American folk music exists everywhere, but what we tend to think of as traditional American folk was born in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains and the Piedmont region. Various old-time fiddle and banjo styles practiced there — after they were recorded — influenced virtually all of American popular music. Floyd, Va., lies in the heart of the region, and it’s a place profoundly influenced by this musical tradition.
In Floyd, the music scene converges at the Floyd Country Store, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. Both informal jams and stage concerts are common at the Country Store, and it holds a popular Friday Night Jamboree. The Country Store is also a traditional country store, selling everything from candy to Carhartt clothing.
The town is also home to the County Sales record store, which was formed in the mid-60s during the folk revival, and still serves as a primary outlet for traditional American music, both old and new. In 2003, state tourism promoters started The Crooked Road, a tour of musical communities, including Floyd, on the Blue Ridge.
The living legacy of Floyd’s music brings tourists and musicians to town, but the region has a strong, alternative community that dates back to at least the early 1970s.
“Land prices were cheap, and that was advertised in an early volume of MOTHER EARTH NEWS,” says Fred First, a local author, photographer and columnist for The Floyd Press. “The first wave found that the locals treated newcomers relatively well, and that brought an influx of the ‘alter-natives,’ as some call them now.” According to First, some of these back-to-the-landers were potters, who planted the seeds for what is now a vibrant arts community.
The growing number of people who have moved to the region to join the community includes George and Rain Lipson, who own Green Label Organic, a certified-organic clothing company. “A lot of people have moved from D.C., California, New York,” George says. “And a lot of them are young people who have started new businesses, and they tend to be green businesses.” He lists a few — an organic coffee roaster, a health food store, and a crew of organic growers who supply stores in nearby Roanoke.
Such growth is key to the success of the community. “But,” says First, “a number of concerned people in town realized that we had something that could be lost by growing too fast.” In response, citizens formed the organization SustainFloyd, which aims to “promote an environment that supports sustainable jobs and long-term stewardship in the creative economy and land-based resource sectors.” The group built a new market in Floyd, and has sponsored a farm-to-school program.
With its efforts at sustainable development, commitment to its roots and focus on sustainability, the community is poised to thrive. You can learn more about what Floyd has to offer at www.floydvirginia.com.
Stats: Floyd, Virginia
Median household income: $25,781
Weather: A mild, mountainous climate with mild summers and white winters.
What makes it great: A DIY, back-to-the-land ethic combined with a strong mountain music tradition.
Check out the other towns featured in our 2011 installment of Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.