McGAHEYSVILLE — Walter “Gator” Hopkins is just as excitable as he was when he first set out to start Cave Hill Farms Brewery in 2016 at 1001 Jacob Burner Drive in McGaheysville.

“We know that agritourism is going to grow, and it’s growing around us for a lot of reasons,” Hopkins said.

After a soft opening in September, Hopkins said he will hold a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. with Bettina Ring, the Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, in attendance.

The brewery offers a variety of beers, including porters, stouts and ales. Though it is the first brewery in Rockingham County, it won’t be the only one for long, said Josh Gooden, the economic development and tourism coordinator for the county.

By early 2020, Rockingham County will have three operational breweries — Cave Hill Brewery, Elkton Brewery Co. and BrewHaHa Brewing Co., Gooden said.

The new breweries are part of a pattern of development in the eastern part of the county, he said.

Between Elkton and Harrisonburg on U.S. 33, housing projects are underway, such as the Preston Lake development.

In McGaheysville, there is also a new development of duplexes called Island Ford Estates, according to HarrisonburgHousingToday.com.

With new housing options, as well the established residents, businesses along the U.S. 33 corridor help fill a need, Gooden said.

“It’s just the convenience factor for county residents instead of traveling all the way into Harrisonburg,” he said.

Large employers such as Merck and MillerCoors Shenandoah Brewery nearby Elkton also help increase the traffic around McGaheysville, according to Gooden.

“I’d say the largest factor for growth in that area would be stemming from Massanutten Resort and a million visitors a year coming through that area to stay,” he said. “And having all these attractions close to the resort are really key.”

Jack and Colette Smith, of Cape May, N.J., said the drive from their stay on Massanutten to Cave Hill only took seven minutes.

“We love this,” Colette Smith said.

And they weren’t the only tourists enjoying a drink in the tap room on Tuesday afternoon.

Kent and Cheri Wyckoff, of Texas, Md., come to Massanutten Resort about twice a year, Kent Wyckoff said.

“We make our rounds to the breweries and wineries,” Kent Wyckoff said.

Hopkins’ late father, John Luther Hopkins III, was integral in creating what would become Massanutten Resort.

“We’re doing our best to hold on to and carry on the continuing legacy he developed here for the community,” Gator Hopkins said.

The McGaheysville area sees the most activity from homegrown entrepreneurs.

“A lot of these are more independently owned businesses,” Gooden said. “So locals in the community are the ones opening those restaurants and different business.”

McGaheysville staples like Thunderbird Cafe, Hanks Grill & Catering and Log Cabin Barbeque are complemented by businesses new to the area such as Valley Olive Oil & Balsamics and the forthcoming new Kline’s Dairy Bar location, he said.

Local businesses help build the charm and attractiveness of an area more so than chains, Gooden said.

“I would say it speaks towards the uniqueness of the community in the county and the entrepreneurial spirit for sure,” he said, “with business owners seeing what an impact Massanutten has on our community and jumping in and exploring different options.”

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @IanMunroDNR

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