Cape Charles Kicks Off The 2012 Holiday Season With The 3rd Annual Grand Illumination In Central Park

by: Marlene email

If you were  in Cape Charles, VA the week-end of December 1st. , you already know it  was a great opportunity to kick off the holiday season all around this quaint little historic  town sited on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.  First off, the Cape Charles Bed and Breakfast Association  sponsored the annual  “Cookie Trail”   Open House.  Lots of fun, this is the kick-off to many local celebrations of  the season, an invitation to stop in to see some  great  decorations and enjoy  delicious  homemade cookies.  If you’re a historic house fan, this is  always great because so many of the these homes, most built in the early 1900’s,  have been beautifully maintained and gorgeously decorated.  I especially wanted to  visit Bay Haven Inn,  a new B&B,  owned and operated by our customers, Jim and Tammy Holloway.

The opening of  Bay Haven Inn is the result of  nearly 2  years of  work on the part of   Tammy and Jim.  You can be sure  it takes a substantial effort to renovate a grand 7 bedroom, 8 bath Colonial Revival home , built in 1906,  into a  simply gorgeous B&B retreat.   A few years ago, when the Holloways first met with Blue Heron Realty Co. to begin their search for a historic home in Virginia to develop into a B&B,  they had never been to Cape Charles.   But on the very first visit,  it was love at first sight, not just with this particular house ( which had actually been a B&B at a  previous point in time )  but with the town itself.  And not only did the house have great bones and tons of the original detail they were looking for,  but it had a personality and ambience  that just clicked for them.  ( Some of the originals included elaborate ceiling medallions, leaded glass windows, columns, amazing pocket doors, 12″ baseboards, beautiful fireplace mantels and a quirky butler’s pantry. )   Now, dressed to the nines for the holidays,  Bay Haven Inn  is ready to strut its stuff,  primed  for the big time,  picture perfect, all set  for the guests who will come to relax and enjoy the Southern Hospitality for which Virginia is well-known. (  For reservations,  call  757-331-2838  )

Next stop– pick up 2 grandkids for the Santa Workshop and after supper, the Illumination.  Kids and  parents, elves and Santa — the Workshop was a beehive of activities as 5 or 6 arts and crafts tables were jammed with happy kids making ornaments, necklaces and bracelets.  Up on  stage, Santa was busy finding out who had been bad and who had been good — and of course, everyone claimed to have been  been good, very good indeed.  After making 2 ornaments and waving to Santa,  who was still very busy with the “naughty or nice” inquiries,  the boys and I slipped out to make a quick run for supper to Sting Rays  Restaurant, or Chez Exon as it is fondly nicknamed.  Housed in a large red “barn”  with 2 lanes of  gas pumps outside, StingRays has been  written up by Southern Living Magazine as serving some of the best seafood on the Eastern Shore.  This time of year,  when the rock fish are running,  you can sometimes find this delicate fish on the menu  but I am partial to the Shrimp Stuffed with Crab Imperial.  Super- fresh crabmeat, enveloped in a creamy sherry laced sauce, piled high on jumbo shrimp and broiled to a golden brown !  Truly delicious,  but takes a while to get to the table  so the three of us ordered the BBQ.  Southern BBQ is normally pork   ( not beef as in so many other regions ),  slow cooked over wood until it is fork-tender, then “pulled” into shreds, piled high on a kaiser roll and topped with a favorite sauce.   Sting  Rays has great pulled pork and a luscious house sauce to go with it.  With favorites like cole slaw, potato salad and baked beans on the side,  a Chez Exon BBQ platter  makes a simple but delicious meal, a satisfying  regional food.

After  dinner,  it was off to the 3rd Annual Grand Illumination at Central Park in Cape Charles.  Hundreds of luminaries lined the long curving walkways,  placed there earlier by  the numerous Cape Charles  helper elves, glittering points of light,  flickering in the darkness.  Standing in the large Gazebo, a focal point of the Park,  Master of Ceremonies Chris Bannon reminded the crowd that  it was just 11 years ago that a volunteer group called “Citizens For Central Park”  was founded to turn an old playground surrounded by an ugly chain-link fence into the 5 acre  green area ringed with winding walkways,  beautiful landscaping,  a  flowing fountain and  large Gazebo that exists today.    Along the way, thousands of dollars in donations and nearly a million dollars in grant money,  together  with the ideas and efforts of so many individuals and organizations including  architect Leon Parham,  the Eastern Shore Garden Club and the Women’s Club of Cape Charles, all of whom worked synergistically  to  create this beautifully landscaped park.  One of the unique aspects of  Central Park are its Memorial Trees — many interesting trees, including  Copper Beech,  Golden Rain tree, Yoshino Cherry and Gold Atlas cedar  were donated by individuals and planted in honor  or in memory of  a loved one.

The Northampton County High School band was on hand to set the mood, playing  familiar holiday tunes as members of the US Coast Guard’s Cape Charles Station meandered through the audience, lighting  candles  as everyone sang carols—  candles and carols are definitely my favorite part.  It was a slightly chilly night,  just a bit of a nip in the air,  not enough for gloves  or hats but enough to get  into the holiday spirit.  ( A couple years ago it was a “jazzercise” illumination,  so chilly I was stomping my feet to the beat of the music– Jingle Bells, stomp, stomp, stomp, Jingle Bells, stomp, stomp stomp ! )  Then  the “Countdown to Illumination”,  with Mayor Dora Sullivan doing the honors– 5, 4, 3, 2, 1– the candles were blown out and as darkness fell over the Park,  the Mayor threw the  switch.  Voila’,  thousands of  brilliant holiday bulbs, a celebration  in all the colors of the  rainbow,  suffused  the Park with  a soft glow,  beautiful to behold,  a  gift from “Citizens for Central Park”  to everyone in Cape Charles,  a very special  gift indeed. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

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