Wine, nature, music and socializing on Saturday will be part of honoring the spirit of the late Matthew Wade — among people who knew him and didn’t know him alike.

The fifth annual Wine by the River Festival will be at 3-7 p.m. at the Smith River Sports Complex, sponsored by the Matthew Wade Foundation.

The event will be staged down by the river at the festival grounds that have a new stage, said foundation coordinator Tanya Martin, who went to high school with Wade.

The son of Debra and Doogie Wade of Martinsville, Matthew Wade was a 1996 graduate of Laurel Park High School. He was employed by Family Pharmacy in Stanleytown. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 2010 at the age of 32. The foundation generates support for community needs.

Admission includes unlimited tastings of wines by Hamlet Vineyards, Tomahawk Mill Vineyard and Winery, Preston Ridge Winery and Childress Vineyards. Beer will be for sale.

Hugo’s Sports Bar & Grill and Rising Sun Breads will sell food.

“We’re trying to keep it local” — and succeeding, between the drinks and the vendors and the music, the foundation’s coordinator Tanya Martin said.

To make the event exciting, “this year we wanted a headliner artist,” Martin said, and they got her in the form of Morgan Wade and the Stepbrothers (no relation to Matt Wade). The group plays a blend of country, folk and high-energy Americanca.

George Hodges of Charlotte, N.C., the son of Don and Susan Hodges of Chatmoss, will open the show.

Anyone who wants seating by the stage should bring chairs.

About 600 people attended last year’s Wine by the River, and Martin said she expects a similar or larger crowd this year, Martin said.

The foundation

The foundation was started by “a group of his guy friends” and a few others, said Martin, who went to high school with Matthew Wade. The charter members were: Patrick Francisco, Jimmy Childers, Brad Hughes, Chris Jones, Wade’s brother Thad Wade and the Wades’ parents.

When the group started, they “wanted something positive to remember Matt by,” Hughes said. The best way to do that was “to give something back to the community, however we could, in his memory.”

He described his late friend as “very fun-loving, light-hearted and easy-going.” Wade always had a joke or funny story to tell and could make friends easily.

Wade “was always smiling, always wanting to help people,” Martin said.

The foundation went through 501(c)(3) accreditation status between 2013 and 2015, Martin said. Since then the foundation has been active in charitable concerns.

It joined up with the ongoing Coats for Kids program run by Debra Buchanan and Avery Mills of One Hour Martinizing. That program collects and dry cleans donated coats for kids in local schools.

About 500 coats are donated through the program each year. There is a set number of coats needed for each school, based on previous years’ needs as well as teacher and staff assessment. The foundation buys any additional coats needed to meet the goals of each school, Martin said.

In 2017 volunteers from the foundation drove the golf carts and vans within the Rooster Walk Festival grounds. They used the $1,200 that earned them to buy CPR mannequins for the Axton Life-Saving Crew, she said. The mannequins were needed to satisfy Red Cross requirements for CPR training, she added.

The foundation also donated an automatic defibrillator to Laurel Park Middle Schools, Hughes said.


The Wine by the River Festival was started five years ago as a joint effort between the sports complex and the foundation, according to Martin and Bulletin reports. This year, its fifth, is the first time the foundation takes it on completely.

During the initial years, staff from the sports complex handled many of the tasks to get it going, including making arrangements from participating wineries, handling the liability insurance and donating the use of the space where the event was held. That resulted in a majority of proceeds going to the complex, with the rest for the foundation, according to Martin and Bulletin reports.

This year, the foundation will receive full proceeds for its charitable projects.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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