Martinsville, Virginia


Experience the Outdoors at Smith River Fest

Have you ever wanted to paddle a canoe? Do you want to meet other people that enjoy hiking? Do you know what a SUP or a PFD is? The public can discover the answers to these and other questions at Smith River Fest on Saturday, August 8th. This free festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Smith River Sports Complex (SRSC), located at 1000 Irisburg Road in Axton, Virginia.

There will be many activities offered throughout the day to give participants a taste of outdoor activities. Beginning at 9 a.m., staff from Smith River Outfitters will demonstrate stand up paddleboarding (SUP) at the river access. Participants can watch a brief demo on how to balance and paddle the board and then take turns trying it themselves. Those wishing to participate in the free demo should wear clothing that can get wet and sturdy water shoes or sneakers. Life jackets, also called personal flotation devices (PFDs), will be provided for use during the demo. Participants that want to spend more time paddling can choose to rent a canoe or kayak to use on the river later on during the event.

Throughout the day, guests interested in fishing can learn fly casting techniques from Smith River Trout Unlimited (SRTU) and Wing & Fly Company and also watch SRTU members as they tie flies as fishing lures. The Angler’s Choice Bass Fishing Team will also be on hand to teach bait casting techniques. These demos will take place at the Casting Pool and all equipment will be provided.

The YMCA’s Bike Barn Mobile Unit will be at the event throughout the day allowing participants to enjoy a free bicycle ride. The Henry County Bike Club, Martinsville Police Department and Chain of Fools Bicycle Repair have also teamed up with the Bike Barn to offer a Kids Cycle Station where youth can enjoy learning basic riding skills and bike safety while navigating an obstacle course. All equipment will be provided at this free activity.

At 10 a.m. professional guides from Wing & Fly Company will present Basic Dog Handling for the Outdoorsman. During this free demo, they will teach basic commands that any dog owner can use. Sit, come and heel are commands that are keys to well-behaved dogs and the building blocks to more advanced skills. The working dogs and their handlers will also demonstrate specialized skills for bird finding and retrieval including searching, pointing and line retrieves. The demo will take place near the Mud Run start and finish line.

From 2-5 p.m., Martinsville Parks & Recreation will host the “Smith River Experience,” where those new to the sport of paddling can take a free 10-minute canoe ride in calm water to see what paddling is like. PFD’s will be provided and participants should wear clothing and shoes that can get wet. Additional volunteers with paddling experience are still needed for this activity area, please contact276.403.5140 to volunteer.

Throughout the event the Martinsville Uptown Rotary Club will host a Gear Swap. Guests are invited to bring gently used outdoor and recreational equipment for sale. All items will be monitored and sold while the owners enjoy the festival and a commission of all sales will be kept by the Rotary Club to benefit their scholarship fund. To submit items for the sale please contact Carol Lovell at 276.358.2179.

The festival’s Nature Exploration Zone will feature exhibitors with a variety of activities from knot tying and flint knapping demonstrations to plant identification, fairy stone hunting and book readings. Guests can learn a great deal about nature and the outdoors from these exhibitors.   

Discovering a new hobby like paddling, biking or fishing is even more fun when you have friends to participate with. At the event, several special interest groups will be on hand to showcase their various organizations, including American Canoe Association, Smith River Trout Unlimited, Virginia Master Naturalists, Cub Scout Pack 61, Henry County Bike Club, Dan River Basin Association, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and others.

In previous years, more than 2,400 guests from 14 different states participated in the event and festival organizers expect those numbers to grow. More than 80 vendors will be present this year. Featured events include the Smith River Race, the Helgramite Hustle 5K Mud Run and the Blue Ridge Duck Race.

Smith River Fest is a collaborative effort between Henry County Parks & Recreation, Martinsville-Henry County EDC’s Tourism Division, Smith River Sports Complex, Dan River Basin Association, Martinsville-Henry County YMCA, Martinsville Parks & Recreation and Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge.

Major sponsors include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Mountain Khakis, Angler’s Choice, Happy Bowl, Martinsville Physical Therapy & Industrial Rehab and Casting Logos. Vendor applications, race registrations and additional festival information can be found at or by calling 276.403.5695.