Trail Days 2008 – Damascus, Hiker Parade, Hiker Talent Show
Yesterday, I headed down to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days! Thanks to the Roanoke Outdoors Club, I found a carpool buddy for my journey. We spent about eight hours in beautiful Damascus, saw of a lot of interesting events (not to mention warddrobes) and I took a great deal of pictures.
Trail Town, USA
Not only has Damascus been deemed the “Friendliest Town on the Trail”, but I have often heard it simply referred to as “the Trail Town.” Having never been there, I didn’t understand what differentiated Damascus from other communities the trail passed through. How was it different from Pearisburg or Catawba? Now, I know the answer.
When the Appalachian Trail comes to Damascus, it doesn’t just have an incidental road crossing. The trail physically travels through the small town! Blazes occupy telephone poles, are embedded into brick walkways and even made a cameo on the sign for a local business.
The community and town really embrace their relationship with the trail. A number of the business had names related to the trail. Blue Blaze Bike Rental. Trails Ice Cream and Coffee. Hikers Inn. Churches advertised their affection for hikers and local residents offered up their yards as campgrounds.
Rounding out Damascus’ thoughtfulness and hospitality toward hikers, I saw a sign I had never seen before:
When I saw “Hiker Parade” on the event schedule, I didn’t expect all that much. Hikers walking down the street. Even when I saw onlookers with water guns, I still did not fully anticipate what was to come.
The parade started off innocently enough with police cars, Santa Claus and a collection of beauty queens of varying ages. Then it came time for the hikers. They grouped themselves according to the year they completed their thru hike. That’s when the real excitement began. Kids and adults hurled water balloons or unleashed the fury of their Super Soakers. Some hikers ducked, some hikers ran, some hikers just stood and waved the attack on and some hikers fought back with water pistols of their own.
When the parade started, the street was completely dry. When the parade ended, the pavement was wet with scattered snippets of colored latex.
Hiker Talent Show
In the afternoon, there was a Hiker Talent Show. There were about thirteen acts in the competition. Most of them were singers and I especially enjoyed the people sharing original songs written about or written on the trail. My favorite act, however, was a stand-up comedian with the trail name Punchline (He’s also known as Johnny Millwater and has the website http://www.screwtheamish.com). The highlight of his act was The Animal Balloon of Death! He blew up a really long balloon and then he swallowed it. And for his efforts, he was crowned the co-winner of the competition.
The Colonel sings A Northbound Hike is Painless
This was my first visit to Trail Days and most definitely not my last. The whole event was warm and welcoming and extremely entertaining.