eat like a burg: downtown dinner party.

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For fifteen years, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance has been working to restore vitality to our history-rich downtown and turn it into the economic and social center it used to be. Millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours later, Harrisonburg residents and visitors can enjoy living, working, playing, eating, shopping, and beer-ing in buildings and streets that were largely empty when I first moved here 25 years ago.

A Great American Main Street Award recipient, Harrisonburg can show other localities a thing or two about challenging suburbia and its glut of corporate-owned chain businesses and getting money back in the local coffers.

One way HDR has paid for all these improvements is through fundraisers. To be honest, that word — fundraiser — makes me cringe a bit. No one likes to ask others for money. No one likes being asked. HDR has a knack for raising money from generous folks who also get something great in return at events like Valley Fourth, the Friendly City Fortune, Skeleton Fest, Rocktown Beer and Music Festival, Renaissance Night, and more. Brandy and I got to attend the newest event — the Downtown Dinner Party — and it did not disappoint. Even the Turner Pavilion put on its fancy duds — long elegant drapes, plants and floral arrangements (from Fine Earth Landscaping and The Wishing Well), and string after whimsical string of twinkle lights. I heard many people refer to the evening as “enchanted” and “fairytale” and “magical.” Yes, the end result might have been magical. But the months of organizing this event involved no wands or potions — just innovation, grit, and sheer will.

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It started as a crazy idea, pitched to HDR by Jen Sodikoff and Kirsten Moore of Sub Rosa Supper Club. If you’re not familiar with Sub Rosa, it’s a secret supper club that (roughly once a month) hosts fantastic gourmet dinner parties for 24 people. Guests pay a flat fee, find out only the day before where the dinner party will be, and have no idea who else will be there until they arrive. Then they gobble up a five- to seven-course upscale meal, washed down with cocktails and wine and coffee. Bellies are filled, friendships are formed, and a professional photographer captures it all. Got it? Now multiply what I just described by twelve. (And a half.)

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Yep. Kirsten and Jen, over the course of several months, recruited and met with fifteen local restaurants to coordinate dinner for 300 people. Kirsten, you may or may not know, is behind The Hub Coworking space which won the Virginia Main Street Best Business award a couple years ago. Before that she owned and operated the food tour business Rocktown Bites and catering outfit Taste. Jen’s immense management, marketing, and event planning experience (she’s currently the Revenue and Marketing Manager at the brand new Hotel Madison) and hardcore can’t-NOT-do work ethic made this new endeavor a deliciously accomplishable challenge for them both.

Okay, let’s get to the food because GOOD GAWD I want to relive it!

Some of the restaurants represented that evening are new to Harrisonburg. Urgie’s Cheesesteaks, who have basically taken over Harrisonburg’s cheesesteak game, served up their authentic Philly Cheesesteaks with onions, peppers, mushrooms, cherry peppers, pepperoni, Griffin’s hot sauce, American cheese, provolone cheese, and — spoiler alert — Cheez Whiz. Hotel Madison chefs Michael Collins and Brian Bogan offered smoked + sous vide pork belly, pickled foraged ramps, with a damson plum gastrique, charred ramp bbq, and popped sorghum berries. Is your mouth watering yet?

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Chef Dilli Dangi of Taj of India brought warmth and comfort with his Chicken Malabar — chicken with coconut cream, Indian spices, onion, and garlic, served with rice and a clay oven-baked garlic naan. If you haven’t had their lunch buffet yet, gimme a call and I’ll join you. And new to Harrisonburg’s bakery scene is Bittersweet Bakery. Pastry Chefs Erica Ray and Alicia Barger presented a beautiful and delicious Ginger Blue-Barb, a ginger cremeux with blue-barb compote, white chocolate and a blueberry crunch. And Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn was not going to miss this party! They brought their Cheddar Pretzel Ale, Polar Pop, and Afterburner varieties, made with non-GMO kernels from Green Acres Farm in Dayton. Whoever said you shouldn’t snack before, or through, dinner obviously hasn’t tried Shirley’s.

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It was fun to see whether Harrisonburg’s “old dogs” had any new tricks. Turns out they did! Matthew Clancy and William Bleeker of Clementine/Ruby’s Arcade showed up with an impressive five-spice beef brisket with shiitake mushroom slaw, wasabi aioli (I mean, daaaaang), sticky rice, chili gastrique, and shaved nori, served with a frisee, citrus, and endive salad with toasted almonds and goat cheese. Somehow, all these things worked together in an exceptionally delicious way. I ran into Kevin Gibson at that table and I literally saw him drool. Straight out of his mouth. Bella Luna’s chef Jacoby Dinges pulled out a much simpler but equally delicious spiced lamb hand pie that was the crispiest, butteriest thing ever, filled with succulent spiced lamb, currants, spinach, and feta.

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It was great to see the Friendly City Food Co-op in the house — Melissa Lapp prepared a light and refreshing radish and quinoa salad with mint, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese. In addition to usual grocery store items (which, by the way, come from more than 150 local vendors), FCFC offers bulk items like dry beans and spices AND a fantastic deli and hot bar where you can get a surprisingly fresh and delicious lunch.

When I saw Thom Metroka of The Artful Dodger serving up artisanal French toast, I was first a little surprised since this was a “dinner” party… but good grief, how many of us have been at the Dodger late enough that it was practically time for breakfast?? So it made sense. And it was absolutely dinner-worthy: fresh hearth bread with a fruit compote, whiskey maple syrup, whipped cream, and nuts. On a side note, the hearth bread came from Bella Luna. I love to see these supportive collaborations among local restaurants.

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Chef Cameron Grant of Union Station Restaurant & Bar brought his Louisiana roots to the dinner party with his alligator sauce piquant containing alligator tale and smoked andouille sausage, highlighted by tomatoes, green pepper, onion, and celery, and served over rice, a perfect warm-up when the sun was getting lower and the wind was growing cooler. Old dog Jacktown (Billy Jack’s/Jack Brown’s) REALLY stepped out of its usual game with Chef Mike Sabin’s Jacktown Poke, a beautiful and flavorful dish featuring Hawaiian big eye tuna, macadamia nuts, hijiki, avocado, shoyu, and sesame oil. Not sure they’ll add this dish on their regular menu, but I predict it would be a big hit. Maybe they can make it an occasional special and Aaron can wear his Captain Stubing outfit again.

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Even Harrisonburg classic Tim Richardson of Pulp Organic Acai Bowls and Smoothies whipped out a new sensation: the Vegan Acai Cheesecake, with a date and walnut crust (and perfect cheesecake-to-crust ratio, I might add), cashew and coconut milk, mixed berry sauce, and cacao nibs. Amanda Cannon, owner of one of my fave’s Food.Bar.Food, also brought dessert: an Irish chocolate milkshake make with Kline’s ice cream. Kline’s uses an old-school continuous freeze method that results in an exceptionally smooth and creamy product, perfect for blending into a milkshake. And Kline’s makes their ice cream every single morning so it’s as fresh as it can get. The “Irish” part of the milkshake was housemade Irish cream. All the cocktails being passed around that evening also came from Food.Bar.Food: a sparkling rose with roasted rhubarb-strawberry sorbet, a hibiscus ginger greyhound, and an Indochine soda mocktail with lemon, ginger, and Thai basil syrup.

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And rounding out the restaurant offerings was Chef Isaac Coles of Jimmy Madison’s Southern Kitchen and Whiskey Bar, serving his Hand-Pulled Mozz Caprese with whole wheat focaccia, perfectly sweet-tart rhubarb jam, Turner country ham, and basil grown right on the roof!

It’s worth noting that all of these restaurants and chefs make every effort to use ingredients that are local, fresh, and high quality. That night, we ate products from 18 local or very nearby producers, including Seven Hills Food, Golden Angels Apiary, Edgewood Farm, Wayside Produce, Season’s Bounty Farm, Green Haven Farm, Main Street Farmstead, Turner Ham House, Woods Edge Farm, Wade’s Mill, Autumn Olive Farms, Virginia Vinegar Works, Hickory Hill Farm, Radical Roots Farm, North Mountain Produce, Mt. Crawford Creamery, Virginia Distillery, and Green Acres Farm.

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Also in the house were Bluestone Vineyard serving a chardonnay, a vidal blanc, and their 2015 Market and Main, Old Hill Cider pouring Yesteryear, four Harrisonburg breweries (Pale Fire, Restless Moons, Brothers Craft Brewing, and Three Notch’d), and coffee drinks from Black Sheep, Broad Porch Coffee, and Shenandoah Joe. As I milled about, eating and drinking, it struck me that this is like, you know, having a friendly potluck dinner at your house. Everyone brings something to share.  Except in this case, all your friends are professional chefs with access to amazing ingredients, a wealth of knowledge and experience, and exceptional talent. Miles and miles and miles beyond a crockpot of meatballs, y’all.

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I was so distracted by all the tastes and smells surrounding me that I didn’t notice the cute little photo booth at first. The Rosy Co. mobile photo booth is a bright red 1968 Shasta Lo-Flyte travel trailer outfitted with a camera, a bunch of props, and a printer. All night long, guests of the dinner party enjoyed getting in that thing and being silly, sexy, or serious and were thrilled when they got to take their photos with them for free! You can rent this adorable vintage photo booth for your event, too. It’s great for outdoor events and the rental fee includes free prints for everyone. If your event is indoors, you can opt for the open air photo booth, which can accommodate larger groups than the trailer.

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The musical stylings of Ryan Clark provided the soundtrack for the evening. While everyone was eating, his original piano compositions filled the pavilion, punctuated by laughter and conversation and excitement.

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You know, this evening IS starting to sound magical, but we can’t forget the reasons for this event: to celebrate HDR’s 15th anniversary AND to raise funds for their continued efforts. It was time for the auction, hosted by auctioneer John Puffenbarger. Each announcement of an auction item brought hoots and cheers from the crowd — seriously some of the most unique auction items I’ve ever seen, and ALL LOCAL. Local items made by local people being used to raise money for local initiatives. It’s a new level of local. It’s, like, meta-local. Auction items included a beer-brewing session from the Friendly Fermenter where you get to leave with your own unique beer accented by a custom label created by Matt Leech. Pottery sensei Kassy Newman offered a 25-piece pottery set plus six private lessons for four people!! If you haven’t seen her work, you must.

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Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and Jacktown owner Aaron Ludwig donated a full-day fishing trip for two, dinner at Jacktown, and a free night in the all-new Jacktown loft. AND there’s beer in the fridge waiting for you. !!! How about a private Off the Eaten Path Ride and Dinner for ten? This bike-to-farm-to-table event was generously provided by Dusty Burchnall. Next up, an item from event co-planner Kirsten Moore, Amy Nesbit, and Taste catering — a day enjoying the Shenandoah River followed by a low country shrimp boil and gourmet s’mores around the firepit. Other outdoor items included a farm-to-table dinner for twelve at Second Mountain Farm accompanied by live music from The Walking Roots Band, or a 3-hour plein air painting lesson from local artist Erin Murray at Showalter’s Orchard, plus a French picnic provided by Heritage Bakery and Cafe.

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Not feeling so rugged? Hotel Madison and the Arts Council teamed up to donate a private 8-person dinner prepared by chefs Collins and Bogan at the Smith House Gallery with music by Mark Whetzel. The Romantic Downtown Getaway, provided by Hugo Kohl, Local Chop & Grill House, and the Joshua Wilton House, starts with AN ACTUAL PIECE OF JEWELRY! Put on your new sterling silver and blue sapphire bracelet and take your hungry self + 1 to the Chop House for a fantastic dinner, followed by a night at our beloved Joshua Wilton House. What a treat!! Rounding out the auction items was something that got all the Dukes in the crowd pumped up — twelve football tickets to the season opener in September, parking passes for tailgating, and Urgie’s Cheesesteaks catering just for you!

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After the auction, Ryan Clark stood up from the piano and put on his DJ-ing hat, spinning vinyl while we all spun on the dance floor. Sometimes, there are no words.

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Things were winding down. Everyone was feeling exhilarated and exhausted and joyful and a bit sweaty. Maybe Ryan felt we were all too hepped up to get any sleep that night, or maybe he thought we’d never leave if the music kept playing, or maybe he was just inspired by the energy in that moment, but his piano serenade at the end of the night was pretty magical. Everyone fell silent and just listened, buzzing with connection.

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What the HDR team and the Sub Rosa Supper Club were able to create using only locally- available resources was not “magical.” It was not lucky or superhuman or miraculous or even unbelievable. It was innovative. It was intelligent, creative, intentional, and inspired. It was meticulously planned and organized by a group of smart, dedicated individuals willing to commit to a large project and donate their time and goods and services to their community.

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Innovation is not new to Harrisonburg. I remember when Calhoun’s first opened. I thought, “Holy cow, we have a BEER FACTORY right downtown!” It made Harrisonburg unique. And since then, lots of folks have introduced all kinds of innovative ideas, products, services, and experiences. Like Harrisonburg’s new Pedicab. New shopping experiences at Agora Downtown Market and Bring Your Own. New art experiences like Art Lotto and the Super Gr8 Film Festival. New community initiatives like the Northend Greenway and improved bike lanes. I can buy beer at a movie theater, and there’s a living, breathing permaculture community on the north end of town, Vine & Fig. All because people had an idea and worked hard to make it happen.

If you missed the Downtown Dinner and would like to contribute to the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, you can do so in multiple ways. You can purchase Downtown Dollars — gift certificates that can be redeemed at many downtown locations. Keep your dollars local! You can also by a Friendly City Fortune raffle ticket — $100 buys you a chance at winning cash, a vehicle, a vacation, a shopping spree, and more! Or you can just click the big ol’ Donate button and give what you can!

The next HDR event is Valley Fourth. See y’all there!

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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.

 

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.

underground society: the friendly fermenter.

burgIMG_3222I remember my dad’s basement fondly. On one side, his workshop. I remember spinning the pin on the vise clamp — open, shut… open, shut. Sometimes with a Barbie perilously squished inside. Other times holding a piece of wood Daddy asked me to sand for probably no purpose at all. All his screwdrivers and hammers and wrenches hung on hooks, arranged neatly in rows by size, with every square inch of space on the pegboard used to its maximum potential. I remember little olive or pimento jars of nails and screws and pins and such. I remember a lot of sawdust.

On the other side of the basement sat a ping pong table and a sofa, flanked by boxes of Christmas decorations, outgrown clothing, National Geographic magazines, and mementos. Mom and Dad would hold neighborhood cocktail parties and inevitably, the party would migrate to the basement, as parties are wont to do. Unfortunately I was still little when we moved from that house and I never had the distinct pleasure of “drinking in Dad’s basement,” but I’m sure he threw back a few.

The Friendly Fermenter, Harrisonburg’s first brew-on-site brew shop and nanobrewery, feels like your dad’s basement and also a little like Cheers — you can see people’s feet through the window as they traipse down the stairs and into the taproom. A large L-shaped bar with TVs and big barrel tables, made by owner Shawn and his dad, fill the space, with shelves on the side holding the brewing supplies: beakers and tubes and thermometers, scales and long-ass spoons and all the ingredients you could need. Staring at all that science lab stuff was intimidating, but then I found out that The Friendly Fermenter offers a variety of classes and on-site brewing sessions to help demystify brewing for the average Joe or Jane. In the on-site brewing workshops, participants leave with five gallons of beer they’ve brewed themselves!

burgIMG_3253burgIMG_3225burgIMG_3224The Friendly Fermenter uses a one-barrel brewing system which produces 2 – 4 kegs at a time. For this reason, their selection changes frequently. On the day Brandy and I were there, they offered seven beers. We ordered a flight and tried them all. First was The McGary, an Irish Stout. It’s your classic smooth stout with an ample head and full flavor. I admit I was not looking forward to the next beer, the Fudge N Beer Choco PB Porter, simply because I’m not a fan of what I call “dessert beers.” They’re just so sweet. But this one possessed a decadent richness without excessive sweetness. It still tasted like beer. GOOD beer.

burgIMG_3237burgIMG_3239The Woof! Russet IPA was more malty than other IPAs if that’s the end of the IPA spectrum you enjoy, unlike the Waning Light APA which to me seemed hoppier. Both were fantastic.

Next was Lily of the Valley — an Irish blonde named after Shawn’s daughter, with a grassy, earthy flavor, followed by Brehfuss Blonde Coffee Stout. Yes, a blonde coffee stout. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the glass — how is this sunny light thing a STOUT?! I also couldn’t believe my nose — when I smelled it, it smelled like a hot steaming cup of coffee. Or as Brandy put it, “like a holiday kitchen.” That holiday feel might come from the homemade vanilla extract incorporated into this brew. Brehfuss inspired a short respite from the flight during which we theorized about how extracts are even made, and we imagined desperate 1950s housewives boozing it up on high-price vanilla extract when the cooking sherry was all gone. The flight rounded out with The Bee’s Knees Honey DIPA, a flavorful yet mild beer with a light sweetness, supple like a bee’s knees might be.

burgIMG_3259burgIMG_3241In addition to the classes and supplies and delicious beers, The Friendly Fermenter hosts live music pretty much every Friday and Saturday, including The Lamp Man on April 5, Damn Four on April 6, and Crop Circle Conspiracy on April 7. If you were planning on cleaning out your own basement that weekend, don’t bother. You’ll find all you need at this one.

The Friendly Fermenter is located at 20 S Mason St, Suite B10 (they share the building with Lafah Cafe) and are open Monday 5 – 7pm, Tuesday and Wednesday noon – 9pm, Thursday – Saturday noon – 11pm, and Sunday 12:30 – 8pm.

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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.

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!

Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers55Copy of burgSMALL_Progressive_brandy_somers46
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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.

sweet and simple: heritage bakery and cafe.

burgimg_8161You know how in old TV shows like I Love Lucy or The Brady Bunch, one character would visit her friend across the street after the kids left for school, and they’d sit together at the Formica kitchen counter and drink coffee? Maybe the hostess would whip out a coffee cake or some Danish and the two friends would leisurely laugh and chat as they sipped and nibbled, with several hours of sunny, blissful banality before them.

<sigh>
I want that.

Instead, my mornings start with the God-awful honk of my alarm clock, my hips and feet cracking as I rise from bed and stumble around in the dark, followed by a good eye rub and some Visine in front of the bathroom mirror. Next I wrench my beautiful children, dreaming of lollipops and unicorns, from their warm nests to start a new day of rushing around, yelling at my son about why he hasn’t put on pants yet and insisting to my daughter that her hair looks FINE. No one offers me Danish, and I usually don’t get a sip of coffee until I’m in the car.

But there was a morning recently where I got to visit a dear lady’s kitchen and sit with a sweet friend and languidly sip and nibble, and I felt for a moment like Betty Draper. It was freaking GRAND.

Heritage Bakery and Cafe, opened two years ago by Isabelle Treciak and her mom, sits on the first floor of the Hardesty Higgins House in downtown Harrisonburg, and the nostalgia in there is overpowered only by the smell of freshly brewed Lucas Coffee and all the goodies she’s baking that day. She admits that the pastries offered each day are dependent on her mood, but based on the selection we saw, I think it’s safe to say that Isabelle is generally happy and optimistic.

burgimg_8226burgimg_8167In her polished glass case that day was chocolate chip shortbread, hummingbird bread (banana, pineapple, and coconut), lemon ginger scones, King Kong cookies, chocolate walnut chubbies, and peanut butter chocolate sandies. She always has gluten-free options available, plus a wide selection of tea, juices, and soda, in case coffee’s not your thing. Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I ordered sticky buns, raspberry coconut bread, spinach quiche, and a spinach, egg, and Havarti cheese croissant, which we salivated over — patiently, for time was on our side that morning — until Brandy was done photographing it.

burgimg_8204burgimg_8195burgimg_8208burgimg_8200The snow lining the windows of the old building somehow made the sticky buns a little sweeter, the spinach quiche a little more decadent. Maybe because we were subconsciously dreaming of simpler times, we started talking about minimalism. A discussion of the book Everything That Remains and its documentary counterpart Minimalism (available on Netflix) led to a rant about fossil fuels and how America can’t seem to give up those extravagant habits for cleaner, more sustainable, simpler options. And this led to a slightly depressing chat about how we really could simplify our lives… find more time for rest and nature and family and love… spend less time working and running ourselves ragged.

burgimg_8169As if you need more reason to go in there, much awaits you at the Hardesty Higgins House (which my kids have called the “Higgy House” ever since they were tiny and couldn’t say it correctly). You can find hundreds of maps, brochures, and publications about the goings-on in the Shenandoah Valley, from Civil War museums and re-enactments, to the Artisan Trail, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail (yes, please), and the Shenandoah Spirits Trail. You can watch a video about the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley and learn about various battles, battlefields, and monuments. The Rocktown Gift Shoppe offers lots of Virginia-made products like candy, food, soy candles and handmade soaps, beautiful items from Blue Ridge Pottery, assorted Valley-related apparel, and those little hiking guides Brandy swears by.

And of course, the Valley Turnpike Museum has that adorable scale model display of Harrisonburg way back in the day, before internet scams, before cars and their noxious fumes, before cell phones, before even deadlines and exorbitant debt and bad credit ratings and Wall Street screw jobs. Right now, those simpler days feel like ancient relics enshrined in a tomb… days we’ll never return to.

But for now, you can visit Isabelle and enjoy the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee and a homemade pastry served on a pretty plate. Find simplicity where you can.

burgimg_8175Heritage Bakery and Cafe is open Monday – Saturday, 8:30 – 5pm, with a monthly Sunday afternoon tea.

See you out and about!

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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.

a hop and a skip: swover creek farms and brewery.

burgimg_7371I was excited enough about seeing a real life chainsaw artist and drinking some new beer. I totally didn’t anticipate the beauty of the drive.

If you leave my house in Timberville and head north on 42, you’ll drive over a high ridge — a narrow ribbon with rolling farmland falling away on both sides. The naked trees of winter are no longer a visual barrier to the golden mountains in the distance, and the wind howls around your car. Onward through Forestville, Getz Corner, and Hudson Crossroads, you’ll see centuries-old farmhouses, barns, and buildings that in the suburbs would translate into “dilapidated.” Here, though, in this rocky and imperfect terrain, they are rustic, if not downright beautiful. It’s like driving through the landscape of history itself. There is something comforting about traveling over that ancient bedrock, so heavy, solid, and rooted to the earth.

When you get to Conicville, you’re close. Swover Creek Farms and Brewery, officially located in Edinburg, feels like a combination of everything outdoorsy: a little bit summer camp, a little bit ski lodge, a little bit cabin on the river, a little bit grandpa’s farm. Plus a chainsaw artist. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Lynn and Dave St. Clair started Swover Creek Farms in 1998. In 2011, the farm began producing sausages, and little by little, yet with consistent progress, beer came along — starting with the planting of hops in 2013, the nano-brewery in the old tractor garage in 2014, and then in 2015 moving into the current brewery building with a 3.5 barrel brew system. In fact, up until 2014, the land where the brewery now sits was mostly land and cows.

burgimg_7458When you arrive, you might think you’re at someone’s private residence, because that’s how it looks. You’ll see a wide front porch with colorful Adirondack chairs, a patio with a fire pit, and some dogs and kids running around in the yard. Yep, you’re welcome to bring your dogs and your children. The owners of the place are quite friendly and love company: on Fridays they host Dart Night (7pm) and the third Thursday of the month is Trivia Night (7pm).

Just inside the front door is the taproom. A long bar runs along the back wall, and comfortable seating (and a couple TVs) fill the rest of the warm and cozy (yes, fireplace) space. The large room to the right is called the “Loafing Shed.” It’s an enclosed and heated space where the farm’s cows used to hang out. This room boasts seating for nearly 50 guests, a little play area for the kiddos, two dart boards, and an 11-foot TV screen! You can access the patio from this room, and beyond the patio is a nice grassy area.

burgimg_7404So, the beer and the menu. On tap they usually have six or eight beers, like the Dirty Blonde, the Vanilla Sour Wheat, or the Nitro Oatmeal Porter. You can order a flight, fill your growler, or even join their Farmer in the Ale club and get your very own, one-of-a-kind mug crafted by SENK Pottery. Looking around the place, you might not realize how close to Interstate 81 it is. But the brewery enjoys consistent patronage from locals and from travelers passing through. We’ve all had that point on a long trip where you say, “GAHD I NEED A DANG BEER.” Plus, there are three wineries within just a few miles, which makes for a nice little tour. This is one reason why Swover Creek tries to keep a Belgian on tap — Belgians appeal to wine drinkers. Since business at the brewery is hopping, there are no plans for distribution. For now, they’re happy to be a beer destination. However, they will start bottling soon (12 and 22oz) for purchase at the brewery. Also on tap for 2017 is a non-alcoholic beer, a gluten-free beer, and “Firkin Friday,” when they’ll brew a special firkin (11 gallon cask).

burgimg_7382In the Swover Creek Farm Store and Kitchen (on the other side of their parking lot), you can buy many many many wonderful items. Made-on-site quiche using local duck eggs, jams, pretzels, mustard. About a dozen kinds of smoked sausage, produced on site. Black raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and blueberries. Smoked chicken salad and sweet zucchini relish. And you can even pick your own hops in their hop yard (but this requires a reservation, so call first!).

You can order food in the brewery: the Farm Store and Kitchen makes it and then delivers it to the brewery. They offer about ten different brick-oven pizzas (and they make the dough on site), about a dozen smoked sausage products served on homemade pretzel rolls (such as andouille, chorizo, bratwurst, kielbasa, and even apple maple), plus pepperoni rolls, baked jalapeño poppers, chipotle cheese dip, beer cheese, and Firefly Hot Sauces, made at nearby Passage Creek Farm.

There is a story in here… I know it.

So on this particular day, Brandy and I drove on out to Swover Creek Brewery for the purpose of (drinking beer and) seeing a chainsaw portrait artist doing live portraits on the patio. His name is Glen Richardson, and it was a sight to behold. His subject sat in a chair with a barber cape around his neck while Glen carved (WITH A CHAIN SAW) the man’s profile into a slab of tree. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to complete the carving, and then Glen charred the portrait with a propane torch, and he let the subject help with that part, too. He advised the subject to lightly sand the portrait once it cooled down. It was amazing.

burgimg_7387burgimg_7386burgimg_7420burgimg_7427burgimg_7426burgimg_7425burgimg_7422burgimg_7438At Glen’s website called Sawaddict, you’ll see photos of the many characters he creates, such as Fraidy Dance and Slug Boy. He’s done series like “Rabbit Folk” and “Wackadoodles,” and he’s created lawn furniture based on the phrases “putting your butt in danger” or “bite my ass.” You can follow Glen on Facebook to keep up with his events or to reach out if you’re interested in a carving.

burgimg_7372Once the sun went down, Glen’s carving demonstration ended and we all piled into the Loafing Shed for another beer, some pizza, and an awesome chorizo/pretzel sandwich. The brewery has a friendly, welcoming, relaxed vibe that’ll leave you warm and fuzzy. It’s open Thursday from 4 –  8pm, Friday and Saturday from noon – 8pm, and Sunday from noon – 7pm. Go try ’em out — it’s just a hop and a skip, and well worth the journey.

burgimg_7460Copyright © 2012-17 · 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.

home stretch: bend and brews at three notch’d.

burgIMG_3039Waaaaay back in like… April… Brandy and I went to Bend & Brews together at Three Notch’d. We loved it. I mean, you get an hour of yoga led by a fully trained and competent instructor, a delicious craft beer, a donut provided by Pure Eats, and coffee from Shenandoah Joe. There are some days I would gladly shell out a couple thousand bucks for that cure-all combination, but there’s no need. All you gotta bring is your yoga mat and ten dollars.

So, last April came and went, and unfortunately, I sat on this post too long. Summer arrived, and the popular hour-long + craft beer event went on hiatus. But guess what? Bend & Brews is BACK! Yep! This Saturday, September 3, Bend & Brews kicks off its fall season.

Here are step-by-step instructions for getting back into the swing:

1. Arrive a little early. There’s quite a bit of space, but it’s not infinite.

burgIMG_30302. Sign the waiver form. These are located at the bar.
3. Enjoy some coffee and mingle while you wait for class to start.

burgIMG_30254. Bend.

burgIMG_30455. Breathe.

burgIMG_30416. Relax.

burgIMG_30517. Breathe again.

burgIMG_30538. Grab a beer and a donut, have a seat, and stay a while!

burgIMG_3028 burgIMG_3061 burgIMG_3064 burgIMG_30949. Thank your lovely instructor :)  Thank you, Casye!

burgIMG_3074 burgIMG_307810. REPEAT. We’ll meet ya there!

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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.

laughing matters: cards against humanity at pale fire brewing.

burgIMG_0871Things That Make Me Laugh Until I’m Snorting and Wiping Mascara Off My Chin
1. The episode of Friends where Ross wears leather pants
2. “Celebrity Jeopardy” with Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond on Saturday Night Live
3. The entire Cake Wrecks web site
4. Any instance of a person (or animal) falling down, even if it’s my own child
5. And now, Cards Against Humanity at Pale Fire Brewing!

We all love to laugh. Whether you’re hanging out with goofy little kids (nature’s clowns, as my mom would say), or watching stand-up on Comedy Central, or bingeing on You Tube blooper videos, it just feels good to come home from a long day at work and unwind with humor. In fact, just this week, my first week back at school, one of my colleagues gave a speech of sorts that had us all howling with laughter one minute and stifling tears the next… his words were inspiring and moving, laced with humor and raw sentiment. And I left that meeting feeling relaxed and renewed and emotionally massaged. Sometimes we forget — we NEED to laugh, every single day. There’s science behind this. You probably know that exercise causes your brain to release endorphins (endogenous morphine) which are actually your body’s naturally occurring pain relievers. But guess what? Laughing does the same thing! Laughter also helps you learn new skills or material, deepens social bonds, and boosts your immune system. So I think it’s time to add laughter to your wellness routine, right up there with exercise, drinking water, and all that jazz. Our Friendly City has lots of ways to help you achieve that goal, and you can start on Monday nights at Pale Fire Brewing.

burgIMG_0884Brandy and I were so excited when the Cards Against Humanity host (and owner of Midtowne Market and Midtowne Bottle Shop) Lauren Penrod asked us to serve as judges last Monday. Having never played the game before, I looked forward to seeing how it worked. I really wasn’t prepared for how funny it would be. If I’d known, I would’ve dug out the waterproof mascara and brought some tissues.

We arrived and got the scoop from Lauren: The game is like Apples to Apples, but for adults. And I mean, ADULTS. If it were a movie, it would be rated R. For that reason, you might want to consider not bringing impressionable youngsters. And for that same reason, I simply can’t include all the answers we judged that night!

So. People who want to play arrive at Pale Fire by 8pm. You can arrive with a team, you can play solo, you can try to join a team after you arrive… there’s no limit to the number of teams or the number of people on a team. Easy peasy. Then you decide a team name. The teams we judged were called The Wookie Squad, Plain Old Scorcerers, Monday Night Book Club, Spiteful Lady in the Hat, and Last Call. And of course every time we said the name of that team, Jared had to yell from behind the bar, “It’s not actually last call!”, which was funny, too.

burgIMG_0867After you’ve established your team and name, you come get ten cards and a sticky note. You write your team name on the sticky note so we (the judges) know who gave which answer. Then Lauren reads a prompt and teams choose one card from the ten in their hand that they think is the best/most clever/dirtiest/funniest/most bizarre/etc. and turn it in to us. We select what we feel is the winning answer, then see who the team is that supplied it and announce the winner. This goes on for several prompts; then there’s a break, followed by a second round. At the very end, Lauren adds up the points and announces the winner. Lots of great prizes are awarded, including rounds of beers, gift cards, and the right to create your own card to be used in the next week’s competition!

burgIMG_0877 burgIMG_0874For example, Lauren read the prompt, “The healing process began when I joined a support group for victims of __________.” Teams filled in that blank with answers like “Shaquille O’Neal’s acting career,” “my ex-wife,” and “yeast” (incidentally, that card had a little fleck of dirt on it, and SOMEONE at the judge’s table asked if it was a hyphen. Bahahaha!). Here’s another one:

“Puberty is a time of change. You might notice hair growing in new places. You might develop an interest in _____________. This is normal.”

I must censor all the answers we received to this one, but let me just say that it involved poop in a bucket, hair removal, and “jobs” for everyone. Then there’s this one:

“Don’t worry, kid. It gets better. I’ve been living with ____________ for 20 years.”

We received “waiting till marriage,” “women’s suffrage,” “an inability to form meaningful relationships,” and “special musical guest, Cher.”

The music was playing, the beer was pouring, the whole room was laughing in what was like a huge communal improv exercise, and the three of us were pretty much LOSING IT every two seconds. Plus we were all trying to use different accents while reading all of it out loud, and at one point Lauren mixed up “sushi burps” and said “surshi boops” instead, and I just didn’t think I’d be able to breathe again.

burgIMG_0843 burgIMG_0836 burgIMG_0831Then things got real because there was a tie. That means a sudden death situation. The two tied teams came to the table, chose two answer cards, and had to quickly apply only one of them to the tie breaking prompt. In the end we had a winner: Monday Night Book Club!

burgIMG_0881 burgIMG_0883I can’t think of a better way to end a crappy Monday than to go laugh my butt off with some buddies at Pale Fire. Go check your calendars, move a couple things around, make other plans for your children, and go get a healthy dose of funny! See you there!

burgIMG_0858 burgIMG_0861Copyright © 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.

center fold: dj hyfi and the center.

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I retired from distance running not long following the birth of my son. After 20+ years of high mileage, my body finally started to rebel: my hips got wonky, I developed a bum knee, my hamstrings would tie themselves in knots over nothing…  even my feet are… well, they’re just disgusting. Even with all these reminders of my physical limitations, I still think of myself as some  25-year-old running phenom (ha), dive headlong into new exercise programs or physical challenges (such as carrying a few dozen 40-pound bags of stone up and down the hill in my backyard), and then find myself arrogantly surprised when I get tired, or my muscles (ha) start shaking, or I’m too sore to even lie down the next day.

Thank goodness for yoga. I mean it. One, it can be as challenging as you need it to be. If you’re an elite athlete and think everything’s too easy for you, there’s a yoga for you. If you’re a beginner who needs to work on balance and flexibility, there’s a yoga for you. Two, if you tend to be a stress ball all day and need to be emotionally untangled, there’s a yoga for you. Three, if you’re an old washed up athlete who struggles to do any kind of exercise, there’s a yoga for you.

And now, if you love yoga but also love electronic music, there’s a yoga for you! Yep. Brandy, Ella, and I, along with about twenty-five other folks, recently attended a 90-minute (!!!) yoga class with a DJ, the Friday Night Live: Cool Music, Groovy Yoga class AND happy hour at The Center.

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The DJ arranged his sound and light equipment at the front of the yoga studio; as we all filed in and placed our mats on the floor, I felt like I had a little subwoofer in my chest. I worried for a few minutes that the music would be too loud, but before long, the movements and the sound fused together in a way that connected all the senses. The music was so much a part of us and our movements that it seemed to both predict what we were doing and respond to it, simultaneously. I lost all track of time. It was a RAVE of relaxation, if you will.

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DJ Hyfi works as a “nomadic DJ, on the road, fusing fresh beats with vinyasa.” I admit, when I saw this event come across my newsfeed, I wondered how it would work and thought it sounded strange. How would I quiet my mind in a loud environment? I still don’t know the answer to that question, but having now experienced it, it seems completely natural. Yoga is rhythmic. Breathing is rhythmic. One’s heart beat is rhythmic. Why not give those things a rhythmic soundtrack?

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The session started with multiple sun salutations and warrior poses, followed by balance work. Suzanne McCahill Perrine’s instructions and cuing were, as always, impeccable. If I couldn’t see anyone to mimic his or her movements, her verbal descriptions saved me. If anyone needed help getting into a pose, she was right there. My favorite part was when the entire group formed a circle and held hands during Warrior III. I got to hold Ella’s hand and the hand of a complete stranger — what a beautiful thing! Another notable moment was how gooood everyone looks doing what I call the “pretty pose” (i.e., Half Lord of the Fishes pose) — all those whittled torsos and strong shoulders and piles of messy hair. During one of the inverted poses, I could see Brandy through my legs and Ella beyond that through Brandy’s legs, and it made me smile the way, even upside down, those two gals look so much alike.

Just when I thought I couldn’t hold any pose for even one more second, sweat was pooling in awkward places all over me, and every muscle fiber burned with constant exertion, Suzanne instructed us all to lie down. I closed my eyes and let myself be carried away by the throbbing music. I might have fallen asleep… I’m not really sure… but for several minutes I thought of absolutely nothing. When I opened my eyes, the lights were dancing all over the room, and I saw faces in the ceiling. First there was a lion. Then I saw a man with a beard, until the beard morphed into a baby, being held by its mother. To the left I saw a caricature of John Lennon, while a man and his cat sat over to the right. Brandy remarked that she had an out-of-clothing experience where she snapped out of her trance and thought she might be nakey… but then she checked and realized she did indeed still have pants on. We really did lose track of time… and space.

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After peeling ourselves off the floor, we quietly emerged into the lobby of Ice House Studios, where Suzanne had arranged a buffet catered by Food Bar Food and Pale Fire Brewing. Starving from our efforts in the last ninety minutes, we devoured the delicious snacks: falafel fritters with tatziki; tofu and shiitake mushroom croquettes with Thai caramel sauce; and black bean & goat cheese hummus with corn tortilla chips. For the next hour we enjoyed chatting about the class, the DJ, and our lives, making this workout as much emotional and spiritual as it was physical. I also got a chance to check out Ice House Studios: I admit, I had not set foot in there before tonight!

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The space houses both The Center and Breathe Pilates and Yoga. There are two yoga studios with mats, bolsters, blocks, and blankies. The Pilates room contains mirrors and ample equipment, while the Barre room offers mats and balls to its users. Large windows and soft lighting contrast the concrete columns and exposed block walls throughout the old factory. There’s also a terrace — you can make yourself a cup of tea in the lobby and enjoy it outside.

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Ice House Studios also hosts services provided by several other professionals: Four Seasons Harmony Massage Therapy and Healing Arts; Mary Straub Pargas Yoga Therapy and Holistic Coaching; Kate Miller’s “Be” Bodywork, Yoga, and Aromatherapy; Blue Heron Healing Arts owned by Grayson Pritchard; and Becky Bartells Massage Therapy.

And, the merchandise. You can find beautiful jewelry by Rhoda Miller of Rhodarts, Lily and Laura bracelets made by artisans in Nepal, colorful tote bags, essential oil kits, and candles. Body products, journals, mats, socks, and headbands. Icehouse, Breathe, and The Center shirts and other crucial apparel, just in case you arrived without something.

And if you’ve never really explored the Ice House in entirety, you can take a class or get a massage at Ice House Studios, grab a perk-up at Black Sheep Coffee, shop for clothing and jewelry at The Yellow Button and Hugo Kohl’s, eat dinner (or breakfast or lunch, for that matter) at Pure Eats, and then savor a beer at Pale Fire Brewing. Too bad you can’t just move in there. Oh wait, YOU CAN.

Ice House Studios are located on the second floor of the Ice House, which is located in downtown Harrisonburg on Liberty Street across from Turner Pavilion. Coming up on April 30, it’s the return of Detox Retox — an outdoor yoga class in the circular drive of Pale Fire Brewing! Click to see the classes offered at The Center and Breathe. See you there!
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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.

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.

thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 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.

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.

be in the running: va momentum.

burgIMG_2848When Brandy and I started this blog, it was simply a way to preserve our memories and share with anyone out there, who might be remotely interested, what it’s like for ordinary people living in the Burg. And it still is that, generally speaking. But our outings have become much more. We realized, at some point, we didn’t want to keep reporting on the same places and events over and over… so we became purposeful about our plans. It went from “Jesus-I-need-a-beer-meet-me-at-Jack-Brown’s” to “Wow! This sounds cool. Let’s go!” And so over the last three and a half years (nearly 1400 days!), we’ve lived much more fully and richly than we might have if no one had been watching.

In that time, we’ve learned that Harrisonburg has some awesome people doing phenomenal work. But more than that, they have a spirit, an energy… a super power that turns ideas into action. We’ve seen this power first hand. We’ve seen it pouring out of 32 taps at a beer festival. We’ve seen it riding a bicycle in a ridiculous costume. We’ve seen it pacing in the back of a theater in the 23rd hour of a 24-hour project. And it has inspired us to create an award for people who live in that spirit on a daily basis.

We thought we thought of it about a year ago, when, at some function, we said, “Man, this person deserves an award!” But Brandy corrected me when she showed me this, from one of our earliest blog posts published in May of 2012:

actionfigures2actionfigures3Maybe I planted a subconscious seed that day three years ago that eventually grew into something, or maybe I thought of it and then forgot, because I have a raging case of CRS (Can’t Remember Squat). Either way, it feels serendipitous. And so on Friday, September 25, Brandy and I presented our very first Harrisonburg Action Figures™ award to Kevin Gibson and Alan Maynard of VA Momentum. We lied to Kevin in order to hijack the mic, telling him we needed to make a short announcement, and then runners patiently waited in the rain for me to choke out a speech held with a quivering hand and pronounced with a cotton mouth.

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photo by Danielle Campbell

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kidstretch1

photo by Danielle Campbell

 

burgIMG_2857Fed up with their own unhealthy habits in college, Alan and Kevin decided to form VA Momentum as a way of sharing their new appreciation for wellness with their community. It started humbly with one race — the Valley 4th Run, where runners choose their distance and a charity to support — and it’s grown so much that Kevin ditched his job at JMU to pursue VA Momentum full time. Alan and Kevin’s wives, Kristin and Emma, have also worked their fingers to the bone to get the organization up and “running.” VA Momentum’s events, like the Diamond Dash, Pound the Peak, Valley Vines Twilight 5k, The Rocktown Turkey Trot, The Valley 4th Run, Brothers Craft Brewing Three-Miler, and Run, Sweat, and Beers, have raised more than $25,000 for local charities.

Their award consists of a sweet, one-of-a-kind trophy created by Harrisonburg artist Jeff Guinn and sponsored by Hello Harrisonburg Podcast and Beyond Restaurant and Lounge; gifts from Bella Luna, Midtowne Bottle Shop, and Court Square Theater; and an elegant certificate Brandy created.
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group1

photo by Danielle Campbell

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photo by Ben Fraits

Harrisonburg has not become what it is by accident or by luck. It’s because of hard work. A desire to improve the community. A brilliant idea hatched between friends over a couple of beers that ultimately turns into action. This award celebrates behind-the-scenes heroes – people who have gone way, way beyond human limits to build something great for this town. People who have sacrificed in uncountable ways, who have lost sleep, time, money, their social lives, and possibly their minds to bring their idea to this side of reality, where all of us can enjoy it. These are Harrisonburg’s Action Figures. We’ll be memorializing all of them on this page of our web site. When you see Kevin and Alan at their next event, thank them. And stay tuned for our next recipient, whom we’ll announce in January!

burgIMG_2850bsomeIMG_4014Copyright © 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.

full alert: edible fest.

burgIMG_0507Trying to schedule an outing usually goes like this:

Katie: We need to get out soon.
Brandy: Agreed. How about Tuesday?
Katie: No can do, Bree’s got a meet. What about Wednesday?
Brandy: I’ve got a photo shoot.
Katie: Okay. Friday?
Brandy: Blake’s got a band thing. How about next Monday?
Katie: I have a hair appointment.

Still, as you and the rest of our readers can see, we do manage to get out occasionally. And on a very rare occasion, we are able to attend an all-day event. When that happens, man – do we milk it for everything it’s worth!

So a few weeks ago Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I were fortunate enough to attend the Fourth Annual Edible Fest in Orange, Virginia. Driving from Harrisonburg, careening through Shenandoah National Park, traversing the curves and mountains of Greene County before crossing into Orange County, home of Montpelier and Barboursville and punctuated by corn fields and kudzu dinosaurs, provided ample and much-needed time to talk and catch up with each other, to breathe and simply sit – restricted by the seatbelt from doing anything at all but sitting side by side. There’s something beautifully restful about a drive.

Once there, we parked and took a shuttle just a couple blocks to the site, right on Main Street in downtown Orange. Presented by edible Blue Ridge Magazine, the Orange Downtown Alliance, and the AV Company, the day-long festival includes Chef Demos with food tastings, a huge open-air market, live music, food trucks, beer and wine, DIY seminars, and kids’ activities. The whole time we were there, we kept saying, “Harrisonburg could TOTALLY do this!” and we really hope that happens soooon!

burgIMG_0543burgIMG_0456Here’s how it was set up: On one end were two large tents with a closed-circuit TV, a microphone, and about 100 seats in each. These were for the Chef Demos, and the two tents took turns so that patrons wouldn’t miss half of the demonstrations. Running at staggered times in a third tent were DIY seminars on topics ranging from making Kombucha to cooking with mushrooms to beer brewing. The chefs included Dwayne Edwards from Keswick Hall; Jason Daniels from Vintage Restaurant at The Inn at Willow Grove; Curtis Shaver from Hamiltons’ First and Main; Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange; Ralph Brown from RBC Institute; Tucker Yoder from Eljogaha; Angelo Vangelopoulos from The Ivy Inn Restaurant; Pete Woods from Merrior and Rappahannock Oyster Co.; Ken Notari from Nude Fude; and Martha Stafford from Charlottesville Cooking School. The chefs’ demos lasted from 10:30am until 4:45pm, so if you wanted to, you could just scoot back and forth between those two tents and spend the entire day watching these incredibly talented chefs and sampling TONS of amazing food.

On the other end of the festival site was a covered dining area with plenty of tables and chairs and a bandstand for the three bands who played (Michael Coleman, John Kelly, and Erin Lunsford). Between the two ends (chef tents and dining area) were ZILLIONS of vendors of most anything you can imagine. Plus food trucks (nine of ’em!!) and a beer truck. I can’t remember all the beers offered, but Pale Fire was one of them, and I remained faithful!

burgIMG_0479And so finally getting to the story, here’s what we did:
First we saw Chef Dwayne Edwards and his assistant from Keswick Hall make a succulent watermelon salad with lavender, sea salt, chili flakes, goat cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, tangerine oil, oak barrel aged vinegar, fennel pollen, and basil. Mind you, I didn’t know what HALF those things were, at all, but this tattooed chef in his pinstriped apron narrated every step and it was quite educational. I learned a lot – a new way to chop up a watermelon (my way is pretty efficient, too, I must say, but his added a ninja element), a new way to choose a watermelon (I’ve been drumming on it like a bongo all this time, but apparently you should look for bumps on the “ground side” of the watermelon), and a crazy amount of information about all the different kinds of salt, and even the origin of the word “salary,” which appealed to the word-nerd in me.

burgIMG_0316 burgIMG_0328 burgIMG_0344 burgIMG_0354Next in Tent 2, Chef Tucker Yoder and his assistant Angelo were whipping up Sprouted Grain Salad with Seasonal Veggies and Duck Ham from a local farm. All the chefs used locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes, and Chef Yoder makes most all of his sauces and spreads from scratch – a nice nod to sustainability and craftsmanship that’s usually absent in chain restaurants – resulting in fresh and vibrant flavors.

burgIMG_0368 burgIMG_0372 burgIMG_0379Back in Tent 1, Chef Jason Daniels and his assistant Anthony put together a Pan Roasted Pork Loin (dear gaaaaahhhhd) with Yellow Squash Casserole, Baby Spinach, and Blueberry Salsa. That dish smelled SO good while it was cooking I could barely resist climbing onto the countertop. The casserole included sauteed yellow squash, olive oil, butter, scallions and onion, salt and pepper, sugar, flour, a whole bunch of cheese and heavy cream. While that baked, he made the salsa from red onion, jalapenos, blueberries, garlic, mint and cilantro, and simple syrup – all smushed by hand. The pork sizzled in its skillet in brine. Then it all went together in a happy little cup. Unbelievable.

burgIMG_0397After that demo, we ventured out into vendor-land. So many products. So many samples. So much gooooood. I couldn’t possible list them all, but we saw insect repellant soap by Eastham Farms, Bloody Mary mix (three varieties) by Back Pocket Provisions. Their “Bloody Bangkok” is a throat kicker! Hot Jelly Pot brought 72 flavors of jams and jellies, including their number one seller, Pineapple Pepper. There were Wakefield Peanuts and Hickory (not maple!) Syrups. Mushroom spawn kits. Barefoot Bucha and culinary herbs. Beautiful wooden and ceramic products from Madeira and Lifeware. Tea for all occasions from Fairweather Farm Tea with names like “What the Fxxx Happened,” “Chill the Fxxx Out,” and “Calm the Fxxx Down.” No, I’m not kidding. It was awesome. Coffee, cheese, wine, vinegar, honey, produce, meat, pies, all of it!

burgIMG_0408 burgIMG_0416 burgIMG_0432 burgIMG_0449burgIMG_0462 burgIMG_0467 burgIMG_0468We made it to the end of the marketplace and found the food trucks. We all found something refreshing and reviving and sat down together to enjoy the music. Kids who’d gotten a smoothie from Maui Wowi flashed blue smiles at each other, knowingly, like a secret handshake. Feeling rejuvenated, we decided to try to catch one more chef demo.

This time, it was Chef Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange and his Sweet Corn and Bacon. It was after 2pm. People had been there a while and were relaxed and jovial. You could feel the excitement; the tent seemed hotter. We all clapped when he pulled out the giant slab of bacon; we cheered when he said “butter”! His biggest piece of advice when cooking the meat was to “control the flame” at all times. Don’t let the pan get too hot; don’t lose control of that flame. So it was especially funny when his towel caught fire. And when he handed out the sample of that sweet corn and bacon, it was like Oprah’s Favorite Things: “YOU get bacon! And YOU get bacon! AND YOU GET BACON!” People went crazy! Lots of laughing and clapping and yum-ing – what an awesome day.

burgIMG_0511 burgIMG_0514 burgIMG_0522 burgIMG_0531burgIMG_0538All in all, this was a fantastic festival and something WE KNOW Harrisonburg could pull off. Who’s in?

burgIMG_0493 burgIMG_0494Copyright © 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.