Appalachian Travel Guide – Bristol, Virginia

For the next installment of the Appalachian Travel Guide, we welcome back Tina Parker who is a Fahe staff member and published poet.

I never gave much thought to country music as a child. Well, I did like the Oak Ridge Boys. Who can resist a tune as catchy “Elvira”?

Growing up I never heard the names of the Carter Family or Jimmie Rodgers. Or, if I did it didn’t register that they are country music legends who launched their careers–and forged the path for modern country music–from my hometown of Bristol, Virginia.

In recent years, my hometown has honed in on this niche and began to promote its heritage. In the 1980s, the main downtown Bristol destination was the multi-level JC Penney’s store I loved to roam as a child. During the ‘90s, the downtown met the same demise as many southern small towns—it became a place to avoid.

No one could have convinced me that by 2014 it would boast a restored, reopened Paramount Theater, a handful of lively restaurants, and a brand new Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

So, should you have the chance to visit Bristol during the winter months, museum admission includes admission to a film festival featuring Appalshop films. Or, if you’d rather plan ahead for a fall trip, December is discount month for purchasing tickets to Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion, a music festival that features a lineup of local and nationally-renowned musicians.

Who knows, you might just bump into me as I venture down State Street, re-discovering a town I thought I knew so well.

Tina and Bristol sign 2013