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Record number of sponsors, vendors welcome hikers to trail festival in Damascus

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Damascus Trail Days

Hikers enter Damascus, Virginia, during the 2021 Trail Days event. This year’s festival marks the 35th anniversary of Appalachian Trail Days.

DAMASCUS, Va. — Celebrating its 35th anniversary, this year’s Appalachian Trail Days is shaping up to possibly be the biggest one yet, according to Julie Kroll, recreation program director for the town of Damascus.

“We have a record number of sponsors and vendors, a long list of events and music packed throughout the weekend,” said Kroll.

The annual event, which celebrates the Appalachian Trail and the thru-hiker culture, is May 13-15 in downtown Damascus, a place that earned its fame from the seven nationally known trails that intersect within the town limits, making Damascus “Trail Town USA.”

“Trail Days is the biggest event of the year for Damascus,” said Kroll.

So many people come back to Trail Days each year to experience a sense of community.

“The town goes from about 800 residents to 20,000 people for the weekend,” she said.

The free, family-friendly event attracts thru-hikers who catch shuttles in from towns as far as two hours away. Past-year hikers come to town to reunite with trail friends.

Volunteers come from across the Southeast United States to support the Trail Days Ministry Team, an organization that ministers to hikers and other visitors who come to Damascus for the event. The team offers hikers services including haircuts, showers and laundry service.

Many crowd-pleasing events will return to this year’s Trail Days, including gear and craft vendors, nonprofit trail partners and numerous lectures, workshops and live music. Local businesses will offer event specials throughout downtown Damascus.

The following list of events represents only a few of the activities planned for the 2022 Trail Days. For a full schedule of events, visit www.VisitDamascus.org. Follow Trail Days on Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, May 13

“My New Favorites,” which features a mixture of honky-tonk and Appalachian music, will perform from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the gazebo in the town park.

Sam Collie & the Roustabouts, blues and soul musicians, will take the stage from 3 to 5 p.m.

Donnie and the Dry Heavers have a fresh take on the musical stylings of the indie rock and jam band genre. They will perform from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Rock and roll outfit Fritz & Co. with special guests will perform from 8 to 10 p.m.

Saturday, May 14

A Trail Days hiker parade is at 2 p.m. with a lineup beginning at 1:30 p.m. in front of Sundog Outfitter.

A Trail Days live auction is 3 p.m. at the gazebo in the town park. Outdoor gear, crafts, books, lodging, bike shuttles, meals and other gift certificates will be auctioned. All proceeds go to benefit The Place, a hostel owned by United Methodist Church of Damascus, the oldest hostel on the Appalachian Trail.

A hiker talent show will follow at 4 p.m. at the gazebo in the town park.

A big hit is the ever-popular contra dancing at the Rock School Auditorium. Trail legend Warren Doyle, who has traversed the entire Appalachian Trail a record 18 times, will be the contra dance caller at a dance from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Rock School Auditorium.

Before the dance, a contra dance beginner workshop is 7 to 7:45 p.m. at the Rock School Auditorium.

New this year

Several new activities will be featured this year.

The Damascus Trail Center will host event vendors and programming throughout the weekend. At 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 15, Run Damascus is organizing a 5K race and kids’ run. Carson Peters & Iron Mountain will perform from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday at the main stage in the town park.

Also from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, volunteers can help the Washington County Master Gardeners and Appalachian Trail Conservancy plant a native garden at the Damascus Trail Center.

The title sponsor for 2022 Trail Days is Hyperlite Mountain Gear, an ultralight backpack company popular among thru-hikers.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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