By Debbie Adams
The Year 2022 was a time of the highest highs in the Town of Vinton interrupted midway by one jarring catastrophe. The most memorable event from 2022 will likely be the devastating fire in Vinton on July 2, which destroyed and displaced several businesses in the heart of the downtown area.
The historic D. R. Music building at the corner of Lee Avenue and Pollard Street, owned by Donnie and Rhonda Wray, did not survive the fire. It has been demolished. The Edward Jones office and Rustic Creations on Lee Avenue were displaced. The cause of the fire has yet to be announced. Decisions on the properties are somewhat in limbo. An alteration’s shop and hair salon on Pollard Street were impacted as well, along with several apartments above the businesses.
The Wrays have reopened a block down Pollard Street. Rustic Creations owner Dawn Sullivan has also re-opened a block in the other direction on Poplar Street. Edward Jones Financial Analyst George Lester has found temporary space on Walnut Avenue, still in the downtown area.
However, the most significant event of the year with possibly the most long-term impact on citizens was the transfer of ownership of the town’s utility water and wastewater system to the Western Virginia Water Authority over the summer.
That change in ownership of the water and wastewater system not only relieved the town of the onus of antiquated pipes and equipment but led to another big celebration by local government leaders over the elimination of almost all debt owed by the town. Negotiations with the WVWA and Roanoke County were financially advantageous for the Town of Vinton, especially in combination with COVID funding which had brought millions to the town coffers. Town Council and town staff are exultant at the opportunity this provides for taking on substantial Capital Improvement projects which have long been delayed rather than tediously chipping away at them over time.
Vinton Town Manager Pete Peters agrees that the fire and the transfer of the utility system were the most significant events of 2022 in Vinton; however, he sees the “glass half full,” and is “excited about what those two events will provide for the Town moving forward.”
“While the fire was tragic, it will give the Town an opportunity to rebuild a significant section of our downtown with new and modern leasable commercial space and new upstairs residential units,” Peters said. “Both owners of the properties effected are working on design and plan to rebuild. The Town is participating with the design phase, and we are eager to assist with completing the demolition and seeing the owners move towards construction in 2023.”
“The transfer of the utility system is already realizing positive opportunities for the Town to make other significant investments within our infrastructure where those resources were previously consumed by the utility operation,” Peters said. “Storm-water improvements, traffic signal replacement, and construction of a new public parking area in our downtown are just a few examples of initiatives that are underway as a result of the utility system freeing up staff and funding to provide other important community developments. And the fact that the WVWA are heavily investing in the water and sewer system updates without rate increases is providing a higher quality and more sustainable service and product for our residents and businesses.”
“The third item that is not to be overlooked is the filling out of an incredibly talented and professional team,” Peters continued. “I am very excited to have been able to hire some extremely talented individuals and in this job market, as not many organizations can say they are either at or even near full employment.”
“We’ve got something special going in Vinton and the positive energy and fresh perspectives are allowing us to move the needle and employees want to be a part of the momentum. From Public Works, to police, to finance, Planning and Zoning, and Community Programs, we have developed a very dynamic and complete team and I couldn’t be prouder of how well everyone is pulling together towards making this community as good as it can be on areas we need to improve, while preserving what already makes it so special.”
Here’s a sampling of what happened in Vinton in 2022:
January 2022: Rosie’s Gaming Emporium celebrated the Grand Opening of its $28 million expansion, adding 350 new gaming machines, live entertainment each weekend, and a 280-space parking garage. Jason Boothe was installed as the new president of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce. BoomTown Crossfit opened its new fitness center in Vinton in the Midway community.
February 2022: The 8th annual Gauntlet Business Program and Competition (Virginia’s largest) got underway, based in Vinton, but virtual once again as the program expanded across the region and state from the Roanoke Valley to the Shenandoah Valley and Southside. A record 153 entrepreneurs joined the program. The Woodland Place Restoration Project was approved to rebuild the stream bank. Town Treasurer and Finance Director Anne Cantrell resigned to take a similar position closer to home with the Town of Bedford. Masks became optional once again in Roanoke County Schools. Visible work began on the Gish Mill Redevelopment Project with the dismantling of the eastern end of the building destined for patio dining, while repair and stabilization work were taking place within the structure.
Detective Sgt. Valerie Cummings retired after 23 years with the Vinton Police Department, much of that time spent as Accreditation Manager. The police department had a starring role in “Princess Cut 3: Beauty from Ashes” which had its worldwide premiere at the Grandin Theatre.
Ginger Quinn, Work Zone Safety Coordinator for VDOT, received the National Safety Award from the American Traffic Safety Services Association—one of four nationwide. William Byrd basketball player Emilie McCaskill scored her 1000th point.
Renovations were well underway at William Byrd High School on a roughly $30 million project with plans for completion by the time schools open in the fall of 2023. The project was to entail over 100,000 square feet of renovations and about 13,500 square feet of additions.
March 2022: WBHS student Latriva Pierce came in first place in the Bland Music Scholarship competition hosted by the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club. William Byrd High School was named “Roanoke County Public Schools Science Fair High School of the Year for 2022.” WBHS student Grace Saunders received the prestigious honor of being named “DAR Good Citizen of the Year” by the Roanoke Valley Chapter DAR which meets in Vinton.
Vinton Wesleyan Church held a mortgage-burning celebration. The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce restarted its usually annual Senior Expo after two years of pandemic cancellations. Caturday returned to the Vinton Library after the pandemic, along with the Roanoke Valley Dulcimers group.
Vinton Town Council introduced their Bike/Pedestrian Plan to citizens in a community meeting at the Vinton War Memorial. The Town of Vinton hired Jamie Hurt as Capital Projects Manager. Among his first tasks is the downtown parking lot near the Vinton Farmers’ Market.
April 2022: Town Council approved a franchise for Shentel (think Glo-Fiber).
Sgt. Silas Chapman was named “Officer of the Year” by his peers in the Vinton Police Department.
Dr. Marshall Green opened Mountain State Oral and Facial Surgery in the former offices of Dr. George Kevorkian.
The Mount Pleasant Lions bestowed their top award, the Melvin Jones Fellowship on Lion Steve Wilkinson.
May 2022: WBHS senior Madison Tuck was crowned as the 2022 Vinton Dogwood Festival Queen at the 67th annual Dogwood Festival.
Emilie McCaskill was named “Best All Around Female” for 2022 at the William Byrd Distinguished Honors Banquet. Emiliano Gonzalez was selected as “Best All Around Male.” Another WBHS senior, Emiliano Gonzalez, attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Seniors at WBHS (numbering 264) celebrated their graduation at the Salem Civic Center on May 25.
Bonsack teacher Missy Peroulas received the coveted Red Apple Award from the Roanoke County Public Schools Education Foundation. Tracey Addison received the Green Apple Award for new teachers. Choir Director Matt Bartley received the Red Apple Award for middle school teachers. Three of five teaching awards went to Vinton area teachers.
The Roanoke County School Board announced new principals for William Byrd Middle School (Dana Stevens) and Mount Pleasant Elementary (Jill Lane).
Smokey Bear stopped by the Vinton Library on April 29 to help the town celebrate Arbor Day. Vinton has been named as a “Tree City USA” annually since 2003.
William Byrd High School basketball legend James “Hoolie” Childress of Vinton passed away at age 73. Local scout troops planted flags at Mountain View Cemetery in observance of Memorial Day. The 2022 Gauntlet Business Program and Competition distributed $400,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to winners of the competition in a ceremony at the Vinton War Memorial on May 25.
June 2022: Andrew Keen was hired as Vinton’s new Finance Director. The town’s water and wastewater system were transferred to the Western Virginia Water Authority when Town Council and the WVWA signed an agreement to that effect. A special council meeting was called for the event and included a symbolic “valve turning” ceremony.
The Town of Vinton adopted a $17.7 million budget.
June 5th marked the date of the second Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Triathlon cruising down Washington Avenue in Vinton during the bike leg of the race. Bicyclists were greeted individually with bugle salutes from Gary Duerk.
The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce Mingle concerts got underway for the season on June 11 to continue throughout the summer. Vinton Cruise-Ins returned to downtown Vinton. Henritze Dental celebrated a grand reopening after extensive renovations to their Washington Avenue offices.
William Byrd’s Hunter Sipes and Remi FiGart were named B’nai Brith winners for 2022.
Pastor B. Failes retired in June after 38 years in the ministry, the last 11 at Thrasher Memorial in Vinton.
The Cundiff family was in the news in June. The town turned out for a surprise parking lot retirement party for beloved pharmacist Sam Cundiff who retired and closed Cundiff Drug Store. The store had been established by Sam’s father Wallace in 1959. Sam’s brother Bill was also in the news in June for completing his 42nd marathon (in Idaho), this one after undergoing open heart surgery in January 2022.
July 2022: The face of Vinton was forever changed by the catastrophic fire which destroyed D.R. Music and displaced other businesses in downtown Vinton. The community turned out to support the businesses and one another and rebounded to celebrate the Fourth of July two days later, first with the first Four on the 4th Race in Vinton, supporting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia, and then, that evening, with the most spectacular fireworks extravaganza the town has ever presented.
William Byrd’s baseball coach (and Athletic Director) Jason Taylor was named Blue Ridge District Coach of the Year.
Roanoke County Schools announced the purchase of approximately 28 acres of land off Peters Creek Road to build a new Career and Technical Education Center to replace the antiquated Burton Center for Arts and Technology.
Thrasher Memorial welcomed new Pastor John Hemming and his family.
August 2022: Lighthouse Christian Academy, affiliated with Lighthouse Bible Church on Washington Avenue, opened in August and began accepting students for the 2022-23 school year.
The Vinton Police Department and the Mount Pleasant Lions Club held National Night Out events in their communities giving the police, first responders, and citizens the opportunity to mingle informally.
The Lancerlot held their annual “Dog Days of Summer” with dogs invited to swim in the outdoor pool and frolic on the ice indoors.
Roanoke County students returned to the classroom on August 11. WBHS senior Justin Patrick received the high honor of being named “Top Terrier” at William Byrd High School for 2022-23. Roanoke County Schools introduced a new Navy National Defense Cadet Corps program at William Byrd High School, led by Senior Naval Science Instructor David Perrin. The program accepts students from all five county high schools.
The Thrasher Korean Church celebrated their fifth anniversary.
Several Vinton police officers moved up in rank. Those promoted included Community Resource Officer William Holland, Detective Justin Baker, Detective Corporal Silas Chapman, Corporal Christopher Shively, Sgt. Andrew O’Connor, and Sgt. Jeremy Shrewsbury.
Expect More Home Inspections celebrated their opening with a ribbon-cutting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
Joe Goodpies Restaurant at Vinyard Station closed unexpectedly. (Fortunately Cory Welch plans to open Pok-E-Joe’s BBQ Vinton early in the new year 2023 and is now accepting applications).
September 2022: Vinton police officers Scott Hurt and Michael Caldwell were promoted to the rank of lieutenant in a ceremony at the Sept. 6 Town Council meeting.
Polychrome Studios digital design business opened in Vinton.
The Vinton Breakfast Lions honored Denny Dickens and Gary Myers with Melvin Jones Fellow Awards–the highest award given by Lions Clubs.
The Vinton War Memorial hosted the first Southwest Virginia Pride Festival on Sept. 17. The non-profit fundraiser plans to become an annual event, serving the needs of the LGBTQAI+ community.
October 2022: The Vinton Police Department earned a perfect score on their re-accreditation from the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission—quite a feat.
Vinton Fall Festival returned for its 20th successful year on Oct. 8.
Olivia Hurd and Justin Patrick were chosen as William Byrd’s 2022 Homecoming Queen and King. The playing field in Patterson Stadium at WBHS was named Jefferson W. Highfill Field in honor of Coach Jeff Highfill, head coach at WBHS for 38 years.
Vinton Town Council approved amended performance agreements with Gish Mill Davii, LLC, and the Roanoke County Economic Development Authority which would result in filling a funding gap to speed the project along. Council also approved a construction loan and IRF loan between the town, the county EDA and the developers.
The Town of Vinton hosted another busy and joyful Downtown Trick or Treat event, attracting big crowds to downtown Vinton.
November 2022: Vinton Town Council welcomed five new employees—three police officers and two new staff members. Officers Stephanie Walsh, Daniel Valladarez, and Trinity Otey joined the Vinton Police Department after completing training at Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy. Caroline Loveland joined the Community Programs staff. Carrie Kessler was named as the new Senior Financial Analyst. Marshall Stanley was also welcomed to the town as the new Economic Development Specialist.
Chris McCarty retired after 33 years with Grand True Value Rental.
Sabrina McCarty and Mike Stovall, running unopposed, were re-elected to seats on Vinton Town Council.
Scouts in Vinton planted flags at Mountain View Cemetery in observance of Veterans Day.
Vinton churches united at Vinton Wesleyan Church for the Community Thanksgiving Service on Nov. 20. Vinton Wesleyan also welcomed a new Assistant Pastor/Minister of Youth, John Ryall.
Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Vinton, owned by Colonial Downs, was sold to Churchill Downs, Inc., along with their other locations in Virginia.
The Vinton Christmas Parade opened the holiday season on Dec. 1 with approximately 100 units participating, some of the most spectacular floats to ever appear in Vinton, and large enthusiastic crowds who called the parade “the best ever.”
The Town of Vinton began providing the CodeRed Alert System to citizens who register for the service. The system notifies residents of evacuation notices, criminal activities, shelter in place/lockdown alerts, missing child/person alerts, boil water advisories, road closures due to construction, accidents or special events, hazardous road or traffic conditions, natural disasters, weather alerts, and more.
Vinton police officers Grant Shepherd and Brandon Charlton were recognized by Town Council for their exemplary and heroic actions during a call for service for an unresponsive mother in a parked car and her two young children.The police department also welcomed a new employee, Records Manager Ginny Rhodes.
The Vinton First Aid Crew installed officers at their annual banquet and named member Trace Poindexter as “Rookie of the Year,” Aaron Albertson as “Officer of the Year,” and Logan Klepal as “Member of the Year.”
In the midst of the holiday season, local scouts honored Veterans with a flag retirement ceremony on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The Navy cadets from William Byrd presented a remembrance program that same day at the Virginia Veterans Care Center in Salem.
The Blue Ridge Figure Skating Club and the Lancerlot ice skating program teamed up for Theater on Ice.
One of the most popular events in town history returned this year—the Santa Crawl through the neighborhoods of Vinton. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and several elves delivered gifts to all the local children and dogs who ran to the curb to meet and greet Santa.
What’s coming up in 2023—the big stories may be the opening of at least two new downtown restaurants (you may not have to leave Vinton to eat a steak dinner out anymore), the redevelopment of Gish Mill, and the completion of renovations at William Byrd High School, along with more new events in the works from Vinton’s Community Programs and the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce.