Guide to the Blue Ridge Marathon and Down by Downtown Weekend in Roanoke

The Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon was one of the Roanoke Region’s first global events and has since become a weekend where residents go all out to welcome runners from nearly every state and around the globe to this mountain wonderland we call home. This weekend is SO much more than just a race.

Neighborhoods along the course throw huge tailgating parties, there is music coming from nearly every venue in downtown Roanoke for four straight days, volunteers show up for their community in a big way, and we all celebrate at the end with donuts and mimosas. The only way to fully appreciate the experience is to see it for yourself. Below are our favorite ways to spend marathon weekend every year.

Tailgatin’ and Spectatin’

Neighborhoods along the course come out in FULL FORCE to support the runners and show them that Roanoke might just be the best place to run a race ever! Recommended: playing music, wearing costumes, funny-yet-encouraging signs, setting up a misting tent (if it’s hot), and snacks/beverages all make a great impression on runners. Check out some popular spectator zones.
**You can always just head to the finish area for easy cheering. You know there will be food and beer trucks already set up.

Four Days of Live Music at 11 Venues

Freedom First Down by Downtown Music Festival fills the city with music and vibrancy every year during the marathon weekend. Acts include a variety of genres from acoustic sets, to funk and reggae, to rock and blues. Many venues, like breweries, are free to attend – while others offer National headliners, each venue selling tickets separately. Check out the schedule.

Headliner in Elmwood on April 22 – Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers

Every year, Down by Downtown, brings a unique headliner that isn’t the same old, same old that you find in the region. This ticketed show opens with Kentucky Ruckus, followed by The Die Hards, with headliner Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers bringing a funky, folky vibe you don’t want to miss. Get Tickets.

Feel That Roanoke Pride – Volunteer!

Get2KnowNoke is sponsoring the BRM volunteers this year, because we understand that giving back to the community is a great way to feel connected. Pour beer, be a course marshal, or choose from dozens of other essential shifts. As a volunteer you help welcome people to Roanoke, catch up with the community, and get in your good deeds. See what shifts are still available.

For the Ambitious Ones

You can actually run if you’re up for it! Many residents make a walk up to the Mill Mountain Star an annual tradition. The full, full relay, double, and half marathons also attract thousands of runners every year. There is still time to register and tackle America’s Toughest Road Races. You can register at the Friday expo in person as well.

Donuts & Coffee at the Sunday Slow-K

The Sunday Slow-K might be our favorite part of race weekend. It’s the relaxing farewell to one of Roanoke’s best weekends complete with a Brunch Market. Grab a mimosa and biscuits, join a recovery yoga session, shop local vendors, slowly stroll the greenway, and finish it off with coffee and donuts (included in your entry fee along with branded mug). We actually give a prize to the person who comes in last! Register now.

Q1 Social Rolled 200 Deep

Screenshots from our post-event reel.

Roanoke Regional Professionals Network Rolled 200 Deep at First Social of 2023 

Mild spring weather, a new venue, and regional excitement—these were the makings of a successful Roanoke Regional Professional Network social. Around 200 people joined Get2KnowNoke and fellow regional professionals at Fire Station One and Stock Café (Check out its recent feature in Garden & Gun Magazine).  

Attendees wore nametags donning their current podcast or streaming obsessions, favorite fictional character, or favorite place in the region. They could sip and shop Txtur or tour the new boutique hotel.

The room was buzzing with conversation and excitement, and those that preregistered were entered to win a Cotapaxi cooler. “Networking can often be considered a dirty word, but simply put—networking means building connections,” Julia Boas, Roanoke Regional Partnership director of talent strategies (and leader of the Get2KnowNoke brand). “In a community like ours, there are endless ways we can lift each other up and support each other’s missions in a symbiotic way.” 

These events are an integral part of Get2KnowNoke’s mission—bring and keep top-tier talent here in the Roanoke Region. The best way to do that is to create a “stickiness” within the region by building social connections. Studies show that those relationships are what make people feel the most connected to a place. When you feel like you belong, you’re an advocate, ambassador, and evangelist for the community.  

And this was a great start. People around the room were excited just to be there. “This was a room full of friendly people who were just so excited about Roanoke. No agendas, no quid-pro-quos. Just genuine kindness and enthusiasm for all the wonderful things we have going on here!” said Kelly Brammer, one of the attendees.  

“Tonight wasn’t all about exchanging business cards and making small talk. It was a chance to connect with like-minded people, build authentic relationships, and hear valuable perspective,” RRPN member Nolan Hamilton said. “There was a lot of excitement around Julia re-joining the Partnership, and there was a renewed energy at the event. It was very inclusive, and I walked away feeling more connected to our region and peers.” 

What do we do with this renewed enthusiasm?  

Boas is big on feedback loops, so she’ll be reaching out in the future to keep her finger on the pulse of the state of talent. She also hopes people will reach out to her with things they’d like to see, gaps they notice in the region’s offerings for professional services, or new ways to collaborate. 

The next quarter’s social is already being planned for June, so be on the lookout for that, and Get2KnowNoke hopes to host a Brewery by Bike tour in May to celebrate bike month! To stay in the loop, please make sure you’re signed up to receive Get2KNowNoke emails and join the RRPN group on LinkedIn. We’ve got something special going here, and we’re going to do great things! 

Blacks in Technology Foundation’s Newest Chapter Kicks Off in Roanoke

The first official event for the new Blacks in Technology (BIT) Roanoke-Blacksburg chapter kicked off last week on March 9 at The Collective co-working space. The networking mixer had 66 attendees who rubbed elbows with other tech professionals interested in advancing the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Roanoke-Blacksburg communities.

“The tech world didn’t represent the community,” said Harvey Brookins, VERGE board member, on why they formed the new BIT chapter. “We wanted to do something very deliberate, so we brought together all the stakeholders to figure out the best ways to connect and showcase the Black community members. Then we reached out to BIT national.”

Second from the left is Harvey Brookins, Board Member at VERGE and RAMP mentor, who helped form the new chapter.

Get2KnowNoke also spoke with Angela Dickerson who volunteered as the first chapter president. She explained that the Roanoke-Blacksburg chapter leadership determined three areas of focus:

  1. Educate K-12 students about the opportunities that STEM can afford them.
  2. Increase engagement among those that work in tech and tech-adjacent fields.
  3. Provide opportunities for certification, networking, and mentoring.

So who can join BIT, and what does membership entail?

Membership is 100% free. Members just need to identify as Black and be interested in growing their knowledge in the tech space. Members receive benefits such as free or deeply discounted certifications.

As far as engagement and events are concerned anyone, regardless of race, can come and learn how to grow their tech careers.

**Currently membership is with BIT Virginia Chapter.

The next event is in Blacksburg on April 14 with special guest Dennis Shultz, the executive director of Blacks in Technology, who also happens to be a Hokie.

“Since BIT is an international organization, Dennis meets with people all over the world on Zoom,” said Angela Dickerson, BIT Roanoke-Blacksburg chapter president. “On all his international calls, he [Shultz] proudly hangs his Hokie flag directly behind him in his office.”

The kick-off event was held at The Collective on 11th Ave. in Roanoke, VA. The Collective has co-working spaces, event space, a podcast and media studio, retail pop-up studio, etc.

Dickerson, Brookins, and the rest of the newly formed BIT Roanoke-Blacksburg board have high hopes for the future of the club. They plan to identify opportunities for grants and funding to start getting the community the training and support needed to be successful. They also are looking for sponsors interested in helping to create programming and bring inspiring speakers.

If you are interested in sponsoring or learning more about membership, please email Angela Pope Dickerson.

To receive updates for the April 14 event and all future opportunities related to the BIT Roanoke-Blacksburg chapter, sign up for the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council e-newsletter. Makes Finding Regional Jobs Easier

A new, regional job board launched today on, the talent attraction arm of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

A job board is a webpage used by employers to advertise their job vacancies to job seekers, and this regional version pulls opportunities for all regional employers and offers special filtering tools making it easier to use.

The Get2KnowNoke site is free for employers and job seekers to use and includes listings for all companies in Roanoke, Franklin, Botetourt, and Alleghany counties, the cities of Salem, Roanoke, and Covington, and the town of Vinton. Job seekers can filter jobs by job category, employer, or use the search bar to filter by key terms.

“While there are many job sites specific to one town or one employer, the Partnership identified that our region was lacking a user-friendly tool for job seekers and employers that encompassed our entire labor shed, said Julia Boas, director of talent strategies for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “Now technology exists that allows us to keep listings up to date without employers having to lift a finger.”

Currently, 8,164 job listings are populating the jobs board, which are pulled from the best-in-class platform Jobs EQ. Jobs EQ uses website crawling technology to scrape data from over 14,000 websites daily, including top sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. If any employers’ listings are not showing, their internal websites can be submitted to Jobs EQ.

As part of the Thrive 2027 plan, the Partnership recognized the importance of expanding the Roanoke Region’s ability to attract and retain in-demand talent as one of the top priorities over the next five years. In addition to developing web assets like the jobs board, Get2KnowNoke focuses on marketing and brand-building around the talent narrative, as well as supporting the advancement of the education pipeline and workforce development initiatives.

An entirely new talent portal, currently being developed in collaboration with the Greater Roanoke Workforce Development Board thanks to a grant from GO Virginia, will feature livability assets, neighborhood guides, employer resources, internships, and networking opportunities with a scheduled finish date of early 2024.

With the current demand for qualified labor at an all-time high, employers need to remove any barriers for potential talent looking to relocate to the region. This tool, coupled with the development of a more robust website, will provide all the resources a prospective resident may need in one place.

“Now that we’ve developed this useful tool, we can promote it to potential employees in key markets where we know that people are leaving to move to Roanoke, or places that have a labor-pool density with skills our employers are seeking,” said Boas, “We expect the site to become the go-to resource for regional job opportunities and intend to glean valuable insights into the demographics of people using the site.”

You can view the jobs board by going to – If employers have questions on how their listings appear, they may contact

Julia Boas returns to Roanoke Regional Partnership as Director of Talent Strategies

Julia Boas has been named the director of talent strategies for the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s talent attraction brand, Get2KnowNoke. Boas previously worked at the Partnership for nearly eight years, serving as the director of events and marketing for the Roanoke Outside Foundation  before moving into the role of director of marketing.

“I am delighted to welcome Julia back to the Partnership team,” said John Hull, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “Julia’s foundation in marketing and communications, combined with her experience in building the regional outdoor/livability brand in her previous role with the Roanoke Outside Foundation, will serve her well as she implements the talent strategies identified in the Thrive 2027 strategic plan.”  

As part of Thrive 2027, the Partnership recognized the importance of expanding the Roanoke Region’s ability to attract and retain in-demand talent as one of the top priorities over the next five years. This position will focus on marketing and brand-building around the talent narrative, supporting expansion needs of Partnership projects, as well as supporting the advancement of the education pipeline and workforce development initiatives. She will implement strategies to market the region as a top destination for talent and work to create and foster connections among academic institutions, employers, local governments, students, and other stakeholders. Julia’s previous work with the Partnership and her natural drive to work hard and create change make her a perfect fit for this role.

“I see so much potential for the Roanoke Region and what we can accomplish when policymakers, educational institutions, and regional businesses align efforts. We’ve made big strides with our outdoor branding initiatives, and I feel confident we can have a major impact in the realm of talent attraction and filling workforce gaps,” Julia said. “Coming back to the Partnership feels like coming home, and together this amazing team is going to make big things happen.”

Prior to rejoining the Partnership, Julia spent a year as the director of marketing for Highwater Management, a local LLC that oversees the management of well-known brands including Cardinal Bicycle, The River and Rail Restaurant, Crystal Spring Grocery Co., and Yard Bull Meats. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Carolina. She was honored with the Roanoker Magazine 40 under 40 distinction in 2020 and selected by Virginia Business as one of the 100 Virginians to Meet in 2020.

The Roanoke Regional Partnership, founded in 1983, is the public-private economic development marketing and strategy organization supported by Alleghany, Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke Counties, the cities of Covington, Roanoke, and Salem, and the town of Vinton as well as more than 200 businesses. The organization has worked with its partners to create more than 19,000 primary jobs and $19 billion in investment by attracting companies such as Orvis, Altec, McAirlaids, Bimbo Bakeries, Cardinal Glass, Balchem, Eldor, Mack Trucks, Traditional Medicinals, Constellation Brands and others to the region.

Job Posting: Director of Talent Strategies

The Roanoke Regional Partnership is looking for someone to enhance and grow their program focused on talent outreach strategies, partnerships, communications, and marketing to attract talent for our region and its employers. The Partnership has already changed the region’s narrative to that of an active, outdoor mecca through the work of the Roanoke Outside Foundation. This is an opportunity to leverage that narrative to attract and retain top talent in the Roanoke region. 

This position calls for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset who can create connections with academic institutions, employers, local governments, students, and other stakeholders, and market the region as a destination for top talent. The ideal candidate relishes the challenge of building a program from the ground up, is a creative yet strategic thinker, and a self-motivator who will not shy away from constructing plans and setting goals. 

Continue reading “Job Posting: Director of Talent Strategies”

Talent Q&A with Flycodes Founder Champ Hubbard

Flycodes Apparel, born and bred right here in the Roanoke region, makes customized high-performance gear for teams, companies, and individuals in hopes of giving everyone an opportunity to represent their school and city. We sat down with founder Champ Hubbard to hear about his entrepreneurial journey and how our community has impacted the work.

How did your journey with Flycodes start? What was the catalyst for launching your business in the Roanoke Region?

We came back to Roanoke about 17 years ago to take care of our parents. I was a teacher in Northern Virginia, and I was trying to determine where I wanted to teach. As as alum, my heart was at William Fleming. I took a job there and eventually earned the girls’ basketball head coaching position. I was trying to come up with ways to help the girls with camaraderie and becoming a team. My thought was to work on the uniforms to give them a little swag, and the wheels started turning.

We understand that you have come to somewhat trademark our area code as a brand. Tell us where that came from?  

Back in the day, when I was playing basketball, I remember Patrick Henry High School used to have these really cool PH socks. I thought if I could give our players something like that, something personalized to represent their school or community, it would put us on the map.  I was able to start doing custom socks with the uniforms, and I decided to put 540 on the socks. Originally, I thought it was just a cool idea to represent where you are from, but then the socks took off. What I remember most about that first season is the players from the opposing teams weren’t looking at their opponent; they were looking at the socks. Something clicked in my head–maybe I have something here.  

Since the beginning of the business, you have been about representing your community. If it’s not just about the socks and the uniforms, what is it about?

I thought for a while I was just going to bless people in the community, but ironically, this put Flycodes on the map outside the region. From day one, I have always wanted to bring attention to the community. Teams and schools in other places in Virginia got more attention, and we wanted our athletes here in the region to get the same opportunities. This is ultimately why we started highlighting the area code on our apparel to put us on the map and help athletes in the community. The socks set a precedent of college scouts remembering the socks and, ultimately, remembering the player. It opened a door for me as a coach to tell scouts about my kids and other kids in our region that were getting overlooked. It’s strange that it all started with a sock, but it worked out in our favor after we were able to help dozens of kids go to college on their talent alone. We kicked the door down, and opportunity followed.

How did you go from making custom socks to having a full apparel business here in the region?

After our brand started getting recognition and representation through the basketball and track communities, I knew I could expand on the idea and I started researching more apparel. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to be in the schools, so kids here could be unique. We are proud to now be represented at William Fleming, Patrick Henry, Northside, Cave Spring, Lord Botetourt, and Roanoke Catholic. My main goal was to provide uniforms for all the sports leagues in the region’s school systems. It’s like a dream come true to see our uniforms come out of the tunnel or the locker room. Additionally, we’re now providing apparel (like polos, outerwear, etc.) for several companies and their employees!

You share a lot about community and the importance of community involvement. Tell us what that means to you?

Part of the success we have had is due to community support. Starting a company here was always the most important aspect of my business. I always wanted the foundation of having our business here in Roanoke because it means something. People want to support you because you are local. If our business ever blows up to be bigger than we are now, we can always say our business started in little ol’ Roanoke, and that means a lot to the community. It brings attention, opportunity, and jobs here. Ultimately, my goal would be to provide jobs to people in our region and give back to help our schools.

Besides continuing your entrepreneurial journey here in the region, what other aspirations or dreams do you have for our region?

I would love to see joint ventures for the betterment of the community.

Interested in working with Flycodes? Connect with Champ:

If you know of someone making a difference in the community or has a great story, we want to hear from you! Email Taylor.

Get2KnowNoke’s Talent Ambassador Program: An Insider’s Look at Living and Working in the Roanoke Region

Diverse group of young to mid-career professionals in an urban setting,posed and smiling for the camera.

One of the best ways to tell the story of the Roanoke Region is from within.  Thrive 2027, the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s five-year plan, calls for the attraction and retention of in-demand talent and, specifically, for strategies to foster greater diversity in the region’s workforce and leadership.

Through our selected, influential group of talent ambassadors, we intend to build and expand our talent pool to establish a community that represents the wide variety of backgrounds, careers, and lifestyles in our area. The goal of this network is to be as inclusive as possible to all professionals who seek to make our region home. Our talent ambassadors are a representation of our community in the region and will help individuals who are evaluating our market to connect locally with diverse professionals who can relate to their needs. Our talent ambassadors bridge the gap in information and aid in community building and leadership development.


“I agreed to be a talent ambassador because I love living in Roanoke. Second, I love working here. Third, I want others to consider visiting, then moving here. Our region gets better as we grow and diversify.” Bonnie Chavez, Talent Ambassador

For the year ahead, talent ambassadors will be involved and engaged with the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s plans for Get2KnowNoke and messaging surrounding talent attraction. We know these individuals will be strong crusaders for attracting and keeping the finest talent here in our region based on their innovative ideas, community following, and excitement surrounding the growing region. Our ambassadors are already involved in community engagement, outreach, and attraction through a variety of outlets.

“The talent ambassador network is a unique group of individuals that all bring different experiences, interests, and goals to our community. In order for our region to continue to grow, we must network with a purpose, including business-to-business relationships and investing in personal growth opportunities.” Mary Katherine Stahl, Talent Ambassador

Talent ambassadors are key outlets for sharing and advertising Get2KnowNoke’s events and initiatives. This advertising will continue, as all talent ambassadors are expected to influence participation in events including the Experience Conference, Roanoke Regional Professionals Network, the Summer Internship Program, and other opportunities for talent engagement in the region. Ambassador attendance has been strong at all events this calendar year and shows the excitement and willingness of the community to support the Partnership’s talent-growth strategy.

“I feel my strong suit is making connections and helping others make connections. I feel that when you want to keep people around you must connect with them. Jobs and amenities can be replicated, but relationships are hard to replicate.” – John Park, Talent Ambassador

One of the group’s priorities has been to engage the remote community. There are opportunities being developed to create more spaces for the remote community to grow and engage, but we hope to do more.  One priority of Thrive 2027 is to advocate for remote work here in the region but also to integrate those professionals into our community. With several remote-working talent ambassadors, we now have influential professionals to help advocate for the best resources for remote workers.

“I became a talent ambassador because I wanted to meet people I may not have crossed paths with otherwise. I also wanted to make sure work-from-home professionals were well represented and that we continue to attract remote workers to the region.” Courtney Proffitt, Talent Ambassador

To learn more about the program and the talent ambassadors themselves, please check out our website. And if you have a story to share, we want to hear from you! Are you proud and excited about our region? Do you want to encourage others to move here for all we have to offer? Please email Julia Boas at

After Two Years Online, Experience Conference Returns In-Person to Great Fanfare

Experience Conference attendees and speakers pose for a selfie with Talent Ambassador John Park.

On Monday, June 13, professionals from all over the Roanoke Region could be found listening to speakers, talking with peers, and engaging with other professionals. This was Get2KnowNoke’s 2022 Experience Conference, the region’s annual professional development conference for students, professionals, and job seekers. For the first time in two years, attendees were grateful to finally meet face to face and connect with one another while soaking up all the conference had to offer. “I couldn’t be more thankful to those that made this year’s conference a success,” Taylor Johnson, director of Talent Attraction said. “From the speakers to our volunteers, I felt the day was a great representation of what the future holds for Get2KnowNoke”.

Held at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, over 140 people registered for a day of thought-provoking speakers, networking, and professional development. Delegate Sam Rasoul kicked off the day with a rock-paper-scissors tournament. This set the tone for what would be an energetic and engaging conference. Speakers shared expertise from a variety of topics like pivoting during challenging times, attracting and retaining Gen Z employees, and the importance of a strong small-business community. However, what was probably the most impactful presentation came from the keynote speaker, Archie Messersmith-Bunting.

White man with blue blazer stands on stage to give presentation
Archie Messersmith-Bunting

Archie, AKA the Feelings Guy, gave an impassioned and topical speech about the importance of mental health awareness. He explained the pitfalls of ignoring our feelings, discussed recognizing and talking about our feelings, and gave us practical and easy-to-implement habits for getting ourselves into a healthier state of mind. These little changes can have large impacts in both our personal and professional lives. Mental health is a topic rarely talked about in professional settings, but it clearly resonated with this audience. One attendee said, “When I sign up for a conference, I want to walk away inspired and motivated to imbed new techniques into my work. Archie’s presentation was that inspirational message for the day.”

New this year was the Thrive Market, an exclusive outdoor shopping experience featuring local small businesses. The idea came from the conference’s “pivot” theme. The small business community faced several challenges over the past few years, and they were able to adapt and pivot, resulting in continued success. “I believe entrepreneurship is part of the fabric that makes our region so special,” Johnson said. “Because of their tenacious spirit, I felt it was important to showcase the small business community at the conference.” Despite hot temperatures, attendees enjoyed patronizing these small businesses while sipping on a Deb’s Frozen Lemonade, courtesy of Get2KnowNoke. Of the market, one attendee noted, “I love supporting small business! I have shopped with almost all of these folks and will continue to support!”

Thanks to attendee feedback, steps are already in motion for Experience 2023. We’re already discussing themes, venues, speakers, and increasing capacity. If you haven’t had a chance, please fill out our survey by clicking here. We’re grateful to all who helped make this conference possible, and we can’t wait to do it again next year. In the meantime, stay tuned for other Get2KnowNoke events coming up, including our quarterly Roanoke Regional Professionals Network socials and the summer internship program. You can learn more by following us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or by registering for our monthly emails by clicking here.

Get2KnowNoke’s Summer Internship Program is Back

hike mcafee knob roanoke

Get2KnowNoke continues to build tools for regional employers and the community to use to help attract and retain top-tier talent. One of those tools is our Summer Internship Program. As businesses in the region welcome summer interns, this program provides a unique opportunity for both the students and the organizations: students can gain industry knowledge and training to prepare them for the workforce, while businesses now have a pool of job-ready talent to draw from after graduation.  The summer internship program’s goal is to make the participants want to come back to the region after graduation by creating connections to people and the community through curated experiences.

Activities this summer include:

  • Food and Beverage Tours of Roanoke
  • Biking & Blue Cow
  • Hiking Trail Passport
  • Biking and Brews
  • Floatopia on the Roanoke River
  • Salem Red Sox Game
  • Running Club
  • Bi-weekly Happy Hours
  • Treetop Quest Twilight Zip at Explore Park
  • And more!

While obviously fun, this program is designed for participants to make connections with other people in the region and to experience the livability and placemaking aspects it has to offer. Studies show that social offerings, aesthetics, and openness within a community create attachment. If we’re able to show these interns that the Roanoke Region has those three things, we believe there’s a greater chance they’ll return to the region post-graduation.

For those who have signed up, we look forward to getting to know you. If you have interns that you’d like to participate, please fill out the form below. Questions? You can email Taylor Johnson, director of Talent Attraction, at

Onboard|ROA Summer Application