Reviving the Long Way Home: City holds public forum to discuss new historic drama

RADFORD – City leaders are inviting the community to get a conversation started about the possibility of developing a new outdoor drama in Radford, telling the iconic survival story of Mary Draper Ingles.

The “Community Conversation” will be held Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Radford City Council Chambers.

The story of the intrepid Ingles making her way back home to the New River Valley after being captured by American Indians could be a great tourism draw, said Radford Tourism Committee member Catherine Van Noy recently. Ingles’ story was the subject of the outdoor drama, The Long Way Home, from 1971 to 1999 at the Ingles homestead in Radford.

Van Noy, also chair of the Radford Cultural Heritage Project, says the “story of the frontierswoman continues to capture the imagination of not only Virginians but also visitors from across the country.” Potential visitors often call the Radford Visitors Center and the Radford Chamber of Commerce asking if the Long Way Home is still being performed, she added. The original drama drew thousands to the city during its run and maintains special designation from the General Assembly as the official Historical Outdoor Drama.

“Our commission sees this project as a key component of ongoing tourism efforts and is working with other community partners, including the Radford Heritage Foundation,” says Van Noy. Although the effort began as a campaign to raise monies for a statue honoring Mary, it became apparent there were opportunities for a much larger project that could have a very positive economic impact on the city and the region, adds Van Noy.

The Cultural Heritage effort received a major boost in 2010 when Norfolk Southern Corp. donated 1.37 acres of land between Radford’s Glencoe Museum and the New River and most recently when the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency awarded $30,000 to the group for lighting, interpretive signage and fencing. The Commission and the Radford Heritage Foundation also have applied to the Appalachian Regional Commission for funds to construct a small amphitheatre and walking trails on the donated property.

Doug Jackson from Virginia’s Dept. of Housing and Community Development will facilitate the public forum. Council Chambers are located in the municipal building at 10 Robertson St. For more information, contact Deb Cooney, Tourism Director, at (540) 267-3153 or email: dcooney@radford.va.us.

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