Oliver Anthony fans, here’s what you should know about Farmville

Published 10:49 pm Saturday, August 19, 2023

So you’ve heard ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ and started searching around for information about Oliver Anthony. And if you’re still searching, our story here can help with that. But you’ve likely heard about how he worked multiple plant jobs in western North Carolina, then got into outside sales in the industrial manufacturing world. And then you may have heard about Prince Edward County, where he lives and this place called Farmville. 

Since there’s “farm” in the name, we’ve seen a number of jokes and wordplay pop up about the town over the last few weeks. Some of it’s been creative and other parts, well, not so much. A couple even ventured into what we’d call offensive, feeding off stereotypes about Appalachia and this part of Central Virginia. 

So to balance that out, we thought The Herald should act as a travel guide of sorts, providing an introduction to the Town of Farmville and everything there is to do and see here. Let us introduce you to this place….

Farmville is a two college town

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This place is home to both Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College. Both of Longwood’s basketball teams are in the March Madness hunt each year, both have made it to the dance recently and now, with a new coliseum, Longwood is bidding to host the Big South tournament, which you can read about here. It’s also worth pointing out that Longwood’s men’s basketball team just finished a road trip to Europe, where they beat three teams in Paris. We feel like another March Madness run could be brewing. 

Hampden-Sydney also knows what it’s like to be in March Madness, as they danced into the second round of the D-III tournament last year. This is one of Virginia’s oldest schools, and then tenth oldest in the U.S., as it was founded in 1775.

It’s not just about sports. Hampden-Sydney shows up in the Princeton Review’s list of the Best 389 Colleges in multiple ways. The school’s ranked first in most active student government, second for best college library, third in most politically active students, sixth in friendliest students and ninth in student love for college teams. 

Longwood basketball Coach Aldrich

The community packed out Willett Hall one last time on Saturday, Feb. 25, for the building’s final game. (Photo by Connor Thompson)

There’s always something going on  

That’s not an exaggeration. Almost every day of the week, you’ll find something happening here, be it trivia over at Three Roads Brewing, activities at High Bridge State Park, sports events and speakers at Longwood University. Or maybe you want to see the next Oliver Anthony before they hit it big.

There are always three to four places in town with a musician performing during the week. That includes North Street Press Club, Charley’s Waterfront Cafe and Three Roads Brewing, to name a few. If you stick around for the weekend, there’s a good chance at least one church is holding a meal of some kind. 

Our latest community calendar covers who’s playing and where for the next few weeks. 

There’s some unique spots here 

By that, we’re talking about the stores, shops and restaurants. Instead of focusing on chain stores, you’ll find family owned and operated shops here. Some of these stores are on the third generation and still going strong. We’ve got places like Walker’s Diner that have been in business since the 1950s, along with more recent openings like the Uptown Cafe, North Street Press Club and Charley’s.

If you want to get supplies straight from the source, we’ve got places like Miller’s Country Store, where you can grab a fresh donut, spices freshly ground up or a carton of Farmville-raised eggs. Read more about it here

A state park runs through Farmville

No, that’s not an exaggeration. We have High Bridge State Park, which connects with downtown. You can park in downtown and pick one of the trails to go exploring at High Bridge, a place where you’ll routinely see wildlife, hike through nature and take part in a ton of crafts and activities.

The park’s centerpiece is the High Bridge, which is more than 2,400 feet long and 125 feet above the Appomattox River. Originally built in the 1850s, the bridge was part of the Southside Railroad running between Petersburg and Lynchburg. It was also the site of the Battle of High Bridge in April 1865, with the results playing a role in General Lee’s retreat during the final days of the war. The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1914 and by 2005, its owner at the time, Norfolk Southern, turned it over to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. High Bridge officially opened as a state park on April 6, 2012.

You can click here to read about the park’s latest expansion plans. And then there’s a ghost story of sorts surrounding the park, a mystery still being investigated

A look at the entrance in downtown Farmville to High Bridge State Park.

Let’s talk about free movies

If you like classic movies from all over the world, we’ve got you covered there too. The High Bridge Theater in downtown puts out weekly free movies for everyone. Right now, they’ve just wrapped up a series of B movies, ending with the original 1980 version of Flash Gordon. The theater belongs to Longwood University, which holds a number of movies, discussions and other community events at the 50-seat venue. 

Farmville has a theater company

The Waterworks Players have performed in Farmville for nearly 50 years. The group was started by Dudley Sauve in the 1970s, when he started doing theater productions at Southside Virginia Community College in Keysville. The group moved to the lower dining hall at Longwood University, where Sauve was a professor, before moving to an old water treatment plant in the 1980s that is now home to the Farmville Fire Department. That’s how they got the Waterworks name. Now they’re in a permanent location at 25 SMI Way. 

You also may know a few of the performers who have passed through over the years. Steven Colbert, for example, performed in “The Good Doctor” in 1984, while attending Hampden-Sydney College. Others moved up to Broadway after performing on the Waterworks stage. 

And while Waterworks produces anything from comedy to drama, the big show each year involves Christmas pantomines. Pantomines, also called pantos, are a bit of musical theater. They became popular in England during the 17th century. Some of the audience come dressed in costume, prepared to be involved in the story at some point. These are well-known stories or feature well-known characters to help the audience know what’s going on, or at least what is supposed to. Many times the plot is basic and gives the actors the opportunity to add relevant jokes and bring the audience in without worrying about distracting from the overarching story.

Waterworks Players

A look at the cast of the pantomime performance by the Waterworks Players.

Feel like a celebration?

We have festivals in Farmville throughout the year, with the next one coming in September, celebrating the makers, the farmers, crafters and musicians in this region, better known as “The Heart of Virginia”. This upcoming version will be the 43rd edition of Heart of Virginia. 

Originally just a one-day event, it served as almost a summer kickoff, taking place in early May. But it was moved to fall to try and include more parts of the community. Being held in May meant the semester had ended for most Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College students. At that point, the majority had already packed up and headed home. By holding it in September, more college students can take part. Also, it’s typically held now on Longwood’s Family Weekend, so parents and other family members can get involved as well.

In 1978, the Heart of Virginia Festival got started with an art show. That tradition continues, bringing artists from around the region to exhibit and sell their materials. But now it’s expanded, with musical performances, food, magic shows and other entertainment.

Let’s walk through Farmville history

Finally, let’s talk about our museums, of which there are several. You can drop in downtown to visit the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, but before that, we suggest stopping in at Moton. The Moton Museum is located in the former Robert Russa Moton High School, considered “the student birthplace of America’s Civil Rights Movement” for its initial student strike and ultimate role in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case desegregating public schools.

Already declared a National Historic Landmark, it’s up for discussion as a potential World Heritage site.

And all of this barely scratches the surface. We still haven’t covered the Center for Community Music, the town splashpad, Greenfront Furniture and a number of other things that make Farmville unique. So if you’re in town for this week’s concert or in the future, just take a walk around. It’s worth a look.