The Holladay House Bed & Breakfast
Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games 30 Oct 2014, 3:55 am
When you’re young, one thing on your bucket list involves announcing, coolly and indifferently (like you aren’t impressed with your own fabulousness) “Yeah, I’m with the band”. It never crosses your mind that, someday, the band you’re with will be a bagpipe band, and you’ll be dragging a laundry bag containing your husband’s gear (including the “whole nine yards” of his wool kilt. Oof.) You’ve bypassed “groupie” and run directly into “roadie”, you have mud on your tennis shoes, and you’re thinking, I bet Bon Jovi’s posse never had to remind him to bring his wool knee-highs..
Each year at the annual Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games, I get a ringside seat to lots of traditional bagpipe music, played by traditional bagpipe bands turned out in their best clan tartans. When I need a break from “Scotland the Brave” (and that moment does always come) I head over to the harp competition to experience the more Celtic Woman-esque side of Irish music. Then, there’s highland dancing performances for me to imitate later (badly) in the privacy of my own home, a British car show for my husband to wander through longingly, and a fiddling competition to remind me of why I was once so entranced by the violin. (Why I quit is another matter altogether.)
There’s a hurling competition, which is—as near as I can tell—a sport where baseball, hockey, and lacrosse are essentially placed into a blender together to see what happens. And, of course, there will be a good game (or two) of rugby, which is always pretty interesting. Particularly if it’s attended after a session at the whiskey-tasting table, which has a tendency to make everything more interesting. (Wristbands are available for those who planned to drink like an Irishman, all day long.) There’s a heavy-athletics competition, involving the throwing of things like blacksmith hammers, box weights, logs, and stones—really, anything historical people could get their hands on to chuck across a field.
I particularly look forward to the large vendor area, which stocks a huge and varied assortment of Celtic-themed gifts—things like Irish fisherman sweaters, handcrafted swords and daggers, claddagh and eternity-knot jewelry, tartan scarves, leather hand-tooled belts and silver buckles, and hand-carved pipes. Not to mention the classic tartan items—there are vendors who will help you outfit not only yourself in clan colors, but also your small children, your dining room table, and even your family pet. Literally.
The Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games return to the Richmond Raceway Complex for one late-October weekend each year. Check it out at http://vacelticfestival.com/
All photos courtesy of Katie Yarrow.
Virginia’s Largest Corn Maze 27 Oct 2014, 5:04 am
“Don’t run, and don’t leave the paths.” The Liberty Mills Farm employee told us, giving us the scoop before we began our foray into the corn maze. “And whatever you do, don’t swear in the maze. There are 2 million undeveloped ears out there, so we can’t tolerate that.” There was a pause, and we chuckled as we got the “corny” humor. Then I addressed a smallish concern of my own. “If we’re not, um, back by dark–?” I began, staring down at the complex network of lines crisscrossing our map. He grinned. “We’ll come find you before we close up for the night. Don’t worry, no one’s ever gotten lost for good.” Somewhat reassured, we flashed thumbs-up and set off to conquer, armed with our color-coded map and–well, pretty much just our color-coded map. And that’s part of what’s fun about it–you feel like you’re setting out into the unknown, having an adventure with a treasure map, while still retaining the comforting knowledge that sooner or later you’ll find your way out again.
My husband and I opted for the blue maze first. It’s billed as the “secondary” maze (1 hour) for those a little above the “elementary” yellow level (30 minutes) but not quite ready for the red “bachelors” (2-3 hours). We didn’t even consider entering the green “masters” level, which seems to require intuition as the only navigational tool and isn’t featured on the map. The map was, by the way, incredibly accurate, which made negotiating the ship-and-waves design of the blue maze a bit simpler. Our assigned task en route was to find 13 American history trivia questions. If we correctly answered the questions, we gained a letter, which we could enter into the crossword puzzle on the back of the map. If we correctly filled in all the spaces, we could earn a prize back at the ticket booth. (I say this in the theoretical sense, because we didn’t manage to find all the clues and consequently didn’t earn a prize.) Despite not locating all the stations, it was thoroughly enjoyable. The wind had an autumn nip to it and was blowing pretty strongly, rustling the dry stalks above our heads. The sky was clear-blue, the labyrinth walls were golden, and the path ahead was latticed with shadows. It made for a beautiful walk that somehow epitomized autumn, and we were sorry to leave (though relieved, of course, that they didn’t have to send a rescue party out for us.)
After completing the maze, we played a few games of tic-tac-toe and checkers (using mottled little pumkin-noids as our game pieces). We flashed our wristbands to catch a ride on the hayride rumbling along through the pumpkin patches. We disembarked at the farm store, where we enjoyed sampling some of the jams and jellies the farm produces. The strawberry salsa was delicious, and we wound up taking a jar of the strawberry butter home with us.We’re looking forward to trying it out on some warm shortbread thumbprints very soon!
Liberty Mills Farm is located in Somerset, VA–an easy ten-minute drive from Orange. Holladay House is offering discounted tickets if you want to go–just check with Sharon before you head out. For more info, including a complete schedule of what’s going on around the farm, visit http://www.libertymillsfarm.com/
Gordonsville Ghostbusters 1 Oct 2014, 7:07 am
For those of you looking to put your Halloween celebration on steroids (or just enjoy the spine-tingling effects of the Unexplained) you’ll want to take note. Gordonsville’s Exchange Hotel is billed, according to A&E “History Channel”, as #15 on their “TOP 100 Most Haunted Places in the Country”. This comes as no surprise, considering the building once functioned as a receiving hospital for wounded Civil War soldiers. According to the records, the hospital treated up to 70,000 soldiers during the war, and, temporarily, had around 700 of them buried there. In their backyard.
For those looking to scare up some spooks themselves (or debunk the rumors), there’s the “Night @ the Museum” tour, which, according to the website, allows you to answer for yourself the question “…what happens after the museum closes, everyone goes home and darkness falls?” Check it out—http://nighttouratexchangehotel.weebly.com/
However, I have no particular hankering to dabble in the realm of Creepy (or to provoke my overactive imagination), so my husband and I opted for a more conventional approach and visited the Exchange Hotel during daytime hours, 10AM-4PM.
The museum is broken into a few segments to represent various aspects of the building’s diverse life, but overall flows well and makes sense. The bottom floor contains a reproduction of the original hotel tavern–and humorous details about the “whistle walk”. The Gordonsville train depot artifacts are currently housed here as well, so you can explore train travel in the 1800s (an integral part of the hotel’s history), the origins of the name “Exchange Hotel”, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad mascot kitty, “Chessie”.
The middle floor is primarily a display of hotel accommodations during the 1800s (including gender-appropriate dressing screens.) The top floor is devoted to the Civil War hospital museum, and includes display cases of surgical tools (*shudders*) and furnished wards.
Come to the Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville to learn about Civil War history, look for ghosts, and discover why Gordonsville is “The Fried Chicken Capital of the World.” Find out more at http://www.hgiexchange.org/
“Fall Fiber Festival & Montpelier Sheepdog Trials”…. (whew!) 23 Sep 2014, 6:57 am
Anyone can walk into a “Hobby Lobby” and purchase a skein of yarn. I can say this with authority, because I have several skeins wrapped in plastic in my closet, waiting for that moment when “Inspiration” will intersect with “Skill I’ve Yet To Acquire”, and I’ll knit something fabulous. However, for those folks who are “craftier” than me, define themselves as “textile-fiends”, or are just looking for something a little more special than mass-produced yarn shelved beneath industrial lighting, look no further than “The Fall Fiber Festival & Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials”.
“The Festival”, as the cumbersomely-named event will be hereafter known, brings knitting, weaving, and crocheting back to their most organic, locally-sourced levels. First, meet the little fur-factories themselves as you visit with the sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, and rabbits who live and “grow” locally. (Some big names in the business will be represented, including “cashmere” and “angora”.) Next, check out the shearing demo, where a few lucky (or not so lucky….) sheep will show off how they slim down for swimsuit-season. Then head over to the display & demo tent, where expert crafters will illustrate how all of that raw fiber is turned into fabric. Demonstrations will include popular favorites like spinning, weaving, rug hooking, knitting, needle felting, crochet, and fiber blending, as well as a few intriguingly mysterious ones like inkle weaving, kumihimo, and rigid heddle weaving.
Take a break to buy some high-quality fleece of your own, or (as is more my speed) visit one of over 50 craft vendors and purchase a completed, one-of-a kind work of art. Munch on something tasty from the food vendors as you hunker down on the grass to watch the sheep dog trials. I enjoy these particularly because, as the former owner of an Australian Shepherd, it’s exciting to see these beautiful dogs strutting their stuff as they do what they were born and bred to do (rather than, say, tearing up a carpet and beaming up at me delightedly afterwards, as my dog was inclined to do.)
This year’s Festival falls on the weekend of October 4th & 5th, 10AM—5PM. For complete information, including schedules, workshop sign-up sheets, and directions (it’s located less than 5 minutes from Holladay House!) visit: http://fallfiberfestival.org/
The Library of Congress: Packard Campus 16 Sep 2014, 8:18 am
The exterior of the Library of Congress Packard Campus is pretty cool–lots of concrete and glass overgrown with vines, with a round reflective pool in the courtyard area. Despite what’s housed inside, the outside wouldn’t feel particularly out of place if it were featured on the History Channel’s “Life After People.” However, it’s best to admire it in photos, as my husband and I learned when we visited a week or two ago. The lesson we can now impart is as follows: just because the building is cool doesn’t mean you should walk around it. Just because you’re curious doesn’t mean you should walk around it. Just because there’s no sign that says you shouldn’t walk around it doesn’t mean you should walk around it.
Architectural curiosity (and a talking-to from Security) aside, here’s a little background on the who, what, where. According to their website, http://www.loc.gov/avconservation/packard/,this peculiar, slightly mysterious building-on-a-hill holds and houses the heftiest audio-visual collection in the world. That apparently amounts to 6,000,000+ moving images and audio recordings. To manage all of that media content, they have 35 climate-controlled vaults, and about 90 miles of shelving. (My husband and I have a combined book collection that sometimes seems to occupy only slightly less space. *Sigh*.)
In addition to storing the best movies ever made, Packard Campus screens (at no charge, first-come-first-serve) a few selections each week in their 205 seat, Art-Deco theater. This month began with a celebration of the life of Robin Williams (“Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Aladdin”, and “Mrs.Doubtfire”, among other favorites). As the month progresses, the marquee will feature a number of popular sci-fi flicks and thrillers, including the original three Star Wars movies, “Unbreakable” and “The Hunt For Red October”.
They don’t, however, merely show movies that can readily be found in most home and public libraries–their selections are far more diverse. Last month’s screenings included a series of Nazi propaganda films from the mid-30s (including Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will). On the night we attended, we watched a US Navy recruitment film from 1939 (Wings of the Navy) clearly intended to increase interest in naval aviation and enlistment as the US prepared to enter WWII. The movie was, apparently, projected using the original, freshly-restored film. (I wasn’t aware of this, but my husband was geeking out about it and told me.)
The Library of Congress’s Packard Campus works in conjunction with the newly-restored Culpeper State Theater, and tickets for both venues are available at the website: http://www.culpepertheatre.org/ The site also features the most comprehensive and up-to-date schedule of upcoming events (film, live music, and stage performances) available.
Somerset Steam & Gas “Pasture Party” 2 Sep 2014, 5:07 pm
My husband was a historic preservation major at UMW (and a nerd, albeit a lovable one, about all things from the past) but when I told him the “Somerset Pasture Party” was coming up soon he looked a bit blank. I suspect he was probably picturing eating cucumber sandwiches while chilling with a group of beribboned sheep, which is the image that “pasture party” has always conjured up for me. However, when I started explaining what I meant—using terms such as “live steam-tractor demonstrations”, “classic car displays”, and “functional sawmill”, he began to get that special glow in his eye.
There’s something for the non-tractor enthusiast of your party, too (in this case, me). Vendors will be on hand to present an eclectic variety of goods, hot food (including the party’s “Famous Steamed Beans”) will be served, and live country bands will perform throughout.
The annual (and very popular) event returns to Somerset September 12, 13, 14th. Admission donations are $7 per person.
Check out their website: http://www.somersetsteamandgas.org/pasture_party.html.
Edible Food Fest 25 Aug 2014, 3:38 pm
Judging by the overflowing chef-demonstration tents and the eager huddles of taste-testers at each booth, I’m going to say that this year’s Edible Food Fest was a success.
The Chef’s Tents (not one, but two this time around) proved to be a huge draw again this year, and there’s a rumor circulating of expanding the number again for 2015. A live video feed helped those in even the very back rows get a close-up on what was going on. One very popular draw was Chef Curtis Shaver of Hamiltons’ at First and Main, whose demonstration, “Okra: The Southern Vegetable” was a big hit. You can find a few of his recipes here: http://ediblefest.com/okra-the-southern-vegetable/. Other speakers on the official roster included Craig Hartman of The Barbeque Exchange (“Cooking From the Farmer’s Market”), Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant (“Cooking Fresh From the Garden”) and Martha Stafford of The Charlottesville Cooking School (“Make It Delicious: Marinating, Salting, Knife Skills and More Techniques to Enhance Your Flavor”).
There was also a Chat Room tent, where speakers discussed food-related themes. Lecture titles included “Beekeeping in the Backyard”, “A Discussion on Virginia Piedmont Wines”, “Eat More Mushrooms!”, “Growing Hope in Agriculture: Family Farming in a World of Anonymous Food, and “The Fun, Productive, and Holistic Backyard Flock”.
There was also a large and varied collection of vendors on-site. I’ve listed a few of our favorites below.
Find out more about Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ at http://www.shawnsbbq.com/
2. Hudson Henry Baking Co.—I can’t say enough good things about their maple, pecan, and coconut “Good News Granola”. The only thing hindering me, in fact, is the fact that it’s hard to type while gobbling it down at the same time. It’s just that good. Check out their website: hudsonhenrybakingco.com.
3. Pantheon Ice Pops had a cart, so naturally the gravitational pull of sugar and fruit drew me like a fly to honey. Their local-peach pop was delicious, a perfect compliment to our sightseeing, taste-testing tour. Among the other flavors that looked intriguing: Chocolate Sea Salt, Strawberry Hibiscus, and Berries on a White Beach. According to their website, they’re available to serve at special events (weddings, reunions, etc.) which is pretty cool. http://www.pantheonpops.com/
Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/pages/GypsyJuiceWagon/633207540077461?sk=info
Read more at carpedonut.org.
6.Moving Meadows Farm Bakery grinds flour at their own mill and immediately turns it into whole-wheat breads, which they sell at their bakery storefront in Culpeper, VA. We purchased one of their freshly-made cinnamon buns, and were duly impressed. What’s amazing is that something this good can be made from a handful of ingredients, all of which the average person can pronounce. http://www.movingmeadowsfarm.com/
7.Finally, soap! I’m not a true foodie at heart, but you might say I’m a…soapie. We picked up the Cinnamon & Wildflower Honey bar—hand-ground cinnamon w/local wildflower honey and cinnamon essential oil—from Eastham Farms Everyday Organic. It smells fantastic. 100% organic, cold process, and handcrafted.http://easthamfarms.com/
39th Annual Street Festival 17 Aug 2014, 12:22 pm
Orange’s 39th annual street festival is located, literally, right outside Holladay House’s front door. Throughout the years I’ve seen a huge variety of different vendors: beautiful clothing knit from alpaca hair (or should that be ‘fur’?); racks of handmade quilts; colorful clothing and bags from South America; cases of eclectic jewelry; local artists showcasing their paintings/cds/novels; hand-painted Christmas ornaments; hand-carved wooden trains; hand-sewn doll dresses. There’s always a collection of food vendors on hand as well, serving everything from snow-cones and kettle corn to BBQ and Chinese food.
This year’s festival will include live music and adult beverages, presented in Taylor Park throughout the day. When the Main Street feature wraps up at 6 PM, folks can move into Taylor Park for “Dancing Till Dusk”–a featurette of music, food, and drinks served until dark.
Check it out September 6th, 10AM to 6PM.
Oakland Heights Brings Bull Riding To Orange 3 Aug 2014, 6:51 am
Cowboys in button-down shirts, Wranglers, and well-worn boots scuff around the paddock area, their faces shadowed by statement-making hats (the size of which is usually measured in gallons.) A rodeo clown jogs across the arena, the fringe on his chaps dancing. Dust plumes beneath the hooves of a trotting horse and lingers in the air, illuminated by a ray of stadium lighting. A girl on horseback lopes by, standing in her stirrups, the American flag streaming out behind her.
No, it’s not somewhere out in the Wild West, and it’s not on television. Every 2nd Saturday of the month, May through September, Oakland Heights Farm hosts the BLM Bull Riding tour. For most of us around here, it’s our only shot to see an authentic rodeo, complete with bucking bulls, ladies’ barrel racing, and a little something called “mutton busting” involving tiny kids trying to stay aboard sheep. (The kids seem to enjoy it. The sheep just want to get the heck away from the crazies.)
There are two more chances to see the rodeo live this season: August 9th and September 13th. The gates open at 5:30, the live music begins at 6:00, and the bull-riding commences at 7:15. Adults get in for $15 each, kids under 13 are $10, and toddlers sneak by for free. The bleachers tend to fill up fast (and early) so I recommend being there when the gates open to get good seats (and close parking.)
Located in Gordonsville, Oakland Heights is an easy 10-minute drive away from the Holladay House. Find out more at http://www.oaklandheightsfarm.com
“Shrek: The Musical” at 4 County Players 3 Aug 2014, 6:45 am
The new show playing out at 4 County Players encourages you to “let your freak flag fly”. “Shrek: The Musical” opened July 18 and was quickly sold out for opening night. My hubby and I were able to procure tickets for the July 26th performance (is that the most romantic anniversary gift ever, or what?)
4 County Players is located in Barboursville, VA–only about 15 minutes away from Holladay House, down Rt.20. We made the drive just in time to claim our seats, which were perfect: midway back, and right in the center. Then again, there aren’t any bad seats in the house. The theater is larger than it looks from the outside, but small enough that even the back row doesn’t miss a word (or a note from the live orchestra).
The show was, as always at 4CP, well-acted, well-directed, and accentuated with beautiful costumes and backdrops. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance—particularly “Donkey”, who was spot-on.
During intermission we enjoyed drinks and snacks from the 4CP’s very own Bistro, though there’s a more complete dining venue available. Stonefire Kitchen, located just across the road, stays open until 8PM on show nights to provide theater-goers with a great gourmet deli experience. You can find their menu, photos, and info about the owners and chefs here: http://stonefirestation.com/
Sadly, by the time this post was ready to go live, “Shrek” was entirely sold out for the remainder of its run—a testimony to the quality and popularity of 4 County Players’ productions. Still, they have a great season coming up, and lots to see. Upcoming shows on the Mainstage include “Little Women” (Nov.21st—Dec.14th), “The Fantasticks” (March 6th—29th), and “Our Town” (May 8th—24th). There’s also an assortment of shows lined up for the Cellar—check out the full schedule, plus photos and history, at their website: http://www.fourcp.org/SitePages/index.aspx