Including Atkins, Chilhowie, Marion, Saltville, and Whitetop

Smyth County


Kaitlyn Baker Project Update

    Over the past several months the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority has worked with Pound native Kaitlyn Baker, an up and coming artist in Nashville, to create a song and music video highlighting the assets and heritage of our beautiful region.

NEW! Southwest Virginia TRAILS brochure. MAPS, PHOTOS and DESCRIPTIONS of

12 Southwest Virginia Hiking, Biking and Horseback Riding Trails! Click here to view online. FREE GUIDES available on request.

Trips close to home: Marion, Va.,
called ‘America’s coolest hometown’
By Clayton Hensley, Special to the News Sentinel


Every Saturday night, thousands of people in East Tennessee and across the country tune in to "Song of the Mountains" on PBS. The showcase of old time Americana and bluegrass music originates from a historic theater along Main Street in Marion, Va.


The Lincoln is one of only a handful of Art Deco Mayan Revival theaters still operating in the United States. It opened in 1929 as a movie theater and then closed twice in the 1970s. In 2004 the Lincoln reopened following a $1.8 million renovation.


This Main Street Marion treasure blends art inspired from an ancient culture with the history of the state of Virginia. This is probably the only place to see Mayan figures and artwork surrounding larger-than-life portraits of Daniel Boone and Gen. Robert E. Lee. The juxtaposition of the artwork provides the perfect setting for performances as well as lessons in history. The historic murals were originally painted at a cost of $50 each, but it took $20,000 each to restore them.


Behind the stage is a wall made of dark bricks, a sharp contrast to the multiple shades of gold throughout the theater. Because there is an alley on the other side of the wall, the stage can't be expanded, and it is more suited to musical acts than theatrical productions. From the stage you can look into the rows of the balcony. Looking closely, you will notice a wall dividing the last couple of rows from the rest. During the renovations, the division was left as a reminder of the era of segregated seating.


The Lincoln Theater's neighbor, the General Francis Marion Inn, provides guests with a mix of elegance and history while they spend the night. The Speakeasy Gastropub inside the hotel serves up creations like Fried Green Tomato BLTs and Sweet Tea Chicken. It's just one place to grab a bite to eat before a show at the Lincoln. Wolf's BBQ, Macado's (a regional chain) and the Wooden Pickle are all part of an expanding menu of options in this small Virginia town. You can even lift your spirits with a visit to the Appalachian Mountain Spirits Mercantile & Stillhouse Store on Main Street. In the back, visitors of legal drinking age can sample the company's award-winning Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine and War Horn Whisky.


While there are many dining options downtown, folks heading out on U.S. 11 will find a real taste of Marion tradition. The Dip Dog stand opened in 1957. A few years later, Interstate 81 was finished and traffic by the stand dropped dramatically. However, the unique version of corn dogs served there remained a local favorite, and the Dip Dog stand is still going strong. In addition to its spin on the corn dog, this greasy spoon offers mouth-watering onion rings and a wide variety of items you would come to expect from a drive-in restaurant.


Marion is also home to a drive-in movie theater. The Park Place Drive-in shows first run movies and offers guests rounds of mini-golf. You can also immerse yourself in art, antiques and local crafts at the Herb House on Pendleton Street.


The crowning jewel of the area lies just a few miles out of town on state Highway 16. Just before the road winds its way through the mountains, the sparkling waters of the lake at Hungry Mother State Park come into view. A white sandy beach stretches out along the shores of the lake. In the summer months, thousands of people head to this "beach" to enjoy the cool waters of this mountain lake. Fishermen and kayakers also come to the park, which offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation and plenty of amazing views.


The name for the park comes from the legend of Molly Marley, an early settler in the region who was taken by Native Americans who ravaged the frontier settlements. Marley was said to have escaped with her child. After collapsing, Molly's child apparently wandered down the mountain looking for help, only being able to tell the people he found the words "Hungry Mother."


Today, the mountain where the legend unfolded is called Molly's Knob. The hike to the top can be a grueling one but offers the reward of a stunning view of the rugged landscape surrounding the park. Just beyond the state park is one of the most popular stretches of road for motorcycle riders. Called "The Back of the Dragon," this 32-mile stretch of road boasts 260 curves and elevations up to 3,500 feet.


Stepping back in time is easy to do in this part of Southwest Virginia. In fact, one town boasts that it has been preserving history for more than 10,000 years. Coming into the town of Saltville from I-81, there is an overlook along Highway 107. The town of about 2,000 stretches along the valley floor where the Saltville River flowed for thousands of years. Eventually, the river backed up, creating a lake and later a marshy area that provided perfect conditions for preserving plant and animal remains. Remnants of the lake and marsh are still clearly visible from the overlook.


Today at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in downtown Saltville, visitors get a chance to see what's been unearthed along with a detailed history of life in the valley. The prizes of the collection are a mastodon skeleton and a woolly mammoth skull and tusks. Both animals roamed the valley floor in the days when the Saltville River flowed. The water and the ground around it were filled with abundant amounts of salt, which attracted a wide variety of animals, and later those deposits of salt would help fuel an army and the industrial revolution.


During the Civil War, the salt deposits helped cement the town's status as the salt capital of the Confederacy. Later, the salt below the soil became a key ingredient the Olin Company's production of chemicals used to make fuel for the Air Force and the U.S. Space program. The Olin Company built homes, schools and stores for workers and Saltville became a company town, much like its coal country counterparts. Gypsum mining also became an important part of Saltville's economy. The mine was one of the deepest of its kind in the country. The mine and the chemical factory are both gone, but Saltville continues to use its historic assets to bring people into town.


While not as well known as its neighbor Abingdon, Marion and the surrounding area is filled with surprises. Marion recently received a top honor from a national marketing firm, which named it "America's Coolest Hometown." It's an image the town seems to be happy with adopting as Marion welcomes people not only to Main Street, but the surrounding area filled with more than 10,000 years of history.



Southeastern Traveler

Travel Photography and Blog by Jason Barnette

Great article on Marion from Jason Barnette!

Smyth County Historical & Museum Society Host Annual Christmas Tree Contest


The Christmas Market in downtown Marion is only weeks away, and the Smyth County Historical & Museum Society are working on their annual Christmas Tree Contest!  Businesses, organizations and families are encouraged to participate, creating their perfectly themed tree! There's no registration to enter and the museum has plenty of trees for you to choose from to decorate! All you'll need to provide is decorations, ornament hooks and an extension cord!


The most popular tree is decided by a People's Choice write-in ballot, and the contest is open to the public during downtown's annual Christmas Market hours, November 18-20th.


If you're interested in decorating a tree for the contest, please contact Brenda Gwyn at (276)783-4269 or El Saunders at (276) 783-4745.

Shop Local & Win Big!

Advertise Local & Save Big!

Join the Smyth County Chamber of Commerce, The Smyth County News, and The Saltville Progress in reminding everyone to Shop Local this holiday season with special editions in both papers.


The Smyth County Chamber of Commerce, The Smyth County News, and The Saltville Progress are giving cash awards for shopping local!


Shoppers will simply shop local November 10th thru December 15th, bring receipts to the Chamber of Commerce or one of ten local drop off locations and wait to win!


Cash prizes will include a $100 prize, and two $50 prizes that will be drawn on December 16th at noon.



If your business would like to remind folks to shop local, check out these amazing rates for Chamber members!


Smyth County News special shop local section: a 3 x 5 (1/8th pg ) color ad is ONLY $55 per ad!  Ads can be run November 23, 26 and December 7 and 14.

The deadline to place an ad for November 23 or 26 is noon on Wednesday, November 16.


Saltville Progress special shop local section:  a 3 x 5 (1/8th pg ) color ad is ONLY $45 per ad!  Ads can be run November 23, 30 and December 7 and 14.

The deadline to place an ad for November 23  is noon on Thursday, November 17.


Ads will offering prime advertising for Black Friday and Shop Local Saturday.


Advertisers will receive additional exposure on the Chamber of Commerce website and social media.


For more information please contact Sarah Gillespie at the Chamber of Commerce 276-783-3161 or, or Cathy Biertzer at The Smyth County news at 276-613-3206 or


Visitor Guide

"Winter Wonderland and
Christmas Tree Exhibit"


The annual Winter Wonderland and Christmas Tree Exhibit at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in Saltville, VA, is now open to the public and will continue through January 4, 2017.  Twenty four Christmas trees, decorated by local businesses, civic organizations, churches, and school groups, can be seen Monday through Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 1-4.


The exhibit also features wreaths made by local people and includes traditional Christmas displays. One tree is reserved for children to decorate with their own ornaments. Children are invited to bring an ornament of their choosing any time the Museum is open and place it on the tree dedicated to children.


Admission to the Winter Wonderland is by donation or is included with paid admission to the Museum.  As with all events and programs at the Museum, members are admitted free. Groups are welcome with advance notice. For details or specific questions call the Museum at 276-496-3633. Set your GPS to 123 Palmer Ave, Saltville, VA. You will leave happy and be glad that you came.

Upcoming Events


Town of Chilhowie Annual Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 1:00 pm

 Parade is from Walton Avenue until Chilhowie High School.


2016 Christmas Bazaar

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Town of Chilhowie is hosting the 2016 Christmas Bazaar from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm at the Old High School in Chilhowie, VA. Immediately following the parade, Santa will be available at the Old High School for pictures! Please bring your own camera.


Nativities from Around the World

Chilhowie United Methodist Church

December 3, 2016 from 12:00-4:00 pm

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see a whole room full of Nativity sets from around the world? Now, you can see just that! Each nativity set will have a card explaining its history. Event is free of charge.


2nd Chilhowie Backpack 5K

December 10, 2016

Kids Fun Run starts at 9:45 am

5K walk/run starts at 10:00 am

 All proceeds will benefit the BackPack Program at Chilhowie Christian Church that feeds over 300 children in eight different schools on the weekends! We will also have a fun run for the younger ones that just can't withstand the 5K distance. Feel free to wear your favorite Christmas attire and running shoes!  Register HERE!


Live Nativity

Chilhowie Christian Church

December 10 & 11, 2016 6:30-9:00 pm

 Come see the nativity brought to life



Henderson School of Appalachian Arts

 Saturday, December 3, 2016 9:00-10:30 am

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 5:30-6:30 pm

Saturday, December 9, 2016 9:00-10:30 am

 For more information, visit


Christmas Along the Crooked Road

The Lincoln Theatre

Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 7:00 pm

 The Kiwanis Club of Marion presents the 6th Annual Christmas Along the Crooked Road featuring Gerald Anderson, Jimmy Edmonds, Wayne Henderson, Steve Lewis, Jeff Little, Josh Scott, The Church Sisters, Spenser Strickland, Helen White, and the Junior Appalachian Musicians.

Tickets are $15 and are available by calling (276) 783-6092.


Quilt Guild

Henderson School of Appalachian Arts

Monday, December 5, 2016 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

 The Heritage Quilt Guild meets every Monday at The Henderson from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Bring your latest project and join the Guild! It is a wonderful day of connecting with other artisans.


Valley Grass Gospel Christmas

Lincoln Theatre

Wednesday, December 7, 7:00-10:00 pm.

 Valley Grass is a local gospel-bluegrass band originating out of Rich Valley Presbyterian Church. The band has performed at numerous venues throughout Southwest Virginia and have made an appearance on Song of the Mountains at The Lincoln Theatre. This will be a special performance in honor of the Christmas season. Tickets will be $8* for adults and $5* for students.

Music Events, Jam Sessions,

Concerts and Festivals

Regional Visitor Center • 408 Whitetop Road • Chilhowie, VA 24319 • I-81, Exit 35

(276) 646-3306 • Toll Free 877-255-9928 •