CRAIG COUNTY – Tourists passing through Virginia’s Western Highlands Region will soon have connections to additional destination points of interest in Craig County and the counties of Alleghany, Bath and Highland, thanks to “trail blazing” efforts of the Artisans Center of Virginia.
The first Craig County members signed up to be listed on the trail April 2 when Sherri Smith, executive director of the Artisans Center of Virginia, toured the county with representatives of the Craig County Tourism Commission.
Virginia’s Western Highlands Artisan Trail will connect the four counties by linking stops on trails highlighting artists, crafters and agribusinesses similar to the Monticello Artisan Trail for Nelson and Albemarle counties for which Smith had a glossy, four-color brochure.
The first person to sign up for the trail that features Craig County was oil painter Therese Squires of New Castle, who signed as an artist. Squires and her husband, David, also run Country Squires Inn Bed & Breakfast. Therese Squires has her artisan sign displayed at the inn in New Castle.
Sue Bostic was the second to sign up, listing her business, Joe’s Trees, under the agri-artisan category and also as an artisan stop. “I’m excited about the Artisans Trail and am expanding the retail space at the tree farm so we can carry more Craig County products from local artists who don’t want to be individually involved,” Bostic said.
Stops on the tour that day were Swinging Bridge Restaurant in Paint Bank, Huffman House Bed & Breakfast near Newport, lunch at Wilderness Adventure camp, the Old Brick Hotel in New Castle that is run by the Craig County Historical Society, and Black Diamond Ranch.
According to Craig County Tourism Commission Chairman Diane Givens, the Monticello Artisan Trail in Albemarle and Nelson counties “is a great example of what our trail could become. Their brochure showcases 96 destination listings, including points of interest, lodging and restaurants.”
Craig County Supervisor Fred Craft said he believes the trail will be a benefit to the county.
“It’s absolutely great. Our little county is dominated by the federal government. This trail will give us a shot in the arm. I believe it will catch on,” said Craft, who was at the lunch gathering with Craig County Administrator Richard Flora and Administrative Assistant Suzanne Holth.
Givens continued: “Craig County has a lot of potential. We have contacted several artisans, but we suspect there are many cottage crafters out there that we don’t know about.” Givens said the Craig County Tourism Commission would like to invite anyone who is a crafter to check out this opportunity to see if they could benefit by joining this trail.
“We are currently working on the brochure which will be placed in visitor centers and craft stores all over the state.” Givens said. “While participants are welcome to join the trail on an ongoing basis, if you are at all interested in being listed in the brochure, May 15 is the deadline to sign up.”
There will be space in the brochure for a minimum of 35 artisans from each of the four counties. Anyone interested who has questions as to whether your business will qualify should contact Givens at 540 864-5004 or go by the Craig County Administrator’s Office to get forms and copies of the Monticello Trail brochure. The county administrator’s office is located in the old Jailhouse at the corner of Rt. 615 and Court Street.
The Craig County Public Library will also be a point of contact for information and computer access, Givens said.
The Artisan Trail Network with its community loops is designed to attract visitors to artisan studios, Agri-artisan farms and local craft businesses according to Smith. Trail participation is open to Virginia artisans, farms and craft venues that are members of the ACV and meet certain criteria.
Smith said statistics based on similar trails in western North Carolina show that 97 percent of travelers make a purchase somewhere along the trail. Artisan studios and farms have shown an increase of 23 percent in sales, and craft shops and galleries reported a 28 percent increase in revenue.
This program defines a Craft Artisan as an individual who makes hand-crafted objects without the use of kits or commercial models and whose primary components are not manufactured. An Agri-Artisan is defined as an agricultural-based Virginia business that relies on natural resources of the land such as family farms, vineyards, wineries, breweries, orchards, organic farming and roadside stands.
For more information, visit the Artisans Center of Virginia at www.ArtisanTrailNetwork.com to see other trails around the state. Information on the trail that includes Craig County is on the county website at www.craigcountyva@gov.