Blacksburg leaps into environmental awareness

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 24-Oscar: This frog, nicknamed Oscar, is placed right outside of the Lyric Theater in downtown Blacksburg. A child set a rock with a note next to him, showing that he is a local favorite. Photo: Stephen Dixon

About a year ago, Leslie Hager-Smith turned her dream of increasing environmental awareness in downtown Blacksburg into a reality when she started the 16 Frogs project. An avid history lover and the vice-mayor of Blacksburg, Hager-Smith has seen the decline of the health of local water firsthand and knew something needed to be done.

“The year of our bicentennial was 1998, and that was the year that Stroubles Creek was put on the state’s most impaired waterways list, and it has remained there ever since,”Hager-Smith said.

According to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Stroubles Creek originates from three springs in Blacksburg, flows through the town, and combines together to run into the Duck Pond. Hager-Smith noted that despite the necessity of clean water in the environment, many people in the Blacksburg area are unaware of the current state of Stroubles Creek.

For this reason, Hager-Smith and the rest of the town council feel like the 16 Frogs project is a simple solution to this problem. She believes that it is vital to “bring attention to this environment, what makes it special, exactly why we got here and how town history revolves around waterways.”

In order to achieve this goal, 16 bronze statues of frogs will be strategically placed around the town of Blacksburg. Locals, college students and tourists will all be able to enjoy these unique pieces of artwork, while learning more about how they can make a difference in the health of Stroubles Creek. Several frogs are already installed and can be found next to the Blacksburg Municipal Building, in front of the Lyric Theater and next to the Main Street Inn.

Yoga: 5,000-year-old trend

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 14 – High Lunge Pose: Nicole Boyle, owner of InBalance Yoga, practices a high lunge pose in a hot yoga class. Boyle says she practices yoga because it makes her happy.

by Haven Lewis–

It’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. Clients come in, one by one, with yoga mats, towels, and water bottles in hand, ready to enter the sauna that has consumed the studio at InBalance Yoga.

“My favorite is the hot yoga vinyasa classes,” says Keala Mason, manager and instructor at the studio.

Mason first became an instructor during her undergraduate years at James Madison University. She was later appointed as Coordinator of Sport Clubs and Youth Programs at the university’s recreation center. As the coordinator, Mason noticed a steady increase in the availability and popularity of yoga classes.

“I think one reason is because we’ve got celebrity endorsements and it’s become something that’s trendy to try, but then people stay with it because they see that it’s not just a trend,” Mason speculates. “It’s been around thousands of years so there’s gotta be something to it.”

According to David Gordon White’s “Yoga, Brief History of an Idea”, the earliest account of yoga is found in the Hindu Kathaka Upanisad, a scripture dating from about the third century B.C.

Yoga Alliance reports that the number of American practitioners has grown 50 percent in the past four years. Why are Americans now turning to this age-old practice as a form of exercise?

Nicole Boyle, owner of InBalance, has been practicing yoga for 11 years.

“I’m 38 now and it feels like I’m aging in reverse. I can do things now that I couldn’t do in my 20s,” Boyle says assuredly.

She believes that yoga has given her the confidence, and strength, to do triathlons, marathons, go on extended hiking and camping trips, and even try Crossfit.

“I think people are attracted to it because of some of the physical benefits, but then they see how well they feel mentally, emotionally, spiritually,” says Boyle. “Yoga can do more than just be a physical exercise.”

Boyle may be right. Yoga Alliance reveals that practitioners have a stronger sense of mental clarity, are more likely to give back to their communities, and have more agile bodies than non-practitioners and the public at large.

Boyle says that her clients typically range from ages 18 to 80. Her business offers chair yoga and community pool yoga for those who have trouble with mobility.

“There’s so many different types and so many different paces. As long as you can breathe, you can do yoga.”


Running in the winter… on purpose

by Becky Shumar–

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 5- Running despite the cold: Erin Newman runs in her neighborhood on chilly afternoon. It is about 45 degrees so she opted for running tights and a jacket.
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 5- Running despite the cold: Erin Newman runs in her neighborhood on a chilly afternoon. She is wearing running tights and a jacket in the windy 45 degree weather. Photo: Becky Shumar

January and February seem to be the coldest months in the New River Valley, and for many people this means it is time to hunker down until the warmth returns. But experts say the change in temperature is no excuse to put on winter weight.

Triathlon runner Sam Forsyth claims the cold weather improves his race performance.

“You don’t sweat as easy and you feel more energized,” said Forsyth. “I always have my fastest times in the 50s and the slight rain.”

For many runners the first sign of frost means it is time to start running inside. But Forsyth says he will do all he can to avoid running on the treadmill. Not only does it hurt his knees, but he says it takes away from the experience.

“Part of the enjoyment of running is exploring, finding new places and seeing what’s around the corner,” said Forsyth. “There’s no scenery inside.”

The graphic above gives runners a guide on what to wear based off the temperature outside.
The graphic above gives runners a guide on what to wear based off the temperature outside.

But running in the cold is not the same as running in warmer temperatures. Runners have to dress properly to avoid frostbite, hypothermia and joint injuries. Athletes also should not anticipate the same run times as they have had during the fall season.

“Expect to go slow the first mile or so,” said Forsyth.

How athletes dress could significantly improve or worsen their running experience. A decent pair of wind resistant gloves improves comfort tremendously.

“My hands are the first things to get cold. Hands are a part of your extremities hard for them to heat up.”

Forsyth says dry-fit gloves are not necessary because if his hands get sweaty, he will want to take them off anyways. As for feet, it is important to have a warm pair of socks that can wick away sweat. Running shoes should have decent traction to prevent falling on slippery ice.

The graphic above shows the benefits of running.
The graphic above shows the benefits of running.

Forsyth says layers are the best way to stay comfortable throughout the whole workout. It gives runners the ability to manage their temperature while warming up during the run. According to, you should dress as though it is 10 to 20 degrees warmer outside. Wearing too much clothing can cause overheating and discomfort.

But it is not just about how you dress. Experts say those who run in the winter are at a greater risk for dehydration. According to, runners do not sweat as much and feel less thirsty when they are cold. This leads to a decrease in water consumption during the winter months. It is imperative that athletes drink half their body weight in fluid ounces to avoid dehydration.

Running outside during the winter months may seem very unappealing, but it has proven to significantly improve both physical and mental health. This is especially important during the winter months, a time when season depression is at its peak. Properly dressed, athletes can comfortably run all year round.

Pretty in Pink

by Jess Ku–

Blacksburg, Va., Oct. 26 – Pink Ribbons: Downtown Blacksburg held its 8th annual Pretty in Pink event to help fundraise for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. Photo by Jess Ku.

Recently local restaurants and stores in the Downtown Blacksburg community participated in the 8th annual Pretty In Pink Event. This event was to help fundraise for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VCBF). Pretty in Pink was presented by Kent Jewelers and Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.

There were many opportunities for the community to help donate. Participating downtown merchants such as Social House, Gillie’s, Bollo’s, Mellow Mushroom, and many more local restaurants gave a percentage of their sales to VCBF. During the hours of the event, the stores put signs on their front door to encourage local residents to buy and donate to the event.

“It was great to see Blacksburg as a community come together to help with a great cause,” said Abigail Wright, senior at Virginia Tech. “I know that a lot of people know at least one person that is or has dealt with breast cancer, so I think it’s great to make others aware that it is for a big cause.”


According to, “the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the eradication of breast cancer through education and advocacy.” It also states on their Priorities page that “advocacy saves lives by empowering people to express their views and concerns, access information and services, and defend and promote their rights and responsibilities.”

Owners of local restaurants, such as Jeremy Counts of Main Street Pharmacy and Roya Gharavi of Gourmet Pantry, participated in the Pretty in Pink event, as well as going a little above throughout the month of October.

Exploring Sinkland Farms

Sinkland Farms
Christiansburg, Va., Oct. 31–Mailbox: Sinkland Farms is located on Riner Road in Christiansburg. Photo: Rachel Thompson

Sinkland Farms is a popular place to visit during autumn in the New River Valley. Every weekend in October, the farm was open to people of all ages for pumpkin picking, face painting, hay rides and more.

Susan Sink, the owner of Sinkland Farms, has spent 24 years carefully crafting the Pumpkin Festival experience into what it is today. Cursive script on the website describes it as “exquisite Southern style,” and the “Premier Event Venue in Southwest Virginia.”

Though the Pumpkin Festival is over, Sinkland Farms continues to cater for special events. In the past, weddings have been held there, as it presents a beautiful mountainous background. It has also been a venue for sorority and fraternity formals.

Testimonials on the Sinkland Farms’ website detail how much fun families had during their trip. “This venue is nothing short of amazing,” wrote a reviewer named Wendy. “The place and the people are great to work with,” wrote a reviewer named Benjamin.

Sinkland Farms has over 9,000 likes on its Facebook page. It has a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating from nearly 600 reviewers. Visitors post daily to the wall, constantly commending Sink and her team for their fabulous work.

According to the official tourism website of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Sinkland Farms was “named a ‘Best Farm to visit by Blue Ridge Country Magazine, which highlights ‘best places’ across seven southern states.”

Sink discusses how she and her husband first came up with the idea of a Pumpkin Festival in the audio slideshow below.