Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tried to be Super-Mom at the pool, but this happened instead...

Ahhh, the summer time swimming pool. Refreshing, relaxing, peaceful. Hardly!  When I go to the pool I have to round up the littles, find the clean swimsuits,  the towels, hunt down the sunscreeen, which inevitably is close to empty, pack the bag, remember the bottled water, goggles, pool toys, snacks or money for snacks, and then some.  The children and I went to the pool earlier this week, and I was on a roll! I miraculously had all my stuff together. I then opened the freezer to get out some ice for the cooler bag, and saw these. Score! 
I made sure to pack freezer pops for all the kids, packed extra ice packs, got everything together, even remembered the kids, and we headed to the pool. I felt like Super-Mom!  Fast forward to the pool. I surprised the kids with the freezer pops, and they were pretty happy about the frozen artificially flavored goodness. At first. Then the yelps of disgust began, with "Ew!"and "Gross!" So I glanced a bit closer.
I had to laugh at my poor attempt to have it all together at the pool. I told the kids to go jump back in, so I could sit back and have a good laugh at myself. Thank goodness that fun times at the swimming pool aren't contingent upon Mom having it all together.  The kids didn't care about the freezer pops after all, and so the rest of the day looked like this:
I'm sure that one day in the future, one of my children will be sick, and I will wake up in the middle of the night to get some frozen pediatric solution from the freezer, only to remember that it melted at the pool in July. Until then, enjoy these "refreshing, relaxing, peaceful" pool days while they last. I have found that they're much easier to enjoy when you don't expect too much of yourself and laugh off the small stuff.
Wishing you stress-free and fun-filled days, Erin

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25- 26, 2014, Weekend at a Glance

Our family has had a full week! I haven’t had time to sit down at the computer until today, much less put together a comprehensive list of events and activities like I did last weekend.  I have, however, pulled together a few things that I know of off the top of my head. Below is information about local events in Southern Virginia that will keep you relaxed, entertained, or both this weekend. If I have left anything off, simply leave the event info in the comments for others to see. Thanks, and have a safe and fun weekend! Best, Erin

“They Walk Among Us” Portrait Unveiling and Gallery Reception at the Washington-Coleman Community Center, 1927 Jeffress Boulevard, South Boston, Virginia.  Friday, July 25, 2014. Black Tie Event, RSVP Required.

Paws and Claws SPCA Tag Sale, Saturday, July 26, 2014, 8:00 am. Early birds welcome. Wyatt Chevrolet Building, South Boston, Virginia. This is a charity sale event.

Live Music Tonight by Mezza Voce at Virginia International Raceway’s Oak Tree Tavern in Alton, Virginia. Oak Tree Tavern is located at 1245 Pine Tree Road, Alton, VA 24520.  Call 434-822-8605 or go to for more information.

Halifax County Truck and Tractor Pull, Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 7pm (Gates open at 4:30 pm) Bring Lawn Chairs. Tickets are $15.00 Contact Charles Slagle at 434-579-3083 or Billy Rice at 434-222-1599 for more information.
6th Annual Clarksville Bluegrass Gospel Concert, Saturday, July 26, 2014, Clarksville Fine Arts Center, 914 Virginia Avenue across from Hardees, Clarksville, Virginia 6:00 pm.  Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 at the door, Children 12 and under are free with an adult. Tickets are available at Ace Hardware in Clarksville, Clarksville Community pharmacy, Yancey Store in Nelson, and at the door.  The Hinson Girls, The Gentlemen of Bluegrass, The Churchmen, and Mark Templeton and Pocket Change will be performing.

Tomahawk Mill Winery’s Eighteenth Annual Summer Festival Saturday, July 26, 2014, 11:00 am until 5:00 pm, 9221 Anderson Mill Road, Chatham, Virginia, 24531. 434-432-1063. Peaks of Otter Winery, Rebec Vineyards, Bright Meadows Winery, Gabriele Rausse Winery, The Homeplace Vineyard, Tomahawk Mill Winery. Music, Clowns, Crafts, and Food.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” July 25, 26, and 27, 2014 at the Danville Museum of  Fine Arts and History, 975 Main Street, Danville, Virginia. Friday and Saturday 7pm, Sunday 2:30 pm. Not recommended for children. $12, in advance at the museum, and $14 at the door.

“Live at the Fillmore” tribute to the original Allman Brothers Band at the Historic North Theatre, Danville, Virginia. Saturday, July 26, 2014, 8pm.  434-793-7469 for ticket information.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

21 Events in Southern Virginia This Weekend, July 17-July 20, 2014

Looking for something fun for you, your friends, or your whole family to enjoy this weekend? How about 21? That's right. Here's a list of 21 activities and events in Southern Virginia this weekend, from free concerts and family movies to craft beer tastings, from motorsports events to the 37th Annual Virginia Lake Fest, this list has it covered. If I've left something out, please feel free to leave the event info in the comments. Here goes!  
South Boston-Halifax County
1.  See Les Miserables performed at The Prizery in South Boston, VA.  Thursday, July 17, Friday July 18, and Saturday July 19, all at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, July 20 at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $8 for students and $26-28 for adults. Buy your tickets online at or call 434-572-8339 to purchase your tickets over the phone and pick them up at will call. I’ve seen this show twice already, and would go back again. It’s that good!
2.      Destination Downtown South Boston presents Movies on Main. You can see Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks under the stars at Constitution Square in Downtown South Boston, and the best part? It’s FREE! Bring your lawn chairs and blanket. The movie starts at 9pm.   There are also sno cones and popcorn for sale on site. Smart move, DDSB! I have never seen this movie, but I have heard from other parents that there is a lot of mature content and you might want to investigate whether or not this is appropriate for your littlest ones to see. If you’ve heard about this or seen it for yourself, please weigh in. I’d like to hear other’s parents’ constructive opinions. For future reference, DDSB will be showing Muppets Most Wanted under the stars on September 12 and Matt Boswell and the Hillbilly Blues Band will be playing at Constitution Square Friday, August 15 (tickets required). Event and sponsor info is here.
3.  NASCAR fans, South Boston Speedway presents the CenturyLink NASCAR late model 100/Limited 50/PureStock30/Hornets15/LegendaryFlatheads20 Saturday, July 19 Get Times and schedule here.
4.  Virginia International Raceway (VIR) presents the Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge beginning at 8 am, Friday, July 18. This looks like a ton of fun for car and racing enthusiasts. From VIR: “There can only be one…one ultimate track car and one ultimate drive. Grab a front seat as drivers take the track with hopes of proving their car is the fastest there is. Or get in the action yourself-anyone can race as long as your car passes a NASA safety inspection. From there, anything goes. All tires, suspension types, turbos, superchargers.” Find out more here.

5.  Take your family out to the ballgame! The Danville Braves play ball at home Thursday, July 17, and Friday July 18, both games start at 7. For more info about these games, see the Danville Braves Team Schedule here.
6.  Centra Medical Group and Danville Parks and Recreation present Music on Main Thursday, July 17 from 6:30 to 8pm at the Main Street Plaza near the JTI Fountain. Bring a chair and relax while you enjoy the music. Free event. More info here.
7. Enjoy Shakespeare in the Park as students from Danville Center Stage bring Bard to life at Danville’s Riverwalk, at picnic site #19 on the riverfront, from 7-9pm. This is a free event. They recommend bringing a lawn chair or blanket to sit on and bug spray. My husband and I saw Danville Center Stage’s Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer. We packed a picnic of cheese and crackers, fruit, hummus and pita chips, and spread it out on a blanket. It was a sweet and simple date night. It was free, and we got home early enough to tuck the littlest Thackstons into bed. This event has our recommendation for a low key date night. More info here.

Greater Richmond and Surrounding Area
8.      Who doesn’t LOVE locally grown sweet corn? If you are near Richmond, you may want to head over to the Gallmeyer Farms 2nd Annual Sweet Corn Festival this Saturday, July 19, 2014 from 10am until 5pm at the Pumpkin Patch, 4506 Millers Lane, Richmond, VA  23231. Free admission, live music, food, vendors, free parking, hay ride shuttle, and fresh veggies – How sweet is that?? Gallmeyer Farms  
9.      The Capital Ale House National Beer Expo is happening through July 20 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and nearby venues. Food and beer available, tickets required.  See this for info 
10.      James River Cellars Winery Sundays in the Shade, Glen Allen, Virginia, is this Sunday, July 20, 11am-5pm. That just sounds lovely, doesn’t it? James River. Wine. Sundays in the Shade. Nice.

Bedford, Amherst, and Surrounding Area
11.   This one sounds fun! If someone twisted my arm, I might go to The Kegs and Corks Festival in Forest, Virginia, Saturday, July 19. (I promise you wouldn’t have to twist too hard!) A festival designed to provide a fun, relaxing atmosphere for guests to sample Virginia wine and craft beer while enjoying good music, food, and a wonderful summer afternoon. Long & Foster Realtors Wine Garden featuring Brooks Mill Winery, Fincastle Vineyard & Winery, Rebec Vineyards & Sans Soucy Vineyards. Tastings from local and regional microbreweries including Devil's Backbone, Sunken City (Smith Mountain Lake), Three Brothers (Harrisonburg), Flying Mouse (Troutville), Starr Hill (Crozet) and more! OK, I’m in. You had me at Sunken City…Bedford Chamber info here.
12.   Sangria Saturday at Lazy Days Winery, Amherst Virginia, Saturday, July 19 - Join Lazy Days Winery for an exciting series of Sangria Saturday with live music, family fun including games, beverages for the whole family available to purchase, scenic views, great live music out on the patio, or under the pavilion. Bring a picnic, enjoy a glass of Sangria or wine, make some new friends, visit with old friends! Great fun for all ages. Check the website for a schedule of bands & performances, lots of fun, many surprises! Music, Games, Dancing, Picnic, and wine
13.   National D-Day Memorial Family Day and 1940s Festival, Bedford, Virginia, Saturday, July 19, 10am to 5pm. Discover the lessons and legacy of World War II through interactive programs, tours, and projects. Activities include Victory Garden projects, book-signings, conversations with veterans, story stations, living history, live entertainment, art contests, crafts, and more! Bring the family and enjoy a day at the Memorial. Sponsored by Woodmen of the World - Lodge 175. Students are free. Adults $8.00 per person

14.   Farmville Main Street Music – Thursday, July 17 Local Flavor meets Rock, Jazz, Blues, and Bluegrass, as Main Street Music takes over Downtown Farmville, held the third Thursday of each month at the Crute Street. See this for event info.

Martinsville-Henry County
15.   Martinsville residents, if you want something a little closer to home, the Martinsville Cruise-In happens the third Saturday of every month at the Big Chair Plaza, 100 East Church Street. This free event is held from 4-8 pm. If you miss this one, there will be another on August 16. For more info…
16.   Did you know that Martinsville also has a “Third Saturday Bike Ride” presented by the YMCA and local cycling club? They will meet this Saturday July 19, at 9am. Find out how to participate here.
17.   Martinsville Mustangs NASCAR night will be held Thursday, July 17. Gates open at 6, first pitch at 7:05. The Martinsville Mustangs Salute to Troops Night, the most patriotic game of the year, is this Saturday, July 19. Visit their website at
18.   Fayette Square Festival, Friday, July 18, 2014 from 5:30-7:30 pm. Stop by and experience Martinsville's newest pocket park! Located on the corner of Main, Moss and Fayette Street in Uptown Martinsville. Across from the Uptown Farmers' Market. The Fayette Square Festival will be fun for the entire family! Come out and enjoy a bounce house, fresh and local food for purchase from Pick & Roll and Uptown Sweets, live music, games and plenty of kid-friendly activities! Feel free to bring a lawn chair.
19.   Martinsville has a lot going on this weekend! Tasty Saturday will be held this Saturday, July 19 from 7am until noon at the Uptown Martinsville Farmer’s Market. This event is held the third Saturday of each month, June through October. These special days highlight one or more of our vendors, allowing them to create something tasty to share with the public. Samples will be available. Tasty Saturdays are occasionally accompanied by music and/or local crafts. Eat fresh, Shop local!
20.   Here’s one more for Henry County: In Axton, Virginia, Lake Sugar Tree Motorsports Park Moonlight Stadiumcross Race will be held this Saturday, July 19. Tickets are required. To find out about this event, go to

21.   Clarksville, Virginia’s 37th Annual Virginia Lake Fest – Thursday July 17-July 20 in Downtown Clarksville, Virginia. I may have saved the biggest event for last! This has been named “One of the Top 20 Events” by the Southeast Tourism Society for many years.  Tethered hot air balloon rides, sand sculptors, helicopter rides, children’s amusement rides, antique cars, juried arts and crafts, live bands, food vendors, you name it! We go to this just about every year. Did I mention my favorite part? Watching fireworks booming overhead, reflected on the lake below. Beautiful. Find out about this at
If you know of any other events that I did not mention here, feel free to add them in the comments. Let's help keep each other informed about these great events! Have a great, safe, and fun-filled weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Southern Virginia Wild Blueway Launch and Upcoming Festival

Welcome to the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway
When Linda Shepperd, Halifax County Tourism Director, first mentioned to me in the fall of 2013 that she wanted to write a grant for a blueway right here in Southern Virginia, my response was, "A what?" I don't think I had ever heard the term "blueway" before, and wasn't quite sure how it would fit into Southern Virginia. She explained to me what a blueway is, described the other blueways in Virginia, such as the Alleghany Highlands Blueway, The Upper James River Blueway, and The Roanoke River Blueway. When she finished speaking, my thought was, "That is exactly what we need here in Southern Virginia!"  
So, what is a blueway? In short, a blueway is an organized waterway trail system.  The Southern Virginia Wild Blueway here in Southern Virginia is comprised of three rivers and two lakes with access points in three state parks spanning two counties, Halifax and Mecklenburg.  The blueway will link different assets found on the rivers and lakes, making water recreation more readily accessible.  The number of people using state parks, rivers, and lakes, who are not only fishing, but who are canoeing, kayaking, rafting and tubing, camping, and using waterways has grown exponentially over the past few years, and people have renewed their love of the great outdoors as options for au naturale adventures are increasing. 
Did we build anything? No. Are we manufacturing anything? No. We have obviously always had rivers here. Staunton River State Park was one of the first in Virginia, with cabins built by the CCC in the 1930s. Buggs Island Lake, also known as Kerr Lake and John Kerr Reservoir, began construction in 1947. The rivers? As far as I know, they have been here since the dawn of time. The beauty of creating an organized blueway system is that it promotes what already exists naturally in our area and makes it more accessible for our residents to enjoy, and encourages and invites others to come to our area and take advantage of our unspoiled scenery and waterways. Now that's something you cannot build or buy.
The project was initiated when Virginia State Parks, the Corps of Engineers, the Dan River Basin Association, Upper Reach and several towns in both Mecklenburg and Halifax Counties formed a partnership in 2013.  Linda Shepperd and I started writing the grant from our end in the fall of 2013. Justin Kearns from Mecklenburg County Tourism assisted and Virginia State Parks helped by providing matching funds for the project.  The grant was written to establish, brand, and market what is now The Southern Virginia Wild Blueway. The Virginia Tourism Commission granted the funds to move forward. I played a very minor part in this process, but still it felt great that I had contributed to something that would be used to promote what I consider to be one of the most beautiful places on earth - Southern Virginia. 
The Southern Virginia Blueway Launch Ceremony was held at the Staunton River State Park on June 16th. Pictured here is the very fitting ringing of the bell, which is a nautical or boating tradition, in lieu of a ribbon cutting.  See that unspoiled natural setting in the backdrop and the water waiting to be navigated? That's part of the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway.
Linda Shepperd (far left) is the Halifax County Tourism Director, Nancy Pool is the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Sheila Bradley is on the Halifax County Tourism Board of Directors, and I'm on the right. 
Mikula-Harris, a branding and advertising agency in Vinton, Virginia, was hired to brand and market the blueway project. Their highly professional and expertly skilled team crafted a wonderful promotional project. Thank you kindly, Mikula-Harris for your direction and creative strategy!  The website they developed is up and running, and can be viewed at  Take a peek!
One more thing... There is going to be a blueway festival called the Wild Blue River Festival this September 13, 2014 in the Town of Halifax, with an adventure race at 8 am to crafts, vendors, a river cleanup, music, food, and more! Be there!  You'll surely hear more about this sooner than later, but in the meantime, check out event info for yourself at The Town of Halifax's website here.   
Before I call it a wrap, here's a mathematical recap:
3 Rivers (Dan River, Staunton River, Banister River) + 3 Virginia State Parks (Occoneechee, Staunton River, Staunton River Battlefield) + 2 Lakes (Hyco and Kerr/Buggs Island) + 2 Southern Virginia Counties (Halifax and Mecklenburg) = 1 Southern Virginia Wild Blueway
You may be tested on this math problem later, so do your homework by visiting the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway!  Until next time, feel free to share your thoughts on the blueway. Hope to see lots of folks at the Blueway Festival in Halifax September 13. 
See you on the water, Erin

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Wedding Gown to Christening Gown

Two different friends sent me articles this week about upcycling ideas, saying that the ideas reminded them of me, "in an entirely complimentary way." I love thinking outside the box, upcycling, reusing, recycling, and using my thinking cap to come up with clever ideas. I take it as a great compliment that both ladies thought of me. Their comments got me to thinking about one of my first and favorite projects, which I want to share with you, especially on this "Transformation Tuesday."  I can't take the credit for construction of this gown, though it was my idea, and I think one of my best ideas yet.
I was married on September 21, 2002, and my daughter Courtland was born on Mark's and my second wedding anniversary, September 21, 2004.  I loved my wedding gown, as most brides do. I am very sentimental, and would have loved for Courtland to have worn my wedding gown one day, but am also realistic and know that a huge and wonderful part of planning a wedding is shopping for the perfect gown. I wanted a means of passing my gown down to her without imposition. I decided that turning my wedding gown into Courtland's Christening gown would be the very best, most special way to do so. Wedding Gown Transformation: From Wedding Gown to Christening Gown
I searched for intricate gown patterns and bought several, but in the end decided to go with a very simple, classic design for her Christening gown. My wedding gown had a six foot long cathedral train, which was used to make the gown. The beading on my dress was removed by hand and hand sewn back onto Courtland's gown. I had a dress designer in Savannah, Georgia to make her gown from mine. It was one of those special projects that was well worth the time, effort, and the expense. I left enough fabric at the hem of the gown to embroider the monogram of each person who wears the gown. My monogram was first, then Courtland's. Next came her cousin Greer's monogram, soon to be followed by her newest cousin Isabella.   The picture on the right was taken from a portrait next to dim lighting. The gown is ivory like my wedding gown, but appears to be darker in the picture. No changes were made to the fabric in terms of color or texture.   If you have been holding on to your wedding gown, consider a project such as this. You never know, you could create an heirloom piece that will be used and cherished for generations.  xoxo, Erin

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Week in Review: Les Miserables Reception, Staunton River State Park Junior Rangers

This week I have helped throw a reception for the opening night of Les Miserables at the Prizery (which runs through July 20, btw. Go!), worked in my basement, (which we are designing on a dime and is looking cute! cute! cute!), couponed (I saved $90.00 at CVS today! Yay!), took 5 children to Junior Rangers at the Staunton River State Park, skipped out on my workouts (one step back), and so I need... a ME DAY. I can't wait for a special treat tomorrow. I have been invited to try a new product. Well, new to me, anyway. I'm getting ready to give myself a good old fashioned home mani/pedi so I'm good and ready for this product review. ps Miss Courtie is going with me for a little mother-daughter pampering. Looking forward to blogging about this. Wish us luck! In the meantime, here's a recap of a few things we had fun doing this week.
The tables that the hospitality committee set up for the reception at the Prizery following the opening performance of Les Miserables.  Marie Ketchersid was able to get these red, white, and blue (which are the colors of the French flag) from Annin Flag Company, and Kirk Compton's mother made this absolutely gorgeous floral centerpiece.  I helped prepare the food, which included among other things, meatballs. When I made meatballs for the opening night of Hairspray a few weeks ago, we ran out, so I made sure to make lots and lots and lots of meatballs this time we wouldn't run out. We did not run out. In fact, I brought meatballs home with me, and have eaten meatballs for six meals in a row. I do not kid. 

Here is my crew on opening night. Putting these things together truly is a team effort and a family affair. Below is Courtland with her friend Victoria, who played young Cosette. Congratulations, Victoria! You were stunning!  

So, this is what happens when you keep your kids up a little too late at a party. I don't think he was actaully sleeping, just being a bit melodramatic. This is his way of saying, "Mooooooom, I'm reeeeeaaaaddddy to go hooooome." 
Les Miserables is being produced at The Prizery in South Boston, Virginia as part of their 5th Summer Theatre Celebration, a summerstock program employing 29 cast and crew members who auditioned at the SETC earlier this year. They have moved into South Boston-Halifax County for the summer. They are living with local families, being fed by local churches, families, and organizations, and are working at our community arts center, producing Broadway style shows that are awesome! There are still tickets available at  The show runs until July 20. Again, GO! 
What IS this? It's paper in the making. Cool, huh? 
The kids at Junior Rangers at the state park turned used paper into recycled paper using water, a blender, a mesh screen tray, and some good old fresh air and warm sunshine.
They played some educational games and answered questions about the environment and eco-issues.
This is where the children played a recycling game. It is also where Mark and I had our first official date. We packed a picnic dinner and blankets and went to Staunton River State Park one July night fifteen years ago this month to see Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was very romantic.  
Miss Courtie with the reusable shopping bag she designed: 
Finally, the whole group worked together to turn used paper and plastic products such as a cardboard box, paper towel holder, and red solo cups into an elephant. It was too cute! 
You didn't think we'd get out of the state park without holding a snake, did you? I held it, too!
Junior Rangers is held at Staunton River State Park on Wednesdays. It costs $10 per child, is for children ages 5-12, and each week's lessons and activities vary. Parents don't have to stay, but are welcome to if they want. The $10 includes a hot dog or pizza and drink from concessions. 
The kiddos worked hard at Junior Rangers, so we celebrated with a trip to the Mountain Road pool. Fun times!
This was Carrington at a cookout late last night, celebrating summer!
See why I need a little pampering? Moms, don't we all? I'll fill you in on the good stuff tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Prizery Summer Theatre Celebration and Bob Cage's Latest Exhibit

One of my favorite aspects of working for Tourism and the Visitor Center is that I get to meet so many people from so many different areas, while learning a piece of their life story and their reasons for traveling to and through our community. Almost every time that I work, I get to meet an interesting person or family with a story and I love forging connections. I believe we are all connected in some way or another, and these two lovely ladies whom I met Sunday are wonderful examples of how far reaching our community is and how the programs in our community can impact and connect us all.
This is one proud grandmother! Meet Barbette Boutté (right) of Mandeville, Louisiana, and her sister Ellen Ann Moore of New Orleans, Louisiana. Barbette told me that this is the furthest North she has ever traveled. She actually flew into Reagan International Airport last Friday, spent July 4th in DC, and then drove to South Boston, where she and Ellen have spent the whole week.  Barbette and Ellen came into the Visitor Center Sunday afternoon, as they were looking for things to do, places to shop, and places to eat in Halifax County during their visit. We talked for well over an hour, and after I filled them in on the local to-dos, Barbette told me all about her grandson, DeAngelo.
This is DeAngelo Renard (right), a student at Northwestern State University in Louisiana, and the light of his grandmother's life. Barbette told me all about DeAngelo, his love of theatre, the high school he attended, how he auditioned for a regional theatre program, his audition at SETC, and how proud of him she is. He sounds like an incredible young man, and I for one am thrilled that she shared her incredibly talented grandson with our community for the summer. DeAngelo played the part of Seaweed in the Prizery Summer Theatre Celebration's production of Hairspray earlier this summer. He will be featured ensemble in Les Miserables, which opens tomorrow night, and runs for nine performances between July 11 and July 20.  Pictured with DeAngelo above is Gia Erichson, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She played the lead role of Tracy in Hairspray and will also be featured ensemble in Les Miserables. DeAngelo and Gia were reunited on the Prizery stage this summer. Although they went to different high schools and colleges, they had both auditioned for and worked together in a regional theatre program while high school students in Louisiana. They had no idea they would be working together on the same stage again until they announced their summer plans on facebook this spring. 
Here DeAngelo is pictured with Claire Kapustka, who played Penny in Hairspray.  Claire joined the Prizery for a second season this year. Last year she played the exercise entrepreneur Brooke Wyndham in Legally Blonde, who amazed us all  with her singing-while-jumping-rope-in-an-orange-prison-jumpsuit skills! I would still be out of breath from doing what she did!  Possibly one of her biggest roles yet, Claire will play Cosette in Les Miserables, opening tomorrow night.
DeAngelo is pictured here with local talent, Angela Fowler. Angela, who played Seaweed's mother, Motormouth Maybelle, brought the house down with her powerful performance of "I know Where I Been." Along with Barbette and Ellen, our family also saw Hairspray at the Prizery Saturday night. On the way home, my husband Mark said about Angela, "The Prizery needs to keep her on speed dial!"  Again, our community is so grateful for the talent here each summer, both local as well as visiting. Barbette and Ellen are just two visitors, but they are examples of the many people who travel to come to our area each summer to support their friends and loved ones and to take advantage of The Prizery Summer Theatre Celebration.
Before they left, Barbette and Ellen shared another interesting story with me. When they flew into DC, they stayed with their cousin, who is also originally from Louisiana. The fireworks they watched in DC were witnessed from the 4th floor rooftop of their cousin's DC home. Their cousin is former NY Times reporter and current ABC correspondent Susan Saulny, who has interviewed such notables as Maya Angelou and just Sunday morning, had been seen on ABC interviewing a lady from their own hometown, famous New Orleans restauranteur Leah Chase, who is widely thought to be the inspiration for Disney's Princess Tiana.  Barbette was kind enough to send these pictures to me that she took of Deangelo the night before, along with this video clip of her cousin interviewing Leah Chase, and permission to post them here.  It was so nice to meet Barbette and Ellen.
Although I was having lots of fun at work Sunday, (the South Boston drawing club had their monthly meeting there that afternoon), I requested permission to leave early. It was for good reason. I headed over to the Prizery, where Barbette, Ellen, Deangelo, Gia, Angela, and our family had all been the night before.  This time, however, was to attend a reception for the opening of an art exhibit by artist, sculptor, tennis champ, tobacco auctioneer, activist, family man, and friend to many, Bob Cage.  The reception was hosted by the Parsons-Bruce Art Association.  The exhibit is located downstairs on the first floor of the Prizery, and is being held in the Robert F. Cage Gallery. Yeah, I know.  

I have been a long time fan of Bob Cage and his artwork, even before I moved to Halifax County. I had a good friend who helped organize an art -on-the-lawn exhibit of Bob Cage's artwork in the 1990s, and I have been a fan of his work ever since. The paintings in this exhibit are reflective of his work as a tobacco auctioneer, with titles such as "Who'll Give Me Five" and "Golden Harvest" and "Bright Leaf Melody" and "Market Day Buzz." His artwork will be on display at the Cage Gallery at the Prizery throughout the months of July and August, and is free and open to the public. I took the picture below, before I left, of Bob Cage and his family. Standing on the left is Robin Cage, who is also an artist, and who lives and works in Richmond. You may have some of her pottery in your home, or may have attended one of her art open houses on Mountain Road each November. Next to her is sister Barbara Cage, co-owner of the Bistro 1888 in downtown South Boston. The next time you're at the Bistro, take a look at her father's artwork hanging on the Bistro walls.  Seated next to Bob is his wife Sandy Rusak, who has been director of education at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, and was formerly deputy director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. 
I have my eyes on a couple of paintings that haven't sold yet. It would be nice to see them hanging in my own home after this exhibit leaves and another makes its way in.  In the meantime, I'll keep enjoying my work at the Visitor Center, continuing to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of places, sharing life stories and dinner recommendations, and writing about it.   I'll let you know how Les Miserables is. Please let me know if you make it to this exhibit. I'll keep you posted on the status of the paintings I have my eyes on. By the way, if you make it to the Prizery for either Summer Theatre or the Bob Cage exhibit, you may see this sign: 
This is a picture of me with Community Arts Foundation Board President Blair Toner at the Hairspray show Saturday night standing by a sign that reads, "20/20 Campaign." An anonymous donor and Ms. Ann Edmunds have each pledged up to a $10,000 match for every dollar that is donated to the Prizery for this campaign, with a goal of raising $40,000 in 40 days!  If you would like to help this cause, you are welcome to make a cash or check donation at the Prizery, 700 Bruce Street, South Boston, Virginia 24592, or if you're like me and don't carry cash or checks these days, just call 434-572-8339 to make a credit card or debit card donation over the phone. It's that easy. Thanks in advance for your support. See you at the Prizery!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What America Looked Like on its First Birthday

An American flag waves in the breeze. A wooden fence borders a manicured lawn.  Gently rolling green hills provide a picturesque backdrop. In the horizon, only blue skies and gentle clouds complement the pastoral view.   Not much of this scene has changed since the day of our nation's birth, July 4, 1776.  By the grace of God there are more stars on our flag, but the soft grass beneath our feet, the unfettered skies, the gently rolling hills, the chirping crickets, and the subtle scent of magnolia still remain.  There's no wonder why Patrick Henry, America's First Patriot, called this very place "The Garden Spot of the World." 
This place is Red Hill in Brookneal, Virginia. Red Hill was Patrick Henry's final home, the site of his law office, the site of his family cemetery, and home of his descendants well into the twentieth century. Today, Red Hill operates as a National Monument with a visitor center, exhibits, living history days, and docents available to give tours to individuals, school groups, and for special events.  One of those special events is the Independence Day Celebration held every July 4.  
Mark and I were invited by some friends to go to Red Hill this July 4th to spend the afternoon at this historic site. We met our friends in town, and my daughter hopped into the Jeep with her friend. They rode in front of us, Jeep top down, ponytails flying behind them, as we caravanned up 501 North toward Brookneal, then down a winding road leading past vineyards and tobacco fields, until we finally reached Red Hill.  The children stepped out of the cars and Jeep wearing their Crocs and ear buds.  Vendors sold barbecue, burgers, funnel cake, and ice cream, as the bluegrass band's music was magnified through loud speakers.  Our group set up a table full of food we prepared in advance and packed in thermal bags, and laid our blankets underneath a collapsible tent.  The tent, the table, and most of the food were compliments of Kelly and Dale Redd and Patricia and Andy Rice. They thought of everything that I didn't. The tent. The table. The forks. Yeah, I'm new to this. 
Mark spent much of the day in a chair beneath a shady tree, while the children ran and played old fashioned games with wooden toys, then waited in line to get their faces painted.
Me and my little man, Carrington, in the face painting line. Yes, he dressed himself. His sense of style is unparalleled and his level of cool is beyond measure. 
Carrington asked for an American flag to be painted on his cheek surrounded by camo, and Courtie and Becky chose matching tiger faces. 
While waiting in line, I looked down to find that Carrington had removed his shoes, his feet bare, soft grass tickling his toes. It reminded me of how Patrick Henry's children and grandchildren may have stood while they played and ran and enjoyed life at Red Hill, nothing between themselves and the earth but the  green grass soft on their skin. Above me, bird songs filled the space between the leaves in the tree. Chirps of crickets echoed from the field ahead. Bluegrass music played up the hill at a distance. Strings resonated in traditional American folk style.  Children ran in the open field, laughing, playing, toppling to the ground in exhaustion. The sun shone above through an almost cloudless blue sky, but a comfortable breeze blew by, cooling my arms. With a deep breath, I took in the aroma of barbecue wafting  down the hill along with the music.  In this moment, and at this very place, I knew what this part of America must have looked like and felt like at its birth. 
The Osage Orange tree at Red Hill is the oldest and largest of its kind.  Osage orange trees are reported to grow to between 20 and 30 feet, but this one is 55 feet tall, and known to be at least 340 years old.  I can only imagine what it would have looked like during Patrick Henry's time, and wonder how much growth the enormous tree has seen since Patrick Henry's time here.
As part of the living history exhibits at Red Hill, costumed docents and workers demonstrated what life and work looked like during Patrick Henry's time here.  The little girl pictured below was making linen from flax.  The blacksmith and cook were both at work, as well, and the law office and slave cabin were open for viewing.
The cemetery where Patrick Henry and descendants are buried is located on the property a very short walk from the law office. This is Patrick Henry's tombstone.
At about 7:00 pm, the color guard presented the flag, and our national anthem was sung.  Patrick Henry's fifth great-grandson then came out of the cabin dressed as Patrick Henry himself and presented, by memory and with full fury, the famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech.  The Virginia is for Lovers tourism campaign had their "LOVE" sign on site with props for the perfect patriotic photo op following the speech.
The crowd thickened closer to dusk. We claimed our seats and manned our blankets, as Patrick Henry made his encore entrance and delivered the Declaration of Independence, followed by a grand fireworks display. 

There were no ice cream trucks or face painters two hundred years ago at Red Hill. There were no speakers or grand fireworks illuminating the sky.  The best of Red Hill, though, has remained. Soft grass tickling bare toes.  Cool breezes and smell of cooking from the house wafting down the hill.  Laughing children rolling in the field, concentrating on their wooden toys. Crickets chirping and bird songs filling the trees. Beyond the wooden fence, rolling hills and fertile trees as far as the eye can see.  It is easy to see why Patrick Henry loved this land like he did. On this Fourth of July, 238 years after our nation's birth, I listened to Henry's plea for liberty and America's Declaration of Independence.  Our Star Spangled Banner waved as our national anthem was sung.  As I remembered the struggles of the patriots who fought for our independence, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.  May we never forget that struggle for freedom and those who fought and died so that we might enjoy it, and may we always show our gratitude and support to those who continue to uphold that freedom.
Red Hill truly is a beautiful, quiet garden spot. If you like what you see, consider paying a visit to Red Hill.  Did you do something special for July 4th? Have any traditions, recipes, activities, ideas, or favorite Independence Day spots?  Please share them with me, and I'll be sure to include them next time. 
XOXO, Erin   
Southern Virginia Mom