A tiny treasure box of culture and charm in western Virginia.
By Diana Lambdin Meyer
The stop light at the intersection of Highway 8 and Highway 221 in Floyd, Virginia, has the distinction of being the only stop light in the county. And it does a pretty good job of managing traffic most days, with the exception of Friday nights. It’s then that the population of Floyd grows ten-fold as blue grass and country music fans from around the world descend on this little town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Floyd is a primary destination on what the state of Virginia has dubbed The Crooked Road, a music heritage trail that winds 300 miles throughout the western tip of the state. Banjos, fiddles, dulcimers and guitars generate a rhythm that simply will not let feet stand still. Hands slap on thighs, toes tap and bodies of all ages move in that distinctive “flat-footin’” folk dance. But don’t think this is some backwater community stuck in another era.
Floyd is a colorful combination of cultures where liberals and conservatives enjoy one another’s company at the Farmers’ Market, area art galleries and the magnificent Chateau Morrisette winery and restaurant. Independent restaurants such as the Pine Tree Tavern, serving family-style fried chicken dinners since 1927, are as popular with locals as the vegan offerings at Oddfella’s Cantina and Tapas.
Retail opportunities are an equally unexpected combination of quaint and global. The Farmer’s Supply Store has been around since 1931, offering an enticing collection of tools with which to grow your own food supply. The numerous blooming flowers and abundant gardens ornamenting the lovely custom homes in the region indicate that the farm supply store does a strong business. Just around the corner, you’ll find other stores with a global conscience that offer fair trade and organic products.
Clothing made from hemp sells alongside handmade quilts and lace. Bibbed overalls can be found in more than one store, yet boutiques offering trendy fashions are not to be outdone. All of Floyd County is saturated with mom and pop businesses — from apple and alpaca farms to honeybee sanctuaries and vineyards. An artisan trail links together potters, papermakers, woodworkers and fiber artists. Their work is often highlighted in the guest rooms and public areas of the numerous bed- and-breakfast inns and guest cottages that dot the landscape.
Driving the pleasant country roads to these sometime remote studios, galleries and farms is an exercise in relaxation all seasons of the year. Winters are mild, spring is brilliant, summer intoxicating and autumn is as colorful as the people who live in Floyd County. This is a nugget of the world that celebrates individuality and independence, where non-conformity exists without commentary, but tradition is rooted as deeply as the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves. As one quirky store has proclaimed, and made a bit of a fortune with T-shirts and bumper stickers spreading the message — “This is the Republic of Floyd.”
Population: 425; the entire county has about 15,532 residents
Median household income: $43,741
Median house value: $141,565
For more information: Floyd County Tourism Development Council, VisitFloydVa.com, 504-239-8509