Holiday Events 2014

Orange has a lot to offer this season! Come spend time with us at the Holladay House (and check out the seasonal “Holladay” decorations, like the Blog--Holiday--Chrismoose--11-25-14Chris-moose collection and the new owl tree!) as you enjoy a medley of events in the area: holiday movies, concerts, open houses, and, yes, opportunities to dress like Santa. There are some big things going on locally (the Moscow Ballet, anyone?) and some small-town-Christmas events to help you get into the holiday spirit. Not to mention, you’ll complete your Christmas shopping without having to ever set foot inside an overcrowded mall!

Little Women: November 21–December 14
Now playing at Four County Players in Barboursville. Tickets start at $8.

It’s A Wonderful Life: November 22–January 4

Now playing at the Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg. Tickets start at $45. A unique retelling, staged as a 40’s radio broadcast—including “commercials” and a live sound-effects artist.

Culpeper Holiday Open House: November 23
Admire the storefront decorations, watch classic Christmas specials at the State Theatre, enjoy live music, and take advantage of in-store specials as you start your holiday shopping! Ride the trolley,  get your photo taken with Santa & Mrs. Claus, and lots more at Culpeper’s open house.

Monticello Holiday Events: November 28—December 30
Come see what it felt like to attend an evening holiday party at the Jeffersons. Participate in the 28th annual wreath-making workshop, make homemade beeswax candles, or construct your own Monticello out of gingerbread during the family-friendly workshop! See complete dates & reservations info here.

Candlelight Christmas Tour at Montpelier: December 5,6,12,13
Come out for a cozy tour of Montpelier by candlelight. The event includes crafts and activities for kids, plus entertainment and refreshments for all. Adult tickets from $25.

Historic Downtown Orange Holiday Tour: December 6

The shops in Orange are decorated for Christmas and stocked with unique, one-of-a-kind gifts!

Rappahannock Choral Society Annual Free Christmas Concert: December 6 & 7
Wonderful holiday concert performed by a 75+ voice, audition-only choral society, featuring a medley of Christmas, Hanukkah, and humorous songs.

Fredericksburg Holiday Craft Show: December 6 & 7
A great place to shop for unique handmade gifts for loved ones (or yourself.) Featuring over 225 vendors. Tickets are $8 at the door. Get directions, advance tickets, and vendor info here.

The Great Charlottesville Santa Fun Run & Walk: December 7
Enjoy breakfast by Whole Foods, don a Santa costume, and run (or walk) a mile for charity. Donations benefit folks with intellectual & developmental disabilities, so it’s a great cause and lots of fun. Entry fee is $22 for adults, and includes the cost of the Santa suit. Sign up here.

Moscow Ballet Presents: The Great Russian Nutcracker: December 7
40 world-class dancers perform the Nutcracker at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville. Premier Ticket purchasers will have the opportunity to go backstage before the show. Tickets start at $29.50.

Orange Christmas Parade: December 7
No driving required—just step outside the Holladay House and have a seat. The show comes to you!

Jim Brickman: On A Winter’s Night Holiday Tour: December 10
Featuring some of 2-time Grammy nominee Jim Brickman’s most popular hits. Coming to the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville. Tickets from $30. Learn more here.

44th Annual Candlelight Tour: December 13 & 14
Come see some of Fredericksburg’s most historic homes by candlelight. Tickets are $30 for adults. See a complete list of houses here.

The Nutcracker Suite: December 13 & 14
Three performances over 2 days, produced professionally by the Charlottesville Ballet and performing at the Culpeper State Theatre. Tickets start at $20, and the show clocks in at 90 minutes.

A Christmas Carol: December 16
Performed at Culpeper State Theatre by the Nebraska Theatre Caravan. Tickets start at $29.50.

Bethlehem Village: December 17-December 21
A living nativity village, complete with working scribes, carpenters, weapon-makers, weavers, Roman guards, live animals, and a reenactment of Christ’s birth. It’s been running for over a decade, and enlists several hundred participants. Get all the details here.

The White House Band presents: Christmastime in Washington: December 19
An evening of Christmas music, performed by The White House Band at Culpeper State Theatre. Advance tickets $15, and going quickly!

13th Annual Christmas Party At Rapunzel’s: December 20
Rapunzel’s is a “funky” little coffee-shop/bookstore/recording studio built in a 100-year-old, renovated apple-packing shed. For 13 years now they’ve been doing a Christmas party featuring live music by popular local artists, and serving up local wines & microbrews. The party starts Saturday, December 20th @ 8PM. Bring along a $10-per-person donation.

Library of Congress Packard Campus Holiday Movies:
In the week leading up to Christmas, the Packard Campus will be screening a few lesser-known Christmas films (including “The Man Who Came to Dinner”).

Culpeper State Theatre Holiday Movies:

Culpeper State Theatre has a whole calender of really cool stuff going on that didn’t make the list. For the whole schedule, including concerts and even a whimsical “Classic Christmas Cartoons” screening, visit their website.


Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games

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..BlogCelticGamesMassedBands102114

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.)Blog--CelticGames--DrumMajor--10-27-14

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

All photos courtesy of Katie Yarrow.

Virginia’s Largest Corn Maze

“Don’t run, and don’t leave the paths.” The Liberty Mills Farm employee told us, giving us the scoop DCIM100GOPRObefore 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 Blog--LibertyMills--GirlMaze--10-10-14puzzle 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 Blog--LibertyMills--hayride--10-10-14mottled 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

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—

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

“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:

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,,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: 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:   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: 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

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:

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.


Check them out at



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.

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.

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