ABINGDON, Va. — If you’re one of the many families who has opted to stay at home this summer due to spiking cases of COVID-19, take heart.
A vacation right in your backyard is only a click away.
You can take a virtual vacation without leaving the comfort of your couch, said Nicole Childress, executive director of Abingdon Main Street, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make the downtown a vibrant, welcoming place.
Childress is creating a unique event in October for local residents, tourists and anyone who loves Abingdon.
“The Abingdon Main Street Virtual Vacation will feature an itinerary of activities, places and events that make Abingdon special,” said Childress.
As many as 30 videos will air on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages throughout the event, where the viewer will be able to experience Abingdon in the form of videos, blogs and photos.
“We’re thinking about what your vacation would look like if you came to Abingdon. You might have breakfast, go on a bike ride on the Creeper Trail and check out some shops, followed by a show at the Barter Theatre,” said Childress.
“But you’re not going to do all those things at one time. So we will post videos of events, staggered throughout each day so you can get a real-time experience.”
Participants can follow Abingdon Main Street on social media to see the events go live on Oct. 9-11.
“It’s a free event, but there will be lots of opportunities to support downtown by making a donation to Abingdon Main Street and ‘tipping’ the performers, artists, partners and businesses involved,” said the director.
An itinerary will be posted starting in October to let viewers know when to tune in.
To ensure high quality, many of the events will be prerecorded, but Childress said some scenes may be live, such as Plein Air Abingdon, an event produced by the Virginia Highlands Festival that will feature painters creating outdoors in Abingdon on the morning of Oct. 10.
Virtual vacation includes painting, yoga classes
For the month of September, Childress and her team will be out creating content for this event.
“We are focusing in the downtown Main Street footprint but also recording videos around town because Abingdon is a great hub for Southwest Virginia.”
Some of the events featured in the virtual vacation include a mini yoga class by Willow Tree Wellness; a tour of The Arts Depot and its resident artist studios; craft demonstrations from Holston Mountain Artisans; a ghost tour with Abingdon’s Haint Mistress Donnamarie; a shuttle to Whitetop from the Creeper Trail Bike Shop and then a bike ride along the Creeper Trail; and spotlight features of downtown shops.
“A lot of people don’t realize that for about $20 you can get a shuttle ride to Whitetop and bike down,” Childress said.
“We’re also going to do a mini tour of Hidden Valley Lake, which is a beautiful lake on top of the mountain that offers great hiking and rock climbing.”
Hana Eichin, owner of A Spot of Color in Abingdon, is hosting a painting class, allowing participants to purchase a kit full of art supplies and a pre-sketched canvas for viewers to paint while watching the video at home.
The virtual vacation will include videos of local bands, with Midnight Pony performing at Wolf Hills Brewing Co. and Adam Bolt at the Abingdon Vineyard & Winery.
“There are many other surprises that we have in store for this event. There also are some perks if you’re local,” said Childress. “You’ll be able to enjoy the sidewalk sales and specials and see live painting at Plein Air Abingdon. If you’re not local or you’re just homesick for Abingdon, you’ll find out more about what you want to see when you come visit.”
Get to know small business owners
Childress said the virtual vacation is far more than a marketing tool for the small businesses in town.
“I hope the event will give locals and tourists alike an opportunity to get to know the small business owners and others in the town.
“We plan to do profiles of store owners and let them tell their stories so people can get to know them personally, not just what they are selling,” she said.
“This will allow people to connect authentically with the wonderful people who make up our community and show them everything we have to offer. We hope this will encourage them to shop local. The businesses you choose to support are the businesses that we will be able to retain post-COVID. Shopping online or buying a gift certificate could make a big difference.”
The virtual vacation is also designed to be a fundraising event for Abingdon Main Street.
Each event, blog post and photo posted will have links to websites for shops or attractions, as well as a PayPal donation link.
Donations will support Abingdon Main Street, and portions will be earmarked toward supporting partner organizations, artists and businesses in the project.
“We realize that putting on a virtual event doesn’t necessarily guarantee feet on the streets or money in the cash registers of small business,” said Childress.
“Donations also will fund Abingdon Main Street’s Silver Lining Fund, a project through which we have granted funds to support small businesses in updating technology and pivoting their business model during these uncertain times,” Childress said.
When making donations, participants can list a code that is attached to each business, making sure that particular business receives a portion of the money.
“When you donate over $5 using the codes, you’re also entering yourself in raffles for gift certificates and other prizes generously provided by the merchants in our community,” she said.
Childress has arranged for all marketing materials produced from the virtual vacation to be shared with the businesses and partners involved, supplementing their marketing budgets.
“We are partnering with Friends of Southwest Virginia, as well as the Town of Abingdon for marketing help as well as some of the content for the videos.”
All of the videos and photos produced from the virtual vacation will be put into a media library, allowing each partner to access the information for their own marketing needs, she said.
For more information on Abingdon Main Street Virtual Vacation, contact Childress at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at email@example.com.
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