Six travel writers visited Marlinton last Friday to hear some old-time music and learn about local attractions. The journalists were part of a larger group being hosted at a conference in Charleston by Travel South USA, a coalition of state tourism offices. Attendees signed up for optional pre-conference visits and six selected a “Spirits and Music” tour of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.
Prior to their arrival at the Pocahontas County Opera House, the group visited the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs and the Smooth Amber distillery in Maxwelton. The writers enjoyed a catered lunch at the Opera House, listened to a performance by Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters, and browsed the wares at Fourth Avenue Gallery and Richardson’s Hardware. The Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) provided information on local attractions and a shopping bag full of small gifts and discount coupons for future visits.
P.J. Thomas, of Philadelphia, founder of Pathfinders Travel magazine, was impressed by the music.
“I just left the Opera House and was just blown away by the music – by the historic string music and how they’re working to preserve the history and the heritage and the culture of the area,” she said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”
Thomas said she would recommend trips to Pocahontas County in her magazine.
“Oh, for sure,” she said. “You know, coming out of Philadelphia, you need the opportunity to de-stress. What’s better to de-stress than to spend time with Mother Nature?”
Thomas learned much during her visit.
“I learned several things,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of Snowshoe. I was certainly not aware of the history of the music and its evolution, from the mountain music to the bluegrass to the country music of today. Jake Crack was explaining that to me. Each stop that we’ve been doing today has just been a great learning experience.”
Gwen Woolf, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, a leisure writer for Recreation News, described what makes West Virginia different from the Old Dominion.
“The scenic beauty is breathtaking out here,” she said. “Today, I really gained an appreciation for the mountain music. I guess I’ve never really listened to it before. I loved the humor and rhythms and everything. I was very impressed.”
Annette Thompson is a freelance travel writer from Birmingham, Alabama.
“It’s been a very enjoyable and illuminating trip,” she said. “I’ve traveled in West Virginia before, but I’ve not been to some of the places we went to today. Unfortunately, we’re moving very quickly and only getting a taste of them, so it’s inspiring me to plan to return to delve a little deeper. I keep a packed schedule, so it’s not going to be in the next six months, but I’ll be coming back.”
Mac Lacy, of Lexington, Kentucky, president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader, Inc., came for the music.
“I associate West Virginia with a lot of really authentic music,” he said. “That’s why I did this tour. I am a music buff. I like Appalachian music. I like the music that came across the mountains and into Kentucky. So I’m a fan. The lunch we just had and the entertainment – I absolutely loved it. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.”
Lacy noted a dramatic difference between The Greenbrier resort of 15 years ago and today.
“I stayed at The Greenbrier with my family on my way to a wedding, probably 15 years ago,” he said. “What the new owners have done with The Greenbrier is remarkable. It was a little tired when we stayed there. But we were there this morning and it is just absolutely beautiful – elegant. We’ll definitely come back.”
CVB Director Cara Rose was pleased with the visit.
“People left smiling,” she said. “They enjoyed the entertainment. They were asking questions and taking pictures. Without doubt, it was very successful today.”
The writers returned to Charleston for a three-day conference, which showcased a variety of tourist attractions throughout the South.