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Floyd, Virginia’s Famous Friday Night Jamboree Draws in Tourists From Across the Globe

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David E. Rotenizer Raleigh County Extension Agent – Community Development West Virginia State University Extension Service
Musicians gather for informal jams outside the Floyd Country Store

In spring, summer and fall, downtown Floyd, Virginia on Friday nights is crowded with tourists who’ve traveled from all over the world. Locals fill the downtown sidewalks and benches outside the Floyd Country Store. On one block of the town, there are several jams going on - people playing guitars and banjos and fiddles. This is what’s known as the Friday Night Jamboree.

But it’s what’s going on inside the Floyd Country Store that most of the tourists are here to experience. The music scene here has gotten so popular that instead of a jam, the store hires professional musicians - and people pay $5 to get in the door. Floyd is part of a regional music trail in southwestern Virginia, called The Crooked Road. The trail was co-founded by musician and folklorist, Joe Wilson, who passed away recently

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Credit Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension Service
Inside the Floyd Country Store

The Intensity of 50 Flatfoot Dancers On One Dance Floor

Inside the Floyd store is the sound of about fifty flatfoot dancers clogging on the dance floor, locals and outsiders all together. A local band plays old time mountain music on the stage.

 

Visitors From Europe

Standing and watching the flatfoot dancers are two tourists from Switzerland  who are taking a week’s tour through Appalachia. One of them, named Fabrizio, was wearing a shirt from Pies and Pints, a pizza restaurant and Brewery in Fayetteville, West Virginia. They made their visit to Fayetteville to go kayaking, and they continued south to southwestern Virginia to soak up more Appalachian culture.

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Credit Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension Service
Demascus is a newly emerging destination along the Crooked Road. The Appalachian Trail runs right through this town.

Popularity Has Grown in Recent Years

Floyd gets lots of of visitors from Europe and from all over the United States.

The number of visitors who come to Floyd has been steadily increasing for years, but mostly in the last ten years. A hotel was built 8 years ago right across the street from the Floyd Store, and it recently expanded to 40 rooms.

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Credit David E. Rotenizer Raleigh County Extension Agent – Community Development West Virginia State University Extension Service
A group of West Virginians representing various economic development organizations, tourism development groups, and West Virginia University and West Virginia State University, recently toured the Crooked Road in southwestern Virginia for inspirations to bring back to the mountain state. Their guide was Todd Christensen, Executive Director of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and co-founder of The Crooked Road

Could Tourism Change Floyd?

Locals have mixed feelings about whether they like the increase in tourism. Lots of the people who live here came in the 1970s for a quiet life in a farming community. Just 400 people live here. And on some weekends, the population swells with hundreds of visitors.

“Sometimes when we have a perception of swarms of people coming in, and then things popping up to meet those demands, that may or may not fit the fabric of the land and the community, and so the balance that we’re trying to achieve is to have things of interest, not only to visitors, but things that we like as locals. Things that we enjoy, whether it’s the Friday Night Jamboree or whether it’s food events, keeping agriculture vibrant. I mean those are things that are at the core of our being,” said Lydeana Martin, the Community and Economic Development Director for Floyd County.

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Credit Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension Service
Barr's Fiddle Shop in Galax Virginia, one of the stops along the Crooked Road

Locals Come to Hear the Music Play Too

So far, the boost in tourism hasn’t changed the atmosphere of this town too much, according to most of the people who are downtown on a typical Friday evening.

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Galax Virginia is another popular destination along the Crooked Road Music Trail

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Credit Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension Service
Band on stage inside the Floyd Country Store

And while plenty of the out of town visitors pay the $5 fee to get inside the Floyd Country Store to hear the music, most of the people who come to play and listen to music outside are locals. People like musician J.C. Poff, who was playing his songs along the street, hoping to sell his songs to country musicians.

If you stop by Floyd on a Friday night, you’ll find plenty of musicians who've made it to the inside stage and are paid well for their performances each week. But you’ll also find musicians like J.C. Poff, sitting outside the country store on a bench, playing their songs, and hoping to catch their big break.

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Credit Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension Service

The Crooked Road Inspires West Virginians to Build The Mountain Music Trail

The popularity of Floyd and the Crooked Road in Virginia has caught the attention of tourism groups over the border in West Virginia. 

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Credit Doug Arbogast, West Virginia University Extension Service
A group of West Virginia tourism developers recently took a tour along the Crooked Road. AmeriCorps VISTA, Ned Savage is in the bottom left.

In hopes of generating economic development, communities in West Virginia are marketing their mountain music with the Mountain Music Trail, which runs along the Allegheny Mountains in Tucker County, where you’ll find the Purple Fiddle,a popular cafe and pub that often features live music. The Mountain Music Trail then heads down through Elkins, where the Augusta Heritage Center is located. The trail then goes south through Pocahontas, Greenbrier, and Monroe Counties.

“Show off not just the fact that we have a beautiful landscape and we have a lot of opportunities to enjoy that landscape, but also that we have a really rich culture here. So we wanted to share that. and bring more people here to enjoy that, and to engage with it, to hopefully spend some money and grow our economy here,” said Ned Savage, an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Mountain Music Trail.

Stay tuned for more: West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Mountain Stage will be working in the coming months to tell more stories along the Mountain Music Trail.

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