By Sally Voth - email@example.com
Shenandoah County Tourism and Marketing Director Natalie Wills is doing what she can to make sure the county's talented craftsmen and women don't trail behind their peers across the commonwealth.
Wills is helping to form the Shenandoah County Artisan Trail as a partnership with the Artisans Center of Virginia.
"We've been trying to connect within the county our agritourism, our artisans," Wills said Friday. "There are so many skilled artisans in this county."
She said area artisans are in the process of being identified.
"The artisan trail takes about a year to develop," Wills said. "Usually, counties partner [with other counties]. Our fear is the county is so large that it would just make the trail too big."
She said those who make hand-crafted items and want to be on the trail would pay to participate. For instance, an agriartisan member, such as a vineyard, would pay $150 the first year, and then $100 each year after that. In exchange, the member would be listed online, in a brochure and get a trail sign, according to Wills.
The money goes back to the Artisan Center of Virginia, she said.
It's all about getting exposure for the artisans' products.
"Trails are very popular in tourism," Wills said. "You can be on a trial and be [open by] appointment-only. Soon, you will see the signs start going up."
The trail will be officially launched in late spring or early summer, she said, but there will be a party to give the county's trail a name at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Edinburg Mill.
"We want suggestions from the residents," Wills said. "We want people to come out to the naming party. It's a good thing for the county and for a lot of our talented people."
Artist co-op 7East Art Gallery, located at 123 S. Main St., Woodstock, is likely to join the trail, member Laurel Vaughan said.
"I think the artisan trail is a great idea because there are a lot of galleries in Shenandoah County up and down Route 11," the painter said Friday. "I think it will bring tourists to the county. I think it will bring tourists to our galleries, and I hope it will drive sales."
The co-op is "all for" the artisan trail, according to Vaughan, "because they know we're going to be able to put that sign in our window."