Whether you come to Floyd for the scenery, the art, or the music, you’re likely to leave knowing you’ve experienced something unique and heartfelt – the Floyd Mystique.
Overview: Floyd County has been a magnet for anti-establishment free-thinkers since the early 1700s. Independent-minded self-starters from Scotland, Ireland, and Germany said, “Just give me a spot of soil and some time, and I can do for myself.” They rejected urban offerings of the newly-settled New England and Eastern seaboard regions, and settled the remote Appalachians and Blue Ridge Mountains, which was the “frontier” of their time.
This “do-for-myself” approach, well-rooted in the rugged Floyd geography for 250 years, brought a fresh wave of migration in the 1970s – not from farmers but from back-to-the-landers, entrepreneurs, artisans, and musicians trying to earn a buck on their own terms. It was the awe-inspiring environment, the freedom from government oversight, and the slower pace of life that drew them. Among the reasons they stayed was the attitude of acceptance by a resident population who recognized that these newcomers had landed in Floyd County for all the same reasons their ancestors had come 250 years before.
Not to get too earthy about it, but the presence of an arts center in a renovated dairy barn is the iconic symbol linking old & new; innovation & preservation; past & future. Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts is a metaphor for that which visitors can find in all of Floyd County: Top-notch artisans and musicians; heritage crafters; forward-thinking eco- and agri-entrepreneurs; and an ever-widening web of networks, conversations, and solutions shared among the strengthening fabric of community. Many of these forward-thinkers are drawn to Floyd County because there are already creative people working to enhance the quality of their work, offering new public access to time-honored traditions, and seeking new ways to explore their creativity and address challenges.
Visiting today’s Floyd County is at once a throwback to a simpler time when “doing for yourself” meant making all your own furniture, blankets, and tools – and a vision of a creative, globally-wired economy where high-speed internet access allows entrepreneurs, artisans, and farmers to literally make their livings without having to move off their land. Today, you’re as likely to see bib overalls as Ecuadorian batik dresses. This is the Floyd Mystique.
Geography: While many say that Floyd is more a state of mind than an actual place on the map, visitors will find the county located on a unique high plateau at the eastern edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Because of its geography, Floyd was bypassed during the construction of railroads and highways. Access to this unique geographic anomaly – the region represents the only pastureland and open meadows to be seen along the 400+ miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway – requires “coming up the mountain” on a winding two-lane road. Once you get here, you’ll find one traffic signal in the middle of a town revitalizing to become a pedestrian-friendly village with a planned in-town park, refurbished sidewalks and seating areas, public restrooms, and parking areas. In most of the downtown, locally-operated businesses have undertaken façade restorations, including that of the 100-year-old Floyd Country Store: the center of mountain music presentations and an anchor along the Crooked Road Trail, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.
Networks: Though the Town of Floyd has a population of only 500, it has several internet cafes; a locally-managed telephone cooperative offers high-speed access to most of the citizens in two counties. There has always been a natural tendency to network here – through church and civic organizations, traditionally. Today’s scattered residents are no different, though more high-tech. Accessing on-line journals about life in Floyd has developed into an interactive source of community news. Artists’ cooperatives, business people’s groups, book clubs, organic food producers’ organizations, and buying co-ops assist the small business people, the residents, and the visitors. Most problems can be solved by word of mouth. An email to a friend or a visit to the Blue Ridge Restaurant can be the first step toward finding a good mechanic or acupuncturist.
Blue Ridge Parkway: Among the region’s most famous visitor “gotta-dos” is the Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive.” Floyd County shares 40 miles of the Parkway along its eastern border – more than any other county along the 464-mile ridgetop road. 2010 marks the 75th Anniversary of the creation of the Parkway, and many special events are planned to celebrate. Serving to link two majestic eastern national parks (the Shenandoah Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains) the Blue Ridge Parkway allows visitors to access the breathtaking views and gorgeous colors of the region and seasons from any number of backroads that connect the Floyd plateau to the ridgeline drive. The Parkway offers glimpses of the old culture – Mabry Mill, said to be one of the most photographed places in the National Park system – as well as the stone churches made famous by the story of Bob Childress, the “Man Who Moved A Mountain.”
Outdoors Activities: At its heart Floyd is about the geography, which has defined its heritage and draws visitors and appreciators of the pristine out-of-doors. Buffalo Mountain, at 4000 feet, is the highest point (at its lowest elevation, the plateau is still 2400 ft.) and in between are the rolling ridges and valleys and rock faces and clear water streams that inhabit the plateau. Hiking, picnicking, and camping trails and sites abound, up the Buffalo and down into Rock Castle Gorge; Rocky Knob Campground and the privately-operated Daddy Rabbit’s Campground and Cabins; fishing the Little River and other natural and stocked mountain trout streams; bicycling along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Agriculture: Among the hills and hollers live the hard-working population of approximately 14,700. There are numerous farms in the County that supply fresh organic produce, meats, poultry, eggs, and cheeses to local residents, farmers markets, stores, and restaurants. Always an agricultural center, Floyd is increasingly gaining a reputation as an agri-tourism destination with two wineries, several plant nurseries, festivals at cut-your-own and pick-your-own farms, kid-friendly animal petting occasions, and working farms that invite visitors.
Arts & Crafts: Floyd’s widely-ranging reputation as a center for original arts and crafts has inspired new intersections where the public can access the artisans directly. This is possible not only via Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts, but also by visiting innovative galleries like the Bell Gallery and Garden, Over the Moon Gallery, and New Mountain Mercantile (among others); and also art-trail drive-to sites like those found along the Floyd Artisan Trail, and twice-yearly, the famous “16 Hands” studio tour.
Music: Floyd is also a center for music: the Roanoke Times recently speculated that Floyd may have more live music events per capita than any town in the country except New York City. Several venues offer year-round live music, and several others offer it on occasion. But it’s not just Old-Time Mountain music. On any given night a visitor can find Celtic, jazz, rock and roll, or world music. Contra dancing or flat-footing might break out at any moment, you just have to watch and see. The Winter Sun (a restored sewing factory) offers a 400-seat auditorium, an espresso bar, a Mexican restaurant, and a hand-made clothing outlet. Floyd Fest, the world music festival that brings thousands of visitors each July, attracts numerous performers hailing from all over the world.
Dining: Floyd dining is as diverse as its music and arts scene. From a remnant of the 50s (DJ’s, a real-deal old-time drive-in with curb service) to a classy restaurant at Chateau Morrisette, one of Virginia’s oldest and largest wineries, food of all types in all sorts of price ranges can be consumed. Many restaurants offer locally-grown organic produce, and all offer seasonal special entrees and events.
Lodging: After your class at The Jacksonville Center, dancing or tour and meal, visitor accommodation choices in Floyd expand yearly, from the new 14-room Hotel Floyd, the certified “green” building decorated and furnished with products and crafts created locally by the artisans of Floyd County, to numerous B & Bs and locally-owned inns. Don’t look for a Motel 6 here – your lodging experience will be as individualized as your visitor experience – and as authentic.