street smarts: on the road collaborative.

burgIMG_1076If Brandy and I could swing it, we’d give a Harrisonburg Action Figures™ award every month. Every week, even. Because the Burg just has that many awesome people going out of their way to improve life in our community. We’ve had an easy time compiling a list of worthy recipients; what’s been hard is deciding who’s next.

Ultimately we did choose; we hired an artist to make the one-of-a-kind trophy; we approached local businesses to donate prizes; we created an attractive certificate; we prepared a speech; we picked up balloons and party blowers and party hats; and we crashed a Thursday night board meeting at The Hub to surprise Brent Holsinger, founder of On the Road Collaborative!

burgActionFigure_Brent_IMG_0669On the Road Collaborative started (sort of) with a program Brent created called Beyond the Bell. It provided extra help and all kinds of enrichment programs to city kids after school for three years. But then the grant ran out and Brent had to put his thinking cap on. He didn’t want to discontinue the program and leave all those kids in the lurch. So he converted the whole thing to a non-profit which he named On the Road in tribute to the late Rita Pierson, a lifelong educator who believed “every kid needs a champion.” Indeed, and every kid deserves one, too. If you’ve ever had to do any kind of fundraising, you know what a roller coaster it is. I groan in agony every time my own kids come home with that Yankee Candle or designer wrapping paper catalog. Imagine that process times 1000. Asking people for money is hard. But Brent did what he had to do to save his program and continue to serve our city’s youth.

burgActionFigure_Brent_IMG_0664 burgActionFigure_Brent_IMG_0672 burgActionFigure_Brent_IMG_0667We marched into The Hub carrying balloons and tooting on party blowers! We handed out party hats to all the board members, who must’ve wondered who the heck we were, and I read a letter to Brent from all of us, thanking him for his courage, caring, compassion, and most of all, his refusal to give up. At the top I scrawled a “+2” and a smiley face in honor of Brent’s hero, Rita Pierson. Here’s the speech:

Brent,
We see you. We see what you’ve been doing. We see the change you’re making. We see the role model you’re being. We see the example you’re setting. And today, we want to thank you for it.

Beyond the Bell was a beautiful initiative that helped a thousand kids get closer to their God-given potential. They performed, they created, they raised money, they cooked, they composed. But most of all, kids who maybe didn’t have a voice elsewhere were suddenly handed a megaphone. You listened.

When that bell rang for the last time, and with no grant to keep the program afloat, you adjusted course. There were more kids to serve; your work wasn’t done. The money was just another obstacle to be overcome. You scrimped and saved, you pitched and prayed, you maybe even begged and buttered up. You buckled down. And now look at what you have created!

On The Road. A program for the kids on the fringe. You understand that starting lines and finish lines aren’t the same for all kids. You understand that kids carry all sorts of problems that aren’t always their fault, and even if they are, you treat those kids with respect and help them get back on the road.

If life is a road and they’re on it, you’re steering. You’re steering because you understand that not everyone has a finely tuned luxury bike. Some bikes have bent spokes. Some have sketchy brakes. Some have a chain that won’t stay on. Heck, some are just lucky to have two wheels. So you sit up front, steering, traversing steep hills and shadowy valleys, doing the hard pedaling while your youngsters practice behind you. You teach them to slow down for curves, to watch out for potholes, train tracks, and miniscule gravel. You teach them to be focused and careful during storms, and to use their tools to fix up their breakdowns. 

One day, all of your students will say, “Hey, can I drive?”
And you’ll ask, “Are you ready?”
And they’ll say, “I’ve been riding with you all this time. I think I know what to do.”
You’ll say, “Well, if you mess up, I’m right here.” And they’ll ride on down the road.

What’s down the road for you… is a day when your students come back as happy, fulfilled, socially conscious adults and thank you for what you’ve done for them. What’s down the road for you are scientists and doctors and teachers and community leaders whom you helped create. What’s down the road for you is not just a hope that they’ll be okay, but a knowledge that they’re thriving.

Brent, thank you for being a tether from the margin. Thank you for giving Harrisonburg students a way back to the circle to which we all want to belong. And for giving them the chance to be A PART of something, instead of standing APART. Thank you for being a Harrisonburg Action Figure™.

We were thrilled to hand him a gorgeous trophy made by our own Elwood Madison and sponsored by Jacktown, and an unbelievable bag of prizes from Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, Larkin Arts, Brothers Craft Brewing, and Lucas Roasting Company. A big ol’ community Thank You!

burgIMG_0648 burgActionFigure_Brent_IMG_0684Harrisonburg 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. TODAY, Pure Eats is hosting Burgers With Benefits to support On the Road! You’re sure to see Brent there!  When you see him, give him a hug or a high five. We can never repay all the hugs and high fives he’s given Harrisonburg kids.

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.

 

beyond imagination: look what they’ve dreamed up now!

burgIMG_9045We’ve covered Beyond Restaurant and Lounge THIRTEEN TIMES on this blog, more (I think) than any other place. But ding dang it, they keep doing new and amazing things that cannot be ignored.

The latest? The rollout of their new Vietnamese menu. Praserth invited us one day to sample and photograph several of the new items. To prepare for the occasion, I skipped breakfast entirely.

Once there, we learned from Praserth that the new menu was designed by their new chef, who moved to the US to be with her daughter in San Diego, but, not liking the climate there, moved here instead. As you’ll soon see, this was a lucky break for the Burg. Then the food began to arrive. Many of the dishes seem to be unified by a few key ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. The stark beauty of those soft colors on the white plates made me smile.

Here are the new additions! If you’re reading this in public, mind your drooling.

CRISPY PORK & SHRIMP SPRING ROLLS. pork, shrimp, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage.

CRISPY PORK & SHRIMP SPRING ROLLS.
pork, shrimp, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage.

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CHAR SIU PORK TENDERLOIN. pork tenderloin with jasmine rice, tomato, cucumber, cilantro

CHAR SIU PORK TENDERLOIN.
pork tenderloin with jasmine rice, tomato, cucumber, cilantro.

MARINATED GRILLED PORK (OR CHICKEN). grilled pork or chicken with carrots, tomato, cucumbers, jasmine rice, and clear sauce.

MARINATED GRILLED PORK (OR CHICKEN).
grilled pork or chicken with carrots, tomato, cucumbers, jasmine rice, and clear sauce.

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SOUP BOWLS. Rice noodles and beef, with basil, jalapeños, lime, and bean sprouts served on the side.

SOUP BOWLS.
Rice noodles and beef, with basil, jalapeños, lime, and bean sprouts served on the side.

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RICE PAPER ROLLS WITH SHRIMP AND PORK. served with peanut sauce.

RICE PAPER ROLLS WITH SHRIMP AND PORK.
served with peanut sauce.

burgIMG_9035burgIMG_9033burgIMG_9054The Vietnamese Menu is available now, so get in there and try it out!

Here are some other posts about Beyond Restaurant and Lounge:
Riven Rock Park
MacRoCK 2013
Wine Festival
Sushi & the City
Brandy’s Birthday

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.

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.

speech1

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.