Hikers travel across the nation for the 37th annual Appalachian Trail Days | WJHL

DAMASCUS, Va. (WJHL) – The days of the Appalachian Trail have arrived in the small town of Damascus, where thousands of hikers are hitting the trails.

The annual Trail Days festival celebrates all things Appalachian Trail and provides an opportunity for hikers and hikers to stock up on gear. While the event caters to those who have taken the route, organizers said there is something for everyone.

“We do educational programming so people can learn about hiking,” said Betty Jackson, chair of the Trail Days Committee. “We have people who were actually here years ago who came back as a reunion to meet up with friends they made on the road.”

Many of the vendors in attendance have been part of the festival for years and said the event is truly something special.

“This is the biggest event we do in the United States every year,” Whitney LaRuffa said. LaRuffa is vice president of sales and marketing for Six Moon Designs, a company that specializes in light-duty road equipment. “It’s like if you really want to be in the space, you really need to come to the event.”

“I’m from Oregon, I live out west, but since my roots go back to the Appalachian Trail hiking here, I come back once a year and be a part of this community,” Mandy Bland said. Bland owns Purple Rain Adventure Adventures, a company that specializes in functional skirts for those who hike the trails.

Veteran vendors aren’t the only ones who find this event special. First-time sellers also say the experience is unlike any other.

“Today and the last couple of days, the excitement has been like, ‘Oh, okay! “I love your food, and this is perfect for me,” said Jennifer Sisem, chef and founder of Good-to-Go, a takeout company. “That was really exciting.”

“Everything is going great,” said Rob Gasparro, co-owner of Outdoor 76, a recently started outdoor store that specializes in boots. “It’s a good affirmation for us to help us realize that what we’re doing is a good thing.”

Hikers and vendors said what makes Trail Days unique is not the equipment or products sold but the people and their stories.

“[It’s] “It’s a great time to meet and hang out in the Appalachian Trail community,” said one hiker who goes by the name “Masters.”

Masters, NPR and Foghat met while on the road. Masters and NPR found the festival by chance.

“Last year, I walked right through Damascus during Track Days,” he told NPR. “It was great timing and [I am] “I was very lucky to be there during that time.”

“I took a hike last year and headed into town,” Masters said. “I came back this year to really see a lot of friends.”

This is not the first year that Foghat has attended the festival. People really keep him coming back, he said.

“The biggest thing for me is reconnecting with people,” Feghat said. “The people I’m currently on the road with.”

For more information about Trail Days, visit the website website.

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