2019: A Year in Review


It’s been a busy year in Patrick County, with heartwarming stories and chilling tales; and everything in between. In an attempt to highlight a year in the life of Patrick County we have compiled a list of our most memorable and favorite stories. Sit back, grab a cup of tea, and join in the nostalgia from a year gone by. Here are just a few:



Patrick school officials hopeful for 2019

Some members of the Patrick County School Board have their sights set on cutting expenses, providing more pay to teachers and improving communication with residents.

Brandon Simmons, vice chairman, said that his goal for the upcoming year is “first and foremost” that every student in the county gets a good education.

Simmons, of the Blue Ridge District, also said that he hopes that the schools will be accredited at the end of the year and is “sure that it will happen” because the division has “great staff.”


Career crews meet goals

Patrick County’s career crews serve in more ways than one, according to Crystal Harris, who supported the creation of a paid service to backup volunteers and fill in the gaps to provide services directly to those in need.

Harris, who represents the Smith River District on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, said she is pleased that the service is meeting or exceeding her goals and expectations.

The service “gets help to emergency calls when our local departments cannot help. It is getting help to the people, and taking care of the residents of Patrick County, and that is our top priority,” Harris said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a godsend.”




Pay hike drives request for more local funds

A 5-percent pay hike proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam is driving the $411,545.40 increase in local funding proposed by school officials at a liaison committee meeting Tuesday.

Schools Superintendent Bill Sroufe said the preliminary proposal is otherwise unchanged.

It has not been approved yet, but is under review, by the school board, he said.


New urgent care to open

Dr. Richard Cole, owner of Patrick County Family Practice, announced a new urgent care facility will be opening in Patrick County.

The Patrick Urgent Care Clinic is slated to open on April 15. Renovations currently are underway at the facility that is located at 835 Woodland Drive, Suite 201A, Stuart.



Chew crew’ discussed at town council

The Stuart Town Council hopes to reach an agreement with goat owners and start using the ‘chew crew’ to help combat the kudzu problem by June or July. Kudzu, a rapidly growing invasive perennial vine that climbs over trees or shrubs and kills them by heavy shading, is prevalent in many areas of Stuart. The council suggested a pilot program may be used initially to test the effectiveness of the proposal before moving forward permanently.


New bookmobile delivered, ready to serve


New bookmobile delivered, ready to serve

The Patrick County Library‘s new bookmobile arrived in Stuart Wednesday, after a long road trip from Massachusetts, according to Garry Clifton, branch manager.

The new vehicle was bought with donations and fundraising efforts that netted an estimated $188,000, including a $35,000 donation from Patrick County.

The purchase “would not have been possible without the help and support of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Friends of the Library, local residents, businesses, library staff, and volunteers,” Clifton said. “This was truly a community effort. We would like to sincerely thank everyone for making this long sought-after dream a reality.”



Company relocates due to building issue

The lack of a readily available building prompted a local company to relocate to an adjoining locality.

Dale Puckett, chairman of Patrick County’s Economic Development Authority, said officials negotiated with Thomas Industrial Fabrication to keep the company in the county.

“They needed a facility immediately,” Puckett said. “We didn’t have a building and, in the end, we lost them because we did not have a building.”


Fulcher issues call for unity

The chairman of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors called for unity and encouraged the board to work together to tackle the problems facing the county.

“We have got to move forward on this and we have to do it together, and stop this stabbing each other in the back,” Rickie Fulcher said at the onset May 13 meeting.


 Sroufe to step down June 30

for post in Colonial Heights

Patrick Schools Superintendent Bill Sroufe on Tuesday said he will step down from his current position in Patrick.

Sroufe would have started his seventh year as superintendent in Patrick. The average tenure of superintendents in Virginia is 3.5 years.



Covered Bridge festival

Covered Bridge festival

T he 15th annual Virginia Covered Bridge Festival. Patrick County is the proud owner of one of the few covered bridges still remaining in the state which, along with the local festival, received recognition during the 2007 session of the Virginia General Assembly. The Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge in Woolwine, and the former site of the Bob White Covered Bridge off of Elamsville Road, shared center stage during the 15th annual festival  The bridges hold a special place in history as Patrick County’s last remaining historic covered bridges built around 1914.


Martin tapped to lead Patrick schools

  1. David Martin was selected by the Patrick County School Board to serve as the interim superintendent. The board also selected Martin’s consulting firm, Real Synergy LLC, to help recruit a new school superintendent.



Floyd Fest: Music, Mountains, Magic, and Money

On the top of a mountain just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, FloydFest brings music, art, and people to Patrick County and surrounding areas as it transforms a quite mountain peak into a tourist Mecca, with

people from across the United States have been making the trek to the annual event since the early 2000s.

Blarney the Beagle to be featured at inaugural exhibit

Blarney the Beagle to be featured at inaugural exhibit

Blarney the Beagle’s art was on display, after his owners used a GPS tracker to track his movements and then transpose those movements into art.  He loves to run around his home farm, thus the idea was born.  Blarney shows anyone can be an artist regardless of skill set or species



Crowds flocked to Folk Fair Saturday

The road through Meadows of Dan was lined with locals and visitors alike on Saturday — a picture perfect day for the 15th annual Meadows of Dan Folk Fair. It was a day for music, storytelling, politicking, gathering with old friends and meeting new ones. Young entrepreneurs Presley Combs and Rain Davis offered air plants for sale Saturday at the Meadows of Dan Folk Fair.

Peaches remain center of fest

The sky cleared and peaches reigned at the 32ndannual Virginia State Peach Festival. The festival began in 1988 to recognize and promote the peach harvest in Patrick County. It also took on a more political role, with politicians flocking to the county to campaign and enjoy the peach harvest. Its transition from the traditional ‘peaches and politics’ has become ‘peaches and community.’



Rural King bucks trend as some retailers move toward gun-free stores

Walmart joined a growing list of retailers – Kroger, Walgreens and CVS among them — asking customers to refrain from carrying guns in their stores, even if state laws allow for open carry.

The company also will no longer stock certain gun ammunition and is ceasing the sale of handguns in its Alaskan based stores. Rural King stores are at the other end of the spectrum, writing on their social media that they would not ‘bow’ to pressures to discontinue their sales of firearms and ammunition.

Hundreds flock to Front Porch Fest 11

Hundreds flock to Front Porch Fest 11

Music lovers descended on sleepy Spirthaven farm by the hundreds over Labor Day weekend; the valley was full of sounds, smells, and colors during the 11th annual Front Porch Fest.

The small family-friendly festival offered festival-goers a wholesome and fun environment to let loose and enjoy some tunes. The festival was a long weekend of fellowship and fun under the end of the summer sun here in Patrick County. Maggie Blankenship, a homegrown girl from Woolwine was on the performance roster for the event.

Centenarian lives by ‘no problem’ motto

Centenarian lives by ‘no problem’ motto

Edna Turner has seen it all, done as much of it as she desired, and the 104-year-old has no plans to stop anytime soon. As she works on her 105th trip around the sun, she  lives life by a simple catchphrase: “That’s no problem,” or a variation thereof is her mantra, she said. When her doctor told her he did not want her navigating the steps to the basement, “I told him ‘that’s no problem.’ Shoot, I do laundry down there,” she said. Turner also noted that “most people my age are in the nursing home. There’s not many walking around on two feet, but I don’t have a problem.” Turner was born on April 3, 1915.


Former Gov. Gerald Baliles dies at 79


Former Gov. Gerald Baliles dies at 79

Patrick County native and former Gov. Gerald Baliles died early Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, at his home in Charlottesville. Baliles, 79, was surrounded by his family. A Patrick County native and Democrat, Baliles was known as the “transportation governor” and for his work to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. He also founded the Patrick County Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising education attainment and graduation rates in Patrick County.


‘Wheels-a-turning’ once again at Mabry Mill

‘Wheels-a-turning’ once again at Mabry Mill

After a summer of repairs to the historic gristmill at Mabry Mill, water is once again turning the wheel. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, National Park Foundation, and the National Park Service in conjunction worked to restore the historical landmark’s water flumes after they fell into disrepair.

At a ribbon cutting Thursday, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee thanked those who had a hand in helping restore “the most iconic landmark on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As one of the most iconic and recognizable locations along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is a destination for visitors from all over the world.”


Fire Company 26 Commemorates Homecoming

Fire Company 26 Commemorates Homecoming

After years of planning and hard work, the Stuart Volunteer Fire Department moved into its new home Saturday.

The new 29,000 square-foot facility was repurposed from the vacant grocery store building and now houses a garage bay large enough for more vehicles or larger ones should the need arise, workrooms, officers, industrial-grade kitchen, lounge space and extra space that can be potentially leased to the local rescue squad or turned into living quarters should the department ever become full time.

Stuart Mayor Ray Weiland said it was hard to see a silver liningwhen the former Food Lion store closed. However, looking back, it was something that ultimately turned out good for the town, he said.

SVFD purchased the property in 2016; the property is also home to Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), who operates a trade school at one end of the facility.


Long-term incumbents ousted in Tuesday election


Long-term incumbents ousted in Tuesday election

Two long-term incumbents lost their respective reelection bids to the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, according to unofficial results. Lock Boyce, in the Mayo River District, was ousted Tuesday by opponent Clayton Kendrick. Unofficial results showed that Boyce received 276 of the 991 total votes cast; 712 ballots were cast for Kendrick along with three for write-in candidates. Blue Ridge District supervisor Karl Weiss netted 337 of the 981 total ballots cast to the 637 votes for challenger Clyde DeLoach and seven write-in candidates, unofficial results showed. Denise Litten Stirewalt also came out on top in her contest for the Peters Creek District against Keith Puckett, garnering 707 of the 1,218 total ballots cast to the 502 cast for Puckett and nine write-in votes. Voters also supported a Food and Beverage Tax at the polls on Tuesday. Of the 4,655 votes cast, 2,943 were in support of the tax and 1,712 were opposed, unofficial results showed.

Patrick Native Honored with Radford University Gallery Show

Finding meaning and beauty in the mundane is something that Radford University senior and Meadows of Dan mountain girl, Amber Rodgers, does with the snapping of her camera’s shutter.

Rodgers is a mountain girl, born and raised in the hills of Meadows of Dan. She has always felt a deep connection to her roots. She said her work is a photographic representation of the relationship that is formed by the people and the land.


First Horizon Nabs Local Branches in BB&T, Suntrust Merger

First Horizon National Corp. announced that it has entered into a deal with SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T Corp. to acquire 30 branches across North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia on Nov. 8.

At the onset of 2019, U.S. regional lender BB&T agreed to buy SunTrust banks for approximately $28 billion in stock. The merger between SunTrust and BB&T is not expected to take effect until the final months of 2019 or possibly not until early 2020. In the meantime, both banks will continue operating separately.



 Town of Stuart plays ‘chicken’ with vultures

Stuart residents have been plagued by a large committee of vultures, with no end in sight. A potential solution would be the cleanup of the areas and waiting the vultures out, in a game of chicken. However, the damage would persist until the vultures move. The New World vulture species is not a member of the raptor family, rather the stork family.  Raptors are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and cannot be harmed or destroyed. However, it has recently been determined that the seven species of the so called ‘New World’ vultures,(meaning they rely on smell to find food, while ‘Old World’ vultures depend on sight) are more closely related to storks than to the hawks and eagles with which they were originally grouped, according to the VDGIF.


Martin hands over reins to Gilbert, says PC schools are best kept secret

Martin hands over reins to Gilbert, says PC schools are best kept secret

Acting Patrick County School Superintendent Dr. J. David Martin hailed his six-month tenure at the helm of Patrick County Schools as the “experience of a lifetime.”

Martin began his tenure at the helm of the school division on July 1. His consulting firm, Real Synergy LLC, also was retained to help recruit a new school superintendent.

In a Thursday vote, the board appointed Dean Gilbert to lead the division, beginning Jan. 1.

As his final school board meeting neared an end Thursday, Martin said he wanted to “publicly thank the community and school division for welcoming me. I knew I had arrived when I was not treated as someone special but simply as another set of hands to help with the heavy lifting.