As the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce hosted a grand finale celebration of the lake’s 50th anniversary, local leaders say the major milestone also helped bring a big boost in local business.
Community members filled a time capsule on Wednesday to be opened in 25 years as they wrapped up celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the lake reaching full pond.
“It changed everything,” Curry Martin, a lifelong resident of Huddleston, said of the lake. “It was totally a rural area with nothing but woodland and farms, and it changed immediately into a miniature city.”
Martin, who serves as the District 2 supervisor for Bedford County, owns an oil and gas business in Huddleston. As the lake marked its 50th anniversary over the past year, his shop saw a significant rise in business, he said.
“By the amount of boats that [were] on the lake, I hadn’t seen anything like this for years,” Martin said. “It had been at kind of a stagnant stage since about 2008 or 2009, but everything this year went ballistic.”
“The retailers have said that this is truly one of the best years that they have ever seen,” said Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Gardner said the 50th anniversary not only provided an opportunity to celebrate a major milestone, but also helped drive tourism. According to the chamber of commerce, more than 20 new events were held for the anniversary that together brought in at least 25,000 people.
“This really helped to attract attention to our area, and then once people discovered us, I think that they have found a place that they’d like to return to or perhaps even set their anchor for a lifetime,” Gardner said.
The celebrations also helped remind visitors that Smith Mountain Lake is a year-round destination, Gardner said. Going forward, the chamber of commerce also plans to continue working with other tourism organizations throughout the area to keep the momentum going, she added.