Gordonsville Ghostbusters

Blog--ExchangeHotel--Front--8-28-14For 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 Blog--ExchangeHotel--Parlor--8-28-14soldiers 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/Blog--ExchangeHotel--Hallway--8-28-14

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 Blog--ExchangeHotel--Flags--8-28-14sense. 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!)

Anyone can walk into a “Hobby Lobby” and purchase a skein of yarn. I can say this with authority, Blog--FiberFestival--Yarn--9-22-14because 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 Blog--FiberFestival--Llamas--9-22-14“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.Blog--FiberFestival--Shave--9-22-14

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 Blog--FiberFestival--Dogs--9-22-14information, 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

The exterior of the Library of Congress Packard Campus is pretty cool–lots of concrete and glass Blog--LOC--Front--9-9-14overgrown 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-Blog--LOC--Interior--9-9-14come-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.)

Blog--LOC--Back--9-9-14The 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”

My husband was a historic preservation major at UMW (and a nerd, albeit a lovable one, about all Blog--Somerset2--8-17-14things 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 Blog--Somerset3--8-17-14enthusiast 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.   Blog--Somerset--8-17-14

Edible Food Fest

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.

1. Blog--EdibleFollowup--BBQ--8-14-14

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

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 Blog--OrangeStreetFestival--8-17-14alpaca 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

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.Blog--RodeoTeaser--AmericanFlag--7-29-14

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

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?)Blog--4CP--LunetteDoors--8-1-14

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.Blog--4CP--StonefireKitchen--8-1-14

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


A Brief Introduction

Our readers may have noticed that a new writer has recently begun contributing to our blog! Kimberly Barr has been a valuable asset at the Holladay House for years. She knows our operations “inn” and out, and she is a native of Orange County. She has plenty of personal interests that dovetail nicely with the Holladay House and all the fun things to do in the Virginia Piedmont region: cooking, traveling, hiking, photography, history, theater, and the arts. These interests, plus her sharp wit and natural passion for writing make her the ideal person to write about all the things that make our historic inn and the Orange County and Charlottesville areas a great place to visit!

So, please check in with us as often as you can to see what Kim is writing about! Also, leave her a comment or two to give her some encouragement, or to request an article on a topic of interest to you!

- Sam

Orange’s Edible Food Fest: “Celebrating Food From Earth To Table” on August 9th

At last year’s Edible Food Fest I discovered that I love goat cheese. Previously I’d been unimpressed (and rather revolted, frankly) by the grocery-store variety, so I was initially dubious about trying it. Still, you can’t claim to love cheese without being willing to sample every variety, so I reached for a Romano-laden toothpick and gingerly nibbled off the edge. And, that quickly, I was hooked. There was just something special about it. Maybe it was the simple, straightforward way it was presented, or maybe it was just that it was amazing, flavorful hard cheese, straight from the brine. Regardless, it was mouthwateringly good: strong, salty, and pungent. Needless to say, I took home a package—and a business card, so I could reorder.Blog--edible Food Fest in Orange--7-25-14

This seems to be a common experience of many who have flocked to the Edible Food Fest during the past two years. Whether it’s a homemade granola, a locally made cider, or a line of jams and jellies, most people find something new and exciting they want to take home and talk about. Also extremely popular are the chef demonstration tents (they’ve added a second one this year!) which late-comers find to be standing-room-only.

The fest is a great chance to meet fellow foodies and get a hands-on look at some of the best local, organic, and homemade offerings the area is producing. Among the vendors this year: Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield, Bees n’ Blossoms (raw honey), Croftburn Market (meats), Spring Mill Farm (goat cheese), Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup, and Family Ties and Pies.

Located within walking distance of the festival, the Holladay House is the perfect place to stay if you’re planning to attend this year. If you book two nights with us, we’ll even sweeten the deal and provide free admission to the fest.

Orange’s Edible Food Fest is scheduled for August 9, 2014, and will be open 10AM—6PM. See complete schedules and vendor lists at ediblefest.com.