full blast: rocktown bites.

As creatures of habit, sometimes we tend to patronize the same restaurants and order the same items. I know I do: when I go to FoodBarFood, for example, I almost ALWAYS get that Thai curry noodle bowl. At Cuban Burger, it’s the Buenos Dias. I’ve ordered the Japanese Breakfast so many times at Beyond that they usually assume that’s what I’m there for.

Why is this? I guess for one, all those items are perfect and satisfy my craving so well there’s no need to explore other menu options. Another reason is value. On the rare occasion I feel like I can spend money eating out without regret, I don’t want to try something I’m not sure about. At the same time, I really do like variety. And I’m a grazer. I like to eat a little of this, a little of that.

So the Rocktown Bites food tour, recently commandeered and resurrected by Hotel Madison, ticks all of those boxes. For a moderate fee ($49), I can sample (and the samples are larger than you’re imagining right now, I guarantee it) several dishes and drinks from multiple restaurants, get a full belly, try something new, get in a nice walk and learn some local history, be surrounded by good company, and feel good about how I’ve spent my money. As one Rocktown Bites guest said, it’s a way you can get that Taste of Downtown experience in smaller portions. Love that idea!

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On the day of our tour, we were probably all wondering whether we’d see rain, sun, snow, sleet, hail, hurricane-force winds, fireballs falling from the sky, lava, or even a rip in the space/time continuum because VIRGINIA’S WEATHER WILL NOT CALM DOWN… but at the stroke of 1:30 when the tour started, the sun was out and we were somehow all appropriately dressed and all was fine.

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Rocktown Bites food tours start at the Hardesty Higgins House, which houses the Harrisonburg Visitors Center. Brandy, I, and eight or nine other “food tourists” met tour guide Eddie Bumbaugh there, where he explained that the HH House was built in the 1850s, started by Higgins and finished by Hardesty, who was Harrisonburg’s first mayor. In addition to the educational Valley Turnpike Museum, Virginia Craftsmen Showroom, and Civil War Orientation Center, the HH House also offers a great gift shop and the Heritage Bakery and Cafe. Our fellow food tour guests hailed from as far away as Texas (!) and ranged in age from infant to grandparent. I’d like to pause here and tell whoever is the mom with kids on our tour that they were SO well behaved the whole three hours. The tour itself is not a long walking distance, and there is ample time at each stop, so patrons of all ages can feel comfortable and accommodated. Truly family friendly.

Earlier I referred to Eddie Bumbaugh as the tour guide, which he was. But he is a next-level tour guide. Eddie served as the Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance for ten years, ushering in very important changes to downtown that we all enjoy today, and now he serves as the Public Relations Director for Hotel Madison. As such, Eddie knows every inch of downtown Harrisonburg and seems to know the inside scoop frequently, too. You’ll learn a great deal about our Friendly City along the way, and Eddie can answer most any question you might have. Eddie spoke a little about each place we’d stop on our International Foods tour, and then we headed out.

First stop: Taj of India. This restaurant is located near Jess’ Downtown and I can attest from previous experience that their lunch buffet can’t be beat. If you want to expand your Indian food horizons, please choose a day this week and get in there for lunch. They purposely go light on the spice on the buffet so you can customize it to your taste. At Taj, we were presented with naan straight from their clay oven, succulent chicken skewers, momo (steamed chicken dumplings), and vegetable fritters. We sat at a large table and passed gorgeous platters of food to one another while the chef spoke to us about each dish.

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[It’s important to note that all the restaurants we visited on this day can and do accommodate vegetarians and people who don’t eat gluten. When you sign up for the food tour, just mention any dietary restrictions you have and you’ll be taken of, no worries at all.]

Next, Brandy and I were thrilled to be back in Beyond again, one of our favorite places and the site of so many fun experiences we’ve had together, from birthdays to consolation sessions to blogiversaries and costume parties, First Friday openings, end-of-school celebrations, and absolute feasts after spending a day on the river. This place has fed our souls and bellies well, and today was no exception. Praserth served us pineapple cheese wontons with pineapple salsa, their famous craving-inducing meatballs, a fresh and light vegetable roll, and an exclusive roll (just for the tour!) made with grilled salmon, cucumber, onion, and Sriracha mayo. Beyond turns 10 this September (woot!) and in case you didn’t know, the same folks own and operate Taste of Thai (it’s on 42 S), which has been open almost twenty years. Harrisonburg just wouldn’t be Harrisonburg without these two restaurants and the precious people who run them.

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Destination #3: Cuban Burger. Cuban Burger has one of those menus where there’s not a single item you don’t want. Every single plate, burger, and sandwich is exquisitely prepared, fresh, juicy, flavorful, and just decadent. Cuban Burger had humble beginnings, though. At first they were just a tiny food operation housed in a small wine shop/tasting room. Ultimately the wine shop vacated and Steve Pizarro (owner) snatched it up. Steve met his wife Shami, who co-owns the restaurant, years ago when she was leading Rocktown Bites food tours. The two of them greeted our sprightly group with several delicious samples: the Cuban Chop Chop salad, the original burger served on a gluten-free bun, the classic and town favorite El Cubano, Yucca Frita con Salsa Verde, and flan (which was someone’s grandmother’s recipe and the silkiest thing ever). We also got to try their Papa Doble cocktail — the “Hemingway Daiquiri” made of  white rum, maraschino liquor, simple syrup, lime, and grapefruit. AND, CubanBurger will soon offer margaritas on draft! First in the city!

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While we nibbled away (yes, that is a euphemism. We were totally pigging out.), Shami commented on the genuine cooperation that occurs among the downtown restaurants, and we have noticed this before, too. Our restaurants love to collaborate — tap takeovers with local breweries, breweries collaborating with food trucks, all restaurants pitching in for huge events like the Downtown Dinner Party (coming up on May 18), the annual Taste of Downtown, participating as First Friday art venues… there is way more cooperation than competition. Harrisonburg is special like that, and we are all better for it. As the conversation shifted to some of the photos and artwork on the walls, Steve talked about his family’s life in Cuba and how his parents got out of there via “Operation Peter Pan.” It’s really cool to get to know the people behind the food you’re eating, and Rocktown Bites food tours are a great vehicle for such interaction.

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Our fourth stop was such a treat: Boboko Indonesian Cafe. Mark Mitchell, who co-owns the restaurant with Chef Ridwan, guided us through one glorious delicacy after another. It’s amazing what they can produce in that tiny kitchen — everything that comes out of there looks like it could be on the cover of Bon Apetit. The entire place is small. The dining room seats maybe twenty people, and tables are positioned close to one another to reflect the importance of community and food in Indonesian culture. If you happen to go there and can’t get a seat, don’t let that stop you. Get the food to go and walk yourself up the ramp to Pale Fire Brewing. Or order from Pale Fire and Boboko will deliver it to you! Easy peasy.

A large colorful map of Indonesia hung on the wall right in front of us, and before long, Chef Ridwan was telling us about Indonesia. I was surprised to learn that Indonesia is the 4th most populous nation, comprised of more than 17,000 islands, and representing 580 different languages. Chef Ridwan immigrated from a small village in Indonesia and became a US citizen two years ago. He and Mark worked on this restaurant for ten years before opening it. That is a long time, but their careful planning has paid off.

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We got to try the fried spring roll and the rice paper summer roll, both filled with fresh vegetables and served with a sweet soy peanut sauce. Then we ate a salad of mango, cabbage, and cucumber, followed by a tempeh skewer and a chicken satay skewer and homemade soy sauce.

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We swung into the Green Hummingbird for our 5th stop. This fair trade boutique is another great place to consider next time you’re buying a gift for someone. I was hypnotized by the selection of gorgeous scarves. And I think I touched every single one of the little handmade change purses. They also carry products made from upcycled leather, like belts and wallets. Of course, they have a huge variety of women’s clothing, handbags, and jewelry, all made by artisans across the globe who’ve been paid a fair wage for their work. Before leaving, we got to try coconut-wrapped rice cookies from Thailand. During the entire tour, the hosts at each stop talked about where their food comes from, where their clothing or jewelry comes from, and how they are honoring time-old traditions while engaging in a level of sustainability that is important right now.

From the Green Hummingbird, we continued south on Main Street, heading toward our 6th and final stop: Hotel Madison. On the way we passed several houses where college students live, and it happened to be St. Patrick’s day weekend, so you can imagine the scene. Kids everywhere, lots of green, balconies being pushed to their limits, music of all kinds, laughter and good cheer. We locals walked on through like it was just another day in the Burg, but I had to wonder what the guests from Texas were thinking.

We arrived at Montpelier and were greeted by Matt Caruthers, who told us about the scrumptious food that would finish our tour. We got a big ol’ plate of Montpelier Nachos with their signature bourbon bbq smoked brisket and that amazing queso blanco, a couple of pots of Loaded Mac (loaded with tomatoes and bacon), and a gorgeous charcuterie composed of assorted cheese, meat, house-made chutney, pickles, honeycomb, flatbread, and more. Montpelier has a few events coming up: they regularly host art workshops (there’s one coming up on the 13th and 28th); they’re having an Easter Brunch on the 21st featuring a Southern buffet feast and appearances by the Easter Bunny, Mickey, and Minnie Mouse! They have Social Hour Monday – Thursday at 5; Date Night on Wednesdays; and they’re in the process of putting together an open mic night.

burgIMG_6687burgIMG_6710burgIMG_6705burgIMG_6704burgIMG_6700burgIMG_6698Other things we learned about from Eddie along the way, either while walking or dining (don’t worry, no spoilers!):
~ the currently controversial story of the Harrison House,
~ the story of the Spring House and what purpose that spring served in Harrisonburg’s early days,
~ the municipal building,
~ the Joshua Wilton House,
~ Rosetta Stone and Jenzabar,
~ the history of the Ice House,
~ the Farmer’s Market,
~ the Smith House and what’s cool about its location,
~ the Elks Lodge, a.k.a., the vineyard that never was,
~ how a 15 year old became Clerk of Court and then governor,
~ and Richard Dreyfuss’ wedding.

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None of us wanted the tour to end, but we managed to stand up and waddle out of there anyway. If you’re interested in taking a Rocktown Bites food tour, they’re offered every single Saturday from now through November, with special Culinary Arts Tours offered on First Fridays. You can register and pay online; then all you have to do is loosen your belt a couple notches and show up hungry!

Copyright © 2012-19 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

get IN the comfort zone: hotel madison and montpelier restaurant & bar.

Some people travel frequently, for work or for pleasure. Others rarely venture out and travel only for very special occasions. Whichever category you fall into, and whether you’re staying in a hotel for one night or one month, comfort somehow takes on a new level of importance. A quality mattress, technology like Wifi that prevents irritating interruptions to your life, plenty of hot water for your morning shower, a satisfying meal, and access to coffee are simple things we take for granted at home but are glaringly obvious when missing. It’s like we all turn into the Princess and the Pea and notice every little discomfort.

Harrisonburg’s newest hotel, Hotel Madison, takes every measure to ensure their guests are, at the very least, comfortable. Brandy and I know this first hand, because we got to spend a night there checking out all it has to offer!! And we’re gonna break it all down for you, right now.

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Then, Now, and Beyond

Hotel Madison has been in the works for years, starting with a local developer and JMU graduate from Bergton. Although the hotel has a 50-year land lease from JMU, it is privately owned and financed by investors. Designers from P3 Design Collective operated around four words when envisioning the hotel’s style: subtle sophistication and rustic elegance. This vision touches every inch of the place, from the southern style seating in Montpelier Restaurant and Bar and the sharply dressed lobby, to simple and clean adornments in the 230 guest rooms and suites.

Unlike many chain hotels, Hotel Madison is deeply invested in the local community and mindful of its impact on Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley. Hotel Madison collaborates with JMU’s Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management by providing classrooms, offices, and on-site academic instruction to students pursuing a degree in hospitality management. To put this in perspective, 45 schools in the United States offer this kind of partnership, and JMU’s Hart School is the only one with on-site classrooms at a hotel.

Another way Hotel Madison thought of the Harrisonburg community during its planning was to make sure to honor the recently approved Northend Greenway’s path by allowing extra space on the MLK Way side of the hotel. And, the hotel is certified Virginia Green. Hospitality businesses who earn this distinction have shown that they’re reducing their carbon footprint by adopting a host of environmentally friendly policies (such as not offering plastic straws, using recyclable carryout containers, and even installing electric car charging stations in the parking deck). Director of Public Relations Eddie Bumbaugh hopes to install solar panels in the future. For now, the hotel will be hosting the Virginia Green Annual Conference in April. One last note about partnering with the local community: DECA students at Broadway High School are currently designing a “Keys to the City” perks program specifically for Hotel Madison. Hotel guests will be able to show their room keys at various local businesses and receive a discount or reward of some kind.

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Eating and Drinking

I realize it’s entirely possible that you skimmed/scrolled right on past the first section of this article just to get to the food photos, and I don’t blame you one bit. Shew doggie, we ate til we couldn’t see straight.

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We opted for an early-ish dinner (okay, Golden Girls early – 4pm) at Montpelier Restaurant and Bar because Brandy needed that gorgeous sunlight to fall in perfect slants on that gorgeous food. When we arrived, we were presented with two appetizers prepared by Chef Ryan Youngman: the Montpelier Nachos and the Fried Green Tomatoes (more of that southern charm!). The nachos’ secret ingredient that makes them better than all other nachos combined is Bowman Bros Bourbon BBQ smoked brisket. Along with the smoked queso blanco, serrano chiles, black beans, slaw, avocado, and pico, we found it extremely hard to stop eating them. The portion is ample (and that’s a euphemism for “How do I eat this whole thing without the other customers noticing?”) and served on a really pretty live edge wooden pedestal. The Fried Green Tomatoes with tobasco aioli, roasted corn, cilantro, piquillo peppers, and cotija had a kick I wasn’t expecting but was just right nonetheless. Our cocktails arrived in festive mason jars, and the long, sexy bar with its 3-inch granite anchors the space.

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We also ordered the Seafood Pappardelle with scallops (SO TENDER), shrimp, Virginia crab, house chorizo, roasted peppers, charred heirloom tomatoes, and foraged (!) mushrooms; the New York strip (could not have been cooked better) with two sides of our choice — we chose loaded mac and crispy Brussels sprouts; and one more appetizer, because why not? The Goat Cheese Brulee with a big beautiful hunk of local honeycomb right in the middle of it.

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The restaurant has a private dining room named for Dolley Madison that you can reserve for large groups or events where you need privacy. On the Main Street side of the restaurant is the coffee bar serving Chestnut Ridge Coffee. This is a full-service coffee shop with coffee drinks, smoothies, pastries, and the like. All of this — Montpelier Restaurant, the bar, and the coffee shop — is available to the general public AND to hotel guests alike! So yes, this can be your new happy hour or morning coffee spot!

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Other little things that make this restaurant and bar special:
• There’s a charging port at every seat.
• There’s a communal table in the center if you’re alone or just want to meet someone new. You could also spread out your laptop there.
• They reserved space for some loungey, comfortable seating in between the bar area and the dining room. I mean, really, they want you to be comfy.
• The coffee shop accepts the JAC card and is right there next to campus, students!

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Making the Most of Your Stay

Sure, you could leave the hotel and walk to a zillion awesome downtown locations, and Hotel Madison would totally endorse that decision. But let us show you what you can do inside the hotel. (And by the way, we did these things right after eating a giant meal at Montpelier.)

You can go burn it off in the Fitness Center, lol.

All kidding aside, this is a really nice fitness center for a hotel. Multiple cardio machines, plenty of weight lifting machines, plus dumbbells, medicine balls, and mats. And with several TVs and fancy A/V equipment on the cardio machines, you don’t have to forego entertainment to keep your mind off of how much your thighs burn.

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Then you could go to the salt water pool. A large garage-style door lets in tons of natural light and opens onto a sunny patio.

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You can take a relaxing bath in your clean and modern hotel room bathroom. I’m almost six feet tall and fit in there just fine!

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Or you can hang out by the fireplace in the lobby and indulge in a little snack or drink at Quills Casual Dining.

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Hotel Madison’s mezzanine offers more lounging space and a long wall for art work. Hotel Madison is one of the First Friday gallery locations — not only will they showcase local art, but local musicians will fill the lobby with live music.

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Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop. There you’ll find lots of JMU apparel and merchandise (hats, keychains, ornaments, for example), Shenandoah Valley shirts and hats, wine glasses, leather coasters made by Lineage Goods, Shirley’s Popcorn, Route 11 Chips, Warfels Chocolates, and other snacks and beverages, some of which in biodegradable packaging. Soon to come: products from Blue Ridge Dog.

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What Else?

Other notable features include a Business Center should you need some office time, complimentary valet parking in the Mason Street deck (and this is for hotel guests AND Montpelier Restaurant and Bar customers!), and tons of space on the north side of the hotel for conferences and other large groups. There are three ballrooms, the Madison Boardroom, and the Blue Ridge Room. The carpet in the Grand Ballroom is actually an aerial view of the Shenandoah Valley.

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Down the hall from our room on the 7th floor is the Presidential Suite. This 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom apartment (1546 square feet, y’all) sleeps 6 and is perfect for folks who are here for an extended period and want to be able to cook their own meals and feel right at home.

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Ya didn’t think we left there without having breakfast, did ya?! We stuffed ourselves with Griddled French Toast Sliders with vanilla custard, peach jam, whipped cream, and pure maple syrup…

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… the Shenandoah Breakfast, which is two farm eggs any style, house potatoes, toast, and your choice of house thick-cut cherry smoked bacon, country style pork sausage, chicken apple sausage, or Edwards ham steak…

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… AND the Blue Ridge Sandwich, a perfectly gooey concoction of griddled ham, house cherry smoked bacon, fried farm eggs, and Hoffman smoked cheddar on buttered ciabatta!

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You might be saying to yourself, “This place is amazing, clearly, but I already live in Harrisonburg. Why would I want to stay at Hotel Madison??” Well, you don’t have to. But think: next time you have relatives coming in whom you really don’t want in your house, you can direct them to a very nice hotel and not feel bad about it! Or maybe your college buddies are coming in for Homecoming festivities. Or maybe your employer or organization wants to hold a conference of some kind. Or maybe you’re getting married and need a venue that can do EVERYTHING — the wedding, the reception, and the lodging! Or maybe you just want to have dinner and a nice glass of wine. They’ve even initiated a reward points system to encourage folks to leave their usual hotel chain and stay in a local, green, community-minded, modern, and gorgeous new facility.

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Mark Your Calendars

February 14 – 16: Valentine’s Dinner. Montpelier Restaurant and Bar will be serving a Valentine’s Tasting Menu including 5 courses and optional wine pairing. Reservations are encouraged. The menu will be available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.
February 22 – 24: Winter Wine Weekend. A learning, tasting, experiencing weekend dedicated to wine and the transformative grape. This is a one of a kind event, for beginners and connoisseurs alike featuring seminars, speakers, wine and culinary events, wine films, a blending workshop and more.
March 4 – 10: Taste of Downtown. Montpelier Restaurant and Bar is excited to participate in Taste of Downtown this year! Watch their Facebook page for details.
– Monday through Friday, 3 – 6pm is Happy Hour at Montpelier Restaurant and Bar!

Thanks, Eddie!

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Copyright © 2012-19 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

foolin’ around: secretly y’all at pale fire.

burgimg_5276I’m a sucker for a good story. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is a favorite short story. The unique narrative structure of David Lynch’s allegory The Straight Story. The cry-your-eyes-out despair of Crazy Heart. Even The Carrot Seed — one of my favorite stories from childhood that has a total of 101 words. But these stories have been painstakingly drafted and crafted for weeks and months; they’ve had multiple editors, revisions, and iterations. There is ample room for error with anything polished and published, because there’s ample time to make it perfect.

Oral storytelling is a whole other beast. Impromptu, barely-rehearsed, no-notes-allowed storytelling in front of an audience is downright HARD. And scary! And watching such unrehearsed, potentially disastrous performances stirs up a weird anxiety for me. I get the same feeling when I watch The Office and I can sense that Michael Scott or David Brent is about to say something really bone-headed. I get nervous with the storyteller while simultaneously excited to hear their tale.

So Brandy and I were nervously giddy to attend Secretly Y’all’s oral storytelling event at Pale Fire a couple weeks ago. Secretly Y’all is an outfit out of Richmond that has been hosting storytelling events since 2009. They give 50% of their cover charge ($5) to a local organization. On this evening, that organization was the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Child Day Care Center, which serves 80 children in our community and has been doing just that for almost 48 years. FORTY-EIGHT YEARS!!

burgimg_5289Here’s how a Secretly Y’all event works. They announce an event with a particular theme and put out a call for storytellers on that theme. Not professional storytellers; just local folks who’ve had some really weird/interesting/inspiring crap happen to them and are the perfect mixture of charming + awkward + genuine (+ brave!). Those people tell the best stories. Local folks answer the call and sign up. Secretly Y’all publishes a “setlist” (the list of people who have signed up), and they tell their stories in front of a live audience at some local venue. The fine print: the stories must be true, less than 7 minutes long, and told without the aid of notes.

At this particular event, the theme was “Bamboozled.” Stories about being fooled or tricked or deceived. The setlist included six brave souls, and after their performances, the Secretly Y’all organizers passed around a hat so that audience members who had worked up some courage (or had a couple beers) could share their stories, too! Okay, on to the storytellers!

burgimg_5294After the introductions and explanations of the rules, the show began. Up walked Sylvia, sporting sweet tattoos and a Standing Rock tee shirt, to deliver a story entitled “God or Not.” Having grown up in a mixed faith family, she felt bamboozled by all the conflicting messages she received about religion, God, prayer, and the afterlife. She recalled praying about becoming a boy, which didn’t happen. Later, a salamander she thought surely was dead pulled a Lazarus and she thought, “Methodist prayers work! I’ve just been doing it wrong all this time!”  The climax of her story felt like an action/adventure movie with representatives of all her family’s religions converging on her uncle’s funeral to fight over how it’s done.

Thankfully time has a way of softening the edges of those experiences that cut us open in the past. Though her story was delivered with humor and a light heart, I’m sure the experience was very confusing for Sylvia as a child, reminding me that a child’s world sometimes consists of reality as they understand it + some imagination to fill in the gaps. Functional magical realism, I suppose. Which brings me to another story of the evening: “Boredom and Appendicitis,” by Roddy.

burgimg_5319His story started with his wonder and awe about…. basically anything. Living in a small town, he frequently found himself bored and would get excited about something as simple as hail. One time a tornado was heading straight for his town, and he understood that to be something dangerous, but he didn’t really know exactly what a tornado was. In the storm cellar, the wind created a sort of pecking noise, and his magical realist brain deduced that a tornado must be a bird. A giant, hungry, mean bird that would just swoop down and carry off the whole dang town! But more exciting than the tornado was the time his sister landed in the hospital to have her tonsils removed. What a wonder the hospital was! He just had to get back there somehow. But how? He decided to fake appendicitis so he could stay in the hospital. I kid you not, he actually faked his symptoms well enough that the doctors operated on him, and when they got in there to remove the appendix, it looked fine… so they did exploratory surgery looking for what could possibly be causing all this excruciating pain! And he has the scar to prove it, which he showed us. Unbelievable. He bamboozled everyone.

We also heard a story from Jon, who was bamboozled along with his friend into couch surfing in Albuquerque in what he thought was friendly territory. Almost immediately after they arrived at this house, things turned hostile. There was an explosion outside, someone smashed up the trash cans at the curb, and then two complete strangers burst through the door and demanded that Jon “smoke what’s in this pipe.” In true Indiana Jones fashion, the two escaped by rolling under the garage door, throwing their luggage in the car, and hauling ass to a Walmart parking lot, where they managed to sleep with one eye open. Sheesh!

burgimg_5313Lauren’s story was a bit less violent, but she did get bamboozled by a cat, which might be just as bad. And hers was just as much a love story as it was a story about cat pee. In 2009, she was living in her first ever house with a number of cats. Her boyfriend came for a visit and remarked that the guest bathroom had a really strong ammonia odor. The litter box was in that bathroom, so Lauren assumed that was the explanation. Upon closer inspection, however, Lauren discovered that the pipe under the sink was FULL of cat pee, which had corroded the metal and blown a hole in it, causing said cat pee to drip all over the place inside the cabinet! So Lauren and her doting boyfriend cleaned out the cabinet, and he replaced the damaged pipe. But, why the heck was a cat peeing in the sink, and which cat was it?? To discourage the little deviant from peeing in the sink, Lauren filled the sink with water, which seemed to work. But she asked herself, “Am I really going to live my life like this?” And one day, out of the blue, as she walked past that bathroom, Lauren saw one of the cats sitting on the toilet. To this day, that cat still pees like a human, and Lauren married her boyfriend.

burgimg_5330Sometimes we’re bamboozled by urban legends. Storyteller Eric believed his whole life until not long ago that you might die if you didn’t wait 30 minutes after eating to get in the pool. He also recalled, as a teenager, shaving 4 or 5 times a day because he believed it would grow back thicker every time he shaved. And 23 years ago he learned from a Simpsons episode that toilets flush in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere. He wowed lots of people with this interesting nugget of knowledge! Unfortunately, it’s just not true. We feel you, Eric. I guarantee you someone reading this right now is having an uncomfortable epiphany.

burgimg_5300The last storyteller on the “set list” was Andy, whose bamboozlement takes the form of messing with other people. For example, at the bank one day, the teller remarked on the strange weather, and Andy baited her: “Yes! I hear it’s caused by…El Zorro.”  There was a long silence, during which the teller must have decided she couldn’t restrain herself. “Sir, I think you mean El Nino.” Andy did it just to see what her reaction would be. But his best example of bamboozling others was the time he decided to drive through the toll booth with a whoopie cushion and let out a “bleating fart” right at the moment he handed the attendant his payment. Approaching the booth, his mind juggled all the moving pieces of this fandangled plan, and instead of stepping on the brake to slow his roll and unleash the cushion, he stepped on the accelerator, lurched forward, and HIT THE TOLL BOOTH! And then the cushion farted, but I don’t think the attendant heard it because she was quite upset and yelling, “Get out of here, crazy!” He didn’t even pay the toll.

During the intermission, the Secretly Y’all folks passed a hat around and allowed spectators to drop their names in if they decided during the show that they’d like to share a story. The same rules apply for these storytellers: a true story in no more than 7 minutes with no notes. Three lucky folks were selected for the second half of the show.

burgimg_5360Grant told a story called “The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe” in which he and some friends were hanging out at Finnegan’s Cove, when this kid in the rowdy group next to them started messing with them. Things were escalating, and after the group left, Grant and his friends decided to go track this guy down. They found him at a particular frat house and intimidated him by calling themselves The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. It seems they put that guy in his place! Only… that wasn’t the guy. They were at the wrong house. The guy they were after was actually arrested the next week. They saw him in Crime Times, lol.

The last story of the evening warmed our hearts and made us laugh. Jolynne described a time she was bamboozled in a very good way. Jolynne is the director of some children’s services at JMU, and she entered the Gus Bus in a contest to win $75,000 from Chick-fil-A. Weeks and weeks went by as the contest dragged on, and there came a day that she had a scheduled meeting with a colleague about something or other… only the colleague was actually planning on delivering the prize that day! But, Jolynne’s office happens to be in a new JMU building that is quite confusing — multiple entrances, none of which look like a main entrance, labyrinthian hallways leading to seemingly nowhere… so the colleague, accompanied by balloons, a giant check, and someone dressed in a cow costume, wandered around in the parking lot trying to figure out where to go. And Jolynne watched all this unfold from her office window, simultaneously wondering why the heck there was a cow in the parking lot and where in the world her colleague was! Finally everyone found each other, Gus Bus got $75,000, and all was well.

burgimg_5316If you want to witness or be a part of the next Secretly Y’all show, there’s another one coming up in March. Keep your eye on the Pale Fire and Secretly Y’all Facebook pages for the deets. Also — Pale Fire is now selling annual live music passes: $32 gets you admission to all live music events in 2019 (excluding fundraisers and benefit shows, for obvious reasons). You can buy one in the tap room or online. AND, Harrisonburg-Rockingham Child Day Care Center would love your continued support. You can make a donation to them at any time or set up a recurring donation online, and watch for their next big fundraiser, Dancing with the Stars, later in 2019. With support from the community, HRCDCC will hopefully raise enough funds for the daycare to finally move into its “forever home” in downtown Harrisonburg.

See you out and about!

burgimg_5272Copyright © 2012-19 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

trash talk: bring your own.

Sometimes I get really discouraged about the state of our planet. We have made a huge mess, plain and simple. Our selfish, profit-driven actions have killed entire species, polluted entire oceans, destroyed entire ecosystems, and threatened all manner of life, large and small.

And we’ve all seen how hard it is to enact environmental protections and regulations on industries that harm the environment. It’s excruciating how slowly change happens, because 1) you can’t legislate morality, and 2) as long as we put profits over people (and nature), pipelines will exist. Carbon-based fuels will exist. Gas-guzzling SUVs will exist. None of that will change until we, collectively and globally, put the health of the planet at the top of the priorities list.

Until that magical day, it’s all about personal choices. And one relatively new business in town has placed control back in the American consumer’s hands by providing easy access to better, more eco-friendly choices. It’s called Bring Your Own, and it’s a literally shining example of zero-waste living.

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Yup, that gleaming 1975 Airstream trailer parked between Taj of India and Jack Brown’s holds dozens of ways you can reduce the amount of trash you generate. On average, Americans produce 4.4 pounds of their own personal trash every day. To me, that sounds like a staggering amount, and it is, but really it’s no surprise considering how many disposable items can be found in the average household. I’ve always tried to be conscious of how much junk I’m throwing in the trash, but sometimes I get numb to what’s in front of me. After visiting Bring Your Own, I went home and really looked around at what my 4.4 pounds is made of, and I think I can make some changes. For example, packaging. Thirty-two percent of municipal waste is packaging. It’s not even the thing inside the package, which might also be disposable! And how many times have you ordered something online, and it arrives in a box inside another box with a giant plastic air bladder? Ugh. We can do better.

Here’s just a sampling of what owner Allie Emerick sells in her shop:

• Bamboo toothbrushes. Apparently we throw away 850 million plastic toothbrushes every year. !!! Allie sells toothbrushes with biodegradable handles and recyclable bristles.

• Diapers. More than 27 billion find their way to the landfill each year. Thirsties brand diapers can be washed and line-dried and used over and over.

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• Feminine hygiene products. A woman uses upwards of 14,000 disposable fem-hy products in her lifetime. Or, she can stock up on GladRags brand pads and a Lunette menstrual cup and drastically reduce her trash!

• Cups and bottles. Geez, do we ever have a disposable beverage container problem. Twenty-five BILLION styrofoam cups end up in the landfill every year… and that does not include paper/cardboard cups. Plus 2.5 million plastic bottles get trashed every HOUR! For heaven’s sake, buy yourself a bamboo coffee cup and a stainless steel pint  and take ‘em everywhere you go!

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• Razors. Can you believe we throw away 2 billion disposable razors every year?? Allie’s got a great selection of razors and shaving accessories.

• And by the way, bring your own dang bag/jar/container when you go to Bring Your Own! A TRILLION plastic bags are thrown out every year, and they’re only used for an average of 12 minutes each. This makes me want to puke a little bit. Allie sells bags, too: shopping totes; wet bags that are handy for wet swimsuits, dirty diapers, toiletries; produce bags; soap bags; and “ditty” bags for organizing items in larger (reusable) containers. This is a way you can NEVER use a plastic bag again.

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Sunday is Earth Day, and I’m issuing a challenge. Commit to one new eco-friendly action every month for a year. Ditch plastic bags altogether. Use a metal razor. Switch to a biodegradable toothbrush. Install LED bulbs. Trade your disposable water bottles for some kind of filter system. Purchase more environmentally responsible shampoos, soaps, and detergents. You could make it a First Friday thing. Head downtown to see the new artwork, and swing into Allie’s place for your latest eco-upgrade.

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She’s got some books for sale in her shop about eliminating plastic from your life and reducing the amount of waste you produce, and here are some additional resources to help you identify changes you can make to your lifestyle that you can sustain:

From The Guardian

From Real Simple

From CNN

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Bring Your Own is open Thursday – Saturday 11am – 6pm. It’s also a First Friday art venue, and Allie hosts interesting events from time to time. In fact, Saturday (4/21) she’s having an Earth Day celebration with sales and giveaways. Here’s the itinerary:

~ 12:00-5:00 Light snacks/refreshments will be provided by Friendly City Food Co-op. Please plan to BYO cup/bottle for beverages.

~ 1:00-3:00 The City of Harrisonburg will have staff on-site to answer questions about ongoing environmental initiatives and share specific information about: the residential stormwater utility fee credit application process, rain barrels, red osier dogwood whips, and the new recycling center.

~ 1:00-6:00 Native plants will be available for purchase from the Natural Garden.

~ 3:00-4:00 Don’t miss “Ecological Gardening: Niche Work If You Can Get It” with Wick from the Natural Garden.

~ 4:00-5:00 Composting Workshop with Eric from Black Bear Composting. Learn how to compost in your backyard and/or with Black Bear!

Talks/workshops will be held outside the store as “standing workshops.” Please bring your own chair if you would like to have one! See you there!

burgIMG_4780Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

what moves you: valley art mobile.

Recently a very fine and beautiful thing happened. Harrisonburg got a new mural. A seven-member youth design team comprised of Harrisonburg teens collaborated with local artist Sarah Hade to create a mural. The youngsters told Sarah what they wanted the mural to be and to mean, and Sarah helped them turn their ideas into an image. Then, those youngsters plus other members of the community showed up and painted it! AND THIS IS HOW IT TURNED OUT!!!

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“Art is a language we all speak.” Indeed!

Yes, there are still a few minor touch-ups to be completed, but WHAT A THING OF BEAUTY!

So where’d this brilliant idea come from? The Shenandoah Valley Art Mobile, that’s where! You didn’t know it existed? Well, that’s because it’s a brand new initiative headed up by five incredible people: Emily Reese, Leons Kabongo, Leah Gingerich, Maressa Cortes, and Amelia Guido. Their plan is to fundraise through this summer and buy a sweet school bus. Tear everything out of that sucker and furnish it with tables and stools, a projector and screen, two sets of sinks, supply storage, and a drying rack. This renovation phase could take a year to complete. Once mobile, the bus will travel to neighborhoods in Harrisonburg and provide weekly one-hour art lessons to kids after school! Later they’ll expand programming to include retirement community members. Art for all ages! Until the bus is ready, the team will simply travel to different locations and lead art activities.

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Now then, they’re still fundraising. Here are some options for you: attend the May 12 Music Festival at Brothers Craft Brewing — watch the team in action as they lead a community art activity and make a donation! You could also attend their fundraiser May 26 at Pale Fire. There will be a dessert competition featuring local pastry chefs (OMG), plus a food truck, live music, a photo booth, face painting — it’ll be a grand party! Keep your eyes open for other fundraisers and fun events. Can’t make it to one of these events? Donate online! Strapped for cash? Maybe you could volunteer with the bus renovation! They’ll need help in all of these departments: electrical, lighting, plumbing, welding, flooring, cabinetry, heating/cooling/ventilation, insulation, and solar energy. And the 100% free option: help promote this initiative. Tell your friends, your coworkers, people you know who could help out or make a donation. That’s what social media is for, people!

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Let’s all get behind this project and help “bring art to where it’s not!”

Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

love nest: gray jay provisions.

burgIMG_2721A chef walks into a sandwich shop… and creates something Harrisonburg hasn’t had before.

You might notice the light first, streaming in through the wall of plate glass windows. To the right you’ll see the glory of a 1950s living room, an old console stereo flanked by handsome books and two mid-century chairs. Local artwork compliments the simple, uncluttered space. It’s the perfect place to grab a sandwich and hunker down with your laptop or a good book, or meet a friend for food and conversation. It’s Harrisonburg’s newest: Gray Jay Provisions.

burgIMG_2605burgIMG_2611burgIMG_2675Both a market and a sandwich shop, Gray Jay has what you need if you’re hungry now or will be later. On the market side, there are dry provisions and chilled provisions and provisions for every occasion. Like charcuterie provisions. And I’m-Not-Sure-What-To-Bring-To-This-Party provisions. My-In-Laws-Are-Coming provisions. Or I-Just-Need-A-Damn-Bloody-Mary provisions.


burgIMG_2720burgIMG_2685They’ve got crackers and salami, assorted vinegars and oils, multiple flavors of Backpocket Provisions Bloody Mary Mix. They’ve got mustard and honey and cheeses and sausages. Prosciutto spread and jars of kimchi and curtido.


burgIMG_2703burgIMG_2680burgIMG_2628They’ve got Gearharts chocolates and Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, Field Trip brand jerky, veggie burgers, and ice cream. And a wide selection of Grown Up Sodas, Maine Root sodas, and Fentimans botanically brewed sodas.


burgIMG_2695At the counter, you’ll see their small but sophisticated and thoughtfully designed menu. It changes with the availability of fresh, local ingredients; on the day we were there, they offered a roasted tempeh sandwich with sweet potato, pickled red onion, and mushrooms; a sliced pork sandwich with sweet potato and kimchi; a line-caught tuna sandwich with caper aioli, pickled red onion, and arugula; a baked tofu sandwich with shiitake aioli and kimchi; a chicken confit sandwich with herb mayo, arugula, and pickled red onion; and a sunflower butter open face sandwich with honey and
crème fraîche. On the side, they offer tots, chick peas, and soup — that day, lentil and creamy tomato. Gluten-free bread and vegan options are always available.

burgIMG_2656burgIMG_2645burgIMG_2643burgIMG_2640burgIMG_2636All sandwiches are served on their house-made sourdough bread. This sourdough goes back a long time. Its starter is a blend of co-owner Michelle’s starter from Austria, created from wild airborne yeast and spring water, and co-owner Seth’s starter. The bread holds up to the demands of a hefty sandwich, yet gives easily between the teeth. And you can take a loaf of your own home with you: $6 for a small loaf and $9 for a large. And when I say large, I mean it’s the biggest dang loaf you’ve ever seen in real life.

One Saturday per month, Seth gets to flex his culinary muscles in pop-up dinners with wine pairings. After learning to cook in his mom’s kitchen, Seth worked as a sous chef and head chef  in high-end restaurants in Boston for 14 years. Michelle’s passions lie in the intersection of centuries-old food traditions of cultures around the world and today’s need for sustainability achieved with local and seasonal ingredients and organic growing methods. Together they conjure dishes that are delicious, creative, and responsible. Indeed, their menu items boast simple yet integrated flavors not found at your usual sandwich shop.

burgIMG_2699burgIMG_2616In case you’re wondering about the name, the Gray Jay is a mascot of sorts. While reading about this little bird, I came across words like friendly and loyal, clever and playful, tough. An apt mascot for Seth, Michelle, and Soula, who embody all these traits and work them into everything they make. Trust me: you’ll go in for a sandwich and come out with something spectacular.

Gray Jay Provisions is located at 1311 South High Street in Harrisonburg, and they’re open Monday – Friday, 11am – 7pm. Follow them on social media for menu updates and be sure to join their mailing list so you’ll be informed about events like their pop-up dinners!

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Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

a walk of art: cupid crawl 2018.

burgIMG_1733Valentine’s Day sometimes gets a bad rap. Hailed as a “Hallmark holiday” by cynics around the globe, some people refuse to acknowledge it. School children far and wide begrudgingly drop cheap perforated cardstock Disney-sponsored sentiments into the hands of classmates they hardly know. Or like, for that matter. And for many, the day only serves as a reminder of failed romances. <sigh> I hear you. But six years ago, Valentine’s Day took on a new dimension for Brandy and me. It was the day we started this blog, and since then our focus has been to show all of you how smitten we are with our community and everyone in it. Once we started actively looking for things we loved about our town, we saw them everywhere.

Spend even a short while strolling through Harrisonburg and you’ll see countless manifestations of lasting love. The communion of souls that takes place Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market under the roof of the Turner Pavilion. Sandwich boards lined up along the sidewalks welcoming residents in for some rest and comfort. Welcome Your Neighbor signs proudly displayed in storefront windows. Vibrant murals painted on faded structures to remind them they’re still loved. In Harrisonburg, it’s like every day is Valentine’s Day.

We were thrilled, therefore, that we got to spend this Valentine’s Day celebrating Harrisonburg’s art scene by attending the Cupid Crawl. Hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley and led by local superwoman Laura Thompson, the Cupid Crawl is a delightful stroll to five downtown locations for art, artist talks, and refreshments.

burgIMG_1837.jpgThe Crawl began at the Smith House, home of the Arts Council of the Valley and its two galleries. Executive Director Jenny Burden welcomed guests and spoke about the Advancing the Arts Grants available to organizations, art educators, and artists working in the visual, performing, and literary arts. These grants help expand the arts in our community, to the tune of $350,000 over the last ten years. As guests mingled and nibbled on appetizers, the Harrisonburg Harmonizers treated us to some old fashioned crooning about lasting love, their voices filling the 150-year-old Smith House, a building  loved so much it was moved to its current location on the back of a truck! Before long, it was time to hear from the evening’s featured artists, Frank and Janet Marshman, whose amazing art collection adorned every wall in the place. Having started their collection in 1972, the exhibit showcased 45 years of art representing 21 artists including Paul Strand, Imogene Cunningham, Olivia Parker, Emmet Gowin, Michael A Smith, Sally Mann, and others. Sally Mann, a Lexington, Virginia, native, has an upcoming show in DC of about 100 prints.

burgIMG_1777burgIMG_1784burgIMG_1786burgIMG_1780Frank, who owned the Untitled Gallery of Fine Photographs in the late 70s, talked about his lasting love of print photography and its place in the modern era of digital everything. I loved hearing the Marshmans explain that most of this artwork has been stored in boxes for years; they lovingly dusted off the old prints, had them framed at the Frame Factory, and now here they were, refreshed and alive, hanging on the walls of a restored building. Frank and Janet have spent their lives loving art. As Frank said that evening, “If you don’t support the arts, nobody will.” And just like that, Laura was getting our attention and instructing us to move along to the next location: the Wilson Gallery at Kline May.

burgIMG_1804Appetizers and drinks from Beyond Restaurant Pho and Sushi greeted us, flanked by striking drawings, ceramics, and sculptures by three artists. Despite loving it here in the Shenandoah Valley, Danielle Heckman, an artist from Pennsylvania, still yearns for home. Her artwork represents homesickness and the act of relocating, depicted by what she calls “the containers of moving,” such as the sack of embroidered letters. Somehow the idea of embroidering letters makes the letters more permanent, preserved for ages, objects of lasting love.

burgIMG_1815burgIMG_1829burgIMG_1845burgIMG_1813Mallory Burrell’s “The Migration Series” includes seven drawings depicting animals on a migration caused by habitat destruction: a fox carrying squirrels and butterflies; a bunny whose ears are covered by his passengers — flowers, caterpillars, crickets; a kaleidoscope of butterflies carefully transporting a honeycomb to its new home; everyone doing what they can out of a lasting love for the planet. Shouldn’t we all.

burgIMG_1824burgIMG_1821burgIMG_1820Our third stop, Shenandoah Joe, provided a pick-me-up of coffee and cookies from Bittersweet Bakery and featured artist Natasha D’Souza. Natasha spent a period of time in Bethlehem and the Jordan Valley documenting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory and various human rights violations on the West Bank. She was trained to do this — to use her camera to hold people accountable, to make them “play fair” in war. Her exhibit, “Candid Lessons in Conflict,” depicts elements of an occupation spanning 50 years and includes themes of existence and coexistence, access to worship, demolition and violence, education and children’s rights, and resilience.

burgIMG_1870burgIMG_1862burgIMG_1883burgIMG_1880Heading back out into the night, we hung a right at the corner and walked a couple blocks to Hess Financial. This charming historic building showcased the bright, colorful works of Pam Tittle and Janet Lee Wright in their joint exhibition called “Sweet Stories.” Pam’s works of watercolor, pen & ink, and acrylic are teeming with life. Critters of all assortments plus bread and coffee, pastries and dessert — symbols of life and a life well lived! I couldn’t help but notice how her works hanging on the wall interacted with the delicious pastries and treats from Heritage Bakery and Cafe on the table. Pam and her husband moved here from Maryland in 2010, and that’s when her work as an artist really began. She had her first solo show that year at Clementine, and now she organizes group shows in Harrisonburg regularly. Even more exciting, last year she illustrated a book called Jeremy and the Light (available on Amazon)! All in just eight years! It just goes to show what can grow in a fertile community.

burgIMG_1913burgIMG_1915burgIMG_1923burgIMG_1936Art is a relatively new pursuit for Janet Lee Wright, too. This retired librarian started painting at age 60 with no training. Her works on this evening represented the people and animals she loves. Again I was reminded of lasting love: lasting love in the various stages of plants that she paints and in her time-stopping portraits that last a lifetime. Of particular note is a painting of her parents based on a photo she took in 1962 — her parents have been married more than 70 years!

burgIMG_1958burgIMG_1931burgIMG_1962burgIMG_1965burgIMG_1991At our fifth and final stop, Larkin Arts, we were swiftly handed a “Downtown ‘79” — a night cap of bourbon, sours, and Betwixt cider, garnished with an apple peel — to sip while we viewed stunning pieces of art featured in the Regional Juried Show. The 32 pieces in the show were judged on mastery of technique, execution, presentation, and conceptual realization. More than 150 works were submitted for consideration, and it was no easy task for Paul Somers and Valerie Smith to decide which made the cut. While it’s an arduous process, Paul described it as “sacred” and valuable because it requires the deep contemplation and discussion of the merits of each piece. When done properly, the curation results in a situation where “staring at something that’s not moving” turns into something quite moving.

burgIMG_2025In addition to being an art gallery and store, Larkin Arts is home of Meridian Books and Games, run by Morgan and Vince Paixao. Several artist studios fill the spaces in the rear of the shop, and the store hosts countless classes for students of all ages throughout the year. I could’ve stayed at Larkin all night, and that’s no exaggeration: Valerie told us to stay as long as we wanted. And so even though the art tour officially ended, our Valentine’s Day love buzz did not.

burgIMG_2048burgIMG_2027Thanks to Jenny, Cate, Laura, and these awesome businesses for making the Cupid Crawl possible and for continuing to support creative art initiatives. Stay tuned for lots more from our beloved Arts Council!

~ Bittersweet Bakery, The Golden Pony, Heritage Bakery and Cafe, Beyond Restaurant Pho & Sushi, Wilson Downtown Gallery at Kline May Realty, Shenandoah Joe, Hess Financial, and Larkin Arts ~

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Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

fine tuning: many nights ahead and david wax museum.

Copy of burgIMG_1437During the hours prior to the David Wax Museum/Many Nights Ahead concert at Court Square Theater, Brandy and I had been talking about the usual random insignificant crap, like that Brandy likes to read with the show Friends on in the background so she feels like she’s reading in a coffee shop, and the fact that the entire left side of my body is smaller than the right. But somehow the conversation morphed into something much grander. We talked about recommitting to personal goals and progress, about staving off the inertia that smothers our spirits during winter. It’s a force that pins me to the sofa and makes me feel guilty for wasting time. For me, I think it’s about more than just laziness and comfortable sweatpants. Fear lives in there somewhere, coupled with loneliness. So we talked about courage… where it goes… where to find it… how to get it back. Having unknowingly primed our hearts and souls for that night’s performance, we arrived at Court Square Theater, shook off the winter chill we’d accumulated all day long, and settled in for a great show.

Copy of burgIMG_1428Court Square Theater has brought us such delightful events as the Super Gr8 Film Festival, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Valley Playhouse productions, tons of Oscar-winning films, and more. This night’s performance, part of the Arts Council of the Valley’s Music Series, was sponsored by Capital Ale House, James McHone Jewelry, WMRA, and the Stonewall Jackson Inn, whose contributions will provide a string of amazing concerts in 2018.

Many Nights Ahead warmed us with nine songs that ranged from nostalgic to lonesome to just foot stomping wild. Amy’s throaty and panoramic voice sang to us about “dancin’ like fools by the river” — finding happiness in what’s simple. Band mates Bucky, Walker, Dan, and Ross arranged themselves in a circle to hammer out a long and multi-layered instrumental number written by Bucky, the type of song that’ll carry you someplace else if you close your eyes. Talent is not something you can fake in a live performance, and this piece, “Bucky’s Break,” would most definitely shine a light on any and all shortcomings. There were none. Each instrument — the banjo, the dobro, the guitar, the bass — sang its part with perfect clarity. When Amy’s not singing, she conducts the band with arm motions and hair swings.

Copy of burgIMG_1457Copy of burgIMG_1487Some folks were visibly surprised when this young bluegrass band unleashed Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” but honestly, Amy’s voice is made for this song (sorry, Bill). And I have to wonder how long she’s been singing it. Like, did she hear it in her mom’s car in middle school and then sing it into her hairbrush? Because it sounds like she was born singing it. This choice of song also shows that “bluegrass” is not an adequate label for Many Nights Ahead. Sure, they play bluegrass instruments, but there’s blues in their soul and funk in their feet, laced with some old time gospel.

Copy of burgIMG_1467Copy of burgIMG_1506My favorite song of the evening was “Train Bound to Nowhere.” I think we’ve all ridden this train at some point. It’s about being “all alone now,” losing the one you love and not knowing “what it’s like without you.” Only… we do know. We just forget how lonely we were before we found love, and when that happens, gratitude falls victim to complacency… inertia sets in. We get so numbed by what’s in front of us. Where’s the jumpstart? What’s the defibrillator?? Eventually the whole thing flatlines, and then you’re “trying to get on without you,” but getting nowhere.

Copy of burgIMG_1518Copy of burgIMG_1549Copy of burgIMG_1572After a quick intermission warranting a fresh beer, David Wax Museum hit the stage. David Wax and Suz Slezak, now married, started the band ten years and eight records ago and recently performed their 1000th show together. Between songs, they told us parts of their endearing story, like how one time in Mexico, David and Suz were just trying to get to a cantina when they got swept up in a Virgin Mary pilgrimage with thousands of people. Their song “Maria” was born of that experience. Indeed, many of their songs are influenced by their time in Mexico and Mexican folk music. They also described the early years of the band, squatting in a hovel with no heat or water, which ultimately turned into the song “Don’t Lose Heart” (Guesthouse, 2015): “no money in the bank, no gas in the tank… we’re barely afloat, I should care but I don’t,” the title wailed in an attempt to convince themselves it’ll work out. COURAGE. Then they break into cheerful na-na-nas and la-la-las with no warning at all. The early days also involved a good deal of bartering and garnered them, among other weird items, a shank of lamb, some round steak, and a 2-months-old ziploc bag of crumbled cookies. You take what you can get, I suppose.

Copy of burgIMG_1614Copy of burgIMG_1590If you get a chance to see this band live, you must. First of all, I think it’s the only place you’ll see a denim camisole and gingham pants side by side. But more importantly, their sound is so much bigger in person. Each band member plays multiple instruments, picking them up and putting them down as if switching from one language to another mid-sentence. And sometimes they play more than one instrument at a time! Suz started on the squeezebox, which is like an entire brass band in a box, then switched to her fiddle, and then jumped up on a wooden box which she stomped with her boot heels while playing the fiddle AND SINGING. David’s big voice accompanies his ukulele and guitar in perfect proportion. As individuals, they are obviously skilled and talented… but on stage together, they perform with the intimacy they sing about, both facing each other and sharing a microphone, the heat between them challenging the harsh winter just outside with lines like “Turn on the light when we kiss” (“Lavender Street,” Everything Is Saved, 2011).

Copy of burgIMG_1642Copy of burgIMG_1671Copy of burgIMG_1596David and Suz — they are poets of circumstance. The audience got to sing along with them on “Harder Before It Gets Easier” (Knock Knock Get Up, 2012), a song about “sobbing so hard you can barely breathe…stitching your heart on the outside of your sleeve,” about “being wrung out and then doused with grief,” the painful circumstances that befall us sometimes. And like the title says, it’s not going to get easier any time soon, because fate just doesn’t care. But, David and Suz remind us the “moment will be brief” and one’s burden “will lift” … eventually. Have COURAGE!

Copy of burgIMG_1706Copy of burgIMG_1591I admit there were times (during both bands)  I was enjoying the music so much that my pen slipped from my fingers and entire songs went by without my writing down a word. One of the last songs of the night was “Guesthouse,” the title track from their 2015 album, in which the speaker asks about 100 times, “Can I stay in your guesthouse?” The song describes the life of a nomadic musician, constantly searching for places to crash for the night. And maybe that’s exactly what it’s about — literally staying in someone’s guesthouse. But those of us who aren’t traveling performers might ascribe a different meaning to it. Maybe it’s about bridging the gap between two lonely souls, about finding the courage to move one step closer to companionship, about finally leaving behind whatever tragedy drove us to solitude in the first place. Maybe it’s about baby steps back to normalcy. Maybe it’s about looking at intimacy straight on.

Or maybe it’s about couch surfing. What do I know.

Copy of burgIMG_1691In short…
1) When it’s cold (outside, or in your heart, or when life is cold), be together.
2) The inertia you feel… it won’t last. It’s no match for your soul.
3) Have courage!

The Arts Council of the Valley’s Music Series will continue with The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band (date to be announced), Bethany Yarrow and Rufus Cappadocia on March 10, and Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out on March 17. Also check out the Concert to Benefit Bridge of Hope, with The Walking Roots Band and Low Volume coming up on March 2. And don’t forget to check the movie schedule — Court Square Theater gets the best ones!

See you there soon!

Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

destination celebration: arts council progressive party 2017.

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers10It’s always a good sign when there’s crusted food on my notebook.

When deciding what to wear for the 6th Annual Progressive Party hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley, I made sure I wore something roomy and with pockets. Room for eating everything in sight, and pockets because everyone needs pockets, and they should not be excluded from cocktail attire. 

Upon our arrival at The Columns at Six Penny Farm, Brandy, Austin, and I were greeted on the patio and handed a cocktail, a program of events, and a bid number. The cocktail was just what this warm, humid day required: the “Art Splash,” compliments of The Golden Pony, featured vodka, raspberry liqueur, sour mix and soda, with a cherry on top. Got Strings, a three-piece strings ensemble, played softly under the portico. I took this as a good omen and couldn’t wait to see what the evening would hold. The view from Six Penny Farm of Massanutten, stippled in intermittent sunshine, was a masterpiece of a backdrop for the evening. Occasionally the peak disappeared behind a blur, and we wondered, “Is that rain?” Nope, nope, it’s just haze. “Are those raindrops I just felt on my arm?” Nope, nope, it’s just sweat. Sweat and haze. We’re going with that.

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And before we had to find out if it was indeed rain, we progressed inside the building for the second stop on this Destination Celebration!

The Annual Progressive Party, the Arts Council’s biggest fundraiser of the year, celebrates and supports the success and continued growth of the arts in our community. Proceeds allow  ACV to continue to provide First Friday art exhibits at more than 30 local venues, culturally and artistically important films and performances in the Court Square Theater, and grant money for future art endeavors.

Inside, an impressive variety of beer (thank you, Midtowne Bottle Shop!) and wine (thank you, Brix and Columns Vineyard!) lined the bar while people sipped and mingled. When the doors to the ballroom opened, revealing table after table of freshly prepared, steaming, aromatic food from eight (EIGHT!!) local restaurants, it was like Bob Barker opened the doors to the Showcase Showdown. People clapped, people shrieked (okay, maybe that was me), people gasped and gawked and drooled.

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers44Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers41And then we ate. And ate. We ate all of it. We ate from A Bowl of Good, Black Forest German Restaurant, and Cafe 33. We devoured Joshua Wilton House, Oriental Cafe, and Taj of India. We gorged on Paella Perfecta and we topped it off with Nathy’s Cakes & Fine Pastries. My dress held up just fine, thank you.

While we ate, we were treated to performances by the Harrisonburg Dance Cooperative and JMU’s The Madison Project. Golly, so much talent!

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The third stop of the evening was a live auction of several gorgeous pieces of artwork and three art packages, including a case of wine from Brix and Columns Vineyard, an Art Party for 10 with Laura Thompson at Larkin Arts, and a D.C. Art Excursion! Artists who graciously participated in the auction include Denise Kanter Allen, Jennifer Lockard Connerley, Mia LaBerge, Nadia Louderback, Allison Nickens, Morgan Fink Paixao, John Rose, and Bruce Rosenwasser. Several people went home with a memento from the evening that they’ll enjoy for a lifetime!

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Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers40
Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers94The last stop on the journey was DANCING! DJ Finks turned it up, everybody got down, and these photos say the rest!


Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers89Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers86Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers84Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers82Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers72Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers66The Arts Council of the Valley would like to thank their Progressive Party sponsors. The list is LONG. Without continued support from caring businesses and individuals,  art tends to disappear from communities. I am so grateful to live in a place where art is alive and well.

Food Sponsors
Louise & Alden Hostetter
Don Albright & Earlynn Miller
Diane & David Ehrenpreis
Patricia Kidd
Laura & Paul Riner
Emily McCarty
Joanne & Alexander Gabbin
Susan & Bill Cale
Union Bank & Trust

Party Sponsors
Kathy Moran Wealth Group
The Community Foundation
Graves • Light Wealth Management Group
E&M Auto Paint and Supply Co.
JMU College of Visual and Performing Arts
Association of Property Management Services, LLC
Blue Ridge Architects
Blue Ridge Bank
Blue Ridge Community College
Brown & Co. Hair Design
Hess Financial
James McHone Jewelry
LD&B Insurance and Financial Services
The Myrias Group
Summit Community Bank
Bia Events & Decorating
The Columns at Six Penny Farm
The Daily News Record
Garrison Press
Joshua Wilton House
Larkin Arts

Event Sponsors
Larry and Kathy Whitten and the Community Foundation
Riner Rentals
Paul Somers and The Golden Pony
Union Bank & Trust
Eugene Stoltzfus Architects

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Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

high score: ruby’s arcade.

burgIMG_1285The bar has been raised.

Ruby’s Arcade, the newest endeavor of local restauranteur Clay Clark, has been open for six weeks or so, so this post might seem a little late arriving. But since its opening, Brandy and I (or just Brandy, or just I) have been in that place like ten times: the Downtown Renaissance Awards ceremony, an evening out with all the kiddos, a happy hour celebration with some teacher friends, friend and family bonding time after our art show, to name a few. She kept taking photos and I kept taking notes and ding dang it, we can’t hold it in any longer.

This place is AWESOME. First, you won’t be surprised to hear the food is excellent. They pride themselves on their fresh meats, never frozen, including their pork, ribs, and brisket smoked DAILY. The fried chicken sandwich and the fried catfish sandwich (I’ve had both) are succulent and delicious, and please do yourself a favor and get the smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese. They’ve got a great selection of burgers, appetizers, and salads, too. But the pizza. Whoa. Wood-fired pizza in their snazzy red wood oven, loaded with noteworthy toppings like pickled peppers, smoked pork, artichokes, and bleu cheese, and names like The Keanu, The Swayze, and The Bern.

burgIMG_1319 burgIMG_1323But that’s not all. They’ve got several excellent draft beers, and YOU CAN GET A PITCHER of any of them. Yep, you heard me right! A pitcher!! I remember twenty years ago, I could get a pitcher of beer at one of our very few local watering holes… but then pitchers went away. It could be, and I’m just speculating, that as the quality of H’burg beer increased, pitchers got pricey, and establishments stopped selling them. Whatever. That’s all water under the bridge now, because the pitcher is back! You can even get a 2-topping pizza and a pitcher of PBR for eighteen bucks!

And that’s still not all. Let’s get to the reason it’s called Ruby’s Arcade. The games! The showpiece of the whole joint is the four-lane duckpin bowling alley. Clay rescued the duckpin bowling apparatus, Chris Howdyshell tinkered and toiled and got it all working again, and now you and up to three of your buddies can share a lane for just $20/hour. Our kids LOVED it. After that you can amble on over to the billiard and pingpong tables. Or play shuffleboard. Or Foosball. Or you can play a board game. Or darts. This list is getting long.

burgIMG_1295 burgIMG_1299 burgIMG_1310 burgIMG_1321The place is huge, so don’t worry about it being too crowded. When you first walk in, there’s a large area with high-top tables and a little lounge area. Continue down a short flight of steps and to the left is the bar and the bowling area. Tables of various sizes (and made of re-purposed wood from antique bowling lanes!), assorted game tables, and upholstered furniture fill the rest of the space, and if you keep walking toward the back, there’s another swanky lounge area back there.

burgIMG_1287 burgIMG_1289burgIMG_1292 burgIMG_1307Decorating the huge space might have seemed daunting at first, but with the help of mural artists like Lynda Bostrom, Derek Niver, Michael Broth, Andre Shank, Trip Madison, and Elliott Downs, those walls weren’t bare for long. It’s worth a trip in there just to see the art work.

burgIMG_1305burgIMG_1290Gourmet food + games for all ages + quality beer (in PITCHERS) + stunning artwork + tons of space + friendly staff = the place to go for any occasion. This is why I said the bar’s been raised. Ruby’s Arcade fills a hole I didn’t realize existed until I got in there to see what it was all about. Now it’s your turn. And to get in there, you enter from the paved area behind Clementine and You Made It!, sort of adjacent to the back of the bike shop/little bridge over Blacks Run. They’re open seven days a week! See you soon!

Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

epic proportions: 6x6x30.

bspitzIMG_1454I remember last year’s 6x6x30 Art Show, hosted by Spitzer Art Center, more vividly than I remember most things these days. Maybe that’s because experiences that evoke an emotional response take root in one’s memory, and one’s heart, more firmly than superficial, run-of-the-mill events. And that show was anything but ordinary. I remember seeing thirty of Trip Madison’s iconic ships lined up in rows together — a massive, colorful fleet. I remember Brandy’s daring and innovative experiment in which photography met needlepoint — thirty photographs, printed on fabric, enhanced with bright stitches. One of them was a photo of me, my earrings embellished by vibrant orange thread. I remember Denise Allen’s collection of thirty paintings — my son was one of them! I remember Jewel Hertzler’s glistening encaustic paintings — especially the ones of owls and trees. Trees are my people. And so I remember all those images, burned into my frontal lobe, easily recalled from the deepest regions of my memory — not the same feeling as remembering something because it’s been scrawled on a post-it note and hangs on my computer screen. I remember it because I want to, not because I have to.

When Spitzer’s 6x6x30 show rolled around again this year, I decided to give it a try. I knew going in that making one six-inch-square piece of art every day for thirty days would be intense, especially given that I’m not an artist, I’ve had very little experience making art, I’ve had absolutely no training, I had limited supplies and budget, and as always, time would be a huge factor. The biggest lesson I learned over the course of the thirty days is that I was indeed capable of completing the task — even on time! — and so can you. My exhibit was not nearly as breathtakingly beautiful as some of the others, and that’s okay. No one can expect to produce veteran-quality work their first day on the job. And hanging my work next to the work of those veterans, being invited to participate, being welcomed into the fold of all those beautiful people, was truly humbling.

Envelopes by Katie Mitchell

Envelopes by Katie Mitchell

At the start I wasn’t exactly sure what my abilities were, so for my exhibit, I avoided things I KNEW I couldn’t do. Oil painting — forget it. Realistic drawing — nope. Watercolors — uh uh. Anything involving clay — haha!! But… I’d been making and decorating envelopes for my pen pal for a few months and I felt okay about that.

burgIMG_1424Each of the thirty days, after tucking my kids in for the night, I would unfurl my giant roll of white craft paper that I’d pilfered from the kids’ easel downstairs, cut out the shape of an unfolded envelope, fold it to the proper dimensions, and glue the seams. Then I’d sketch (ha) a rough outline of the image I wanted to achieve and rip up random pages of discarded magazines from my school library, gluing down little bits and pieces until it sorta looked like what I’d imagined. For some of the envelopes, I did very rudimentary drawings colored in with marker or colored pencils. I decorated both sides of the envelopes (though not evenly) and invited exhibit attendees to handle the envelopes so they could see the front and the back.

burgIMG_1431 burgIMG_1432 burgIMG_1434I also learned that I am capable of improving. The last envelope I made features a guitar fashioned out of tiny bits of National Geographic magazine. The guitar’s neck wraps around the the back of the envelope where I included a line from the song “Crazy Heart.” The first envelope I made, on the other hand, features an awkward, crooked, wonky-looking record player. Ugh. Despite that frustration, I got better and more efficient at the craft each night. I also got farther and farther behind with EVERY OTHER part of my life. I avoided cooking so I wouldn’t make more dirty dishes, clean clothes were out of the question, and sleep was whittled down to a 4-hour nap each night.

Finally, the day of the opening arrived. The show was so huge — 47 artists and 1410 works of art!!! — that no downtown location could host it. Instead, Park Gables Gallery, on the campus of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, graciously offered their walls. Each artist had a wooden panel on which to display all thirty pieces. The panels hung throughout the spacious gallery, each accompanied by an artist bio/statement. Hundreds of people attended. Hundreds. Throngs, if you will. The opening was 5 – 8pm but easily could have gone later. So, so much beauty and talent and ding dang perseverance to take in — more than can be digested in one evening. It’s a good thing the show will remain up the rest of this month.

burgIMG_1339 burgIMG_1342 burgIMG_1351 burgIMG_1352 burgIMG_1354As you can see from the photographs, artists used a variety of media, techniques, and themes. There was charcoal and acrylic and vintage fabric. There was photography and watercolor and pastels. Magazines, needlepoint, pencil drawings and mandalas. There was even melted crayon + nail polish, fused glass, and cyanotype photograms on watercolor paper. There was calligraphy and handmade tiles and thirty sculptures made of things like screws and rebar and hooks! Themes ranged from spoons, hands, and plants, to pugs and bunnies, to the story of Creation.

photos by Brandy Somers

photos by Brandy Somers

Collage by Cindy Greene

Collage by Cindy Greene

Cindy GreeneIMG_1451

Collage by Cindy Greene

Encaustic Painting by Jewel Hertzler

Encaustic Painting by Jewel Hertzler

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Paintings by Padma Jennifer Ann Kockim

Paintings by Padma Jennifer Ann Kockim

Fused Glass by Rebecca Brydge

Fused Glass by Rebecca Brydge

Pugs by Zach Gesford

Pugs by Zach Gesford

Pugs by Zach Gesford

Pugs by Zach Gesford

And the evening would not have been complete without awarding much deserved prizes. First place, sponsored by Blakemore’s Flowers, went to Brenda Hounshell.

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

2nd place, sponsored by E. Miller and D. Albright, went to Erin Murray.

2nd Place Erin Murray

2nd Place Erin Murray

2nd Place Erin Murray

2nd Place Erin Murray

And 3rd place, sponsored by A Bowl of Good, went to Barbara Gautcher.

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

The show is still up, and will remain up until the end of the month, so there’s still time to get in there and see it. If you’re interested in purchasing art work, please check with the receptionist at the desk just to the right of the staircase near the entrance. This is Spitzer’s biggest fundraiser of the year; twenty percent of art sales from the 6x6x30 show goes straight to Spitzer Art Center so they can continue providing art to our local community and support to our local artists. It’s a small investment with hefty dividends! Yet another night to remember, another opportunity of a lifetime, a thousand more notches in my prefrontal cortex — all right here in our little Burg.

Here’s a list of all the participating artists. Join them next year!!
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Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

we new it: ride along.

When I sit down to write my list of New Year’s resolutions, it usually goes like this:

Things I Should Do in the New Year:
1. Exercise more.
2. uuuuuuuuuggggghhh.

Things I Want To Do in the New Year:
1. Read.
2. Learn an instrument.
3. Be more creative.
4. Make my own sushi.
5. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people.

Things I’ll Most Likely Actually Do in the New Year:
1. Netflix.
2. Fish tacos.
3. Funny cat videos on YouTube.

I guess the three lists show a trend… that I don’t like to resolve to do things I’m simply not interested in, and that sometimes I feel I’ve accomplished NOTHING, that I’ve wasted yet another year not doing what I want, doing more working than playing, more frowning than smiling, more scrolling than learning, more spending than saving, blah blah blah. But, when I truly look back over 2015 as a whole, I see it was not a waste at all. Not a minute. Indeed, 2015 was marked by unprecedented newness and adventure, for both Brandy and for me. She and I both traveled to new destinations — she to Alaska and Oregon, and I to several national parks as far west as Yosemite. We also started an awards program called Harrisonburg Action Figures and presented the first one back in September. We were interviewed for a podcast — another totally new experience — by Kai Degner (Hello Harrisonburg), and because of that experience, we offered our first I Love My Burg prize to listeners who shared that podcast– a ride along with us, wherever he or she wanted to go, our treat! We covered the opening of two new breweries and a restaurant (Pale Fire, Wolfe Street, and Jalapeño), we attended Megan Tiller’s first ever pop up show featuring Bradford Lee Folk, and we finally tried some lavender ice cream. I’m teaching a class I’ve never taught in my seventeen years of teaching, and Brandy documented nearly twenty hikes all over Virginia and the US in her Took a Hike, Took a Camera series. Our lives are full of new things, not necessarily previously written down on a list of resolutions, but things that arise organically because we’re friends. So I think my “list” this year will simply be this: Continue doing new stuff.

This post is about a whole night of new things! Our ride along winner, Sharon Skates, wanted to try out Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Wolfe Street Brewing. The brewery is located on Wolfe Street (duh) between Liberty and 42 and adjoins the Rock’n Wolfe Food Truck Park, which is super handy. The building was, at one time long ago, a chicken slaughterhouse, then a mechanic’s shop, and then it sat empty for a bit before the owner of the property decided to convert it to a brewery. Inside it’s a cozy space. The dropped ceiling directly over the bar holds Wolfe St. growlers re-purposed as lights. A split-level seating area leads to a homey and sizable yard out back. On the left side of the space, nine thousand pounds of malted grain in neatly stacked sacks is all that separates the general public from the brewing area. The entire brewery is cloaked in gorgeous woodwork by Benevolent Design, lending a Scandinavian cabin feel to the whole place.

burgIMG_7098 burgIMG_7105burgIMG_8258 burgIMG_8261We sampled four beers that evening. The Winter Lager is their seasonal brew, and Hop Pocket has a crisp, piney flavor. The Scotch Ale is a full-bodied, smokey beer, and the Nut Quacker is spicy and refreshing.

burgIMG_8264 burgIMG_8281Our next stop was the grand re-opening of The Mark-It in its new location at 125 West Water Street, right in front of the wooden bridge. You might be surprised to know that the business has been around for about 20 years — starting as a little kiosk in the mall, moving to several locations, and finally being operated by its current owners, Susie Diehl and Jeff Guinn. The walls of the store are filled with the work they’ve done over the years, for people and companies ranging from the Super Gr8 Film Festival and Pale Fire Brewing to Uncle Bengine and the Restraining Orders. The store looks great, the location is awesome, and we wish them happiness and prosperity in their new location!

burgIMG_7122 burgIMG_7125 burgIMG_7128 burgIMG_7132 burgIMG_7136 burgIMG_7144 burgIMG_7149Brandy and I had been to Food Bar Food several times, but for Sharon it was a new experience and we were so happy to take her there. Seriously. The food is absolutely exquisite, and the prices are so reasonable. Plus the bloody Mary menu — sheesh! I might have to update my resolutions to include “try every singe item on the Food Bar Food menu.” For now, I ordered the haddock burger with a fried egg on top (omg, I’m drooling as I type that); Sharon got the duck leg, and Brandy got the Thai curry noodles. We talked about all sorts of girly topics that I can’t really share here, but we did discover something we have in common: we’re all old enough to know what a “pager number” is. If you don’t, you could always add “learn about obsolete technology” to your list of resolutions.

burgIMG_7152 burgIMG_7163It’s a new year in our beautiful city and there’s so much to look forward to. This city is FILLED with people who “do new stuff” all the time, and that’s why Harrisonburg is so rich in art and music, gourmet food and top notch beer, unique shops and excellent, efficient service. So, thanks for helping me keep my resolution, Friendly City. I couldn’t do it without you.

If you’re looking for something new to do this year, here are the highlights of our 2015:
Hot Ticket: Jalapeño Southwest Grill
All In: unJURIED Exhibition
Freezer Burn: Pale Fire Brewing
Take Your Pick: Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys
Follow Your Hearts: Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts
Here’s the Deal: Harrisonburg Pokemon League
Tap Dance: Brothers Craft Brewing Music Festival
Grass Roots: Our Community Place Annual Lawn Jam
Cold Off the Press: Old Hill Hard Cider
Field Day: White Oak Lavender Farm
Full Alert: Edible Fest
Be In the Running: VA Momentum
Royal Treatment: 2015 Progressive Party

burgIMG_7166Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

art seen: 2015 progressive party.

The rest of the shots from the Arts Council’s 2015 Progressive Party. What fun!!

burgProgressiveWEB02 burgProgressiveWEB05 burgProgressiveWEB08 burgProgressiveWEB12 burgProgressiveWEB14 burgProgressiveWEB21 burgProgressiveWEB26 burgProgressiveWEB27 burgProgressiveWEB32-2 burgProgressiveWEB64 burgProgressiveWEB69 burgProgressiveWEB79Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

royal treatment: 2015 progressive party.

burgProgressiveWEB01An hour before the event, I finished mowing the lawn for what I PRAY is the last time this year. Twenty miles away, Brandy was likely folding something, or mopping something, or editing something. Yet somehow, without the help of mice, bluebirds, or a magic wand, we managed to slink into our fancy duds, drape our skin in jewels, and apply a fine sheen of lip gloss in anticipation of a fairy tale evening — the Arts Council’s Annual Progressive Party! The purpose of the Progressive Party is simple — to celebrate the arts and raise funds so the Council can continue to provide art opportunities to the Harrisonburg community through Court Square TheaterAdvancing the Arts GrantsFirst Fridays Downtown, Smith House Gallery exhibitions, and community-based collaborations.

This year’s theme (Your Artistic Adventure: the Progressive Party with a Twist) sent guests on a two-destination journey: the dazzling home of Dan Newberry for the event launch party, and then one of seven host homes for more merrymaking.

burgProgressiveWEB31At Dan’s, we all converged to hear the music of Kelly May Brown, meet the evening’s featured artists, enjoy beverages from Pale Fire Brewing and Vintage Wines, and indulge in appetizers provided by A Little Something Special. Of particular note were the jelly “flight” and the butter “flight” — assortments of both spreads to be sampled on bread and crackers. One even tasted like bacon. Who knew this was a thing?

burgProgressiveWEB41 burgProgressiveWEB04 burgProgressiveWEB28burgProgressiveWEB47We Cinderellas were also excited about the raffle drawing for a diamond from James McHone and custom setting from Hugo Kohl. After a lovely cocktail hour on luxurious property, everyone loaded up in their chariots and proceeded to one of the seven host homes, each of which had live music and the work of a featured artist. Brandy and I got the royal treatment when we were permitted to go to TWO homes! We ate like Queens!

We were so excited when we arrived at our first home, owned by the charming Randy Harman, to see our smiling friend, Praserth Saesow of Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, who had prepared this incredible feast. Floral decorations by Teri Dean of The Wishing Well accentuated the beautiful art work of Wendy Lam. Live music by Moon (based in Staunton) floated toward the vaulted ceilings and filled the space, while conversations flourished.

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4385 burgProgressiveWEB58burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4371 burgProgressiveWEB62 ProgressiveWEB56-2burgProgressiveWEB57 burgProgressiveWEB63With one eye on the clock, we wolfed down a second plate of Praserth’s food and headed to our next, and final, destination: the home of Rob and Peggy McKearney, where we were completely spoiled with beef and pork tenderloin, salmon, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. At one point, Brandy was double fisting with macaroons. Erin Murray’s vivid and too-real-to-be-real paintings spoke to us all, and Chad Hanger crooned from the living room. I swear, his voice is somehow better every time I hear him. All of it at that house — so rich and alive!

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4403 burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4423 burgProgressiveWEB68 burgProgressiveWEB73 burgProgressiveWEB74 burgProgressiveWEB82burgProgressiveWEB71Before we knew it, it was time to click our heels and get home before our babysitters turned into pumpkins (there might be a mix-up in there). And so we dashed out into the night, while the music and laughter receded in the rearview mirror.

We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed this enchanted evening. Everyone involved loves and actively supports the arts in our community, demonstrated by their selfless gifts of time, hospitality, talent, and dollars that will allow for continued growth of the Council’s initiatives. After all, beautiful things must be constantly sown and tended. Art, and the proliferation of it, takes diligence and commitment.

Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.