Essayist, lawyer and "Genius Grant" honoree Reginald Dwayne Betts will speak next month at the University of Lynchburg. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

‘Genius Grant’ honoree Betts to speak at University of Lynchburg

Reginald Dwayne Betts, a poet, essayist, playwright and lawyer, will be featured at the next Thornton Reading at the University of Lynchburg.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in Hall Campus Center’s Memorial Ballroom.

Betts, a 2021 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow, will read from his work, participate in a Q&A and sign books.

Betts is the executive director of Freedom Reads, a nonprofit that installs “Freedom Libraries” in prisons across the U.S. He won a 2019 National Magazine Award for a New York Times Magazine essay that tells the story of his journey from prison inmate to licensed attorney.

He is the author of three poetry collections — “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” “Shahid Reads His Own Palm” and “Felon” — and a memoir, “A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison.”

Betts’ visit is part of the Thornton Readings series. Each year, the Richard H. Thornton Endowment in English brings established novelists, poets, playwrights, journalists, essayists and other writers to campus.

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Todd Sheaffer to play in Roanoke

Songwriter and Railroad Earth front man Todd Sheaffer will play at The Spot on Kirk in Roanoke on Oct. 28. Opening the show will be Chris Thompson of Coral Creek.

Schedule and tickets at

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GO Virginia gives $65,000 to Commonwealth Regional Council

GO Virginia Region 3 has awarded a $65,000 grant to the Commonwealth Regional
Council, a planning agency that assists local governments.

CRC will use the grant to create a business plan and strategy for a regional economic development organization, or REDO, that will coordinate economic development on behalf of the counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Lunenburg and Prince Edward, according to a news release from GO Virginia.

Virginia has 17 REDOs.

The CRC also received matching funds from Longwood University and the seven counties it serves. Along with a CRC cash match and several in-kind matches, the combined project
budget to design the business plan is $109,500.

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Natural history museum hosts fall festival

The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville will host its first-ever Bonez & Booz Halloween and Fall Festival from 4 to 10 p.m. Oct. 29. The inaugural event, which is designed for both families and adults, will include fire performances, stilt walkers, magic shows, carnival games, costume contests, a beer garden, food trucks and more.

The museum will also open up its exhibit galleries for flashlight tours.

Admission is $10 per adult and $5 for ages 3-17. Admission is free for children under 3, museum members, and members of museums and science centers that participate in the ASTC Passport program.

For more information about Bonez & Booz, visit

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Ginkgo festival slated for Nov. 5 in Roanoke

Roanoke Valley Sister Cities will hold its inaugural Ginkgo Tree Festival in Century
Plaza in downtown Roanoke from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 5.

Ginkgo trees, which commonly grow in China and South Korea, line both sides of the plaza
where the sister cities’ sculptures are located. Representatives from Roanoke Valley Sister
Cities will be present to highlight Roanoke’s relationships with its seven sister cities:
Wonju (South Korea), Kisumu (Kenya), Pskov (Russia), Opole (Poland), Florianópolis
(Brazil), Lijiang (China) and Saint-Lô (France). There will be live music and activities for
adults and children as well as treats or products from each country.

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Riders in the Sky coming to Rocky Mount

Riders in the Sky will perform at the Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount on March 17.

Tickets go on sale Friday at