Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 57

A

s the worst damage of a year's
COVID-19 recedes-with more
interaction, businesses reopening, social life resuming-I can
say out loud what I learned but
kept mostly to myself during
the months of waiting: My adopted hometown of Fries, Virginia, actually came to life during lockdown.
I feel certain that everyone lost someone or something important as the pandemic raged. For me, the losses were the
sudden death of a close friend last September and the end of carefree embraces with
my grandchildren. For some it was the loss
of a parent, a sibling or a livelihood.
At the same time I believe we all may
have gained something in return, whether
that meant rekindling old friendships,
bonding with children in deeper ways, or
discovering new creative outlets. In that
respect, Fries and perhaps other aging
Blue Ridge towns emerged from their once
hopeless, forlorn state in a rebirth of energy and optimism over the last year or so.
An old textile mill town that had shrunk
and become impoverished through decades of decline, from a peak population
over 2,000 a century ago to a low of fewer

than 500 souls by the 2020 census, Fries
(pronounced " Freeze " ) turned out to have
what many people from big cities were
looking for during the pandemic. Fresh air
and open space, recreational opportunities and natural beauty, inexpensive housing and available retail buildings and, yes,
internet. My husband, Saul, and I had retired, downsized and moved to the town
several years ago from Asheville, North
Carolina, precisely for the slow pace.
We lucked into one of the oh-so-sturdy
old mill houses in Fries, and after repairing and modernizing it we settled down
to small-town life.

FACING PAGE: Spring is a good time for
visiting along Chestnut Creek, part of the
57-mile New River Trail State Park. Numerous
access points dot the trail.
ABOVE: Fries School shows its community
pride and big ambitions.
LEFT: A neighborhood cat admires the flow of
the New River as it winds through Fries.

MAY/JUNE 2021

57



Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - Cover1
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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG1
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG2
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG3
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG4
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG5
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG6
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG7
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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG9
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG10
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG11
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG12
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG13
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG14
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG15
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG16
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG17
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG18
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG19
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG20
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG21
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG22
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG23
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG24
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG25
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG26
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG27
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG28
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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG30
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG31
Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - BRPG32
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