Pamplin celebrates past and present

Published 12:57 pm Thursday, October 1, 2015

Celebrate Pamplin, now in its third year, is looking to the past with an eye toward the future.

“My whole motivation is to bring people here to look around and say — this is a good place to live,” Lib Elder said of the Celebrate Pamplin event.

The founders of Pamplin had the same thought 161 years ago. The Southside Railroad reached the area in 1854. By 1874 the settlement around the Pamplin Depot was so prosperous that the General Assembly granted the people’s wish to incorporate. Town residents selected Pamplin City, a name that reflected high hopes for future greatness.

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Despite the town’s decline over the past century and a half, it is a hope present-day residents share. While Pamplin’s once bustling Main Street sits abandoned, its stores shuttered and closed, many residents believe the town has potential.

Bringing the town back to life is the goal of the annual Celebrate Pamplin event.

During the September 19 event, Magda Liska’s “I Do Art” booth was set up in front of one of the old storefronts on Main Street. Every year Liska has donated a 100 percent of her sales to the Pamplin Depot Restoration Fund.

“I’m a history buff,” Liska said. “I see Pamplin as a real jewel in the raw.”

The Pamplin Depot serves as an example of what could be done in the historic Main Street district. The Depot has a new wood floor and roof. The latest project to be funded by the Pamplin Depot Restoration Fund is to refurbish benches in the historic depot.

“It’s a great asset to the community,” Elder said of the Depot. “People use it for weddings, reunions, parties and baby showers. The Farm Use String Band puts on a free dance here every month.”

Now with the approval of an extension of High Bridge Trail to the Pamplin Depot, there is hope that other buildings on Main Street will come back to life as well.

Pamplin Clerk Treasurer Paulie Johnson noted that a barbecue restaurant, Wild Oatz, will soon be opening on Main Street.

“We’re hoping that this restaurant might spark interest from others,” Johnson said. “We have a vision — it just takes time.

Celebrate Pamplin is dedicated to making that vision a reality.

“Every year the event gets bigger,” Elder said.

This year Celebrate Pamplin included free surrey rides provided by Gene and Claire Palmer (and Woodrow the horse), the Tom Mix Rangers from Buckingham, and the first annual Ralph M. Hamlett Memorial 5K Fun Run.

“I’m reluctant to try and thank everyone,” Elder said. “With so much effort by so many folks it’s impossible. This event is the very definition of a group-effort labor of love, and I am so thankful for the support of the businesses and citizens of Pamplin.”

Saturday’s event confirmed that Pamplin’s Main Street has potential.

“Our goal is to showcase the town and give the community something to feel good about,” Elder said.

That good feeling, many residents agree, could be realized with a revitalized Main Street. Pamplin’s success started with the railroad over 150 years ago; now a “rails-to-trails” state park offers an opportunity to renovate.

The Town of Pamplin does indeed have reason to celebrate.