The stop light at the intersection of Highway 8 and Highway 221 in Floyd Virginia, population 425, has the distinction of being the only stop light in all of Floyd County. It does a pretty good job of managing traffic most days, with the exception of Friday nights.
On Friday nights, the county sheriff brings out orange traffic cones, flash lights and whistles. Sometimes things get so out of control that traffic on Main Street stops entirely.
That’s when the population of Floyd grows ten-fold as blue grass and old-time country music fans descend on this little town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Crowds congregate around clusters of musicians who seem to have been transplanted from an old episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Banjos, fiddles, dulcimers and guitars generate a rhythm that simply will not let feet stand still. Hands slap on thighs, toes tap and bodies of all ages jiggle in that distinctive “flat-footin’” folk dance.
Traveling the Crooked Road Music Trail
Floyd is a primary destination on what the state of Virginia has defined as The Crooked Road, a music heritage trail that winds 300 miles throughout the western tip of the state. But don’t think this is some backwater community stuck in another era. Just across the street from the Floyd Country Store, which hosts live music all weekend long, Tibetan prayer flags wave in the breeze outside of a shop selling hemp. A woman in dreadlocks hops out of a pick-up truck advertising yurts for sale. Another truck parked nearby boasts a faded “John Kerry for President” bumper sticker.
Floyd is a colorful combination of cultures where liberals and conservatives enjoy one another’s company at the Farmers’ Market, area art galleries and the magnificent Chateau Morrisette winery and restaurant. Independent restaurants such as the Pine Tree Tavern, serving family-style fried chicken dinners since 1927, are as popular with locals as the vegan offerings at Oddfella’s Cantina and Tapas.
The Republic of Floyd
All of Floyd County is saturated with mom and pop businesses – from apple and alpaca farms to honeybee sanctuaries and vineyards. An artisan trail links together potters, papermakers, woodworkers and fiber artists.
Driving the pleasant country roads to these sometimes remote studios, galleries and farms is an exercise in relaxation all seasons of the year.This is a nugget of the world that celebrates individuality and independence, where non-conformity exists without commentary, but tradition is rooted as deeply as the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves.
As one quirky store has proclaimed, and made a bit of a fortune with T-shirts and bumper stickers spreading the message – “This is the Republic of Floyd.”