Archive for the ‘The Arts’ Category

HERALDING SPRING – – THE 39th ANNUAL CHINCOTEAGUE EASTER DECOY AND ART FESTIVAL

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

DSC_9302Saturday was such a beautiful and warm day, compared to most of what we have shivered through this March, that on the spur of the moment Saturday afternoon we decided to take a ride up to Chincoteague, VA to attend the Annual Chincoteague Decoy and Art Festival which is traditionally held the Friday and Saturday before Easter. The 2018 event was the 39th Annual, a real testament to the popularity of this delightful show which provides an important opportunity each Spring for local and national carvers, artists and photographers to exhibit and sell their works. And for art enthusiasts, it offers a wonderful chance to meet the artists and, in the case of some of the many carvers, observe them at work. It can be fascinating to watch someone with talent in the process of converting a plain old lump of wood into a work of art ! Attendees also have the opportunity to vote for the show’s “Best Carver” and “Best Artist” and to bid at two silent auctions.

Unfortunately, the show closed at 4pm, and we were running late, so we didn’t have as much time to tour the exhibits as I would’ve liked. DSC_9306But it was loads of fun nevertheless. We did stop and watch Russell Fish carve for a bit, I love his work and our decoy collection at the Machipongo office of Blue Heron Realty Co. includes one of his striking carvings, a tall pelican perched on a set of 3 pilings. My husband and grandson got to chatting with carver Bob Gray about his two horned grebes, one shown before molting where it presents with drab black and white feathers and one after molting where its white plumage becomes a riot of colorful orangish red. Nature is so amazing ! In the course of looking around, my husband found a walking stick he liked, my grandson discovered an interesting old poster depicting the off-shore Barrier Islands and at the “Silent Auction” table, I fell in love with a small framed print of a colorful waterfront scene painted by local artist, Grover Cantwell. So we each left with our own little treasure, icing on the cake.

DSC_9351After a quick bite at Bill’s, a favorite Chincoteague restaurant, we took a moment to admire a quiet garden spot across from Bill’s, complete with a colorful full-wall sea life mural, dedicated to “Miss Ruby Lee”. I’m not sure exactly who Miss Ruby Lee was, but clearly, as the dedication scroll proclaims, she was much beloved by the Islanders. From there, we were off to a leisurely drive through the Assateague Wildlife Refuge. There’s always something unique to see at the Refuge and, once again, we were not disappointed. But the most unique sighting Saturday was not some interesting wildlife or a wild pony come to town, no, it was a person sitting in chair, stock still.

Dressed in a camouflage jump suit covered completely by netting stuffed with twigs, leaves, pine needles, looking for all the world like a pileDSC_9417 of yard debris, this patient photographer was zeroing in on two great white egrets fishing in the shallow blue stream, using a camera sporting one of the longest lenses I have ever seen, also in camouflage colors. ( A treat to watch, quite interesting, maybe on assignment from National Geographic or some other Nature publication.) In Tom’s Cove, a flock of tiny ducks was out in full force, foraging away. Cearly something totally yummy to ducks was stirring about underfoot because they ducked and dived and dived and ducked, just munching away, ignoring us completely. The last stop on the way out was …. Island Creamery ! In Cape Charles, we are lucky to have the ever-delicious, ever-amazing flavor combinations offered at the now-famous Brown Dog Ice Cream Shop. And on Chincoteague they have Island Creamery, also home to some excellent ice cream, of which we quite enthusiastically partook, the sweet conclusion to our lovely Spring afternoon adventure.

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VIRGINIA OPERA – – ANOTHER WONDERFUL EVENT AT LEMON TREE GALLERY !

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

DSC_8743I don’t know why, but it always amazes me when members of the Virginia Opera Company perform here on the Eastern Shore. Maybe because of its stature as the “Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia”, maybe because its other venues, the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, the Dominion Arts Center in Richmond and the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax, are so imposing by comparison. But last Sunday afternoon, there they were at beautiful Lemon Tree Gallery in Cape Charles, 5 members of the Virginia Opera Company’s Emerging Artists program ! Stars in the making, they gave a wonderful performance of “Aria’s and Duets” in the small and intimate Lemon Tree setting in Cape Charles VA, particularly special because the audience can connect so personally with the performers. And such a lovely feel, surrounded by the gallery’s impressive collection of works by local artists and artisans.

Soprano Rachel Mikol led off with an aria from Mozart’s “The Impresario” followed shortly by the familiar and beloved Puccini aria, “ O mio babbino caro”, an audience favorite. The program concludedDSC_8588 with a soaring Marian Anderson spiritual performed by baritone Phillip Bullock and mezzo-soprano Melanie Campbell. Lots of energy was brought to their program which included an interesting mix of classical and modern, including a selection from Stephen Sondheim’s “Into The
Woods,” sung by Bullock and bass-baritone Joshua Arky, all accompanied by accomplished pianist, ChanMi Jean. But the showstopper was Campbell’s strong rendition of Hammerstein’s “Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine” from Showboat.

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At the conclusion of the performance, the audience gave a standing ovation and Clelia Sheppard’s daughter, Sheila, and her granddaughter, Aven, presented bouquets of lovely pink roses to each performer. After an encore, wine and light hor d’oeuvres were served, giving audience members an opportunity to meet and speak with the performers. All the performers were terrific, and Ms. Whipple and Mr. Bullock were standouts. Definitely we can expect to see all of these “ emerging artists” making their presence felt on the national and international stage.

 

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CAPE CHARLES, VA IS ONE OF TEN FINALISTS IN COASTAL LIVING MAGAZINE “HAPPIEST SEASIDE TOWN” CONTEST !

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

1Aerial 300dpi2We are thrilled that our little coastal town of Cape Charles is in the “Top 10” on Coastal Living Magazine’s 2018 list of the “Happiest Seaside Towns” ! Every year for the past seven years, Coastal Living magazine has created a Top 10 list of the “Happiest Seaside Towns”. Original nominations come via social media. From there, Coastal Living evaluates the nominees for such qualities, outlined on its website, as we looked at their ranking the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, percentage of clear and sunny days, healthiness of beaches, commute times, walkability, crime ratings, standard of living and financial well-being of locals, geographic diversity, and our editors’ assessment of each town’s “coastal vibe.”

Cape Charles is very much a happy little town, relaxed, low-key, with lots of lifestyle amenities and things to do. A beautiful soft sand beach, multipleDSC_2779 marinas and boat ramps, Palmer and Nicklaus1Aerial 300dpi2 Signature golf courses, cute little shops and galleries, an impressive art presence, a theatre, fine and casual dining, all these opportunities are the raw ingredients. Mix in the wonderful Cape Charles community spirit and there we see the possibilities for being voted the 2018 Happiest Seaside Town ! If you want to participate and vote for Cape Charles, click the link below. You can vote multiple times but voting ends at 5pm on February 6,2018. As of this writing, Cape Charles was fifth in the number of votes so we have a ways to go to hit #1 by February 6th. So let’s get voting !!

HERE IS THE LINK FOR VOTING: https://www.coastalliving.com/travel/happiest-seaside-town

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The 15th Annual Eastern Shore of Virginia Artisan’s Guild Holiday Tour. A Real Pleasure, Always !

Friday, December 1st, 2017

DSC_6979If an event has been on going for 15 years and counting, it’s a pretty sure bet that its been very successful and is back yearly by popular demand. Such is clearly the case for the traditional Eastern Shore of Virginia Artisan’s Guild Holiday Tour held annually on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year was another delight and a terrific opportunity to shop for unique gifts, large or small, for those special people in your life.

From little items like the adorably cute “mismatched” sox from Ten Good Sheep or a bottle of luscious Chardonnay from Chatham Winery to strikingDSC_7004 handcrafted furniture at Windsor Chair to gorgeous paintings and jewelry at Lemon Tree Gallery, plus lots of creative offerings from artists too numerous to mention at the many other venues, Tour 2017 shone with the multi-talents of our many Eastern Shore artists. ( Including that so-cute and so-silky herd from By The Bay Alpacas who gave their wool that others might purchase hand- woven super- soft scarves and more ! )

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And, even though not on the official Tour and time was short, we took a moment, after a quick lunch at the always- delicious Janet’s Cafe in Onancock, to drop in at the gallery of Danny Doughty. We love to check out his latest work and his always elegantly decorated Christmas tree. Wrapped up our day in Cape Charles at Lemon Tree Gallery which has a most impressive collection, showing variety of work from artists all over the Shore. By then, nearly sunset, can’t help myself, it was down to the beach for yet another shot of the ever- photogenic LOVE sign before heading home. Tour 2017 over – – but there is always next year !

 

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25 Years Later Still Going Strong- – The C.B.E.S. Annual Eastern Shore VA Bike Tour!

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

DSC_5861The annual “Between the Waters” Bike Tour sponsored by CBES, Citizens For A Better Eastern Shore, is one of the largest eco-tourism events held annually on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. This event is capped at 1000 participants and was again sold out this year which marks the event’s 25th Anniversary. The 2017 weekend actually began on Friday afternoon with a “Fun Ride” from Nassawadox into the surrounding neighborhoods. The official Tour start was from Sunset Beach Resort, with the 100 Mile Ride kicking off as the rooster crowed at 7:30 am. We arrived about 8:30 and registration was very brisk for the 25, 40 and 60 mile Rides as folks checked in and picked up their route info. In another corner of the room, raffle tickets were being sold for the original of the striking and vibrant Bethany Simpson painting which was commissioned to represent the Shore for this year’s Tour

Smiling bikers swirled around the room, selecting a treat or two from the complementary snack bar offerings of fruits, muffins, etc., trying to consume a last DSC_6086bit of energy before setting out to travel over hill and dale, traveling the Shore’s countryside. Oops, no hills and dales here, just delightfully flat terrain, easy on the legs, and a marvelous opportunity to enjoy the blue water vistas, serene fields and woodlands, the scenic views of autumn on the Shore.

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We set out to get some photos the 25 Mile Ride which took the bikers, peddling mostly on singles but some tandem bikes too plus a few recumbents, from a Sunset Beach departure. The route wound basically up the Seaside Road scenic byway, eventually to a crossover at Arlington Road with a rest and water break at a farm shed across from a field of ripe soybeans. From there, bikers pushed on past the Custis Tomb historic landmark on the Old Plantation Creek inlet and a pedal through the lovely little Chesapeake Bay neighborhood surrounding it, enjoying picturesque vistas of the Shore’s farms, woodlands and blue waters. The 25 Mile riders then headed south along Seaside Road back to Sunset Beach, then drove to Eastville for lunch. But the 40 Mile riders continued on north, with a rest stop at historic Travis Chapel near the harbor in Oyster, then north to a Rt. 13 crossing at Eastville’s Willow Oak Drive traffic light for lunch.

At picturesque Windrush Farm in Eastville, hungry bikers were treated to a rest and a boxed lunch of delicious assorted wraps, chips and fruit catered by wellDSC_6148 known Bill’s Restaurant in Chincoteague. Music and song entertainment by Nathan Travis & Company as well as plenty of tail wagging from a friendly dog with interesting face markings who was delighted to soak up much petting from just about everyone there. A little medic tent was on-site for those who might need it but fortunately there didn’t seem to be many in need. A volunteer with a pickup truck drove behind the bikers on each route, ready to help anyone with equipment or other problems but, fortunately, it didn’t seem like there were many of those problems either.

Clearly the real stars of this event are its many, many volunteers. I can only imagine the effort and organization it takes administratively to put on a 1000 participant Bike Tour each October. But on the actual day, the sheer number of volunteer “boots on the ground” needed to make the event run smoothly clearly is tremendous. From the Friday Fun Ride, to Saturday’s bustling registrations, pre-start helpers, all the different rest stops, the various lunch venues, etc., cheerful volunteers were there to make sure everything ran smoothly for the four different Rides. And run smoothly it did ! Plus special kudos to the Northampton County Sheriff’s Department and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel whose personnel stood out in Rt. 13 for hours on end to assure safe crossings over the highway because nothing can take the fun out of an event like an accident ! Crowned by the evening Oyster Roast, the 25th Anniversary Tour was over and now it’s onward to organizing the 26th !

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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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