Archive for the ‘The Arts’ Category

4th ANNUAL “ART ROCKS THE INNS” IN CAPE CHARLES, VA WAS A BIG SUCCESS

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Bay Haven 1This past weekend, art lovers on Virginia’s Eastern Shore were treated to the 4th Annual “Art Rocks” walking tour to discover the many creative treasures to be found on the gracious porches and grounds of the 5 Bed & Breakfast inns in Cape Charles. Part of the annual Cape Charles, VA “Harbor For The Arts” Festival, “Art Rocks The Inns” featured numerous local artists showcasing their work on the porches at Alyssa House B&B, Bay Haven Inn of Cape Charles, Cape Charles House B&B, Fig Street Inn and Sea Gate B&B. Attendees traveled between venues not just by car but by bike, golf cart and shank’s mare, and lots of oohs and aahs could be heard over the beautiful art pieces being shown at every Inn. Even Foster, the brown dog mascot of the famous Brown Dog Ice Cream, winner of many awards, came to support the arts.

Lots of art mediums were represented— from painters, potters and photographers to weavers, jewelers and Fig Street 4carvers, plus lots of other artisan types, including copper working and garden art. A myriad of beautiful original creations were on display and available for purchase at each venue. Food “art” was available from Parisian Sweets, which makes gorgeous and delicious handmade macaroons and Bay Haven’s famously colorful homemade chow-chows were on display, along with some juicy looking heirloom tomatoes. Thanks to innkeepers Kathy Glaser, Tammy and Jim Holloway, Bruce and Carole Evans, Donna and Greg Kohler and Chris Bannon for hosting this charming annual event and to the many accomplished artists who participated, it was definitely a delightful afternoon and many who attended when home with a new treasure!

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Celebrating the Fourth of July, 2017 In Cape Charles, Virginia

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

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On July 3, 1776, John Adams told his wife Abigail that when Independence Day came, it should be celebrated with ” pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports… and Illuminations.” Then, voila’, on July 4,1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and as a country, we’ve never looked back ! Now, in 2017, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the historic little coastal town of Cape Charles, VA celebrated America’s 241st Independence Day with the very same traditions John Adams wished for… and more ! This year, the festivities kicked off at 10am with the traditional Parade, the best ever in my book, led by the Color Guard from the US Coast Guard Station Cape Charles.

 

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The Cape Charles Parade is always a marvelous combination of local pageantry, floats, banners, fire company trucks with air horns blasting a loud ” howdy”, antique tractors and cars, horses, kids on bikes, motorcycles, decorated golf carts, etc., from local organizations, clubs and individuals. They march enthusiastically down Bay and Mason Avenues, tossing candy, beads and even a few yellow rubber duckies to the appreciative spectators lining the streets cheering them on ! This year, however, the parade within the parade, the Golf Cart Parade, was truly amazing ! Golf cart entries were dressed to the nines, red, whites and blues galore, flags, balloons, Pom-poms, streamers, banners, signs, Uncle Sam top hats, creativity shone everywhere. Since they are street-legal in Cape Charles, many residents own electric golf carts and a little friendly competition among neighbors resulted in dozens and dozens of fantastic cart entries this year, all the better to enjoy the Parade !

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After the Parade, it was on to the arts and crafts tents and food vendors out on Bay Avenue by the beach. Lots of fun stuff to see and buy. Business was brisk at the Italian Ice stand and yummy aromas wafted from the taco tent and the shrimp po boy tent, with nearby hot dog and burger venders ladling on mustard and ketchup at a fast pace too. Down at the Gazebo, Mistress of Ceremonies, perennial favorite Trina Veber, announced all the Parade winners, including best golf cart float which celebrated the now-extinct Cape Charles ferry and best Novelty entry, awarded to Reid Diggs, who drove his boat-into-a-car conversion in the Parade.

 

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Next up on the events schedule, the “Guppie Challenge”, a fishing tourney for kids, held out on the Cape Charles Fun Pier and sponsored by New Roots. Seemed to be lots of entries, excited kids milling around the LOVE sign, waiting for parents to finish the sign ups. And right next door, the medical assistance tent in case anyone got hooked by their hook… or whatever ! Teams were registering for beach volleyball and the corn hole contest. ( If you’ve never seen Corn Hole played, it’s a pretty simple set-up, a wide tilted board with round holes cut through it, hence the name corn hole ). The object of the game is to toss little bean bags through the not-much-bigger-than-the-bean-bag holes. One of those things that sounds easy but in practice is complicated, no doubt a metaphor for life in these days. ) Out on the Gazebo, live music all day and into the evening, keeping everybody rocking and rolling through sunset and last light.

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My young great-grandkids love the fireworks on the 4th of July best of all. As soon as darkness starts to fall, it’s like a road trip — but instead of “are we almost there ?”, it’s “are they going to start soon? ” Meantime, I’m still fooling with camera settings, hoping to get a few good shots of the fireworks, which seems always to be a challenge. Suddenly, the first loud booms and the crackly sizzles of lacy sparklers. Then oohs and ahhs, the squeals of sheer delight, wide young eyes staring at the sky with amazement as brilliant colors and shapes streak upwards, illuminating the darkness, then fading, softly falling back towards earth. Each seemingly more beautiful than the one before, going on and on and on, until the spectacular Grand Finale, the always perfect conclusion to a marvelous 4th, a Cape Charles 4th !!

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The Barrier Island Center’s Annual Art And Music On The Farm Event

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

1Rain clouds gone,  last Saturday dawned as bright and beautiful as one could have wished for the Eastern Shore Barrier Island Center  2017 “Art And Music On The Farm” festival. This Machipongo, VA event is one of the largest art/artisan annual festivals on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and one of our very favorites. Absolutely something for everyone… plus great live music !  And delicious food !  All day long !  Oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, decoy carvings, sculptures, bronze work, weather vanes, plants and garden art, ceramics, hand-crafted wood pieces, wool working and so much more on offer for the many enthusiastic attendees.  Island View Farms even brought 3 woolly characters from its herd of authentic Hog Island sheep, descendants of the original super hardy sheep that roamed that off-shore barrier island decades ago, explaining that their sheep enjoy the attention from the visitors as much as the visitors love seeing the sheep.

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And what’s a festival without food ? Definitely plenty of goodies to munch on here,  including at Kitchen Sync Catering, whose savory bill of fare included a delicious jambalaya, fresh strawberries & cream for dessert, with ice cold pink lemonade to wash it all down. Coastal Roasting had brewed its famous Marsh Mud iced coffee plus fruit and herb iced teas, hitting the spot perfectly on the warm summer’s day. Delicious aromas wafted from the Taqueria and Kielbasa & Brats tents, their spicy menu pairing well with the adjacent Beer Garden. Not far away was Chatham Vineyard, well-known for its luscious Chardonnay, also doing a brisk business.

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CrowdFrom 10am until closing at 4pm, five different and talented groups performed on fiddle, guitar and mandolin, playing to a very enthusiastic crowd.  The main stage area included an adjacent dance floor for those in the audience who wanted to accompany the liveld Musicy music with some clogging or free range dance. Toe-tapping and delightful, the music was rooted in the various styles of bluegrass and the old time country music traditions of rural Virginia. We stayed and listened to the entire one hour performance by Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones, lots of good energy, well played. ( In fact, we enjoyed it so much we brought their authentic sound home with us in the form of their latest CD. ) And when their set was over, to the delight of the audience, Erynnn got on the dance floor and back into her groove with some enthusiastic clog dancing ! Hats off to local long time clogger, Bill McLaughlin, who helped several youngsters give clogging a try. All in all, a wonderful day, full of fresh breezes, good music, delicious food and beautiful art. In short, another great Art and Music on the Farm festival !

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P.S. — A huge shout-out and thanks to everyone at the Barrier Island Center, to all the volunteers and all the artists, artisans and musicians who make this outstanding event possible each Memorial Day weekend !!

The Alpacas Stole The Show At The 11th Annual Thanksgiving Artisan’s Guild Open Studio And Vineyard Tour On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Friday, December 6th, 2013
Brochure for the 11th annual artisan open studio tour on Eastern Shore VA

The Tour Is A Great Way To Find Unique Gifts For Special People On Your Holiday Gift List

It’s that time of year again– splendid Thanksgiving repast over, excess turkey safely ensconced in a light cream- and- sherry tetrazzini sauce, friendly football bets all settled– and on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, time for something different, one of my favorite events of the year,  the annual Thanksgiving Artisan Open Studio and Vineyard  Tour.  Pleasant, low-key, the Tour is the Friday-Saturday-Sunday after Turkey Day opportunity to personally meet talented local artists and select unique and beautiful art for some of the special people on your holiday gift list.  One of the great things about this self-guided driving tour, for locals and visitors alike, is that it is spread over a  wide- ranging area. Since the event is held in the participating artists’ studios, which are quite often located at their personal residences, visitors often end up traveling down scenic by-ways and into little hamlets that they would not ordinarily be exploring  if not for the Tour.  Thankfully,  the Guild puts out an on-line brochure and map, plus plenty of  signs and arrows are placed strategically along roads, their red bows waving in the breeze, helping to  guide folks along the way.  This year’s  Open Studio sites were scattered  from Capeville to Onancock.  ( One of my favorite Tours took place a  few years ago when we visited Open Studios  located from south of Cape Charles up to the island of Chincoteague near the Shore’s northern border with Maryland,  a distance  just shy of  70 miles.  We got started early in Cape Charles and visited just about every venue.  In fact,  after touring the 2 of the 3 open studios on Chincoteague that year, we spent the remaining half hour + of daylight at the beautiful Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, home of the famous Pony Round-up.  The vast flocks of snow geese were so  impressive, elegant white birds serenely floating on clear blue waters. )

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Am I Cute Or What ??

Because of another commitment, this year we were unfortunately unable to start until after lunch.  With two grandkids in tow, aged 8 and 11,  we set off for the By The Bay Alpaca Farm in Pungoteague.  The approach to the property is down a long farm road, through large fields blanketed with green winter cover crops,  when suddenly they appear, some of  the cutest farm animals you’ll ever see,  a  herd of 14 beautiful alpacas.  During the drive I had asked the boys what they knew about alpacas– the 8 year old piped up that he thought they were members of the camel family and the 11 year old commented that they are a lot like llamas.  But none of us had ever seen an alpaca up close and personal so we  were looking forward to reaching out and touching one of these adorable creatures.   Definitely not disappointed, they were the highlight of the entire Tour for the 4 of us, absolutely stole the show !  These graceful animals, with cloven hoofs like deer, in various shades of beige, white and brown, placidly chewed their cuds,  completely ignoring their many admiring visitors.

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OK, I’m Ready For Some Petting

Awards and ribbons won by the By The Bay Alpaca farm

A Sea Of Awards and Ribbons Line The Walls At By The Bay Alpaca Farm

Andrew Leach, who with Tara King  runs the farm,  was kind enough to put a leash on one of the sweetest youngsters and let the 4 of us pet him.  I was quite surprised at how long and deep the fleece is, about  3 inches this time of year, although it will be at least 6 inches long by the time they get sheared in the spring. And soft, it was amazingly soft,  which is why it is so prized for sweaters, scarves, gloves, etc. , all of which Tara makes right there on the farm in her light-filled studio.  By The Bay has won numerous awards for its fleece.  The studio is a veritable sea of ribbons and awards, a real accomplishment for the owners, especially considering that they started with only a single pregnant female and have built their herd of 14 from there.  Aside from how incredibly soft the fleece is,  we were all surprised by how much alpacas vocalize as well as  by the fact that, unlike cows, horses, etc.,  they are essentially “potty trained”.  Though I hesitate to get so earthy in a blog post, we were all astonished to see three or four different animals walk up to what apparently is their selected potty area in the middle of the pasture and do their thing,  right on the exact same spot where a previous  animal had just finished.  I asked Andrew if I was just imagining this and he said that alpacas like to keep their pastures clean and that they do basically adhere to a central toilet area instinctively, no attempts at training from him !  Who would have guessed ….

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Reflections Glass On Display

From By The Bay we were off to Onancock, specifically the historic Onancock School which now houses the studios of  about 10 artisans.  We visited the studio of Elizabeth Hunt, a well-known potter who does beautifully decorative stoneware,  David Farlow, the Harbormaster at the Quinby, VA harbor, who is a 4th generation Eastern Shore decoy carver  and the  Reflections Glass Studio, owned by the Careys, a husband and wife glass blowing team.   There were more studios at the school to visit but because of our late start it was almost the witching hour and I still wanted to visit the studio of Vesna Zidovec,  a well-known potter, whose mirrors decorated by borders of  her hand-made glazed marine life tiles are legendary here on the Shore.  Vesna has a very cozy studio in her home in Onancock, toasty warm from a wood stove in the corner,  flanked by a chessboard table, soft classical music playing,  a great place to end the Tour. We selected a lovely glazed bowl decorated with, of course, a blue heron,  and then it was time to head for home, another Tour, albeit abbreviated, under our belts, a delightful time had by all plus a lot more info on alpacas.

 

 

 

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The 21st Annual Eastern Shore of Virginia Harvest An Unqualified Success

Friday, October 18th, 2013
Harvest Fest on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Harvest Fest On The Eastern Shore of Virginia

When you live on  the Eastern Shore of Virginia, as the first week of October rolls around, you can look forward to a few traditional  pleasures– mums start to bloom gloriously, pumpkins appear in riotous hues of orange at roadside farm markets but, best of all, it’s time for the annual Virginia Eastern Shore Harvest Festival,  sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.  Ticket sales are limited to about 2500 each year and there is no better hangout for an entire afternoon of food, fun, hospitality and some old-fashioned  “howdy-I’m-so-and-so-and-our-candidate-would-appreciate-your-vote”  state and local politics. Ground Zero is the Sunset Beach hotel’s spacious beachfront acreage at the beautiful southern tip of the Eastern Shore , right at the edge of  the mighty  Chesapeake Bay. 

Harvest Fest food tents

So Little Time, So Many Seafood Goodies

Although there is always lots of  great local art for sale, the seafood, of course,  is the big drawing card, a veritable cornucopia of Eastern Shore delicacies from the deep,  plus a few harmless veggies ( i.e., French fries and corn-on- the-cob, although this year there was also a salad station,  which mysteriously I somehow managed to miss ).  And for the landlubbers, fresh, local BBQ  and  the ever-popular Southern-style chicken wings do the honors.  First off, the trick is to start out by making a big circle around the entire venue, checking out exactly what’s on offer and then setting one’s eating strategy.  To dive enthusiastically into one’s favorites or to go with  the conventional appetizer/entrée’/dessert  strategy, that is the question.   Personally, I think most folks just dive into their favorite seafoods right off the bat in this all-you-can-eat heaven but almost everybody in our little group went with an “appetizer first” strategy, meaning that first up were the steamed little nicks,  everyone picking up baskets heaped with the ever- so- tender, half-dollar sized beauties, accompanied by melted butter.  And for those who love ice-cold oysters on the half shell,  an army of volunteers was kept busy popping opening these glistening beauties, enticingly  displayed on deep beds of crushed ice. 

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Harvest Fest Winery Tent

Snagging A Nice Cool Glass of Local Chardonnay Wine, Perfect To Accompany An Afternoon Of Munching On Luscious Local Seafood

But, heresy of heresies, here in the land of  prolific clam and oyster aquaculture, I don’t like either clams or oysters!  So, while others were busy smacking lips over the bi-valves, I was moseying on over to the other side of the grounds to scoff up on a nice cold glass of Chardonnay to enjoy with my seafood. On the Eastern Shore we are fortunate to have three great local wineries, Chatham Vineyard, Holly Grove Winery and Bloxom Vineyard.   We’re  not Napa Valley but still, it’s great to be able to brag about having our own wine appellation, the Eastern Virginia Appellation.  And from there I headed straight into the arms of the Shrimp Station tent.  Now I really love shrimp, they are my personal seafood favorite,  but I am very particular about shrimp preparation. Be they steamed, fried or scampied, what reader of  this blog has not suffered through  rubbery, what-the-heck-are-these, grossly over-cooked shrimp ?  I must congratulate the charge’ d’affaires  of  the Shrimp Station  for a job really, really done well.  It’s hard to even imagine the challenges of  on-site cooking for literally hundreds upon hundreds of people,  in an open air tent, with portable equipment,  grappling with the logistics of  assuring that  every single ingredient is on hand, in the correct amount, definitely no possibility of just stepping into the pantry for more.  But to do this with shrimp, which are so easy to ruin with a too-thick, greasy coating or by over-cooking, is even more of a challenge.  But these were excellent,  tender, succulent, crisp in a light, crunchy tempura style batter, congrats to the whole Team Shrimp !   And did I  mention the accompanying sauce, a smooth, mayo- based sauce, delicately seasoned with tangy horseradish, a few spices and a bit of mustard, offering just enough bite  to contrast with the sweetness of the shrimp, absolutely delightful.

Harvest Fest Toadfish Tent

Toads By Any Other Name Would Be More Delicious

After a couple of turns with the whole shrimp thing,  it was off to Toads–fried toads. Not the jumps-out-from-behind-the-flower-pot kind of toad but rather a toadfish toad.  When cooked, they’re just  tiny things, about three inches long and about an inch or a bit more across.  But despite the off-putting name, they are delicious, with a delicate white meat, not fishy at all,  This was the first time that I can recall toads being served at Harvest Fest but they seemed to be very popular and I certainly enjoyed them, several helpings worth.  From there, it was off to the Flounder Station. Flounder is a fav fish of mine,  I especially like it served a la Sting Ray Restaurant’s  style, topped with a  rich Crab Imperial and finished under the broiler until smoking hot and crispy brown.  Totally yum !   Sadly, but of course, the Fest Flounder wasn’t topped with crab,  but it was still very good, tender, with a crisp seasoned coating, very nice.  

 

Eastern Shore Harvest Fest Crabcake Tent

Waiting In Line For Some Savory Crabcakes

While strolling around, scooping up shrimp, toads and flounder, I had also been keeping my eye on the Crabcake Station which been sporting a pretty long  line all afternoon.  However, when you’ve got seafood on the brain and there are savory crabcakes to be had, well, trust me, like the Sirens tempting Ulysses,  those  crab cakes call out,  long line or not.  So, hey girl, better just get in line with the dozens of other folks looking for their crabcake fix.  Presented this year by the well-known Exmore Diner,  prepared on a sizzling grill instead of deep-fried, I did wonder at the outset if these would be worth the wait.  But reaching the end of the line and picking up my prize, a plate of two aromatic crabcakes, made from the famously flavorful Chesapeake Bay blue crab, subtly spiced, with a pinch of parsley added,  delectably rich,  melt-in-your-mouth, I had to say, oh yes, they were worth the wait !

Harvest Fest - Virginia Eastern Shore art tents

Surveying The Local Art Talent

By then, totally sated, I was ready to move on to the Arts and Crafts tents and check out all the  paintings, carvings, sculpture, etc.  Harvest Fest always has always included great variety of local artisans displaying their creative works.  Among this year’s group were  Billy Crockett, a well-respected local carver,  Mary Onley, known affectionately as “Mama Girl“, whose whimsical paper-mache’  figures have become quite famous locally and Copper Creations, well-known for their Nature based copper art figures as well as garden art.  It’s  always fun to browse through, taking in all the beautiful things on display, especially as I have no talent whatever along those lines . I’m  always amazed to see how many really gifted artists we have here on the Eastern Shore and  I love wrapping up the annual Harvest Fest with a stroll through the art tents, a real feast for the eyes after such a delightful feast for the tum-tum.

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A Rollicking Street Festival In Cape Charles For “Benefit by the Bay” 2013

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

DSC_0965Every year one of the Eastern Shore’s primary arts groups, Arts Enter Cape Charles,  holds a major  dinner-dance-auction benefit to raise  funds to pay the mortgage on the Palace Theatre for another year and float  many of its other expenses.  It’s the major fundraiser for this important community arts group and a lot of time and effort goes into planning this event so it will be not only  fun for guests but profitable for the organization. This year’s benefit was  a Street Festival, a Strawberry  Street in Cape Charles, VA festival to be exact.  And  festivals in general are so fun and colorful, the hum of  voices and music blending,  rising, floating above the street, surely they are  the perfect occasions  to get together with family and friends to hang out, let the vibes flow, just have a merry old time.

DSC_0959Guests entered through the front doors of the theatre, which was all decked out for the evening with fragrant  floral arrangements placed in eye-catching corners, then  slipped out the side doors, down a long red carpet and  into the street.  Voila’, overnight a magnificent  transformation of  the first block of Strawberry Street from the usual  blacktop pavement and concrete sidewalks busy with cars and pedestrians into a gorgeous plaza !  Decorated with  leafy  trees in huge,  beautiful pots bedecked with strands of  tiny burnished gold lights,  flower arrangements sporting  a thousand brilliant blossoms, gurgling fountains and dozens upon dozens of  circular tables covered with eye-catching deep rose and teal cloths, the street had become a virtual fairyland of colors, shapes, sounds, textures.

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We arrived about 7 pm, the sun already throwing long shadows and deliciously cool evening breezes were gently blowing off the Chesapeake Bay just 3 blocks away.  Before stepping through to the street, we took a quick whirl  through the Silent Auction site set up in the Stage Gallery, just checking on the  donated artwork there, lots of promising items to review in-depth later in the evening. But now, time to visit with friends over a glass of  chilled Chardonnay and sample from the appetizer table.  I had to check out some of my favorites more than once, including the ice-cold jumbo shrimp served with a very tangy red cocktail sauce.  The cheese tray was also very popular with wine drinkers and beer fans alike, being well stocked with a variety of both soft and hard cheeses and plenty of crunchy multigrain crackers. Dinner was served buffet style on the southern end of the plaza, with a number of grazing stations set up, offering a variety wide enough to satisfy even picky eaters. 

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My husband headed for the cold salmon station, the fish prepared by talented local chef  Tim Brown, beautifully decorated with wafer thin slices of cucumber,  served with a dill creme’ fraiche, and accompanied by a colorful cold pasta salad and skewers  of antipasto anchored by chilled asparagus, all very, very nice.  I, on the other hand, elected to head first to the Land & Sea station and the savory plump grilled  chicken breasts and succulent crabcakes awaiting there. One thing about grilled chicken– it’s so easy to end up with something dry and tough !  But this was really excellent,  very tender, great flavor and texture, done about as perfectly as any BBQ chicken I’ve had, with plenty of spicy sauce on the side.  Tossed green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, roasted potatoes and an elaborate fruit tray were offered as sides,  all in all, a tasty summery meal.  For those looking for local seafood, a raw bar station offered  fresh tender little clams and salty oysters from the Broadwater Oyster Co. of Willis Wharf, both served  on the half shell atop deep beds of ice.  Raw seafood is not my thing but this was a very popular station, keeping several servers busy  just popping open the clam and oyster shells. for the ever-present line of aficionados.

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As twilight morphed into darkness, we headed inside for another view of the Silent Auction items in the Stage Door Gallery. Lots of good stuff to bid on– several original paintings including a dramatic oil by Clalia Sheppard, lots of original jewelry, some great autographed items, a number of very collectible records, some dramatic  framed photography including a very striking photo of a blue heron. ( And as it turned out, for which we were the successful bidder.)  As I  had an early meeting the following day,  it was about time for us to call it a night.  Too bad,  as we were leaving the band was starting to really get into its groove and the dance floor was filling up.  Another year, another great Benefit By The Bay. Keep ’em coming Arts Enter, time soon to start planning Benefit 2014 !

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The 17th Annual Holiday Progressive Dinner in Cape Charles VA Was One Of The Best Yet !

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

A holiday tradition kicked off  17 years ago  by the Chamber of Commerce to help support various  Eastern Shore of Virginia worthy causes,  the annual  Holiday Sampler Tour Progressive Dinner was held last week in Cape Charles.   Entitled “Shake, Rattle and Stroll”,  the theme of the evening was to relax and take a step back in time to the Fabulous Fifties.  Not to dwell on my ever advancing age, but I was alive and be-bopping during the Fab 50’s so it was a nostalgic evening for me.  In fact, I’m guessing that some  of the other cute chicks and cool cats  in our group were also be-bop-boppers ! Who can forget the guys with the Everly Brothers style Brylcreemed  pompadours and  “Duck Tails” ?   Or  the big bouffant “beehives”  held in place with about a gallon of  hair spray containing who knows what chemicals that enabled it to hold  together for a  week !                                                                                                        Venue # 1, serving the  appetizer course,  was as always, the beautiful Palace Theatre on Mason Avenue. Built in the art deco style 1941, in its day the Palace  was considered absolutely splendid — it has now been restored to its former glory through the enormous efforts of  the Arts Enter  group, right down to the total refurbishing of the plush red velvet seats.  We were met at the door by The King  himself, attired in a white dinner jacket, slicked back long hair and quite possibly a pair of  blue, blue suede shoes.  Unless my eyes were fooling me…..    In the lobby we registered, got our group  badges and moved  down into the  house to  nosh  on some rather tasty appetizers.  From the Blue Bay Crab Co., a Parmesan crab dip on flatbread crackers and from Mallards-On-The-Wharf  Restaurant, a lovely display of  fresh veggies and  fruits served with warm spinach dip,  a savory  hummus and a tapenade of Greek style black olives. Yum !   While enjoying  these goodies we were treated  to a little play staring the ever lively Trina Veber.   In a dream sequence,  Elvis and Roy Orbison  sang and danced merrily around the stage with Trina,  fulfilling the “shake and rattle”  part of the evening’s theme and getting us ready to “stroll” off to Venue # 2.

Venue # 2, presenting the soup course,  was a darling little Victorian home on Peach Street, which has been extensively renovated and treated to brand new kitchen and bathrooms.  First, a tour of the house which was very nicely decorated,  then to enjoy a spicy chicken, shrimp and crawdaddy gumbo,  expertly prepared by Kelly’s Gingernut Pub.   Little Italy Restaurant had prepared the  tasty bruschetta, nicely seasoned, complementing the gumbo quite well.  Venue # 3, site of the salad course,  was the new  Bay Haven Inn on Tazewell Avenue.  Just renovated by our Blue Heron customers,  Tammy and Jim Holloway, this brand new B&B is  the  cat’s meow !   Decorated to the nines inside and out for the holidays,  from top to bottom  this 7 bedroom Colonial Revival  beauty is simply gorgeous and ready for the most discriminating of guests.  A  delicious and sophisticated salad of  roasted local sweet potatoes over roasted apples with arugula, garnished with  paper- thin country ham and aged Gouda was presented by Amy B. Catering.  Served along side was  a trio of imported cheeses from  Gull Hummock  Gourmet Market,  all paired with  a lush rose’  from local winery, Chatham Vineyards.

Venue #4, making a splash with the fish course,  was  an interesting  home on Monroe Avenue.  Built in 1906,  back in the day it  served as a boarding house for teachers from the then nearby Cape Charles School.  Currently a leisure home for its owners,  who plan to retire to Cape Charles in the future,  it too was all gussied up for the holidays.   From the  attractive new waterfront restaurant on the Cape Charles harbor, The Shanty, came  seasoned haddock nuggets  served with  rich and creamy 3 Cheese  Mac & Cheese from Hook-U-Up  restaurant on Mason Avenue, both very nicely done.

Venue # 5, offering the evening’s entree’, was a unique home  also on Monroe Avenue.  It  actually consists of two separate adjacent  homes, both built in the 1920’s, which were then combined  into a single home via a  breezeway which connects the two.  Painted  a sunny yellow, this home was outlined with  lots of cheerful outdoor lights and looked lovely. Lots of great decorations inside including a display cabinet  filled with a large collection of colorful wooden Nutcracker  figures, large and small,  from all over the world. I happen to love and have a much small collection of Nutcrackers myself which I pull out and tuck all over the house for  the holidays.  Here we were served  a chicken pot pie  with a side of poached apples from the Exmore Diner.   The apples were served hot and featured a hint of maple and cinnamon,  very pleasing, both chicken and apples pairing well with the Chardonnay from the local winery, Holly Grove Vineyards.

From there we were off for dessert and coffee to Venue # 6,  the Cape Charles Coffee House,  whose holiday display windows, complete with an antique train set,   are always among the finest in town.    The Coffee House is a fabulous place for breakfast and lunch and is home to some of the best cakes on the planet.  Let me just say that Roberta’s  coconut layer cake with lemon filling and  cream cheese coconut icing is simply heavenly, the best ever.  Alas, that was not to be our dessert.      But  the next best thing was being served– homemade ice cream ! For some unfathomable reason, I love ice cream more  in cold weather than in hot weather. But truth be told, I can enjoy  really excellent ice cream at virtually anytime and this was from Brown Dog Ice Cream, a new gourmet ice cream shop on Mason Avenue.  Brown Dog makes their ice cream  in small batches  so it’s always delightfully fresh.   Anyway, it was  ” make- your- own ice cream sundae, which was fun.   A  choice of  three  flavors of ice cream were set out and then each person helped  themselves  to toppings.  I chose the  chocolate and skipped the toppings, just savoring the deep chocolaty flavor, following  my sundae  with a chaser  of   Nicaraguan coffee,  piping hot, steam rising from the cup.   Perfect !   And then it was over,  another fine time had by all.  We had shaken,  rattled and strolled through this quaint little  town, admiring lights and decorations,  enjoying the  moveable feast,  having lots of fun  in a good cause at  2012  Holiday Sampler Progressive Dinner in Cape Charles, Virginia. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

The 2012 National Book Festival-Part II: Authors, Authors Everywhere

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Most Of Our Group At The 2012 Book Fest

Pavillion Of The States- So Great !

If you are a book lover, you can’t help but be excited by the National Book Festival held each September  on the National Mall in Washington D.C.   We are fervent book lovers  so the sight and sounds of  so many nationally acclaimed authors giving interviews, making speeches  and autographing their books  is big time fun for us.  Well worth the 4+ hour drive from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to D.C.   The 2012 Festival  was no exception.  Sponsored by the Library of Congress,  held on Saturday and Sunday the 22nd and 23 of  September,  with over 125  authors, poets and illustrators this year,  the highest number in the history of the Festival,  taking  to the National Mall to “do their thing”.  Kicked off  in 2001 by First Lady Laura Bush,  a  former librarian,  the National Book  Festival has become a  big event with an estimated attendance last year of  over 200,000 people and probably a lot more than that this year.   From adults to teens down to little kids,  there is something fun for every reader.  Librarians from each state in the Union come to help staff the “Pavilion of the States”  where  every state has a booth featuring great giveaways for kids including  maps, book markers, stickers, brochures,  etc. about that state.   C-Span brings its  colorful big bus, the better to interview various authors for playback on Book TV.  And  as it has in previous years, once again, C-Span  gave away big complimentary cloth bags, hot pink this year,  for folks to carry their accumulated books and other goodies, a truly helpful  gesture.  Thank-you, C-Span.

Book Signings Underway

The Festival has two over-arching  components– the speeches given by the authors about their work and  the book signings by these authors after their speeches. Fortunately, all the author presentations are videotaped and made available on the Library of Congress website so it’s easy to watch your favorite author’s presentation at a later date in the comfort of your  own home.  Which leaves the book signings as our favorite part of the day.  The hard decision is selecting  which authors  to pick for the signings.  Each author will usually only sign 2 or 3 books and the lines are long so it’s hard to meet many authors in a day.  Especially when several authors you are trying to see are doing their signings in nearly the same time frame, figuring out how to juggle the lines is essential.  Definitely helpful to be there with a group so that multiple people can be standing in the lines  for  different authors. This year we were  lucky to be able to meet and get books signed and personalized by six different authors, about max we could manage and still have time for the States Pavilion.  Actually, when I look back on it, getting all six  was amazing because our first selected author’s signing,Gail Tsukiyama,  didn’t start until 11 am and the last selected author, Jeffery Toobin, didn’t start until 4:00 pm so that we actually did 6 authors in about 5 hours, less than an hour in line per person.  Of course,  there were a couple  authors whose books I brought with me, ever hopeful,  but convinced  that  their lines would be impossibly long.   Sure enough,  they were- Thomas Friedman and Patricia Cornwell had lines so monster that they might just as well have reached from the Washington Monument to the moon  they were so impossible.  I had brought 2 books by each of them,  just in case I was wrong in my predictions– but sadly  their books never left my  combination  “chair- book storage-weather protector,”    my big, long-handled,  rolling cooler on wheels !   (  Advice: Going to a Book Festival ?   Never leave home without your big, rolling cooler. )

Gail Tsukiyama Signing Her Latest Novel

First up for us was Gail Tsukiyama, author of  the delightful novel,   Street of 1000 Blossoms, also one of the authors invited to the very first Book Festival.  We were in second place in her line which meant that  she and we  were still bright- eyed and bushy- tailed.  Having brought several copies of her brand new book, A Hundred Flowers, as well as two copies each of her previous bestsellers, Women of the Silk and  The Samurai’s Garden, she was naturally inquisitive as to why we had so many duplicate copies.  Gifts, I said, Christmas gifts  for friends and relatives.  And  I’m sure they will not only enjoy her books but will also love her handwriting, it  is so beautiful, a striking Chinese calligraphy style hand,  the most elegant handwriting of any  autograph in my collection.  Since going to  my first Book Festival some years back, I have found that a personalized signed book from someone’s favorite author or about someones preferred subject matter is really a wonderful and unique gift.   And  unless the lines are just crushingly long, most  of the authors at the Festival are quite willing to write personalized  messages in the books they autograph and the volunteer staff  hands out little Post-Its so you can write out the message you want included as the author signs the book’s title page.  I’ve also found from experience that it’s a bit hard to decide on the perfect inscription while standing in line so over the years I’ve come to the point where decide which book is for whom and them I write out the inscription I want for them on my own Post-It, all ready to go beforehand. No doubt it reduces spontaneity but, on the other hand,  after one has stood for 3-4 hours in various lines in baking hot  ( 90 degrees this year) or damp drizzle ( year before last) , spontaneity may be somewhat over-rated.

Stephen L. Carter, Author, Philosopher, Professor

Next up, Stephen L. Carter. A super- interesting fellow… professor of law at Yale Law School and author of numerous non-fiction works on legal, political and moral issues.  For whatever reason, in 2002 he decided to turn his hand to fiction with his debut novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, which was a New York Times best seller.  He has since written four more striking novels, his latest being The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln.  They have all been can’t- put- them- down- once- you- start  books. In fact, I have introduced so many people to Dr. Carter’s novels I think that I should get a commission, but really, they are all terrific !  My favorite is New England White, a blockbuster of  a book, a suspense novel about politics set at an Ivy League university.  I’ve heard him in various discussion panels on cable news where he  always  was very knowledgeable. At the Book Festival he was quite personable,  making a humorous comment as he signed our books, 3 books per person times the 3 of us as we sort of all stood at the table together.  So I am pleased to say that I now have a signed,  personalized first edition copy of each of his novels plus 4 extra copies of Lincoln  to give as gifts.

Waving At Marine One As It Departs The White House

I must confess that  the Stephen L. Carter book signing alone would have made the whole trip worthwhile for me but still to come were several more, Robert Caro ( whose 4 tier line was so long he would only sign one book per person ),Tony Horowiz, Michael Connelly and Jeffery Toobin. By the end of the day we met and gotten books signed  by all four of those gentlemen. ( Toobin, who is the author of two books about the  U.S. Supreme Court,  was very  funny and quite down- to- earth, wise cracking that there was just about nothing he loved more than folks who buy multiple copies of his books.)  It was really a wonderful day.  We had lots of goodies for the kids from the States Pavilion, we had met 6 terrific authors, we had watched  the flags surrounding the Washington Monument flutter smartly in the breeze, we had waved gaily to Marine One, the President’s helicopter,  as it  passed overhead on it’s way to the White House just  a couple blocks away, not sure if the President was inside,  but we waved mightily anyway.  And for icing on the cake, we still have all the videotaped author speeches to look forward once  are added to the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival website,  http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/    What more could one ask from the National Book Festival except to hope to be there again next year, ready for more fun and more authors !

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

“Art & Music on the Farm”–The Barrier Islands Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Barrier Islands Center  marked its 10th  anniversary with a walloping big  day- long celebration billed as “Art & Music on the Farm”.   Kudos to all the planners, the festival  was beautifully executed and great fun for all who attended.  A little history is likely in order here for those not familiar with Virginia’s chain of pristine off-shore Barrier Islands,  given world class status by the United Nations who has named it as one of  its Biosphere Reserves.  Stretching along Virginia’s  Atlantic Ocean coast  from Chincoteague, VA  all the way south to Smith Island at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay,  these barrier islands have a rich history as homes to hearty watermen,  destinations for tourists and hunters, outposts for Coast Guard stations and locations for lighthouses  as well as sheltering a singular diversity of  plant and animal life.  Except for Cedar Island, which still has a few remaining summer homes accessible only by boat trip,  most  of the remaining Islands have been purchased by the Nature Conservancy, 14 islands in all, some with romantic names like  Parramore, Rogue and Revel.  Purchased to  preserve them from development, the Conservancy’s protection has allowed the wildlife to flourish, especially critical for the many species of shorebirds and waterfowl that are now able to safely nest there.  It was to protect  the unique heritage of these  unique Islands that the Barrier Island Museum was established in 2002.  Located in the little hamlet of  Machipongo, VA , it has truly met its mission statement.  In the last 10 years, over 7500 artifacts from those by-gone days  have been collected for preservation and display at the Museum and the adjacent Almshouse Farm but the Center has ventured well beyond that initial mission, establishing itself as a place for classes for all ages, a lecture series,as well as a hands-on resource for local schools to teach young  children about the history and culture of the Eastern Shore .  ( Visit them at   www.barrierislandscenter.com  )

So Saturday’s anniversary celebration brought together the important 3 “F“s– Fun, Food and Fiddling and the equally important  2 “S” s-  Shopping and Sipping.    Under the leafy shade provided by the  Center’s  huge broad oaks, tables were set up for rest, dining or just enjoying a glass of wine from the tents set up by two local vineyards,  a tall cold glass of freshly brewed  iced coffee from Eastern Shore Coastal  Roasting Co. booth or perhaps a frothy pint from  Wendell Brewery’s travel truck.   Lots and lots to see, do and hear– from 40 little tents filled with local artists,  several booths bursting with flowers and colorful shrubs from local nurseries  to a sound stage set  for the 4 different musical groups set to perform.  We arrived just as the  Carribean group, Ban Caribe,  was finishing  its toe-tapping opening number to much applause, “we”  being husband,  daughter-in-law and 2 grandsons.    Right off the bat,  the boys gravitated towards  the little sheep pen where a freshly shorn mama stood in the shade with her sweet-faced tiny  lamb, carefully people watching  the people sheep watching.   From there,  we made our way over to the  Kids Activity Tent staffed by patient volunteers who helped the kids get started on making  their creative picture project while I drifed towards the Appleseed Nursery area which was doing a brisk business from their  colorful display of cut sunflowers and blooming perennials, so winsome to the eye.

                      

But it was the incredible  artwork  that  was the main focus of the day– some of the most famous artists on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  were there, works displayed  in  individual little white tents,  so many different creations,  a myriad of  art mediums.  Local painters like Thelma Peterson,  Mary Ann Clarke, Marty Burgess and Jack Richardson,  potter Elizabeth Hunt, sculpter  Maurice Spector,  metal artists  Copper Creations and Buck Doughty,  fine furniture craftsmen   Windsor Chairs, ceramics wizzard David Crane  and so many, many other fine artists and artizans were on hand, showing and selling  their unique creations.  Pungo Mills was there with their stone ground cornmeal, Chatham Vineyards was offering samples of  its  fine wine,  Machipongo Trading Company was madly selling cones of  delicious “Marsh Mud”,  the  super-delicious,  ultra- chocolate ice cream made homestyle by The Creamery.  Inside the Museum,  in the blissfully air-conditioned lecture room,  a  “Blues Workshop”  featuring the Harris Brothers was scheduled from noon to 1pm, followed by “Recollections from the Bay: Lives and Lore of Menhaden Fishing”  offered by the Northern Neck Chantey Singers.  Later in the day the well-known old time string band, Whitetop Mountain Band, was scheduled to appear out in the bandstand, see a video of that band below.  Out in the parking  lot,  a  sweet little collection of vintage cars caught a lot of eyes,  including my husband’s,  who has a real nostolgia for yesteryear automobiles.  All said,   having  enjoyed the 3 “F” s   as well as the  2 “S“s,  we set off for home, a few treasures in hand,  the end of a lovely Eastern Shore Day.

                     
http://youtu.be/9XUPTKmGzUI

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

“Echoes Of The Past”– The 16th Annual Holiday Progressive Dinner In Cape Charles, VA

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Every year for the last decade and a half, the Northampton County VA Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a wonderful holiday event– the Holiday Progressive Dinner in Cape Charles, VA  (although the 2010 Dinner was held in Eastville, VA ).   This delightful event features a “soup-to-nuts”  meal progressively served at about 10 historic  Victorian homes and sites throughout the town.   The Chamber outdid itself this year by including  even more entertainment — seven theatrical vignettes recreating a visit in 1886 to Cape Charles by US  President Grover Cleveland  were added to the normal fare of excellent food and musical entertainment. Eldest Daughter, Middle Daughter,  a friend and I had tickets for the earliest group, the “Santa Group”,  with a kick-off  time of 3:30 at  Art’s Enter’s Palace Theater.  There we received our red badges, programs and started off with the evening’s first appetizer, a chili-glazed beef  kabob with Virginia peanut dipping sauce.   Then, a quick and easy walk  to Site # 2, the Bay Creek Railway Car, a fully restored vintage car originally used between 1915 and 1940’s, where  Vignette # 1 began,  a  cordial conversation between Alexander Cassatt  ( brother to the famous painter, Mary Cassatt) and Wm. Scott, founder of Cape Charles, as they prepared  to board for a railroad  trip from Cape Charles to New York.   Then,  boarding the railway car ourselves, we sampled our second appetizer, a rich Scottish smoked salmon with tomato aioli and creme fraiche, served on dill focaccia,  prepared by Aqua Restaurant.  Although I am not a huge fan of smoked salmon, this was moist and melt-in-the-mouth luscious, a 4 star.

Next,  a walk to the fully restored vintage 1950’s ranch home on Monroe Avenue owned by Tom and Kathy Bonadeo for the pasta course. a pasta primevera in alfredo sauce, prepared by Little Italy Restaurant.  The pasta was accompanied by sparkling cider or nice local wines from Holly Grove Vineyards in Franktown,VA   and the very pleasant musical entertainment by Sarah Scott, flautist.

From there  we were off to another home on Monroe Avenue, the well-known Kellogg House, a Flemish bond brick Colonial Revival, definitely one of the finest homes ever built in Cape Charles. Vignette # 2, starring Blue Heron’s own David Kabler,  told the story of  the exciting news of President Cleveland’s impending visit. Afterwards, a broth-based vegetable crab soup prepared by Machipongo Clam Shack was served,  piping hot and very tasty, quite welcome after our little jaunts around town.

Off next to  the newly opened Fig Street Inn,  located at the corner of Tazewell Avenue and Fig Street.   Originally built by one of Cape Charles’ prominent families, the Wilson family, owners of the town’s first department store, this home is located on land purchased from the estate of Cape Charles founder, Wm. Scott. The house needed substantial renovation when purchased by the current owners and they have done a marvelous job, it looks just resplendent  dressed in its holiday finery.  The Vignette here starred  Trina Veber  ( AKA Mrs. Santa from the Grand Illumination presentation) and  Linda Spence,  society ladies getting ready to meet their husbands and hear more news about President Cleveland’s  Cape Charles visit.  Afterwards,  a salad course of mixed greens with almonds, feta and cranberries was served, tossed with a tangy apple cider dressing,  everything crisp and tasty, prepared by the Exmore Diner, an Eastern Shore landmark.

From the Inn, a quick walk  up Tazewell Avenue to the home of  Mr. and Mrs. Dan Dougherty, built on land purchased directly from  Wm. Scott in 1883.  This lovely home still retains one of the original hitching posts remaining in Cape Charles and lo and behold,  a real live horse, a miniature, was hitched there, quietly nibbling at the grass and in general ignoring all the fuss around it.  Wines from Chatham Vineyards, a fine local winery, were served with a trio of cheeses and apple  slices in a pretty presentation  from  Gull Hummock Gourmet Market, located in in downtown Cape Charles,  after the Vignette which featured  Thomas Dixon and Wm. Fitzhugh, both prominent in Cape Charles society, planning a hunting trip out to our Barrier Islands which would likely include President Cleveland.

And a zip-zip across the street brought us to the beautiful Tazewell Avenue 1920’s home of  Mr. and Mrs. John Schulz. Mr. Schulz , a former Navy pilot, employee of Voice of America and foreign correspondent has many unique art pieces from around the world which he was kind enough to expound upon for our group.  After a tour of the home we were treated to music of the season played by the dynamic duo of  Malcolm, on violin,  and Carol Russ, on accordion.  It’s always a treat to be nearby when Malcolm and Carol play.  ( In fact,  they added greatly to the ambiance of  Blue Heron’s period- attire party aboard the tall ship Kalmar Nychol this past June. )  The  entree’ was served here,  a succulent  presentation of braised duck in a port wine reduction accompanied by goat cheese mashers and asparagus spears,  expertly prepared by Kelly’s  Pub located on Mason Avenue in historic downtown Cape Charles.

And last but not least,  dessert at Heyward Hall,  individual apple rum cakes, expertly  prepared by Amy B. Catering,  served with aromatic coffee brewed by the Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Co., both enjoyed while being entertained by the mellow harmony of  Eastern Shore’s own  Acclaim Barbershop Quartet.  And then who should stride out on the stage to deliver a strong  “thank-you for your hospitality” speech ??   You guessed it,  the final Vignette of the evening featured President Grover Cleveland  congratulating the gathered Cape Charles citizens on their vision and foresight in developing the railroad and planning for the new steamer which would carry passengers and rail cars across the Chesapeake Bay.   With that speech, the  2011 Progressive Dinner Tour concluded for the “Santa Group” although about 10 or so later groups, presumably named after his reindeer, were wending their way through.   It was a lovely night, the food was great, as was the entertainment– and we managed to work off  at least a few calories as we strolled from site to site on a beautiful December’s evening.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)