Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 29, 2013

Thousands come to Burke’s Garden to enjoy good things in the valley

BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BURKE’S GARDEN, Va. — The mountain valley known as “God’s Thumbprint” was filled with as much beauty, excitement and warmth as the community could muster as thousands of people came out to enjoy an absolutely beautiful fall day at the 26th annual Burke’s Garden Fall Festival.

“I have been to Bluefield a few times before, but this is my first visit to Burke’s Garden,” Emily Rea of Athens, Ga., said. “It’s really beautiful.” Rea is a granddaughter of Walter and Emily Sanders, the owners of the historic Sanders House in Bluefield, Va.

There was a festive atmosphere throughout the valley, with several residents and some businesses drawing crowds of visitors, but the majority of activities were centered around the Burke’s Garden Community Center. During the past few years, the community has developed a museum of the community’s fascinating history including documents, photographs and artifacts. Some vendors also took up temporary residence inside the center for the day.

“It was nice being here when it was cool this morning,” Adda Leah Davis, author and owner of Golden Harvest Creations said. Davis lives in Rosedale, Va., and travels to area festivals to visit with her books and other creations. Davis and North Tazewell, Va., author, Linda Hudson Hoagland, were side-by-side, visiting with readers and introducing others to their books where Southwest Virginia itself is always present.

“I think it’s a good festival to visit,” Hailey Cox, 10, of Ghent said after her sister, father and mother designated her to be the family spokesperson. “I liked the alpacas, but I like everything. I was here before for the Varmint race, but not to be in the race. This is good because I’m studying the Civil War right now.” Cox is a student of Ghent Elementary School.

“The Yankees are coming! The Yankees are coming!” Mindy Blume shouted into the microphone at the Community Center stage during her presentation of Molly Tynes, a young lady from the Gratton community of Tazewell County, Va., who rode through Burke’s Garden to Wytheville, Va., on July 18, 1863, to warn the Confederate defenders of Union Army that was advancing on Wytheville to destroy the railroad.

Blume followed a performance by the Suzuki Strings of Appalachia on the same stage. “We have 27 students in the school ranging in ages from 4 to adult, but the group here today is from 4 to 14 years old,” Jam McClure, director of the Tazewell, Va., based school said. “This is a great opportunity for the students to show their talents.”

Jean and Don Rupley are originally from New Jersey, but about 10 years ago when Don retired from the military, they moved to Burke’s Garden.

“We’ve been all over the world and this is my favorite place,” Jean Rupley said. The Rupleys are from Atlantic City, N.J., but lived in Germany, Italy, Florida, Colorado among other places during Don Rupley’s military career. “The people here are wonderful and this is the scenery I see every day,” Jean Rupley said as she pointed across the valley into the general direction of their home.

Along with enjoying the community, the Rupleys are both members of the Burke’s Garden Volunteer Fire Department auxiliary.

—  Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com