Day Friday, July 30 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center features two of Southwest Virginia’s favorite writers, novelist Sharyn McCrumb and poet Rita Quillen, along with Jim Minick, Eugene Wolf and Bekah Harris. This year’s workshops focus on the theme “Telling Our Stories,” using memories for inspiration to write poetry, drama and fiction. The cost for Writers’ Day is $30.

Local history activities have always been an important part of the festival, since Abingdon was the most important town in the region for over 100 years, from the 1770s until after the Civil War. There will be downtown walking tours, ghost tours, a Sinking Spring Cemetery Living History event and several lectures on topics related to regional history. The always popular historic homes and buildings tour allow visitors to see the interiors of many Abingdon properties.

Outdoor Adventures highlight the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the region. There will be guided nature hikes, bike rides and vineyard tours. The focus this year is on the new Clinch River State Park. A talk, film, kayaking and hike reveal the beauty of the Clinch River area. Some activities require advance registration on the festival website.

For a complete listing of Virginia Highlands Festival activities including registration requirements, advance ticket purchases to most paid events, parking and shuttle info, and more, visit www.vahighlandsfestival.com.