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Tuesday March 8, 2016

Historic Garden Week is coming up in Martinsville-Henry County and we look forward to this exciting event. New to Garden Week this year is a Wine & Shine tasting event in the heart of Bassett. The Garden Clubs have lots of fun in store for participants so read on in this guest post by Susan Morten to learn more...

Wine & ’Shine

One highlight of this year’s Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day Tour will be Wine & ’Shine. From 4 to 7 p.m. at the train depot, tour-takers can sample area wines and moonshine.

The tasting suggests this is not your grandmother’s garden day tour. And this is not your granddaddy’s moonshine either.

Although it’s made in nearby Patrick County – which shares with Henry and Franklin counties a storied bootleggin’ past -- this moonshine is 100-percent legal.

It comes from Dry Fork Fruit Distillery, the only legal distillery in Southwest Virginia. Dry Fork’s owners, Vincent Puccio of Martinsville and William T. Willis of Dry Fork, got the necessary federal permit and state license. Dry Fork’s still, with gleaming tanks and piping, can be found in the rear of the Hometown Ice building in Meadows of Dan.

 “(Moonshine) is part of the fabric of this area,” Puccio said. 

The former New York state resident and retired banker said he has since learned from people a great deal about the area’s moonshine history. During the early 1800s, people grew corn and, as most people had very little, they looked for ways to use any excess. Some ground it into mash and made whiskey. Many settlers had roots in Scotland and Ireland, where making whiskey was “as natural as getting up in the morning,” Puccio said.

The government eventually wanted its cut in the form of taxes, but the makers
weren’t so inclined. So many made their whiskey at night by the light of the moon. 

These days, Dry Fork makes 100-proof corn whiskey and 80-proof fruit-infused corn whiskies. The fruit whiskies come in blueberry, blackberry, strawberry and damson plum.

Several of Dry Fork’s moonshines can be found on ABC store shelves in Martinsville, Danville, Stuart, Floyd, Blacksburg and Tightsqueeze. Customers can order any of Dry Fork’s moonshine varieties at any ABC store.

Their moonshine is being served at some area restaurants, too. Those include Los Nortenos in Collinsville, Chopstix in Martinsville and Wild Magnolia in Martinsville. It was used at Richmond’s Southerly Restaurant, part of Southern Season, for a Swine N’’Shine dinner. Diners got to eat pork dishes made with moonshine and sip a little, too.

Dry Fork is now hoping to get clearance to sell its products and offer tastings at the Meadows of Dan distillery, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In the meantime, tour-takers can kick back, relax and enjoy their samples while listening to live music. Although most of the Garden Day tour sites close at 6 p.m., Wine & ’Shine-rs can stay and keep tasting until 7.



Furniture arranging is something of an art. It piques the interest of many house-and-garden tour-goers. They get to peek inside other people’s homes, assess what they see and, perhaps, walk out with ideas for their own homes.  

As this year’s Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day Tour goes outside the house-and-garden-tour box, visitors will get a chance to visit the Bassett Furniture Design Studio, plus its HGTV design studio.

The design studio could be called a “visual think tank” for the company that put Bassett on the map. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the company develops its signature look for display of its products. 

The center has the same showroom lighting, flooring and wall color as Bassett’s retail showrooms. In this prototype showroom, designers create cohesive arrangements that marry Bassett’s wooden furniture, upholstered furniture and accents, from lamps to art. The result, which Bassett terms a pad, resembles room setting, such as a living room or dining room. Every item used has the Bassett Furniture name on it. 

After tweaking a pad to get the look just right, photos are made so the pad can be replicated in Bassett’s retail showrooms around the country. Photos also go into promotional material and onto the company’s website. 

And right next door, tour-takers can visit the HGTV design studio, dedicated to the presentation and development of Bassett HGTV licensed products.


“Bassett, Virginia, is one of my favorite places on the planet. If you want to understand the manufacturing history of America -- and meet the finest, funniest and most genuine people on earth -- go to Bassett.” - Beth Macy, author of bestseller “Factory Man”

Little Bassett and its country cousin Galax are the center of the universe in Beth Macy’s book, “Factory Man.” As a result of her research and writing, she got to know Bassett pretty darned well. She will again be among its folks and others for a book signing on April 27, Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day. She will be at the Historic Bassett Train Depot from 3 to 5 p.m., armed with a pen and copies of the book, as some people call it.

Its 464 pages tell the tale of offshoring’s gutting impact on the furniture industry and its workers, as seen through the experiential prism of a Bassett native son. John D. Bassett III, the head of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture in Galax, launched a crusade to try to level a playing field tilted by some Chinese companies looking to hijack the market and the industry by selling their goods below cost.

 Macy’s book became a bestseller. It made New York Times critic Janet Maslin’s top 10 list of the best books of 2014, the Publishers Weekly’s list of the 20 best, and just about every other notable list of the year’s most worthy works. And it caught the eye of Tom Hanks, who saw in it potential for an HBO miniseries.

Macy has a new book, “Truevine,” coming out this fall. This real-life story starts in 1899 in the Jim Crow South, specifically Truevine, a crosssroads near Sontag in Franklin County. A white man offers two little African-American brothers, Willie and George Muse, the children of sharecroppers, a piece of candy. The two were Albinos. They were kidnapped to act as circus freaks – without pay. They eventually ended up in the “Greatest Show on Earth” as “Eko and Iko, Ambassadors from Mars.” The mother they had been told was dead never stopped trying to get them back. She did, nearly 30 years after they were taken. That’s where the second part of the story begins.

 Also at the tour’s hot spot, the Historic Bassett Train Depot:

  • Tom Perry, the head of Laurel Hill Publishing and author of some 40 books about area history, will sign copies of his works from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 7 p.m. In between, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., he will sign books during luncheon at the Historic J.D. Bassett Event Center/EMI, the tour headquarters.
  • Bassett’s history includes having had a semi-pro baseball team, the Bassett Furnituremakers. Former State Sen. Roscoe Reynolds will talk at 2 p.m. about the team on which Phil Rizzuto got his start.
  • At 3 p.m. another former area legislator, former Del. Ward Armstrong, will speak about railroad history.
  • One exhibit, Smith River Outfitters, will highlight the Smith River, with Brian Williams speaking at 11 a.m.
  • Visitors to the depot can also view art at the Artisan Trail Exhibit and buyplants, thanks to the green thumbs of Magna Vista High School’s horticultural students. Everything Outdoors will sell plants that bloom with a special flower, the flame creeper azalea. It’s this year’s Historic Garden Week flower.
  • The Bassett tour clearly has its roots in the past. One exhibit at the depot, 15 Magical Miles, speaks to what residents and area leaders envision for its future.


What: “Bassett, Pioneering the Future,” Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day 2016

When: April 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Historic J.D. Bassett Event Center/EMI, tour headquarters, 3289 Riverside Drive

Who: Garden Study Club and The Martinsville Garden Club, hosts.

Tickets: $20 per person. On tour day, buy at any site or at tour headquarters. Advance tickets at www.vagardenweek.org. Available locally March 30 – April 25 at Bassett Historical Center, Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Martinsville-Henry County Visitors Center, Piedmont Arts Association and the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce. Ticketholders may enter Fairy Stone State Park free on tour day.

Lunch: Historic J.D. Bassett Event Center/EMI dining room, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; $12 per person. Reservations required by April 25. Contact Eliza Severt, 276-632-2447, ehsevert@aol.com, or Lynne Beeler, 276-638-1030, ldcb@comcast.net.

Getting around: Park and catch a shuttle at Pocahontas Bassett Baptist Church, 120 Bassett Heights Road. Although parking will be available at most sites, it will be limited. Two sites, Hamlet Vineyards and the Haley House, will be accessible only by shuttle. Shuttles will also go to Fairy Stone State Park.

More info: Contact Lizz Stanley, tour chairman, 276-252-3009, or Cindy Edgerton, tour co-chairman, 276-732-2784. Reach either by email at martinsville@vagardenweek.org

Tags: Bassett Furniture, Bassett Historical Center, Bassett, Virginia, Entertainment, Genealogy, Hamlet Vineyards, Henry County, History, Insider's Tips, Local Business, Martinsville, MHC Visitor Center