Baseball games are back. So are fireworks and fairs. The summer of 2021 is shaping up to be a time for family fun, as we see the return of outdoor events we missed a year ago.
Fair-weather fansThe Salem Fair returns June 30 and runs through July 11, headlined by the favorite rides, vendors, exhibits and racing pigs we’ve come to love. Fireworks will light up the night sky on July 4. The Salem Fair is always free, although wristbands must be purchased for rides. For more schedule and ticket information, go online to www.salemfair.com.
Likewise, the New River Valley Fair also comes back to the lovely New River Valley Fairgrounds in Dublin from a COVID-prompted hiatus. The fair, which is usually highlighted by livestock exhibitors, rides and concerts, will take place July 26-31. Details can be found soon at www.nrvfair.com.
Take me out …… to watch the last traces of professional baseball in Southwest Virginia, as the Salem Red Sox continue their season in what used to be known as the Carolina League, but now has been reconfigured and poetically renamed the Low-A East league by Major League Baseball.
The Sox home schedule ends Sept. 19, about two weeks later than usual due to the season’s delayed start because of COVID-19. The team plays six-game homestands against a single opponent just about every other week, which is also a new feature of this weird post-COVID world.
Family-friendly promotional nights include PBS Kids Night on June 27, Teacher Appreciation Night on July 23, Pirate and Princess Night on July 24, Kids Take Over the Ballpark on Aug. 28 and an appearance by Tyler Scheuer — the guy who can balance ladders, bicycles, beers and just about anything else on his face — on Sept. 17. Fireworks nights will be June 25, July 23, Aug. 27 and Sept. 17.
Sadly, the New York Yankees minor league team was ripped from Pulaski earlier this year in MLB’s heinous effort to wreck professional baseball in the Appalachian League (the same maneuver that did away with the Carolina League). The only semi-good news is that the lords of MLB deigned to include Pulaski in the non-professional, college-level version of the Appy League. The Pulaski River Turtles have 17 home games left at historic Calfee Park through Aug. 7.
Speaking of collegiate baseball, the Covington Lumberjacks play in Valley League, a circuit for high-level college players, through July 21 at Casey Field.
Punt, Pass and Kick
Boys and girls ages 6-15 can test their football skills at River’s Edge South sports fields on July 10. Registration is $5, and the event follows a morning football camp. Youths don’t have to participate in the camp to compete in the Punt, Pass and Kick. Call Roanoke Parks and Recreation at 853-2236 for details.
Mill Mountain Zoo will hold several summer camps for children ages 6 to 13 through the summer. Some of the camps include the popular “junior zookeeper” programs that allow campers to assist zoo employees in caring for the animals. For a list of camps, go online at www.mmzoo.org.
The zoo also hosts Breakfast with the Animals on the third Saturday of each month through October. The next breakfast will be July 17, featuring “Treats with Turtles and Tortoises.”
Water, water everywhere
Surveys have shown that nearly 8% of Americans kayak, canoe, raft or float on stand-up paddleboards every year. This prompts the question: What does the other 92% do for fun? Why aren’t they on the water, too?
The paddlesport rate seems much higher than 8% in the Roanoke and New River valleys. These days, a person can’t drive a city block without seeing kayaks strapped atop jeeps or jutting from beds of pickup trucks. The lakes, rivers and creeks of Southwest Virginia swell with paddlers every summer.
Carvins Cove, Roanoke’s man-made reservoir hugged by woods latticed with trails, is a lovely spot for relaxing kayak trips, especially for folks who don’t need the thrill of rushing through rapids. Daily admission is $7 per vehicle, and kayaks can be rented from $10 to $30 depending on how long you want to paddle. Children must be 16 to rent a kayak. However, younger kids can paddle their own kayaks as long as they are accompanied by an adult. For more information about Carvins Cove, go online to https://bit.ly/35bfJEu.
A hike that covers the history of Carvins Cove will be held Aug. 21 for people 14 and older (with accompanying adult). Registration is $20. Learn more by calling 853-2236.
Several outfitters have popped up like wildflowers in Giles County in recent years, where boating, fishing and hiking opportunities abound. Tangent Outfitters (www.tangentoutfitters.com) and New River’s Edge (newriversedge.com) are among the businesses that provide river trips. Tangent also operates the popular Cascades Café (540-626-4569) in Pembroke, a lovely spot to have a burger after a kayak trip or a hike to the popular Cascades waterfall.
New River Junction (newriverjunction.com) in McCoy near Blacksburg has been a popular tubing spot for Virginia Tech and Radford University students for nearly 40 years. The Junction also offers on-site camping.
Twin River Outfitters (canoevirginia.net) in Buchanan is a well-known rental business along the James River that has put people on the water since 1978. Roanoke Mountain Adventures (www.roanokemountainadventures.com), located near Wasena Park, rents bikes and kayaks, having taken advantage of the growing popularity of the nearby Roanoke River Greenway and easy access to the river.
Treetop Quest at Explore Park is a must-do for children who like to climb trees, walk on tightropes and soar through the air on ziplines. Actually, it’s a must-do for parents who still like to do those things, too.
The aerial, treetop park is open seven days a week this summer, with online admission rates ranging from $15 to $35. To register, go to https://bit.ly/3vgP57A.
Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing (www.wilderness-adventure.com) in Craig County also offer outdoor adventures for the whole family, especially during weekends when tube and kayak rentals and ziplining are offered. Cabins and camping available, with musical performances scheduled on certain Saturdays through the summer.
Junior Park Rangers
Roanoke Parks and Recreation encourages children to get to know the city’s parks and outdoor offerings through its Junior Ranger program. Children can complete tasks to earn a Junior Ranger badge. The program is similar to the National Park Service Junior Ranger initiative, and it’s free. Call the rec department at 853-2236 to reserve a booklet.
Great Greenway Tour
The tour is like a scavenger hunt, during which participants receive clues about specific Roanoke greenway trails and search for spots where a hidden stamp is located. Folks will get a passport card that can be punched with each discovered stamp. The challenge runs from Aug. 2 through Sept. 24. Registration is $10. Call 853-2236 for more details.
Park After Dark
Roanoke Parks and Recreation will hold glow-in-the-dark badminton and other nighttime activities during the monthly “Park After Dark” series. The free events, which run from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m., will be held at Countryside Park on July 9, Fallon Park July 30 and Preston Park Aug. 13.
My family loves movies. I also drive a pickup truck. Combine the two and you get a classic outdoor entertainment experience: the drive-in movie. We throw blankets and sleeping bags in the back of the truck, munch on popcorn and watch the stars, both theatrical and celestial.
Salem’s Movies at Longwood series has two more showings this summer at Longwood Park: “Miracle” on July 23 and “Raya and the Last Dragon” on Aug. 13.
No summer is complete without Fourth of July fireworks. Roanoke will hold a fireworks show at River’s Edge on July 3. Radford has one of the biggest July 4 festivals, which includes a day of music, vendors, food and children’s activities at Bisset Park along the banks of the New River.