This Year's Virginia Highlands Festival Geared For Youth
Arts-Related Events & More, July 25-Aug 9
By DEBRA McCOWN | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | July 13, 2009*** Published: July 9, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***
ABINGDON, Va. – Youth is the word this year at the Virginia Highlands Festival.
Events planned for kids, teens and families at this year's festival include a family fun day, a camp-out on the Virginia Creeper Trail and an "Abingdon Idol" talent competition.
"We urge you to bring your kids and your grandkids," 2009 Festival President Bob Trent said of this year's event. The festival is in its 61st year.
"We see that the future is the children," said Priscilla Miller, co-chair of youth events.
"We think if they have a good experience at the festival, they'll remember that," said her co-chair Nikki Hicks, "and they'll bring their children back and it'll continue to grow."
Each Saturday of the festival features big activities geared for kids and families.
The Highlands Festival kickoff events July 25 will include a "Kids on Wheels Parade" at 6 p.m. followed by a street party that includes inflatables, games and face-painting.
Saturday, Aug. 1, will be Family Fun day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Latture Field, where activities will include inflatables, a rock wall, visits from Ripley's Aquarium and the Bristol White Sox, and an assortment of games. Balloon-twisting begins at 8:15 p.m. and "Tales of Despereaux," a G-rated, Universal Pictures animated film about a fearless mouse, will be shown on a large inflatable screen at dark, also on Latture Field.
Also on Aug. 1 will be an eco-fair, with live music, local food tastings and family-friendly activities from 1-6 p.m. at the Farmers Market Pavilion.
A camp-out on the Virginia Creeper Trail is planned for Saturday, Aug. 8, complete with kids' activities and a campfire with s'mores.
"It's kind of an urban camping experience," said Steve Lindeman, a member of the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, which is hosting the camping event in conjunction with the town and the festival.
"It's also unique because you're not allowed to camp on the Creeper Trail and once a year they're going to open up that place and allow it to happen."
Specifically for teens, Bill Eberhardt is planning three big events: an "Abingdon Idol" talent contest Aug. 4, a Battle of the Bands on Aug. 5 and an offbeat competition throughout the festival that he describes as "a combination of "The Amazing Race' and "Survivor' " that pits teams against one another in a series of wacky contests.
"These are the kids that are going to come back to be leaders in the community," Eberhardt said about the importance of teen-centered events, which he has worked on over the past few years. "If we don't tell them now that we care about them, what reason do they have to come back [to live in Abingdon]?"
Trent, the 2009 festival president, said with the recession it wouldn't surprise him to see a drop in sales of more-expensive art and craft items compared to last year's event – but he anticipates lower-priced items will sell as always.
Meanwhile, he said, the added focus on family-friendly activities will help get local folks downtown for fun events that don't require them to spend a lot of money.
Virginia Highlands Festival
When: July 25-Aug. 9
Festival office: (276) 623-5266.