May 23-26, 2024 ❘ Martinsville, VA

Martinsville Bulletin: County festival gets $10,000 Virginia grant

Tourism grant awarded

Grant will be used exclusively to market RW8

By MICKEY POWELL || Bulletin staff writer

The annual Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival has been awarded a $10,000 state grant that will be used toward marketing this year’s event.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the Virginia Tourism Corp. Marketing Leverage Program grant on Monday. Grants totaling more than $812,000 were awarded to 39 projects statewide as part of efforts to attract tourists.

“These grants are proven to increase visitation by creating marketing partnerships and effective marketing programs,” McAuliffe wrote in a news release.

Grant recipients must match the state funds with at least twice as much of their own funds.

Piedmont Arts, the Rives Theatre and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.’s (EDC) Tourism Division partnered with Rooster Walk Inc. to come up with a $20,000 local match.

The eighth annual festival, to be held May 26-29 at Pop’s Farm in Axton, will feature 45 bands performing on five stages and 35 arts and crafts vendors. It also will include children’s educational activities as well as the Tuff Strutter 5K, a trail race being held as part of a partnership with the Martinsville-Henry County Family YMCA.

Portions of festival proceeds will be donated to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School and Rooster Walk Inc.’s Band Instrument Donation & Repair Program for city and county school bands.

More than 4,000 people attended Rooster Walk last year, said co-founder and Executive Director Johnny Buck. Attendance has increased by 15 percent to 20 percent each of the past five years, he said.

Among this year’s headlining acts will be Lettuce, a funk band, and the Sam Bush Band. Bush is a bluegrass mandolin player who is considered one of the originators of the Newgrass style, according to information online.

Lagesse Baptist AdamsAs a festival gets bigger, it is able to attract more well-known bands, and more people start coming, Buck said.

“If they see bands they know and love (on the itinerary), they’ll come to your festival,” regardless of whether they know anything about the community where the festival is being held, he said.

“Rooster Walk has grown to become one of the premiere cultural events in our community,” attracting visitors from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, said EDC Tourism Director Jennifer Doss. “We know that with increased marketing, this following of loyal fans will continue to grow, boosting area tourism.”

Visitors to Martinsville-Henry County generate $66.1 million dollars in revenue, U.S. Travel Association data shows.

Information provided by the EDC shows that tourism generates about $1.37 million in tax revenues for the city and county annually and 735 people have tourism-related jobs in the community.

Buck said the state grant will become part of Rooster Walk’s marketing budget.

Plans are to market the festival through radio, television and website advertising and social media as well as distributing fliers, he said.

He and Jason Lagesse, president of Rooster Walk’s board, said that in marketing this year’s event, emphasis will be placed on reaching music lovers in metropolitan areas of North Carolina, including the Piedmont Triad, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.

“There are a lot of folks who live within a two-hour drive (of Henry County) who don’t have awareness” of Rooster Walk, Buck said.

Lagesse added that he wants those people to realize, “Hey, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on just across the border!”

This was the first time that Rooster Walk applied for state tourism dollars, said Lagesse, who prepared the grant application along with Phil Wenkstern.

He said it did so in part to help bring money into the community.

Buck emphasized, however, that the festival has been successful over the years largely due to support from the community and local volunteers.