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‘LOVE’ sign goes up in Ararat

ARARAT, Va. — There is always room for more love in the world, including in Ararat where that word is now prominently displayed in a highly decorative way on the front of Willis Gap Community Center.

This did not occur through a desire to promote romance or this month’s celebration of Valentine’s Day, but this week’s official unveiling of the newest sign in Virginia’s LOVEworks program.

It is a statewide branding initiative designed to promote historic life experiences across the Commonwealth and strengthen awareness of the longtime “Virginia is for Lovers” message.

The new LOVE sign at Willis Gap Community Center which was welcomed during a special unveiling program Wednesday afternoon recognizes the center’s presence as a key stop along The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. The Crooked Road is a 330-mile driving trail through the mountains of Southwest Virginia which connects nine major venues and more than 60 affiliated locations and festivals that visitors can enjoy each day of the year.

That includes the Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam, a weekly series ongoing since the 1990s which showcases multiple musical genres including Appalachian heritage old-time, bluegrass, country and gospel. Musicians and singers of all skill levels are welcome at the Friday night performances that have become popular with fans.

Wednesday’s unveiling event celebrating travel and tourism in Ararat included officials representing the community center, Patrick County Tourism Department and others, according to information from Mary Dellenback Hill, secretary of the Willis Gap Community Center Board of Directors.

Sign honors musical heritage

Hill has been a member of Willis Gap Community Center for more that 20 years and also is involved in local tourism efforts to promote the Ararat area.

She lent her artistic talents to the center by designing the new LOVE sign that incorporates a musical theme featuring imagery of instruments.

A depiction of an upright bass forms the letter “L,” The Crooked Road logo the “O,” a leaned-over mandolin and fiddle the “V,” with a musical note resembling an “E” completing the word LOVE.

After all board members at the center approved Hill’s design, she sent the concept to David Stanley of SilverLivingDesign, who created a computer image for it that allowed the finished product to be made at another business called SignSpot.

Wednesday afternoon’s program included remarks by Patrick County Tourism Director James Houchins, who also read a statement in honor of the occasion from Carrie Beck, the executive director of Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Hill related.

“The Crooked Road is excited for this unique LOVE sign in Patrick County,” it reads. “The passion of Willis Gap Community Center’s Open Jam leaders and participants is evident in their love for heritage music.”

Beck added that “there is a long history of pickers and legends that have been in this building, so this sign is an amazing way to showcase their pride in this event. The Crooked Road is thrilled to have partners in the region that make heritage music every week with such dedication and thinks that the LOVE sign is a true beacon for Ararat and the Dan River District of Patrick County.”

Otto and Nellie Hiatt began the open jams in their home, according to Hill, which became so large that the sessions had to be moved to Willis Gap Community Center at 144 The Hollow Road.



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