What else could we palm off on Lynchburg
Subject: Other flagging Roanoke Valley institutions, businesses and attractions we may be able to palm off on Lynchburg.
BACKGROUND: Since 2015, the city of Lynchburg, in conjunction with Liberty University, has “stolen” two Roanoke institutions. The first was the Commonwealth Games, founded and held in Roanoke since 1990. The next, announced just last week, was the Miss Virginia Pageant, which has been held in Roanoke since 1953.
The fusty Commonwealth Games had been going downhill at least since 2000. (But we didn’t tell Lynchburg that.) The result was one Lynchburg city official publicly crowed in 2015 about how the Hill City had “Lynchburged” the Star City in taking away the games.
Last week, they took the Miss Virginia Pageant off our hands. Yay! Let’s face it, in recent years the pageant’s glamour has fizzled into little more than a long June weekend of frazzled nerves and sky high anxiety among competitive young women at the Hotel Roanoke and Berglund Center complexes.
Perhaps there are other attractions, businesses and institutions that the savvy folks in Lynchburg might desire to poach, and which Roanoke might like to get rid of. Below is a short list. I would entertain any additions from readers.
Heironimus Department Stores: Founded in 1890, this Roanoke based retail chain was known for its hardworking, moral, ethical and faithful employees, which might make its acquisition attractive to Liberty University. It was acquired by a Texas retailer in 1993 and closed its last store in 2006.
But shhh! Lynchburg doesn’t necessarily know this. The flagship building still stands empty on Jefferson Street in downtown Roanoke. All we’d need to do is stick some mannequins in the windows, dress them in high fashions, stage it for a weekend as if it was still doing bustling business and invite some poaching minded Lynchburgers.
Once we sold them the brand, we could use the proceeds to help Ed Walker buy the old Heironimus building for which he could get historic tax credits to turn it into fancy downtown apartments.
Mill Mountain Zoo: Although Lynchburg has a white carpeted ski slope on Candler Mountain, the Hill City long has suffered under the reputation that it lacks a zoo. 460 as demanding tots chanted, “Zoo! Zoo!” and “Mommy, when are we going to get there?” and “I wanna see the prairie dogs!
Meanwhile, the zoo’s two biggest attractions Frump Frump the elephant and Ruby the Tiger kicked the bucket in 1970 and 2006, respectively. Which means it might be time to let it go.
A zoo on the Liberty University campus is the perfect answer. Of course, they would have to rename it Liberty Zoo liberty for everyone except the poor critters caged there, that is.
We could also slyly suggest the Mill Mountain Zoo Choo is also for sale and market that as Lynchburg’s own excursion railroad, another thing the Hill City lacks.
Happy’s Flea Market: This mercantile hotspot stood along Williamson Road in Roanoke County from 1958 to 2015, when it was declared uninhabitable. It was many things to many different people, depending on who was talking.
Snobs wouldn’t get within three miles of Happy’s. For one thing, it wasn’t always clear where the outside vendors obtained their wares.
But to dedicated fans of small business, it was an icon of laissez faire mercantilism, free enterprise and American hustle and “can do.”
At Happy’s, you could buy rare coins, weapons, antiques, used books, bootleg music, jewelry and the latest cheap knock offs of expensive designer handbags. Few of its stalwart merchants were above dickering.
We could sell it to the Liberty University economics department as a marvelous incubator of free market capitalism.
The Thanksgiving tradition: The Virginia Military Institute Virginia Tech football rivalry dates to 1894, and starting in 1896, most of those games were played in Roanoke. They usually fell on Thanksgiving. For 30 years starting in 1942, the venue was Roanoke’s long revered Victory Stadium.
Some old timers still get misty as they recall the grandeur of cadets from both schools marching stiffly to the venue for the big game on the national holiday.
The last game in the Star City was in 1971, and the last time the two schools faced each other was in 1984 in Norfolk. Victory Stadium was torn down in 2006. (Since around then, the chief Thanksgiving tradition in Roanoke has been the Turkey Trot, a 5K run walk fundraiser for the Rescue Mission.)
But the two teams are slated to square off again in 2026, which gives us ample time to sell it to Liberty U. We might even be able get them to buy one day rights to the name Victory Stadium. Wouldn’t this be a marvelous Thanksgiving Day tradition in Lynchburg?
The Mountain Valley Pipeline: Lynchburg long has suffered under the humiliation of being the largest Virginia city without an interstate highway. To further compound such ignominy, it appears the city might soon also find itself as one of the only substantial Virginia towns without a 42 inch wide high pressure gas pipeline traveling near it. The shame!
Perhaps Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., whose late dad once suggested the debate over global warming was concocted by Satan,
would be keen on idea.
He might even volunteer a piece of campus for a compressor station. Here’s an idea: How about a plot adjacent to Liberty’s soon to open $1 million state of the art shooting range?