WINCHESTER — Moving to a new town is tough. You have to connect utilities, get on the local tax roles, update your driver’s license, learn school bus schedules, register to vote and much more.

The Winchester-Frederick County Tourism Board spearheaded a get-together Thursday evening to help ease the transition. The Newcomer’s Welcome Event at the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center, 1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road, connected recent arrivals with people eager to help them settle into their new homes.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to open the doors and have a bunch of different aspects of our community in one place at the same time,” said Justin Kerns, executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Kerns stood at the front door to greet a steady stream of attendees to the two-and-a-half-hour event, including Nicole Lewis, her husband, J.P. Palmerio, and their 21-month-old daughter, Thea Palmerio.

After Thea was born, Nicole Lewis said, “We wanted to stop with the hustle of New York City and Long Island, and find a quieter, happy life.”

Nicole Lewis said they moved to Winchester in March and “absolutely love it. It’s night and day from where we came from. ... I would tell anybody to move here in a heartbeat.”

Lori Crockett, who relocated from Petersburg to Winchester last July, said she signed up for a Handley Library card at Thursday’s event.

“That was really cool because I haven’t been to the library yet,” Crockett said. “I really love it up here.”

Winchester Communications Director Amy Simmons said she spoke with a woman who recently moved to an apartment in the city.

“I gave her information about dog tags, refuse and recycling, and how to stay informed about community events,” Simmons said.

Across the aisle, Frederick County Public Information Officer Karen Vacchio said she fielded several questions about recycling, which has become a hot topic since the county and city recently modified their recycling programs due to difficulties finding processors willing to accept materials like plastic, paper and metal.

“We’ve been trying to educate people about what’s happening with recycling and why, and how they can reduce their impact on the environment based on what they buy,” Vacchio said.

The Newcomer’s Welcome Event also provided information about local attractions and businesses.

Diane Schnoor, interim executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum at 19 W. Cork St., said the people who stopped by her booth had lots of questions.

“They want to know what kind of volunteer opportunities we offer, what kind of events we have, if the museum is a good place to bring a grandchild,” Schnoor said.

Shannon Moeck told attendees about the events and activities held at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park near Middletown.

“Most people aren’t familiar with the park, so they’re really interested to learn that we don’t just do Civil War programming,” the park ranger said. “We also do star [viewing] parties and nature hikes.”

Andy Gyurisin, director of programs and promotions at the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Kernstown, offered attendees an assortment of the fresh-baked cookies served at his establishment.

“What’s exciting for us is that we can talk about being the local theater, our kids programming, the special things we do outside of the mainstream Hollywood stuff,” Gyurisin said. “We’re introducing new families to what makes us a little different from other movie theaters around the area.”

With people moving to Winchester and Frederick County with greater frequency, Kerns said Thursday’s gathering would not be the last Newcomer’s Welcome Event.

“It’s something we want to do on a quarterly basis,” he said. “We will continue to grow the event.”

Nicole Lewis said that’s good news for new arrivals like herself.

“I think it’s really nice that you have a community willing to welcome people,” she said.

— Contact Brian Brehm at

(1) comment

Mark Gunderman

My wife and I recently to Stephens City, VA. We are pleasantly enjoying "The Valley" life. We have found people here to be mostly down to earth, resourceful, friendly to outsiders and possessing a reverence for nature and history. The Lower Shenandoah is a wonderful and enchanting valley comprised of generally kind, generous, loyal and noble people. Don't forget that the Winchester Medical Center is an award-winning 445-bed regional referral facility offering a broad spectrum of services that includes diagnostic, medical, surgical and rehabilitative care in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The hospital is the only Level II Trauma Center in the region, and is an essential resource for the residents in living in the Lower Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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