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Christiansburg, Virginia’s iconic Starlite Drive-In celebrates 72nd anniversary

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Starlite Drive In entry Christiansburg VA
David Rotenizer, Montgomery County Tourism
Starlite Drive In entry Christiansburg VA

Brenda Flora shares tales of Christiansburg, Virginia’s historic Starlite Drive In

The advent of drive-in theaters in America dates from 1932 when the Automobile Movie Theater in Camden, New Jersey first opened for business.

Starlite Drive In logo and screen
David Rotenizer, Montgomery County Tourism
Starlite Drive In logo and screen

Baby Boomers propelled drive-in’s popularity with more than four thousand across the country by the mid-1950s.

Hot dogs are hot item at Christiansburg, Virginia's historic Starlite Drive In
Tom Wilmer
Hot dogs are hot item atChristiansburg, Virginia's historic Starlite Drive In

But, by the 1960s the industry started its inexorable decline, driven by soaring land prices and the advent of cable TV and video rentals.

By the turn of the century less than 450 theaters remained in business across America.

Today in Virginia there are only six Drive Ins still operating.

Over in Lexington, the town came together and formed a non-profit to save the revered Hull’s Drive In.

Not too far away in Christiansburg (Virginia’s fourth largest town), the Starlite first opened in 1952 and it remains as one of six drive ins still chugging along in the entire state of Virginia.

Starlite Drive In entry and screen, Christiansburg, VA
David Rotenizer, Montgomery County Tourism

Starlite Drive In entry and screen, Christiansburg, VA

Personally, I have a fondness for Drive ins, dating from my high school days when a car load of us would cram in to a friend’s sedan, often with two or three stuffed in the trunk to keep the cost of entry to a minimum, of course.

Today, the drive ins still in business attract the gamut of fans, from families who often bring the entire clan and put the tailgate down to watch the show.

At the Starlite in Christiansburg, the allure captures everyone from university students to couples and seniors alike.

There’s even a nearby drive in of a different sort, located on Roanoke Street in Christiansburg, the iconic, Dudes Drive Incurbside-service diner with its iconic Dude Burger, and fries of course.

Popcorn, legendary hot dogs and Cokes are mandatory accessories to complete the Starlite experience--with the Starlite hot dog a multi-generation favorite.

When we stopped by for an in-person visit at the Starlite, the owner, Peggy Beasely, was indisposed so we met up with her assistant, Brenda Flora.

Tom Wilmer (left) interviews Phil McClellan (center) and Brenda Flora at Starlite Drive In Christiansburg VA
David Rotenizer, Montgomery County Tourism
Tom Wilmer (left) interviews Phil McClellan (center) and Brenda Flora at Starlite Drive In Christiansburg VA

We were hoping to chat with Peggy subsequently via phone. But, sadly, less than a week later, May 12th 2024, Peggy passed away. For now, the show goes on with Brenda at the helm at the Starlite.

Come along and join Brenda to discover the rest of the story of theStarlite, past and present.

 

Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer is a featured show on the NPR Podcast Directory
NPR
Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer is a featured show on the NPR Podcast Directory

You are invited to subscribe to the seven-time Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple Podcastand more than twenty other podcast hosting sites including iHeartRadio and Spotify

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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