Southwest Virginia Culture: From the NRV Fair to FloydFest

Disclaimer:  This post  is not intended to show favoritism for one event style or another, nor is it to make fun of the people who choose to attend one event over the other.  This is all about fun and is a lighthearted comparison of the Fair and FloydFest.

It is also not a journal of my time at FloydFest (which was amazing!).  I have become a fan of Michael Franti and his way of thinking and living:  What a great experience this festival was!

Now … on with the post!

I certainly never intended to spend so many years living in southwest Virginia.  Even still, I sure do have a good time here.

For much of my life, I have dreamed of living out west and anyone who knows me has heard me talk about my love for northern Idaho and western Montana.  While not perfect, and we all know there is no perfect place, this part of Virginia has an abundance of beautiful natural areas to explore and I surely can’t complain about my 8 minute, traffic free commute.

But what about the culture, people often ask.  How do you manage without the shopping, the nightlife, the restaurants, the culture?  I do admit to wishing for more diversity in restaurants.  It gets tiring choosing from the same places time and time again, and because of that, it’s a rare thing to find me  eating in a chain restaurant when I leave SWVA.  Shopping I can do online or when I travel to more urban areas, and nightlife, in my opinion, is what you make of the places and the friends that surround you.

For example, I loved the pub crawl through Roanoke with Ruth and Ralph this past Friday.  We were able to walk from one place to the next, exploring the revitalization of Kirk Ave and the Patrick Henry Hotel, while at the same time soaking up the beer, food and music of this small SWVA city.


First Stop: Blue Five                                                     Second Stop: Martin’s Bar and Grill


The Penny Deux Lounge in the Patrick Henry was the Third Stop, followed by Fork in the Market, the final stop

Friends would come and go as we walked from one place to the next and I had a great time meeting new people and enjoying new experiences.  Yes, I had to drive 45 minutes to get to Radford when the crawl was done, but the significant amount of water I drank before heading home assured that I arrived safely.

So what does a Roanoke Pub Crawl have to do with the NRV Fair and FloydFest?  Nothing really, but since I’m writing about culture in this part of the state, I decided to mention it.

So last Wednesday, I went with friends to the New River Valley Fair to play Bingo and to experience the sites and sounds of the county fair in Pulaski (I never did play bingo).

Then yesterday, I spent the day with friends in Floyd County at FloydFest 11, an outdoor music festival that features roots and progressive music from around the world.

What a contrast in styles and missions!  But there are similarities too.  One of which is that both events require us to get outside and mingle with others.  Garrison Keillor said this about attending a fair (National Geographic, July 2009):

“American life tends more and more to put you in front of a computer screen in a cubicle, and then into a car and head you toward home in the suburbs, where you drive directly into the garage and step into your kitchen without brushing elbows with anybody. People seem to want this, as opposed to urban tumult and squalor. But we have needs we can’t admit, and one is to be in a scrum of thinly clad corpulence milling in brilliant sun in front of the deep-fried-ice-cream stand and feel the brush of wings, hip bumps, hands touching your arm (“Oh, excuse me!”), the heat of humanity with its many smells (citrus deodorant, sweat and musk, bouquet of beer, hair oil, stale cigar, methane), the solid, big-rump bodies of Brueghel peasants all around you like dogs in a pack, and you—yes, elegant you of the refined taste and the commitment to the arts—are one of these dogs”.  

So True!  Many people told me that they wouldn’t set foot in that county fair (Oh no! The Rednecks!)  Others told me that they couldn’t imagine going to FloydFest (No way! The Hippies!).  Folks go to the fair for the rides, the food, the contests, the produce and the animals, and to shop at the vendor stalls.  Folks go to FloydFest for the music, the food (and drink), the connecting and loving, the camping, the parties, and to shop at the vendor stalls.

You might want to instinctively argue that there are no similarities; that someone who goes to one event, would not go to the other.  I know for sure that someone will (me!) and I am quite sure that there are others as well.

One big difference between the two events is the cost!! It was FAR less expensive to spend an evening at the fair!  FloydFest requires a significant amount of ready cash.  On the other hand, I was not able to get beer and wine at the fair and, believe me, a cold beer would have tasted great after a long, hot evening at the fairground.

Consider what both events have to offer:



Elephant Ears, Funnel Cakes and Deep Fried Oreos at the NRV Fair


Black Bean / Chicken Quesadillas, Fried Egg Sandwiches, and Coconut Curry Tofu at FloydFest

Fashion for Sale


NRV Fair                                                           FloydFest



NRV Fair                                                              FloydFest


NRV Fair                                                            FloydFest



Bingo at the NRV Fair                                                            Carrom at FloydFest



NRV Fair



“Patriotism” (sort of)


NRV Fair                                                            FloydFest

Blowing in the Wind


NRV Fair                                                                                     FloydFest

Flying High


The Cliff Hanger at the Fair                                                  Trapeze Artists at FloydFest


I found two of my most favorite things at both events.  The first favorite was my friends.  I am truly a fortunate woman to have such diverse, energetic, loving, and FUN people to spend the days and evenings with!  I’m grateful to Sarah for serving as DD for the NRV Fair adventure, and to Greg for getting Shelly and me to FloydFest and back safely!


Dianna, Vanessa, Juli, and Whitney                               With Sarah, our DD


Jessica and Colton (in the cab with Sarah) joined in on the fun – but not on the mechanical bull!


Amy and Dianna enjoying a Deep Fried Oreo                Peacock and I enjoying a cold beer


Greg and Shelly                                                                           Rick and Kristie


Christine  …                                                                                     and the girls!


Another favorite thing became visible towards the end of each day.  The moon … and it was shining brightly over both places!!


Pulaski County                                         Floyd County

So … Goodnight Moon!  Until next year, where I feel sure you might find me spending time in both Pulaski and Floyd Counties.

10 thoughts on “Southwest Virginia Culture: From the NRV Fair to FloydFest

  1. This is a great blog post. The photos of the festivals are awesome — and you could swap the captions and no one would know the difference!! Nicely done.
    And I LOVE both the New River Valley Fair and FloydFest — and not in some snarky, ironic, condescending way, either. Both are terrific.

  2. Loved, loved, loved this post. The contrasting photos were a touch of brilliance, and the categories you chose were unique (like patriotism and the moon 🙂 And thanks for the link to Michael Franti. I played his music while reading your post!

Because Boomdee dared me: Lay a little sugar on me :-)

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