Roanoke, located in the southwestern side of Virginia, is adjacent to the cities of Salem and Vinton. Also known as "The Star City of the South" for the large lighted star along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke is home to approximately 94,000 residents (U.S. Census 2000) and is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Established as a town in 1852, it was known as the town of Big Lick- referring to the wildlife that was drawn to a large outcropping of salt along the Roanoke River. It officially became the town of Roanoke in 1882. The name is said to originate from the Algonquin word for "shell" which also represented money in the indigenous culture.
Roanoke grew culturally and economically due to its high-profile location in the crossroads of commerce. The presence of the Norfolk and Western Railway, as well as Roanoke's geographic location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, facilitated transportation between Maryland and Tennessee. Until controversial trade policies sent jobs out of the country, Roanoke was known for textile and furniture manufacturing. Norfolk Southern, Wachovia Bank's customer service center, and First Union are headquartered in the city.
Although Roanoke has no universities or colleges, neighboring Virginia Tech has a satellite campus in downtown Roanoke. The city is also home to several historic, artistic, and cultural organizations. Mill Mountain Theatre, the Art Museum of Western Virginia, and the Virginia Museum of Transportation are popular tourist destinations. Additionally, the Harrison Museum of African-American Culture, dedicated to the history and culture of Roanoke's African-American community, is also at home in Roanoke.
Roanoke's performing arts venues are the Shaftman Performance Hall and the former Dumas Hotel, which was reopened as the Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development. Shaftman Hall is home to the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra , the Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre, hosted concerts, touring Broadway theatre performances, the Miss Virginia pageant, and other events. An annual Olympic-style amateur sports festival- the Commonwealth Games of Virginia- is also held in Roanoke.