Meet our Newest Employee
Welcome, Hana to the APEX CENTER!!

Welcome, Hana to the APEX CENTER!!

Happy Friday!

I want to introduce you to our newest employee ...Our House Photographer - Hana!

Hana is a Wythe County native and a senior at Fort Chiswell High School. She is graduating next spring and attending Wytheville Community College next fall.

If you see this tiny blonde running all over the Expo with a camera capturing your smiling faces, please know that she is our employee and I’m thrilled to have her on board.

Hana and I share a love of photography. I don’t have time to indulge in this hobby as sometimes the most I can do is get a quick photo with my phone. I love that I now have a partner in crime to help me capture the wonderful things happening here.

For you photography nerds, Hana and I were chatting this week about what it’s like shooting here. She will have the chance to shoot in all sorts of conditions ...low light, fluorescent light, indoors and out, portraits, livestock, sports/action photos, landscapes and entertainers.

To help you get to know her, I asked a few questions- everything from her preferred camera to advice for those getting started.

Her favorite brand of camera gear is Canon (samesies!) and her biggest piece of advice is to practice. “It takes A LOT of practice!” She also recommended social media as a great tool for getting started.

I was drawn to her after reading the About section of her Facebook page. It’s simple, daring, and lines up with my vision for this facility. Her About: “Young photographer out of SWVA looking to achieve big things.”

When I read that, I reached out immediately. If you’ve spent more than five seconds with me you know I say that the sky's the limit here.

Wythe County has done an incredible thing: They’ve invested in a piece of property and an industry that has the potential to do big things. Since the building opened in January, they’ve done everything from motor sports, ag events, youth events, rodeos, MMA/sports, concerts, meetings, a graduation…..BIG THINGS. And that’s just in the first eight months of being open!

Every business owner knows the struggle of getting a business off the ground. Things are no different here. There are three full-time staff that work relentlessly to continue the BIG momentum that started in January. Now we have Hana working with us to capture the amazing things we and all of the promoters who have used the facility are doing.

I’m so excited for Hana to be here. I can’t wait to tell our Apex story with her talent telling the story visually. Hana has been working in photography for over a year now and I’m ready for all of us to grow together.

Show her some love on social media (her photography page on Facebook is Hana Q Photography) and keep a lookout for her photos on our Facebook page, Instagram, website and blog.

Welcome to the team Hana!

If you have the same spirit that Hana does, want to see the Apex grow, and are interested in volunteering or working here part-time, please PARTNER WYTHE US!

Be sure to check the website for all of our work and volunteer opportunities! Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone,


Kathy Finley
Why Showing Up Matters

A LOT of people have asked me why we are hosting small concerts on Sunday night. Gotta few things to throw at ya if you’re ready!

The Apex Center in Wytheville is a brand new market. It is conveniently situated at Exit 77 on I 81, and is a stone’s throw from the I77/I81 interstate split. We have to get on the radar of promoters who are running tours through those interstates and close by us.

That means that we are gonna host more shows on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday rather than Friday and Saturday slots because your bigger artists are already booked in other cities for Friday and Saturday. For example here is a made up scenario using my bucket list artist:

Dolly Parton is in Knoxville, TN playing a show. Her next tour stop is Charlottesville, VA. Wytheville is conveniently located over 2.5 hours from Knoxville and right at 2.5 from Charlottesville. A promoter looking to book her would look at Wytheville because it’s close, on the route, and is not close enough to compete with the other 2 shows that are booked.

If you take your favorite artist and look at their tour dates, you’ll see that they are usually states away from each other. While it doesn’t always work as clearly as my example, I wanted to use VA cities to keep it simple.

This dovetails into the next item. Promoters look at venue records. If a Country artist sells out but a Rock concert tanks, you can guarantee both will be leary of one show tanking but the Country artist promoter is more likely to book again.

Showing up MATTERS!

It matters to artists who put their heart and soul into their music. When they have a great show they are more likely to shout it out and do repeat performances.

It matters to promoters who are in the game to produce events. They look at data from venues. Every concert we host is being analyzed to share with promoters so that they can make informed booking decisions.

It matters to venues. When you show up you vote with your dollars and give me the inside scoop on what sells here. People are happy to tell me all day long “Hey you should get Dolly Parton in here,” but I can’t build a show off of one fan, even if that one fan is ME! What does get all of us closer to hosting Miss Dolly P here though is when Country artists (female or male) consistently sell out.

We are coming up on the last of our Summer Sounds at Six; a four week run of concerts on SUNDAY nights. We hosted these to get people inside the building at a ridiculously low cost to the consumer, to test the market to see what sells, to get people used to Sunday night events and to use that data going forward to entice promoters to book shows here.


I hope you’ll come out for our last concert this Sunday. It’s gonna be a hard rocking Christian night with Hanging Haman and As We Are. Our season was great and I want to thank Jimothy Band, Adam McPeak and Mountain Thunder; and Phlegar Hill = all top notch artists who brought their talents to us this opening season!

Join us Sunday night; doors open at 5 and the show starts at 6!


Kathy Finley
Summer is For Projects


Want to know the number one thing that surprises people most about this industry?

And no, it’s not the amount of famous people we either meet or typically don’t….

It’s the fact that this industry follows the school calendar. We are our busiest September – May!

A lot of events happen in the summer; however, most are outdoors. If your facility has an outdoor event venue, you can expect it to be hopping! If it does not, the building staff get a chance to breathe!

After 8 years in this business, my hours are typically 80-90 hour weeks in our busiest months (October-December) and calm down to nice, solid 50 hour weeks in the summer. The first time I encountered this it felt like hitting a brick wall after running so much in the fall & winter season.

Summer is for projects. This is when the building rests, the staff can breathe a bit, and we tackle all of the projects from the rest of the year. We get a chance to deep clean the building. We get to fix everything that falls into disrepair during such a busy rental period. We get to put new programs and physical projects in place. We get to say more than “Hi” and “Bye” to each other as we are scurrying around.

One of our biggest projects this summer is getting the dirt ready for ag events. We are HUGE supporters of the Ag community and want to honor the industry that so many Wytheville (town and county) residents are engaged in. Did you know that the dirt needs to behave differently for horses, cattle, sheep and goats? We are working quickly to get it ready for each group who has very specialized sets of needs.

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We are also getting 3 new fans on the East end of the building. I can’t wait to see how they move the air in preparation of hotter summer months and future motor-based event rentals. And yes. That is me, hugging a fan that is taller than I am. (Not a high bar, but I’m 5 feet 3 inches tall, even though my husband says that last inch is a lie haha)

A lot of people have asked why the Apex isn’t booked right now. It’s simple. The industry does not support rentals in the summer. Compare any building calendar in November and July and you’ll see what I mean about the percentages. Now. That being the case, I am working hard and fast to increase them, in spite of the industry standard.

We are looking into several family-oriented events, a concert series, riding times, and meeting rentals. Stay tuned, you’ll see more pop up on the calendar that you wouldn’t normally see in other places, as I am working hard to open the building to Wythe county residents who want to experience events here.

As always, my door is always open. Feel free to pop in and we’ll give you a tour, answer your questions about upcoming events and explain how this crazy industry works!


Kathy Finley
Round 'Em Up

Manager’s Minute…

What a whirlwind week!

On Thursday we were honored to provide the building to the wonderful people of Mount Rogers. The organization held its annual Employee Appreciation and Wellness Day at the facility.

The Mt Rogers staff were treated to mini manicures, acupuncture, chair massages, door prizes, a band and lots of good food provided by Apex’s Piggalicious Concessions stand. These people know how to celebrate their employees! The attendees said “This was such a fun party, and the activities, vendors, and the food were all awesome.”

I had the pleasure of working with Candace in building the event. She is a gem and the employees of Mt Rogers are lucky to have her. Her heart for the employees was evident by all of the care that went into planning the event and giving the employees time to get away.

We look forward to working with them more in the future!

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As soon as the employee activities wound down, we rolled right into flipping the Meade Tractor Arena Floor for the Rodeo Extravaganza to benefit St Jude’s. Stages were moved out of one end of the building while horse pens and cattle chutes were loaded in through the other end.

The rodeo lasted the weekend, offering barrel racing, roping and additional riding events. Over 1000 participants, spectators & volunteers made their way through the building for this fundraiser event.

The event kicked off Friday with the Eddie Wagoner Memorial Rodeo. Saturday brought the Madison Wood Open Barrel Race and not a dry in eye in the place as Miss Reed Lawson rode her pony around the arena, carrying the flag, with the National Anthem playing. The weekend concluded with the Kalmbach/Tribute Team Roping event. Thousands of dollars were given away in prizes to the local participants.

While exhausting, it’s been so wonderful to see the building used for truly amazing causes. Who can argue with recognizing employees and a fundraiser to help kids and families battling cancer? We are so honored to be a part of all of it!


Kathy Finley
Manager’s Minute ….

A note from our General Manager

Y’ALL! This past weekend we had approximately 60 youth and over 200 sheep and goats at the Apex Center for the Youth Sheep and Goat Symposium!

Due to a double booking at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Cooperative Extension relocated the event to the Apex and it was held Saturday, June 22, 2019.

To be honest, this was my first Sheep and Goat show, and I had no idea what to expect. I was a bundle of nerves and curiosity leading up to Saturday. That nervousness quickly turned to excitement when a whole buncha sheep showed up at the building Friday afternoon.

If you’re like me and new to the Ag community, this event is centered around youth, between the ages of 9-19, showing their lamb and goats. The youth who participated were from every corner of the state, some coming as far as Virginia Beach. During the day the building was a buzz with youth sheering and cleaning the livestock, chatting nervously, and the sound of the sheep and goats as they lounged in their pens and were herded to the show ring. As the day progressed, you could hear judge Noah Henson from Ashville NC offering praise and constructive criticism to the youth who showed as well as running commentary for the crowd that watched.

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Event host Katharine Carter, from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, worked with our building staff on coordinating the event. The event was established over 40 years ago for 4-H and FFA youth who are interested in raising, exhibiting, and learning more about sheep. Additionally they have added a meat goat division for those youth interested in meat goat projects. (To be even more honest, I don’t know what a meat goat is but it sure is cute.)

“We still offer the Stockman’s Contest, which we now call a Skill-a-Thon and that combined with showmanship and the animal’s live placing, are used to determine our Overall Shepherd Award winners in three age categories: Junior, Intermediate, and Senior.” Carter said.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach program of Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, and part of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, an agency of the US Department of Agriculture. It provides programs in the area of agriculture, natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth. The Virginia Cooperative Extension has a network and staff at two universities that service 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and 6 4-H centers.

While reading through the event info, I came across the phrase “show with character” and it stuck with me. If you’ve seen our Instagram account, I regularly make a play on the word “with” and change it to “Wythe” to honor the community we are in. It was fun to put a spin on this one to be “show wythe character” - and even though I’m new to the area I believe there is a lot to be proud of here.

It was humbling to watch these kids wrangle their beasts and clean them all up. They paraded them proudly and it was awesome to watch them one by one show off the skills they are acquiring. The Apex Center is proud to host events that support our youth and our Ag community!


Kathy Finley
Welcome to Our APEX Center

In 2004 my sister told me about a job that reported to the HR manager and built events and parties for employees. I thought to myself “there’s no way people get to plan parties for a living”. I was intrigued and a little scared by it. I listed a thousand reasons why I couldn’t do it and never applied for the job.

To this day that opportunity haunts me. I’ve played the “what if” game for 15 years. In that time I’ve had the wonderfully good fortune to work in the event industry (*it’s a real job, let me tell you!) and still do fun, hard things both big and small.

I’ve worked with churches building one hour luncheons and week long youth camps. I’ve worked with Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism which gave me the opportunity to flex my creative muscle and give back to the local community while boosting tourism in the area.

I’ve worked in Lynchburg with a small business as their marketing director and had the awesome chance (twice!) to work with Nerdist Industries at San Diego Comic Con, to facilitate several days of laser tag for the 200 thousand attendees.

I’ve worked as an independent contractor where we helped the town of Appomattox transport thousands of attendees to different points of interest and battlefields as they hosted the Civil War Sesquicentennial Remembrance event. In addition, in that part of the state I worked as a box office manager for a music festival in Martinsville.

Most recently I worked at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, as an event supervisor and later as the event manager and staffing coordinator. I led the largest team of part time staff (70+ people) and got to build concerts for ZZ Top and Bob Dylan. In addition I got to build community events like the Stocked Market for the Junior League. My farewell event was hosting the Harlem Globetrotters in the Coliseum.

Driving home New Years weekend we passed the APEX on I81. My husband stopped mid- sentence and said “you gonna Google that?” I did and found a handful of positions open.

Instantly my mind flashed back to 2004. I felt the same fear and excitement I felt then. Even though I talked myself out of it, my husband talked me into it and with his support and encouragement, I figured I’d at least apply.

I am absolutely thrilled to be here today. The event and tourism industry is a passion of mine. I love being creative, solving problems and most importantly, serving people.


While I’ve only been here a month, I had the pleasure to tackle a legacy event right out of the gate. It was an honor to work with George Wythe school administration to host their Graduation. I love to talk about events. I am here as a resource to any of you who wish to host a fundraiser or whatever you have in mind. Let’s dream together!

In the event industry, the inside where the show takes place is called the “House”. We are here as home sweet home for YOUR events. On behalf the APEX staff and the Authority, welcome to our House!

As one of my personal heroes always says, “won’t you be my neighbor?” I look forward to working with the good people of Wytheville as well as promoters who will bring outside interests and groups to this lovely town for the weekend.

Feel free to stop in and see our humble abode. I look forward to meeting you soon,


Kathy Finley
The Appalachian Regional Exposition Center is underway!

We are excited to announce that completion of the APEX is anticipated to be in November of 2018.

This aerial shot on the progress of the Appalachian Exposition Center was taken in the middle of March, and really puts into perspective how it will not only put Wythe County on the map throughout the region, but also bring the community together for a fun and family friendly time.

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In the above photos the west side is ahead in the race while having some part of the roof attached and most of the siding done. However, since this photo was taken there has been major gains in progress on the west side. William Vaughan, Wythe Counties County Engineer, has shared the progress with us on the west side of the APEX, as well as some of the progress on the East side, as of April 13, 2018.

•    The remaining of the west lean-to is under the roof.
•    Below slab sewer installed.
•    Floor deck installed.
•    Roofing/Insulation Installed
•    West lean-to wall complete.
•    Wall studs being erected.
•    HVAC work is underway.
•    Hallway lighting is in place.
•    The west stem wall completed
•    The doors are framed in.

What about the East side? We do not have a picture of the progress on the East side of the building, however, there has been progress. The lean-to slab was placed on April 11th, and the block wall is nearing completion.

Kathy Finley

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Board members of the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center and Wythe County Board of Supervisors will be hosting a joint public meeting on Thursday, March 24 at 6 p.m.

The meeting, which will be held inside the boardroom at the county administrator’s office, will allow members of the public an opportunity to discuss various design technicalities with planners of the future exposition center.

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Artie Hall, chairman of the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center said that a representative of the Lane Group, an engineering firm currently employed by the county, will provide a basic site layout plan to the assembled audience and then the event’s attendees will breakout into various groups: equine, livestock, motorsports, concerts and entertainment, etc.

“Each genre of entertainment has its own set of specs for an ideal facility. This meeting will provide those with a background in a wide range of events an opportunity to share their knowledge with site designers and planners,” stated Hall.

Once completed, the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center will boast of an arena capable of seating thousands of individuals and hosting events ranging from rodeos and livestock shows to concerts, sporting events and regional fairs.

Tim Reeves, chairman of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors, joined Hall in encouraging local citizens to come out and offer feedback to site planners.

“There are a countless number of people in our region with expertise in a wide variety of events. We’re calling upon these individuals to come out and share the specifics of their event-types – whether it’s lighting for concerts or wall-height for rodeos, our ears are open.

Kathy Finley
ONE STEP CLOSER TO THE APPALACHIAN EXPO: Newly Formed Board of Directors Meet

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Members of the newly formed Appalachian Regional Exposition Center Authority held their first organized meeting Wednesday evening in the Wythe County EOC Room, located at 290 S. Sixth St. in Wytheville.

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The seven-member board, which includes two members of the AAEC (a non-profit organization that first envisioned an agriculturally-themed exposition center for Wythe County over a decade ago) selected officers and discussed site layout and building plans with members of the Lane Group, a professional engineering and architecture firm.

Plans for the finished product of the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center call for a 6,000 capacity facility, three livestock barns, outdoor show ring, and multi-purpose athletic fields; organizers say the center, which will be visible from Interstates 81 and 77 in Wythe County, will have the ability to host concerts, rodeos, motorsports events, exhibits, indoor sports, and a host of other activities.

The board of directors selected Wytheville resident Artie Hall as chairman of the newly created authority and Rural Retreat milk farmer Jim Huffard as vice-chairman.

“I’m honored to have been chosen to serve as chairman. There are countless people working hard to make this facility a reality and I’m eager to join them,” said Hall.

Leaders of the authority have scheduled a meeting with the AAEC in order to discuss ways the non-governmental, citizen committee can assist in raising funds and helping to promote the facility. The AAEC, which is comprised of several of the county’s agricultural leaders has agreed to help raise funds in order to support the facility’s operation.

“We’ve been working toward this day for well over a decade. We’re excited to see the fruits of the labor of so many are finally paying off. We’re committed to doing our part to ensure the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center is an overwhelming success,” said Mark Munsey, chairman of the AAEC.

In recent years, the AAEC has hosted several events including comedy shows, fundraising dinners, livestock shows and horse shows.

According to Munsey, the AAEC will be announcing additional events in the days ahead.

Kathy Finley

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Supporters of the proposed Appalachian Regional Exposition Center say their recent fundraising event far exceeded their wildest expectations. A sellout crowd of more than 240 individuals gathered inside the Wohlfahrt Haus Thursday evening as the 501(c)(3) non-profit committee treated patrons to a meal and performance by the renowned stand-up comedian Jerry Carroll.

Tickets for the event were set at $30 per person or $50 per couple. Organizers of the fundraiser say the event’s many business sponsors, 25 in total, helped to keep the price of general admission at an affordable rate for residents.

At least four members of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors were in attendance at the event, as well as dozens of business leaders from throughout the region.


The proposed facility will include a 60,000-square-foot arena with 3,000 permanent seats and 2,000 additional floor seats for concerts and similar events.

Additional plans call for multi-purpose athletic fields, livestock barns and an outdoor dirt ring.

Earlier this year, Wythe County purchased a 95-acre site for the facility near Exit 77, where I-81 and I-77 meet. According to county officials, roughly 40-acres will be reserved for the facility and the remaining acreage will be used for commercial development.

Site prep plans are slated to begin in early 2016 and organizers say they expect for construction to commence by the spring of next year.

Wythe County Extension Agent Matthew Miller says the center will be an economic incubator for all of Southwest Virginia.

“There’s no reason why the facility can’t be used every weekend for some type of event – dog shows, livestock shows, motorsports, concerts – if you can imagine it, we’ll be interested in hosting the event,” said Miller.

Earlier this year, Wythe County received a $750,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to assist in the construction of the facility. AAEC, the 501(c)(3) organization tasked with raising funds for the regional exposition center are in the process of finding a suitable corporate partner interested in purchasing naming rights to the center, as well as additional sponsorship opportunities.

Kathy Finley