BLACKSBURG, Va. – People are showing up and “steppin’ out” for the 41st Annual Steppin’ Out Festival in Blacksburg.
Over 200 vendors were at the event, but one local business owner remembers a time when Steppin’ Out looked a little different.
For John Kline of John’s Cameras and Records in Downtown Blacksburg, Steppin’ Out will forever be known as Deadwood Days.
“The summers were pretty slow. You didn’t have very many students at all in Blacksburg. I mean, it was dead,” Kline said.
In business for over 45 years, Kline recognized the need for people to shop local, and found a fun way to do so.
“We had a party! And everyone dressed up, cowboys, and it was a lot of fun,” he said.
Organizers later rebranded the event.
“So, we started Steppin’ Out,” Kline said. “And it was tamed down a whole lot. A lot more family oriented.”
The festival continues to bring the community together and helps stimulate the Blacksburg economy.
“Every booth you see here represents someone who lives in Blacksburg who had a dream to start a business,” manager of Blacksburg Books Ellen Woodall said. “So every dollar you spend here stays in Blacksburg, and it also tells that person that you were right. You were right to follow your dream.”
For Woodall, that dream came to fruition exactly a year ago, when Blacksburg Books opened during Steppin’ Out.
“We were running back and forth from the store to Steppin’ Out,” Woodall said. “There were tons of people at the store, there were tons of people at our booth. But it was good just so people could see that we exist.”
And to Woodall, Blacksburg businesses are like family.
“When we first started, a lot of local businesses stepped up and helped us and gave us advice,” she said. “And there are so many local businesses here that it would be absurd to look elsewhere for community and support and products.”
For Kline, he said he hopes to be a part of Steppin’ Out for years to come.
“I’m good for another ten years like this,” Kline said.