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Smith Mountain Lake keeps focus on 50th Anniversary following deadly shooting

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SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE (WSLS) - It's been four months since a deadly shooting at Smith Mountain Lake. The sole survivor Vicki Gardner said she is ready to return to her job at the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce in late January. Gardner was shot in the back while previewing the 50th Anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake. She continues to recover. Business leaders said the incident will not define the region as they make plans to promote the area in 2016.

"The world has unfortunately learned about the Lake in a bad way" said Annette Stamus, Marketing & Communications Manager for the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Now we want to make sure we turn that around and make it a positive from now on because that's what Vicki would want."

Gardner the chamer's Executive Director continues to recovering from the August 26th shooting that killed journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward. The incident drew national attention to Smith Mountain Lake. Business leaders hope to shift the focus from the tragic incident to the beauty of the lake.

Over the past half-decade the community surrounding Smith Mountain Lake has grown. In recent years more stores have opened around the West Lake Towncenter.

Haywood's Jeweler moved to its new location by the Townecenter nearly a year ago.

"We needed more showcase space and more room to work and do custom design" said Joanna Hudzik, Haywood's Jewelers.

In business since 2004, Hudzik has seen positive changes to the area such as new businesses and restaurants. Heading into 2016, local leaders hope to use online campaigns to highlight the natural beauty and fun activities in the region and attract more visitors.

"The fact that it is the 50th anniversary of the lake is a great marketing opportunity to let the world know what a great place we have here" said Stamus.

Chamber leaders said they have several new events planned for the 50th Anniversary of the lake in 2016. They are also teaming up with Roanoke and other areas in an unified effort to promote events throughout our region.