By Debbie Adams
While many communities are saying “Goodbye and Good Riddance” to the year 2021– not so, Vinton, Virginia.
“Wow, 2021 was quite the year for Vinton,” says Town Manager Pete Peters. “For starters, we continued to advance numerous community development projects forward to include the initial planning efforts to rebuild Mountain View Road, secured a hotel developer to construct a 94-room property in our downtown, watched Vinyard Station’s transformation and the opening of Joe Goodpies and RND Coffee, finalized grant funding and design plans to rehabilitate Gish Mill, opened a new phase of Glade Creek Greenway, saw the construction of the town’s first parking garage as part of Rosie’s expansion, and reached an agreement to transfer our utility system to the Water Authority, all while still facing the many difficulties revolving around the ever changing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The completion of numerous economic development projects began early in 2021 when Cardinal Glass celebrated an $8 million, 26,000-square-foot expansion with a ribbon cutting on January 7. (The company had opened in the Vinton Business Center in 2004.) The expansion added a new, state-of-the-art robotic seaming and cutting system, and an estimated 60 new jobs. The expansion was driven by the need for more space in some operations areas of the building and also an increase in their business.
Soon after– on January 19– the newest Our Daily Bread (bakery and bistro) location officially opened on East Lee Avenue in downtown Vinton, saving many the journey across town to the Brambleton Avenue location. The restaurant took over the Bush Building, built in 1955, named for former Vice Mayor and CPA Joe Bush, who had his offices in the building.
Joe Goodpies Brick Oven Eatery, owned by Jack Winston, opened to the public in Vinyard Station (the renovated Vinton Motors) on February 4. Vinton’s favorite developer and contractor– Dale Wilkinson and Greg Rhodes– were responsible for the project.
Rosie’s Gaming Emporium began a $28 million expansion project in February along with the start of the 2021 “Together We Win” program which had a goal of donating $52,000 in 52 weeks to 52 charities across Virginia (many in Vinton and Roanoke). The expansion included doubling the size of the facility, adding a 280-space parking garage, and tripling from 150 to 500 the number of gaming machines. Early construction involved the largest crane Vinton has likely ever seen. Construction and renovations remained on schedule, allowing the expansion to open on December 8.
Big Lots moved– after 31 years– from Lake Drive Plaza into a larger store at River Park Shopping Center after $2 million of renovations. The store held a soft opening on February 25 and a grand opening with a ribbon cutting on March 13. Developer and contractor once again were the Wilkinson Group and Greg Rhodes.
In April, Town Council approved rezoning of Gish Mill to allow for a mixed-use redevelopment of the property, to include lodging, a restaurant, a retail shop, and a possible speakeasy in the basement. The historic mill has been in operation since the 1770s. In September, Gish Mill received historic designation on the Virginia Landmarks Registry, and later the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for historic tax credits in the renovation process.
Also in April, the Town of Vinton began accepting bids for the hotel development project at the intersection of South Pollard, Cedar Avenue, and 1st Street. In July, Town Council approved a contract to bring a franchise hotel to Vinton.
Town Council announced in June that the town would be receiving $8.4 million in CARES Act funding. In July council announced another $4.2 million to be received from ARPA funding. How to use the funds best is still under discussion.
Bank of Botetourt opened in Vinton on Pollard Street in downtown Vinton across from the Municipal Building on July 26, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 19. Ground was broken in November 2020 and construction proceeded even faster than expected.
Taco Bell built and opened a new and much larger restaurant at East Vinton Plaza right up the street from its former Foodette location.
William Byrd High School Renovations began in the summer of 2021– another $28 million project with the goal of completion in the summer of 2023.
A new Tractor Supply opened at Lake Drive Plaza in the vacant Big Lots location after months of anticipation and renovations and has remained consistently busy, extending its profile across the region. The store celebrated its grand opening on September 30 with a ribbon cutting with town officials and the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce.
And in news that is not the most glamourous but may have the biggest impact on the town’s economy and its citizens, Vinton Town Council announced at the December 7 meeting that ownership and operation of the town’s water/wastewater system is being transitioned over the course of six months to the Western Virginia Water Authority.
In the final economic news of 2021, the RND (Roaster’s Next Door) coffee shop opened in Vinyard Station in downtown Vinton on December 21– making Vinton officially trendy. This is the second location for brothers and co-owners Quincy and Steffon Randolph.
“The best part is that we’ve only scratched the surface of the possibilities for Vinton and are just starting to realize the fruits of our labor as visible improvements are taking shape right in front of our eyes,” Peters said. “While it’s been fairly obvious to recognize the highly visible commercial projects such as Roland E. Cook, Billy Byrd, Macado’s, Vinyard Station, Rosie’s, etc., countless other projects have been in various planning stages over the last several years, are now fully funded and will start construction in the near future that will in some cases have an even greater positive impact on the quality of life for our residents and visitors.”
As for what the headlines will be in the coming year: “In 2022, citizens and visitors to our community can look forward to increased paving efforts, improved traffic signalization and enhanced downtown and neighborhood pedestrian connections, as numerous construction projects get underway,” Peters says. “Gish Mill will be renovated and reopen with a new restaurant and VRBO style lodging, a hotel on Pollard Street will break ground and transform our east downtown gateway in to a more aesthetic and welcoming entrance that will generate countless new visitors to our thriving businesses community and our public water system will receive millions of dollars worth of infrastructure upgrades and improvements to include transitioning our current well-water based supply to the Carvins Cove water supply, all while sustaining rates for businesses and residents. It is also very encouraging to see continuation of private investment occurring in town as a sign of a healthy and optimistic outlook for our town in the New Year. As existing businesses grow, such as the Dogwood Restaurant, and Twin Creeks expansions get underway and new ones locating here such the Social House coming to the former playhouse on South Pollard near the brewery and a new restaurant and seasonal market opening at Gish Mill, are all positive indicators that Vinton is the place to live, work, shop and play and shows no sign of slowing down.
“Our community continues to be blessed in so many ways, with great council leadership, supportive citizens, community minded and generous local business owners, and the continuation of the town’s partnership with Roanoke County to continue to move the redevelopment needle forward,” Peters continued. “I have always heard that great things come in small packages, and I can’t think of a better analogy for our 3.1-square-mile town. What we may lack in footprint, we are making up for in quality and positive impact on the community– as a whole. From our professional Police Department, our exceptional service driven Public Works staff, our fun producing Community Programs division and all the staff in between, the town packs a big punch in a small package.”
Other notable events in Vinton in 2021 included:
- Roanoke County Public Schools gradually reopened to in-person instruction over the spring of 2021 with COVID mitigation strategies in place. Students in grades K-3 had the option of attending in person all during the COVID crisis which began in the spring of 2020. Fourth graders were added back on January 25, 2021. Remaining students in grades 5-12 were able to return to in-school instruction on March 22, 2021.
- The seventh annual Gauntlet Business Program and Competition got underway in February 2021. After 10 weeks of classes, awards and $300,000 in cash and prizes were distributed at a ceremony on May 27. First place went to Candace Monaghan of Beaver Dam Farm Sunflowers.
- The Vinton State of the Town Address became virtual in 2021, after being postponed repeatedly from the prior November. Mayor Brad Grose and Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Angie Chewning delivered the broadcast on RVTV on March 25.
- William Byrd High School students ages 16 and older were able to receive COVID vaccinations at the high school on April 23.
- The annual Vinton Dogwood Festival was scheduled for April 23 and 24 after being cancelled during the pandemic of 2020. No parade was held in 2021, but there was a Dogwood Queen and Court parading through the streets of downtown Vinton in horse-drawn carriages.
- The Town of Vinton joined with Roanoke County in celebrating Arbor Day on May 25, in conjunction with a ribbon-cutting for the Glade Creek Greenway Phase II.
- William Byrd High School was able to return to an in-person graduation ceremony, albeit at Patterson Stadium instead of at the Salem Civic Center in order to abide by COVID health guidelines.
- The bike leg of the 2021 Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge Triathlon whooshed through Vinton on June 6. Matt Schafer of Boston was the leader coming into Vinton and went on to become the overall winner of the triathlon.
- The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce Mingle at the Market concerts rebounded in 2021 with the first event on June 12 and continuing throughout the summer– with two a month through September.
- The Town of Vinton was able to return to its traditional Fourth of July celebration. The 2021 event surpassed all expectations, with many proclaiming the seemingly endless fireworks as the best show they had ever seen in the region.
- The Vinton Police Department sponsored National Night Out on August 3 at the Charles Hill Community Center with a large crowd stopping by for free hot dogs, snow cones, and ice cream, and visits with the police officers and town officials.
- Macado’s Dog Days of Summer returned to the Lancerlot Sports Complex on August 21, with the public and their pets allowed on the ice and in the outdoor pool.
- In September, PFG– a stalwart business in Vinton over many decades– achieved its goal of 1,000,000 safe work hours.
- The Town of Vinton hosted its annual Fall Festival on October 2. The downtown streets were filled with vendors. Stages at the Farmers’ Market and Municipal Building were filled with entertainment.
- On October 21, Roanoke County celebrated the opening of trendy, new pickleball courts at Stonebridge Park near WBHS.
The Town of Vinton was able to return to its traditional Downtown Trick or Treating event in 2021 on November 1. Hundreds of children and their families traipsed through Vinton to collect candy and other treats.
- On December 2, the Town of Vinton and the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce partnered to produce the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, followed by the Vinton Christmas Parade– a decades long tradition.
When the annual parade was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, the town and Chamber came up with an alternative to the parade– a Santa Claus Crawl vINton. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their elves meandered through all the streets of Vinton distributing treats to children along the route, escorted by the Vinton Police and Public Works Departments. The event was so popular that it returned by popular demand in 2021 on December 14.
Local names in the Vinton news in 2021 included:
Pete Peters became town manager effective January 1, 2021, upon the retirement of Barry Thompson.
William “Bo” Herndon was named as Vinton’s Public Works Director in March, taking on one of the jobs with the most demands (thankless at times)– water and wastewater management, roads, refuse collection, and keeping the traffic signals working.
Cody Sexton was named assistant town manager of Vinton effective May 3.
Vinton First Aid Crew Chief Tom Philpott retired on December 31 after 50 years as a volunteer with the crew.
Tim Lawless was sworn in as Captain and Vinton’s Deputy Police Chief.
Corporal Andrew DiCarlo was named Vinton Police Department Officer of the Year for 2020. The Vinton Police Leadership Award was presented to Corporal Brandon Alterio.
Matt de Simone was named editor of The Vinton Messenger and The Fincastle Herald on February 3.
Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church welcomed a new pastor, Jonathan Moelker.
Kathryn Sowers won prestigious State GFWC Jennie Award for volunteerism.
Dr. Hank Ivey retired from Carilion Clinic Family Medicine.
Roanoke Valley Greenway Coordinator Liz Belcher retired after 25 years, the only coordinator the organization had ever had.
A favorite Vinton hairstylist, Pam Mitchell, retired from Salon 121.
Several Vinton area teachers won the coveted Golden, Red, and Green Apple Awards. The awards for 2020 and 2021 were both announced this year. Red Apples for 2021 went to Krista Lyle at Mount Pleasant Elementary School and Katie Hetherington at William Byrd High School. Marianne Nester from Bonsack Elementary won the Golden Apple Award for 2020; Allison Underwood, also from Bonsack Elementary, won the 2020 Green Apple Award; Nola Causey from W. E. Cundiff won the Red Apple Award.
WBHS student, Cadet Hunter Burns, received the Air Force Junior ROTC Silver Valor Award for efforts to rescue victims in a house fire
Jayden Sink achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in a ceremony conducted on September 25.
Vocalist Abby Shelton, a Susan Lewis Music Studio student, won first place in the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club annual Bland Music Scholarship competition in March.
In an upside-down sports season due to the pandemic, William Byrd students Keaton Band and Reagan Tuck were chosen by their teachers and peers as Senior King and Queen during football season on March 29.
William Byrd senior Erin Taylor who received the prestigious honor of being named as the DAR Good Citizen of the Year.
William Byrd senior Ellen Frary was chosen by a panel of judges as the Vinton Dogwood Festival Queen for 2021 on April 24.
Natalie Mullins was named Best All Around Female and Keaton Band was named Best All Around Male in the Class of 2021 at the WBHS Senior Honors Banquet on May 12.
On the opening day of school, Chloe Harrilla was named Top Terrier for 2021-2022 at WBHS—the highest individual honor a student can receive at the high school.
Simon Band and Madison Tuck named Homecoming King and Queen for 2021 on October 8.
Anniversaries celebrated in 2021 included:
The 60th anniversary of the Vinton Moose Lodge on January 3
The 60th anniversary of the Mount Pleasant Lions Club
The 50th anniversary of St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Hardy Road
The 60th anniversary of the Roanoke Valley Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution on November 6
Politics in 2021:
Local elections (Town Council) were moved by state law from May to November, beginning for Vinton in 2022. Vice Mayor Sabrina McCarty and Councilman Mike Stovall’s seats will be up for election.
Jason Peters (Vinton District) and Phil North (Hollins District) were re-elected to the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors for another term ending in 2025.
Tim Greenway (Vinton District) and David Linden (Hollins District) were re-elected to the Roanoke County School Board for another term ending in 2025.
Dean Davison was chosen by the Libertarian Party to run for the Virginia House of Delegates from the 19th District.
Sports highlights for 2021 locally included:
The Vinton Junior Terriers (ages 12 and under) won the Sandlot Super Bowl Football Championship.
The William Byrd Middle School baseball team went undefeated.
WBHS swimmer Colin Murtaugh won two state swimming championships in the 50 free event and the 100 Butterfly.
The WBMS volleyball team went undefeated.
WBHS Boys’ Basketball Coach Josh Cunningham left the program to become a full-time pastor at Lighthouse Bible Church. Brad Greenway, who had been the girls’ basketball head coach took over the program. Randy Bush took over as head coach of the girls’ team.
Neil Zimmerman stepped down as WBHS baseball coach; Athletic Director Jason Taylor replaced him.
Here’s to another “Wow” year in Vinton in 2022!