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