Tourism grant to fund stage renovations

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The outdoor stage by the Smithfield Times office will be getting a facelift, courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

The VTC announced on Feb. 9 that it has selected Smithfield and Isle of Wight County to participate in its DRIVE 2.0 program — a statewide initiative to make the tourism industry more sustainable amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Selected localities are tasked with disseminating a community survey, working with VTC staff to evaluate its findings and creating an advocacy plan with specific action steps. At the conclusion of the process, each locality receives a $10,000 grant to assist with developing those plans.

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According to Judy Winslow, director of Smithfield’s and Isle of Wight’s joint tourism department, the plan is to use the grant funds to make the stage longer, and lower it so railings won’t be needed — creating better sight lines.

The town acquired the Smithfield Times property in 2019 and presently leases the office to the newspaper, though the town plans to eventually repurpose the building. The stage and lawn outside serve as the home of Smithfield’s summer concert series. Smithfield Times publisher emeritus John Edwards and his wife, Anne, started the concert series decades ago, which now operates as a branch of the Isle of Wight Arts League. The pandemic forced a one-year hiatus in 2020, but the concerts returned in 2021.

Another goal of the proposed renovations, Winslow said, is to equip the stage with a new sound system and a screen to show movies on the lawn.