RICHMOND, Va. — Michael Moore has always enjoyed his job as a wine trail guide with Topshelf Transportation. He said the job is about more than wine.
“I get people anything they need,” Moore said. “I’m like a rolling concierge.”
Moore, 71, works in the Monticello Wine Trail region, which encompasses parts of Albermarle and Nelson counties and contains about 35 wineries. It is widely considered to be one of Virginia’s top wine regions. Moore has worked in the industry for the past seven years after he retired as a graphic designer. But, in mid-March, his tours were canceled due to Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close non-essential businesses and ban gatherings of 10 or more to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“I guess I’m out of a job,” Moore said. “The whole industry has come to a screeching halt.”
Moore is not alone, and COVID-19 has not just impacted jobs in the state’s tourism industry. Since Northam’s order, there has been a sharp spike in unemployment rates, with 306,143 Virginians filing for unemployment insurance in the past three weeks.
Moore is not worried about his finances, but many people in the tourism industry are not as lucky.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Some of the bigger wineries, they’ve got a cushion, but their workers are out of work. And it’s all part-time workers.”
Travel spending in Virginia plummeted after stay-at-home orders were announced around the country, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Spending was $521 million in Virginia in the first week of March but dipped to $119 million by the end of the month. Compared to last year’s numbers, travel spending in the state was down 78% the previous week in March. Tourism is a significant source of revenue for Virginia, pulling in $26 billion in 2018, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp. The industry accounted for 234,000 jobs that year.
Andrew Cothern, communications manager for VTC, said Virginia attracts so many tourists because it has something for everyone.
“Virginia has a lot of different travel opportunities, whether the traveler’s interested in history or outdoor recreation or dining,” Cothern said. “There’s a lot of different reasons why people want to come to Virginia.”
Cothern said that COVID-19 had changed everything.
“With the COVID-19 crisis going on, a lot of people are not traveling, obviously, and it’s closed down a lot of business,” Cothern said.
The businesses hardest hit will be the ones that usually attract large crowds, he said. This might include museums, theaters, parks, restaurants, and wineries. VTC, and others in the tourism industry, are working to make some of these experiences virtual and earn a little revenue. For example, the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton is streaming recorded versions of the troupe’s 2020 performances. Tickets start at $10.
Moore, however, cannot work from home. He said companies like the one he works for might be in jeopardy.
“There will be some wine tour companies that will go out of business,” he said. “They’ve all got leases and cars and insurance they still have to pay for, even when they’re not touring.”
Large scale events have been affected, like the ones produced by Venture Richmond, a nonprofit that organizes events in downtown Richmond. Venture Richmond canceled Dominion Riverock, one of its largest festivals held on Brown’s Island. Stephen Lecky, director of events for the organization, said losing the festival was a disappointment to everyone, including vendors. Lecky said the festival draws 100,000 to 150,000 people annually, and they contract with hundreds of musicians, athletes, and other vendors.
“All these folks, food vendors and traveling vendors included, will not have this event, and it will impact them financially,” Lecky said.
Lecky said that once a festival is canceled, potential revenue is gone.
“That’s $2 to $3 million that we won’t be seeing,” he said, meaning the city, musicians, and vendors.
Lecky also is concerned about Friday Cheers, a weekly concert series that Venture Richmond organizes. The event typically draws 3,000 to 5,000 people to Belle Isle between May and June, Lecky said. Venture Richmond has canceled events through May and hopes to reschedule those musicians for later in the summer, but Lecky is worried people will be wary of large crowds.
“If a vaccine is not available to people by September, October–will people truly feel safe and comfortable in large crowds and events like this?” Lecky said.
Lecky said in the future event coordinators will have to be more careful.
“Events are going to have to be more proactive on ways they are doing things,” he said. “Do events go cashless? Are employees wearing gloves? Are you sanitizing more frequently? I think attendees are going to want to see these kinds of changes now.”
Though more people are turning to outdoor recreation during the coronavirus outbreak, Virginia state and national parks are closing. The Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health recommended on April 8, the full closure of Shenandoah National Park, which has over 500 miles of hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy on April 3 formally requested permission to close the 2,193-mile trail through the end of the month. A long stretch of it winds through the state.
Virginia State Parks have also taken a hit from COVID-19. The 38 parks attract 11 million visitors annually, with 45% of park spending coming from out-of-state visitors, according to Dave Neudeck, communications and marketing director for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Neudeck said the parks had canceled campground and cabin reservations through June 10. They have also closed visitor centers.
“It’s going to hit our budget because the revenues generated from our overnight facilities and our merchandise sales in our visitor centers are significant,” Neudeck said.
Neudeck is optimistic about the future of the parks and said this crisis might make people more appreciative of nature.
“What we see right now is that more people are looking to parks and state parks to get outside and get that fresh air and get some exercise when they can,” he said. “Therefore, we are seeing a lot of first-time visitors to our parks. The hope is that we’ll continue beyond when everything turns back to normal.”
For now, many are making the best of the crisis. Moore is making masks for health care professionals. Lecky is attempting to rebook vendors for later festivals. Cothern said VTC would increase promotional materials once people are allowed to travel freely. All agreed that the tourism industry is resilient, and people will come back to Virginia.
By Macy Pressley
Capital News Service
Adopters can help Winchester SPCA’s holiday wishes come true with $100K from the Petco Foundation
Individuals who have adopted a pet from the Winchester SPCA are invited to share how their pet has changed their life to help give your local SPCA a chance to receive a $100,000 grand prize Holiday Wishes grant award from the Petco Foundation. In partnership with BOBS from Skechers, the Petco Foundation is granting more than $750,000 this holiday season to qualified animal welfare organizations across the country. Awards will range from $5,000 to $100,000, and adopters with winning submissions will receive up to a $1,000 Petco shopping spree and a prize pack with BOBS from Skechers shoes.
“We’re calling on all Winchester SPCA adopters to help us earn a lifesaving grant award this holiday season from the Petco Foundation by sharing their stories,” said Winchester SPCA Executive Director Lavenda Denney “Thank you for choosing adoption; now you can make our holiday wishes come true by helping us earn lifesaving funds to bring more pets in need together with loving families.”
Through September 23, adopters can submit their story at petcofoundation.org/holidaywishes. Stories should highlight how pets have changed their adopter’s life for the better, in big and small ways, and should celebrate the love of their adopted pet. Submissions must include four photos to illustrate the story and can include video as well. Adopters must contact the Winchester SPCA for the organization’s point of contact, email and phone number to include in their submission. Adopters are also encouraged to visit the Holiday Wishes homepage for more information and to read stories from previous winners.
The deadline to submit a Holiday Wishes story is September 23, 2020, noon CST. Winners will be announced during the holiday season. For a full list of prizes and submission FAQs, visit petcofoundation.org/holidaywishes.
State Police release details of high-speed chase, arrest of Herndon woman
On Wednesday, August 12, the Virginia State Police (VSP) issued a press release on the circumstance of the multi-jurisdiction pursuit and arrest of Herndon resident Jennifer L. Arnn. The release indicates the date of the incident as Thursday, August 6. Our initial report indicated the incident occurred on Friday, August 7, which is listed as her booking date on the RSW Jail website. VSP Public Information Officer Brent Coffey explained that Arnn spent Thursday night at the hospital for injuries incurred during the incident, which appear to be reflected in her jail booking mug shot.
That incident began with a reckless driving “Be on the Lookout” issued in Berkley County, West Virginia, after which VSP spotted the vehicle on I-81 in Frederick County, Virginia.
Below is the VSP release in its entirety:
WARREN CO., Va. – A Herndon, Va. woman is behind bars on multiple charges after she fled law enforcement Thursday (August 6, 2020). Virginia State Police have charged Jennifer L. Arnn, 39, in Warren County with three felony counts of assault on law enforcement, one felony count of intentional damage, one felony count of eluding law enforcement, one felony count of animal cruelty, one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, and one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana.
On Thursday at approximately 11:17 a.m. the Berkley County Sheriff’s Office issued a “Be On the Lookout” for a reckless driver. A short time later state police observed the suspect vehicle, a 2016 Mazda CS-X on I-81 at the 307-mile marker in Frederick County. State police initiated a traffic stop on the Mazda which stopped but took off when approached by a trooper.
The Mazda continued on Rt. 277 in Frederick County. The Mazda was eventually contained and stopped on I-66 at the 4.6-mile marker in Warren County. The driver, Arnn, was taken into custody without further incident. Arnn was transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond.
During the course of the pursuit, Arnn pushed her dog out the window. State police were able to locate the dog, but it did not survive its injuries.
Arnn struck three state police cruisers during the pursuit. One of the state police troopers suffered minor injuries during the incident.
The pursuit reached speeds of up to 100 mph.
Lynchburg City Council appoints Doug Stanley as new City Manager
On Tuesday, August 11, Lynchburg City Council ended its search for a new City Manager with a vote to appoint Douglas P. Stanley to succeed the current City Manager, Bonnie Svrcek who will retire effective September 1, 2020. Stanley is the former County Administrator for Warren County, Virginia. He will assume his duties as City Manager on September 1, 2020.
Before taking a public vote during City Council’s work session, Mayor MaryJane Dolan stated that City Council had conducted a nationwide search for the City Manager’s position, and they were pleased with having had a number of very qualified candidates to consider. “Even with having to deal with a nationwide pandemic, we had a very competitive pool of talented candidates from across the country,” said Dolan. “Council has been very deliberate in making its choice, and we have complete confidence in Doug being the right person to lead the organization. Bonnie leaves behind a strong leadership team that will provide great support for him as he becomes acclimated in his new position.”
Stanley served as Warren County’s administrator for 20 years. He began his career in public service at the age of 25 when he was hired by Warren County as a Zoning Administrator. He became Planning Director at the age of 27 and then County Administrator in 2000, only the fourth person to hold the position of administrator in the county.
During his tenure with Warren County, he directed the construction of an over $200 million Capital Improvement Program including the construction of a new high school, renovation of a junior high school to a high school, the renovation of a former high school to a middle school and the construction of a new middle school, a library, a community center, and the renovation of a baseball stadium. He also spearheaded the concept and development of the creation of a three jurisdiction regional jail and served as its board chair.
Stanley is a graduate of Mary Washington College where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. He received a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration from Shenandoah Institute, Marsh Institute. Stanley is also a graduate of the Senior Executive Institute-Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.
His wife Jenny is an English teacher, and they have two children, Jenna and Whill.
“I want to thank the Lynchburg City Council for selecting me to be the next City Manager. My family and I look forward to this fantastic opportunity the next chapter in life brings. For me, it is not simply the job; it is about getting involved and becoming part of the community. I look forward to meeting citizens and stakeholders and becoming an active participant in our community.
Lynchburg is known throughout the Commonwealth for its stable and visionary leadership both at the Council and staff levels. I am honored to be following in the footsteps of Bonnie Svrcek and Kim Payne, two people who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the City of Lynchburg in moving this community forward. I have a proven track record of 20+ years of local government management experience having been successful in Warren County, Virginia in helping the community rebuild its tax base, improve its infrastructure, and build strategic relationships with community partners and stakeholders. I am proud to have left Warren County a stronger, more vibrant, and resilient community, and I look forward to bringing that experience to the Hill City.”
(Press release from the City of Lynchburg)
New Student Welcome Week coming up at LFCC
With the start of this fall semester’s first classes less than two weeks away, LFCC is rolling out the welcome mat – virtually, in most cases – for its new students.
A series of online sessions is scheduled to provide information on everything from career pathways, to available resources, to what a typical college day is like. Additionally, LFCC swag and important information will be handed out during curbside pickups.
“This year, with physical and social distancing a must, we’ve been given the chance to reinvent our New Student Welcome program, using both the virtual platforms – like Zoom – that we are now so accustomed to using while still keeping up with the traditional in-person festivities, but with a twist,” campus life and student engagement specialist Chris Lambert said. “Instead of just one day to welcome our new students, we have extended it into an entire week, which will allow us to introduce new sessions and programming options.”
The first set of fall classes starts Monday, Aug. 24, with other classes beginning Sept. 8 and Oct. 19. Most classes will be delivered remotely, but some classes that require in-person delivery will be on campus.
A busy slate of information and introductory sessions is scheduled for Aug. 17-22. Highlights include:
- A New Student Panel that will let students know how they can get involved at the college, and what student life looks like these days. The panel will feature current LFCC students and is at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 17 on Zoom.
- Ask the Faculty is a general question and answer session that will be on Zoom at 2 p.m. Aug. 20.
- President Kim Blosser, Fauquier Campus Provost Chris Coutts and other college officials will have a special session just for parents and supporters of students to ask questions about LFCC and college resources during a Zoom session at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 19.
- Curbside welcome pickups will be all week at all locations, with varying times.
- Resource chats for everything from campus safety, to online learning, to academic accommodations are planned.
- Zoom sessions on career pathways, including health professions, engineering, business, education, humanities and arts, transfer planning and undecided students are lined up.
For in-person classes, LFCC will follow the latest guidelines issued by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students attending these classes will be required to sign an agreement stating they won’t attend class when sick or if they’ve been exposed to someone with coronavirus, will wear a mask while in class and will practice social distancing and follow other safety measures.
To see the full schedule of events, and get Zoom codes, visit lfcc.edu/welcomeday.
School Board to consider moving start date of school to September 8th
Dr. Chris Ballenger, Warren County Schools Superintendent, issued a press release on August 11, 2020, to notify parents and the community that they will propose to the Warren County School Board, moving the start date of school from August 27, 2020, to September 8, 2020. This proposal will be presented at the School Board meeting on August 19, 2020.
School officials indicated that more time is needed for longer delivery times of supplies and delays in implementing the Learning Management Systems. This change will also provide more time for teachers and staff to learn the new Learning Management Systems which will be the main portal students will use to access the virtual learning materials and courses.
The proposed calendar includes the following dates:
September 8 – First day of school for students
November 10 – End of 1st advisory
November 11 – Holiday
November 25-27 – Thanksgiving Break
December 23-January 1 – Winter Break
January 18 – Holiday
January 29 – End of 2nd advisory/1st semester
February 15 – Holiday
March 29-April 5 Spring Break
April 13 – End of 3rd advisory
April 30 – Professional Day
May 31 – Holiday
June 17 – Last day of school for students
Woman held at RSW Jail after state police chase, animal abuse-fatality charge
A 39-year-old woman is in Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail without bond on six charges related to an August 7th law enforcement chase during which at least one Virginia State Police cruiser was sideswiped.
Jennifer Arnn faces one animal cruelty charge resulting in the fatality of dog or cat; one reckless driving charge, one vandalism charge of intentional damaging of public property, likely at least police cars, and three charges of assault on law enforcement officers in the conduct of their job.
A portion of the Friday afternoon incident was captured on a cell phone video posted on social media (see below). The video involves Arnn’s vehicle and what appears to be marked and unmarked police cars and an unidentified fourth vehicle stopped at an intersection in Warren County’s north commercial corridor near the Target-anchored Crooked Run Shopping Center.
The video appears to show Arnn attempting to leave the scene with something appearing to be hanging out of the rear passenger side of her car, the sideswipe of a pursuing state police car and Arnn’s vehicle heading southbound on Route 522/340 toward the intersection with I-66.
No place of residence was listed on the jail website and no further detail of the incident was available at the time of publication. This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.
The social media video (posted by Desirae Jean) of a portion of the incident in Warren County’s north commercial corridor:
YalllllllThis lady was getting flung around her car with every ram, and they had guns drawn on her, she was hell bent to get away 👀😳😳
Posted by Desirae Jean on Thursday, 6 August 2020