By Kelsey Bartlett
The Salem Museum can add another page to its history book, as Senator Tim Kaine made a pit stop on Monday during the third day of his tour across Southwest Virginia.
His trip began in Abingdon on Saturday night where he attended the Songwriters Festival, which was hosted by Richard Leigh, a national songwriter at Virginia Highlands Community College. He spent Sunday hiking Mt. Rogers National Recreational Area with his wife, Anne, who is a Roanoke native, and whose father, Abner Linwood Holton Jr., served as governor from 1970 to 1974.
Since his tour coincided with the holiday, it was a hectic, but rewarding Memorial Day for Kaine. He planned several stops in Marion earlier that afternoon. There, he observed a Memorial Day Parade and attended a picnic and ceremony at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4667. He was also able to witness some new and exciting projects come to fruition.
“We visited an old elementary school that they’re renovating in Marion to turn into the Wayne Henderson School of Appalachian Arts,” said Kaine. “They’ll open Friday, and it’s going to be a magnificent facility.”
On his trek to Salem, Kaine was also able to witness a project that is close to his heart, and that he began working on earlier in his political career.
“When I was governor, we started working with Congressman Boucher,” said Kaine. “He got the funding and the operating money for the state’s newest veterans cemetery, which is in Pulaski. I was there for the groundbreaking, but I had not seen it, so we went back there this afternoon before we came here.”
Although Kaine has many ideas regarding places in Virginia he would like to visit, such as the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, which he decided to visit during his trip to Hampton Roads, Kaine credits his staff as his main source of inspiration.
Such was the case for his trip to the Salem Museum, which he heard about from the regional director of his Roanoke office.
“This is good staff work,” said Kaine. “Gwen (Mason), who runs my Roanoke office, has been saying to me, ‘Hey, when you’re down here sometime, you should do this.”’
A small gathering was at the museum to greet Kaine, including Salem Mayor Randy Foley. Salem Museum Director John Long escorted Kaine from room to room for a grand tour of each exhibit in the historical building, which was founded in 1845. Kaine was particularly impressed with the building itself, which has been renovated for its modern purpose, and utilizes every inch of space.
The museum currently displays modern work from Salem High School art students in one of its ground floor galleries. However, as the tour goes on, the history grows deeper. From early Salem artifacts, to Civil War memorabilia, art by Walter Biggs, and the display of Salem’s once popular, now demolished, Lakeside Amusement Park, Kaine was quickly given a taste of Salem’s rich history.
“I think it’s impressive. I’ve been to a lot of local history museums around the state, and this is one of the best in terms of the way that they’ve done the displays,” said Kaine. “I think that it’s a really smart way to instead of do the chronology of the town, tell the story about people from different areas, and I really liked it.”
The visit was capped off by refreshments, including beer from Salem’s own Parkway Brewery, which Kaine liked.
“I love Factory Girl beer. I had not had a beer from Parkway at all,” said Kaine. “I like the book Factory Man (written by Roanoke’s Beth Macy), and when I had heard that they had done Factory Girl, which I think I also learned from Gwen, I was like I’ve got to try it. So now, next visit, I’ve got to go by the brewery itself.”
Kaine made a few stops in the valley on Tuesday before heading to Hampton Roads. Today, Kaine will head north to visit Richmond and Northern Virginia to continue his statewide tour.