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Washington County Offers Residents Ways to Connect

Community offers many opportunities to connect

By Kari Kynard Ridge on March 2, 2018

Washington County, VA
Washington County / Courtesy of Barter Theater

With a thriving arts scene, a diversity of restaurants, outdoor recreation and dozens of opportunities for community involvement, Washington County residents of all ages can engage and connect with neighbors.

Cameron Bell grew up here and moved back to Abingdon in 2001 after finishing law school. Now an attorney at PennStuart and part-owner of Wolf Hills Brewing Company, Bell said the area is a great place to raise his son Jackson, 17, and daughter, Lillian, 14.

“The attraction of Abingdon and Washington County has always been the friendliness and creativity of the people,†Bell says. “Top-notch music, art, food and activities are available here, no matter how ‘small’ it is.â€

Among those top-notch arts offerings is the nonprofit William King Museum of Art, which hosts a diversity of fine international art and cultural heritage exhibits. Live performances of comedies, musicals, classics and original productions are on tap at the historic Barter Theatre.

“The Barter played a big role in our decision to move here,†says Joe Straten, who relocated to the area in 2002 with his wife, Clara. “Abingdon is a small town with big town amenities.â€

The Arts Depot, a nonprofit community-based art gallery, provides studio space and several exhibitions each year, and is home to the annual Virginia Highlands Festival Juried Fine Art Show. Heartwood is known as the gateway to Southwest Virginia craft, music, food and culture, and hosts dining options, market space for local artisans, a coffee and wine bar, and an events area. Locally made creations can also be found at Holston Mountain Artisans, a member-owned cooperative that preserves and promotes traditional and contemporary arts and crafts from the Appalachian Mountain region.

For indoor entertainment, the Abingdon Cinemall offers the latest blockbusters, independent films and an arcade, with frequent themed activities and movie marathons.

Retiring with Style and Purpose

Washington County is becoming popular with increasing numbers of retirees. Straten lived in 14 states and overseas before he and his wife moved to Abingdon, following a two-year search for their ideal place to retire. While the Stratens now live in a house constructed from reclaimed logs that were originally used to build local barns, there are many housing options specifically for seniors, as well. Commonwealth Senior Living at Abingdon and English Meadows Abingdon Campus are just two examples of the area’s many assisted living facilities and housing for people ages 55 and up.

There also are many volunteering opportunities for seniors and residents of all ages.

“We’ve met so many good people here through volunteering and our involvement with the community,†Straten says.

The Barter Theatre offers a volunteer ushers program, and the William King Museum of Art offers incentives for those who donate their time.

Now in its 31st program year, Leadership Washington County prepares residents of all backgrounds to serve on boards of directors, lead community projects and run nonprofit organizations to help drive the county’s business engine.

Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center runs a College for Older Adults with enrichment courses in everything from computer technology to history. The Community Center of Abingdon offers services and programs for senior citizens, as well as for people of all ages.

Long Stretches of Recreational Opportunities

Many people first learn about Washington County when they’re here walking the Appalachian Trail. But the outdoor activities don’t end with the hiking-only A.T., which stretches 2,190 miles from Maine to Georgia. There’s also the Virginia Creeper Trail, which runs from Abingdon to Damascus and is open year round for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Other popular recreation spots include the 4,836-acre Channels Natural Area Preserve, South Holston Lake, indoor and outdoor activities at the Harry L. Coomes Recreation Center, and several local golf courses and fishing holes.

Diversity of Dining Options

The area’s diverse, locally owned restaurants appeal to all ages. Joel and Vanessa Jerkins own two local restaurants: JJ’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, and Bobo McFarland’s, with their new Papa Tom’s Cantina scheduled for a spring 2018 opening in Abingdon. The couple says the many restaurants in Washington County contribute to the area’s vibrancy.

“The more businesses that open around us, the better we’ll all be,†Joel says. “This area is growing – people are hungry for things you get in bigger cities and we have a diversity of shops. There are a lot of opportunities here.â€

Other popular eateries include Chef Heathers, 128 Pecan, and The Tavern in Abingdon, Mojo’s Trailside Café and Coffee in Damascus, and the Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview.

“The attraction of Abingdon and Washington County has always been the friendliness and creativity of the people. Top-notch music, art, food and activities are available here, no matter how ‘small’ it is.â€

Cameron Bell
Local attorney and business owner
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