Bull elk; part of bachelor herd after rut. Courtesy of Mike Roberts Outdoors, LLC
Bull elk; part of bachelor herd after rut. Courtesy of Mike Roberts Outdoors, LLC

Here’s a round-up of briefs around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

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Guided tours of Virginia’s elk herd available

The Southern Gap Elk Fest will be October 20-22, 2022, in Buchanan County.

The event included guided tours of Virginia’s elk herd for those who reserved a spot in advance for $10. (For background on Virginia’s elk herd, see our previous story ‘”Virginia’s expanding elk herd a growing draw for Buchanan County.”)

Educational workshops will be offered on wildlife and birding to benefit area seventh grade students, who will be visiting the festival on Friday, October 21. Workshops on birding, the elk restoration project and weaving will be offered Saturday to festival goers. Clinch Mountain Echo and Noah Peters will headline Saturday night’s free music at the festival on October 22.

All of the events will be held at indoor and outdoor locations surrounding the Southern Gap Visitor Center at 1124 Chipping Sparrow Lane, Grundy.

Admission to daily festival events is free, however, there are fees for guided elk viewing tours, the Great Pumpkin ATV Hunt and the wild game dinner. Sign-ups for the elk tours are limited and are first come, first serve in advance on site at the visitor center or by calling 276-244-1111. Seating is limited. Lodging and camping are available on site, as well as in the nearby Town of Grundy.

The overall Elk Fest event is hosted by Buchanan County Tourism, Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure, SWVA Sportsmen and the SWVA Coalfields Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The festival fun starts Thursday, October 20, with a wild game dinner hosted by the Buchanan County Chamber of Commerce, an event that is sold out for the third year in a row. Dinner attendees will have the opportunity to sample wild game foods including deer, elk, buffalo and pheasant, among other wild game. Additional sides and desserts will also be featured.

For additional information about Elk Fest, interested persons may call the Southern Gap Visitor Center office at 276-244-1111 or email info@sgadventures.com or call the Buchanan County Tourism Office at 276-312-5033 or email info@WildBuchanan.com to request a vendor application.

For festival updates, follow the elk fest page on Facebook, or log on to sgadventures.com

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Roanoke camper business to show off its first camper this weekend

Wombat Camper, a Roanoke business that manufactures small, overland-style campers, will unveil its first camper at the festival that brought the business to town: the Roanoke GO Outside Festival.

Wombat campers will make their debut on Friday, October 14, at the Roanoke GO Outside Festival in Elmwood Park where attendees can tour the camper and talk with the manufacturers.

Avid travelers, Wombat Camper owners Julie and Brad Meilak were looking for a camping vehicle that fit their lifestyle. After failing to find one on the market, they decided to design and build their own.

In deciding where to make their home base, the Meilaks wanted a small city with proximity to outdoor recreational opportunities like hiking, camping, and mountain biking. After traveling to Roanoke from Pennsylvania to attend the annual GO Outside Festival, the Meilaks agreed this was the perfect place to start and grow their business, according to a news release. “We love how Roanoke connects with the outdoors in and around the city with mountain bike trails, the Greenway, Explore Park, and, of course, GO Fest,” Julie Meilaks said in a statement.

Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding with the Roanoke Regional Partnership and founder of GO Fest, met the Meilaks in 2018 when the company exhibited at GO Fest. “The Meilaks contacted me asking for a place to park their prototype overnight and I said why not in the middle of the festival,” said Eshelman in a statement. “GO Fest is a fantastic celebration of our region’s outdoor culture and brandThe event attracts outdoor businesses, entrepreneurs, enthusiasts and has proven to be a space for innovation. Wombat Camper is a perfect illustration of the forward momentum that can come from a celebration of authentic brand identity.” 

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Ulrike and Sonja Whalen stand on the porch of their new restaurant and artisan bakery, Oma’s Haus, now under construction in Coeburn. Oma’s Haus was a recent recipient of a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Fund Grant. Courtesy of VCEDA.

VCEDA gives grant to German restaurant in Coeburn

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded $10,000 to a trdational German restaurant in Coeburn.

Oma’s Haus – operated by the mother and daughter team of Ulrike and Sonja Whalen — opens on 111 Dickerson Avenue in Coeburn in early winter.

“One of VCEDA’s target industry sectors is creative tourism and those businesses that support it,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel in a statement. “Oma’s Haus fits that bill with its plan to bring a restaurant featuring traditional German foods to Coeburn, giving residents and tourists alike a new dining option while at the same time creating jobs. The new business projects four full-time employees and seven part-time employees within five years.”

The new German restaurant will also feature an artisan bakery, which is already operational, even as the restaurant location is still undergoing renovations. The Whalens are working out of the new location to run the bakery side of the business, selling German pretzels, including the ever popular Gouda cheese and bacon pretzel, as well as other traditional German breads and desserts, marketing those at area farmer’s markets and as special orders.

“Our dream is to bring authentic German foods to the table and to welcome everyone,” Ulrike Whalen said, noting their desire is to make everyone feel at home, like they would at “Grandma’s house.” “Oma” is the German word for “grandmother.”

The Whalens used the seed capital grant to purchase equipment for the kitchen and toward remodeling costs of the building.

The Whalens worked with the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College in developing their application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority.

The business may be reached at 254-458-6048.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in, or plan to operate in, the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise counties and the City of Norton.  Only businesses in qualifying industry sectors are considered for funding. The seed capital program is funded by regional natural gas severance taxes paid by the natural gas industry.