Franklin County Tourism was named the 2019 Initiative of the Year Award winner by the Blue Ridge Travel Association for its Virginia is for Moonshine Lovers project.
The recognition also highlighted programming associated with the new Virginia is for Lovers sub-brand slogan, Virginia is for Moonshine Lovers.
“It was a total surprise to many folks — but welcomed,” said Franklin County Tourism Director David Rotenizer. “We had the honor for debuting the slogan, on the day — 100 years to the day the 18th amendment was ratified.”
Jan. 16 was a significant date in Franklin County history. On that day in 1919, the 18th amendment was ratified. The following year, in 1920, Prohibition, or the nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages, went into effect and lasted until 1933.
Rotenizer said a part of the initiative was the way the sub-brand was rolled out.
Last year, on Jan. 16, the Virginia is for Moonshine Lovers slogan was revealed as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Virginia is for Lovers slogan. The day included a public unveiling of a timber frame construction LOVE artwork sculpture constructed by Franklin County High School building and trades students and Franklin County Parks and Recreation staff. Meanwhile, a full-sized replica moonshine still was displayed by the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum for the event. Live traditional Americana music was performed by the Twin Creeks String Band and Friends.
A highlight of the day featured a debut of a student-led and developed tourism project titled “The Quilted Road: Peace and Still.” One hundred eighth grade students from the project-based New Tech program at the Leonard A. Gereau Center for Advanced Technology and Career Exploration created more than 20 podcast episodes, which accompanied related barn quilts along the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Each quilt was keyed to a QR-code to actual local stories and lore regarding Franklin County’s moonshine heritage. The quilt connection was in relation to the county’s popular barn quit trail program.
The Jan. 16 event also announced the launch of Franklin County Moonshine Heritage Month held in April that included events and activities associated with moonshine heritage.
It was also the first use of the new slogan, Virginia is for Moonshine Lovers, featured on T-shirts sold by the Community Partnership for Revitalization and the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College. Large aluminum signs with the slogan were used by businesses and the history museum for display.
In June, BRI hosted its fourth annual Moonshine Heritage Car Show. The Franklin County Historical Society, a long-time promoter of moonshine heritage, featured its Moonshine Memories … Old and New event in September.
Rotenizer said the initiative is not focused on the libations, however. “It’s the heritage, not the alcohol,” he said. “It’s a fine line, but one where we will find a way to walk and follow.”
Although he had advocated for the sub-brand slogan for several years, Rotenizer said the recognition was a welcome surprise.
“The award totally caught me by surprise, but made me feel so proud at the same time,” he said. “Franklin County is a special place with a vast array of interesting things, both past and present — and into the future.”