BLACKSBURG, Va., April 16, 2012 – Celebrate spring and the spirit of community at one of the New River Valley’s most historic and beautiful settings. The Kentland Community Heritage Festival will be held on Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This historic property will come alive with local foods, artists, artisans, and crafts. There will be historical and cultural presentations along with tours of the manor house, Kent family cemetery, and slave cemetery. Civil War interpreters and American Indian storytellers will be on site along with members of the New River Coal Miners Heritage Association. This event, which is free and open to the public, will also feature live music (bring an instrument and jump in), hay rides, and various vintage activities.
The historic and cultural significance of Kentland Farm makes it stand out among other historic sites in southwest Virginia. According to Sam Cook, associate professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, Kentland is not only the region’s largest antebellum plantation, but it also hosts the state’s western-most acknowledged slave cemetery.
“Many of the historic structures were built by slaves (circa 1817-1830), who incorporated West African aesthetic choices, while local German artisans contributed building techniques that added to the soundness of the structures,” noted Cook. Kentland’s proprietor — James Randall Kent — distinguished himself as a farmer, cattleman, entrepreneur, and financier. Kent sponsored a number of public works projects in the mid-19th century and was the key financier behind the establishment of the Olin-Preston Institute, the forerunner of Virginia Tech.
Cook insists that the historic significance of Kentland is not relegated to the past but is a dynamic ongoing process. After the Civil War and well into the mid-20th century, the farm continued to serve as a focal point of community economic and social activity. The grist and saw mill continued to provide a vital service to the community when most other mills had closed, and the farm’s various proprietors provided employment for numerous families.
After Virginia Tech acquired the property, it became a center for internationally salient innovations in agricultural and life sciences and it remains so into the present. Groundbreaking research in biofuel production, sustainable agriculture, orchard management, livestock breeding, and meteorological sciences to name a few, add depth to the historical continuum that has always made this space unique.
This event is sponsored by the Kentland Historical Revitalization Committee, Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the New River Heritage Coalition.
Directions to Kentland Farm from Blacksburg: Prices Fork Road to a right on McCoy Road. Proceed 3.2 miles and turn left on Whitethorne Road. Go half a mile; the Kentland entrance will be on the right.