Chautauqua Festival

Here’s a rooftop view of the Bolling Building, home of Skeeter’s. This shot was taken from “The Perch” atop the Bolling Wilson Hotel.

WYTHEVILLE, Va. — Just in time for the Chautauqua Festival in Wytheville, Virginia, Farron Smith has an announcement to make.

“The Skeeterdog is back!”

Funny words, perhaps, from the ever-polite Smith, a businesswoman who has seemingly dedicated her life to educating everyone about Wytheville’s White House connection.

Wytheville is the birthplace of Edith Bolling Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson.

Smith pays tribute to Mrs. Wilson with a museum named in her honor, as well as the nearby Bolling Wilson Hotel – both on Wytheville’s Main Street.

The first lady was born Oct. 15, 1872, in the “Bolling Building” on Main Street — a place that also holds the distinction of being the home of Skeeter’s, a tiny restaurant that makes a claim of having sold 9 million hot dogs.

But, as this newspaper has reported, Skeeter’s has been shuttered since Smith and her husband, Bill, elected to opt out of the hot dog business following an illness affecting the most recent operator the restaurant.

All along, still, I’ve been in contact with Farron Smith, and I’m happy to report that, yes, “The Skeeterdog is back!”

What’s more, this announcement has arrived about 30 years to the day since the Smiths bought Skeeter’s in 1989.

Debbie and Dale Clark, and their son David, a family from Wytheville, is assuming ownership of Skeeter’s, according to Farron Smith.

“We are confident,” Smith said, “that Skeeter’s is in the hands of a family that will continue this Wytheville tradition for years to come.”

When they put Skeeter’s up for sale, the Smiths found interest in the property from hot dog lovers across six states, Smith said.

“We believe the Clarks are a great fit to continue the Skeeter’s legacy,” Smith said. “It is important to us that the new owners are local folks and will be involved with Skeeter’s personally.”

The business was originally known as the E.N. Umberger Store when it was established in 1925. It moved to its present location, 165 E. Main St., in the 1940s and took its current name from the nickname of E.N. Umberger, Jr.

As for Wytheville, be sure to flock here beginning Saturday for the eight-day Chautauqua Festival, running to June 22 with a series of educational programs, concerts, exhibits and craft displays.

And, by that time, if you’re lucky, and the Clarks are ready, you might find Skeeter’s back in operation, as well.

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