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.

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.

burgIMG_2999I 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.

burgIMG_2933The 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.

burgIMG_2947DJ 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?

burgIMG_2952The 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.

burgIMG_2959After 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!

burgIMG_2925 burgIMG_2940burgIMG_2966 burgIMG_2978The 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.

burgIMG_2944Ice 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!
burgIMG_2949 burgIMG_2962burgIMG_3008Copyright © 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!!
12783821_686493941492926_4507401052391555101_o
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.

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.

 

we new it: ride along.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

best buds: white oak lavender farm.

More photos of our trip to White Oak Lavender Farm!

burgIMG_9277 burgIMG_9298 burgIMG_9312 burgIMG_9313 burgIMG_9343 burgIMG_9381 burgIMG_9406Copyright © 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.

field day: white oak lavender farm.

burgIMG_9254Driving along highway 276 south of Harrisonburg, you might not even notice it’s there. I didn’t, and I’ve driven that road innumerable times. But with a speed limit of 55 and a hypnotic and familiar landscape of corn fields, cow pastures, and rustic barns, that road has a way of inducing zoned-out daydreams. And so I don’t know, exactly, how many times I’ve driven by it. This is not to say I’d never heard of it – The White Oak Lavender Farm has been on my list of things to do for seemingly ever… I just never realized how close it is to my house.

Brandy, her sister Marcy, I, and an excited gaggle of six children spent a leisurely afternoon there not long ago. As our friendly and patient guide told us, White Oak Lavender Farm is “all about R&R.” We first listened to her compelling explanation of the benefits of lavender and how it’s grown and harvested. The farm is home to some 9000 lavender plants (some of which are available to purchase) from which ALL the products sold at the farm are made. She allowed all the kids to touch the fragrant plants, pointing out their “bud heads,” which of course the kids heard as “butt heads” and subsequently tried to suppress their giggles.

burgIMG_9260 burgIMG_9269 burgIMG_9328After the plants are harvested, They’re sent to the steam distillery to extract the essential lavender oil from the fresh lavender buds or sent to dry out in the Drying and Disbudding Barn. A machine removes the buds to be used for all the soft good or cooking items. White Oak’s gift shop sells all the products made from the buds and the oil. This gift shop is a place you need to remember when you’re ready to do some birthday or holiday shopping. I had visited their booth at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market before, but I was floored by the number and variety of items in the shop, all made (with the exception of, say, dishware) with lavender. Lavender tea, sugar, coffee, mulling spices. Lavender candles, oils, soaps, body products. Lavender vinegar, jellies and jams, and even cooking oil. They make and sell lavender brownies and ice cream: blueberry, vanilla, and strawberry. Brandy barely got a photo of it before the kids inhaled it.

burgIMG_9289burgIMG_9394 burgIMG_9398If you still haven’t heard what a wonder-herb lavender is, it’s all about relaxation. It soothes bug bites and burns. It helps you sleep. It calms the digestive system. It clarifies your skin and repels bugs. It relieves pain and increases circulation. There’s absolutely no reason you should not live a more lavender life, people.

But the farm has far more to offer than just lavender fields and a gift shop. You can stroll the grounds of the farm and pet some animals, like Flemish Giants (bunnies), ponies, goats, and sheep. You can play giant checkers and contemplate in the labyrinth. You can sit by the Bottle Tree (helps ward off bad spirits) or enjoy the Peace Circle for Enhanced Communication. You can rest in a rocking chair on the covered porch. You can listen to the waterfall at the duck pond, and watch the alpacas on the hill.

burgIMG_9294 burgIMG_9304 burgIMG_9306 burgIMG_9332 burgIMG_9362 burgIMG_9367You can pick your own lavender, and they even offer workshops and classes from time to time. And you can end your visit there as we did, sitting under their picnic shelter and just being happy to be together on a rare respite from life’s race.

burgIMG_9409White Oak Lavender Farm is open Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm and Sunday 1pm – 6pm and is located at 2644 Cross Keys Road. That’s just a bit south of the intersection of 276 and Port Republic Road. They’d love to see you, whether you’re chaperoning a school field trip, exploring as a family, or just ready to slow down a bit by yourself.

burgIMG_9339 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.

in the press: old hill hard cider.

A few more shots from our visit to Old Hill Hard Cider at Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville, Virginia! Celebrate 50 years with them on August 22!
burgIMG_8339 burgIMG_8319 burgIMG_8312 burgIMG_8290burgIMG_8261burgIMG_8222 by Blake burgIMG_8201 burgIMG_8198 burgIMG_8192 burgIMG_8191

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.

 

cold off the press: old hill hard cider.

burgIMG_8204 by BlakeI can’t think of any fruit, or food even, with the cultural and historical significance of the apple. Think about it: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge… three apples supposedly caused the series of events that led to the Trojan War… William Tell terrorized his poor child with an apple and a crossbow… Snow White was poisoned by an apple. Apples are everywhere in the story of humanity! And no one on the planet would be eating them if some other stories had not risen up to challenge all these nightmarish myths. For example, Newton allegedly discovered gravity when he saw an apple fall, and where would we be without that discovery, huh? And Johnny Appleseed — what an environmentalist, planting all those apple trees! If you’re breathing oxygen right now, you can thank him for that! And the Big Apple — everyone loves New York! Even the laptop on which I’m typing this right now has a big, white apple on it. Kids love to give apples to their teachers (maybe a few poisoned ones here and there), and we’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So our recent trip to Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville did not conjure thoughts of starting a war or causing the demise of the entire human race. No. Instead, I arrived at this very carefully and logically crafted conclusion: Since apples keep the doctor away, they must be meant for teachers because making a sub plan when you’re sick is such a dang pain; therefore, drinking hard cider every day is necessary to the health of teachers everywhere, including Brandy and me! And the fact that Sarah Showalter taught school for many years only solidifies this theory.

burgIMG_8274 by BlakeburgIMG_8304We arrived at Showalter’s Orchard, home of Old Hill Hard Cider, on a warm summer evening, accompanied by our friends Danielle, Jess, and Jennica, and a small army of children. When I was a child, I wandered and explored. I’d ride my bike up and down these dirt hills surrounding my neighborhood, I’d build dams in the creek, I’d make forts in the woods and play “house.” Walking the grounds of the orchard made me think of those joyous times, staying outside all day long until the bottoms of my feet turned absolutely black and my mom’s far-away voice called me in for the night, my sprint back home lit by fireflies. Ah, to be a child again and run through the orchard rows, picking up too-ripe apples and pitching them into the sunset! Or this:

burgIMG_8296 by BlakeThe tables on the cool, shady patio were nearly full as we made our way to the tasting room. Inside we sidled up to the bar for a tasting. The tasting included six varieties of cider:
1. The Yesteryear — an echo of our forefathers, created with ingredients used ages ago at Monticello, it’s a clean, tart cider you could pair with nearly everything and would make a great mimosa.
2. The Heritage — this one was my favorite that day. A fair amount of tannins makes it dry, but it’s still smooth and creamy.
3. The Farmhand — this is a special batch variety, where no two batches ever taste exactly the same. It was such a big hit at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival that the Showalters sold out and had to return to the cidery to get more!
4. Cidermaker’s Barrel — Shannon Showalter calls this his “rebel of the group” with its vanilla-meets-charred-oak flavor, and it’s their number two seller.
5. Betwixt — True to its name, this one is halfway between a micro and a wine style cider. It’s their most popular variety.
6. Season’s Finish — the dessert cider for all you sweet-teeth out there. It goes great with a cinnamon liquor.

burgIMG_8189 burgIMG_8186Having tried them all, we settled on a couple bottles of Betwixt, Yesteryear, and Heritage and headed outside. Nestled in to our table, sipping cider, eating Gaudi chicken sandwiches from Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, listening to tunes by The Mash, hearing the laughter of the kids in the distance (Jess’ daughter sounds just like Boo when she giggles), we were happier than Slinkies on an escalator. Happier than kittens under a leaky cow. Happier than teachers on summer vacation. Oh, wait.
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burgIMG_8220burgIMG_8231 burgIMG_8233 burgIMG_8235burgIMG_8241You may or may not know that the orchard has been in business since 1965. 1965! They grow 26 varieties of apples that you can pick and purchase — harvest usually begins in August and goes through November. You can also buy plants from their Greenhouse in the spring and fall. They offer gardening classes from time to time, and there are always events going on: greenhouse tours, charity fundraisers, festivals, growler night most Thursdays, and Thirsty Third Thursday with Mama’s Caboose gourmet food truck and live local music.
The best news: Showalter’s Orchard will celebrate their FIFTIETH anniversary this month, on August 22 to be exact. There will be apple and peach picking, food trucks, live music, and activities for the kiddos! If you’ve never been to the orchard, mark your calendars now because that will be the day to visit. If you have been there, take some time to celebrate this milestone with them! See y’all there!

burgIMG_8256 by BlakeburgIMG_8212Copyright © 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.

grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at ron@ourcommunityplace.org.

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 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.

tap dance: brothers craft brewing music festival.

burgIMG_8619Well, that was one of the happiest days ever!

This past Saturday, Brandy and I slathered on the sunscreen and the loose, lightweight clothes and braved the scorching heat to attend two – TWO – local music events that happened to be just a block apart. First up was the Annual Lawn Jam at Our Community Place, which will be the subject of our next post. But right up the street from that was Brothers Craft Brewing’s Summer Festival featuring three bands and food from Mashita, Wing It, and Branch’s Soft Serve.

burgIMG_8609 burgIMG_8611burgIMG_8625We headed inside the taproom to cool off a bit with an ice cold brew, knowing we had about thirty minutes before the music would start. I tried the Pilsnerd because the name resonated with me – it’s a Southern German pilsner with an Atari-ish label – and it was perfect for a hot summer day. We talked about their event coming up this Friday: Run, Sweat, and Beers, a collaboration with VA Momentum in which participants choose a 1-, 3-, or 5-mile “fun run” and then get a discounted beer as a consolation prize. The Brothers have lots of collaborations, actually. There’s also the Brothers Craft Brewing Three Miler (a relay race happening August 29 to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters) and Casks for a Cause (third Friday of every month), where they donate the proceeds from a specially crafted beer to a pre-selected charity; they’ve collaborated with the SPCA for Barks and Brews, where you can actually adopt a pet in the taproom; and coming up September 24 is a beer dinner with the Chop House! Those brothers are always busy planning things for you and the rest of our Harrisonburg family.

burgIMG_8683 burgIMG_8682 burgIMG_8679Outside Maple Union was getting started, so we walked around to the loading dock/music stage. Originally from Harrisonburg, Maple Union’s singer Josh Henderson now lives in Baltimore, so the band only reunites here once a year-ish. How lucky we are that they’re still performing together, and even luckier that we got to see them on this day! Still playing with Josh are Jared Tampa, Andrew Hassler, and Jonathan Woods. Their set seemed to zip by, prompting everyone to go inside for a refill or grab some food from Mashita or Wing It.

burgIMG_8692 burgIMG_8631 burgIMG_8638burgIMG_8622burgIMG_8693burgIMG_8748Next up were some of our favorite people. Maybe that’s sounds a little biased, and it is, for sure. Because exactly 66.67% of the members of Many Nights Ahead were members of my classroom in tenth grade, and I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see awkward 15 year olds grow up to be this talented and downright cool. And might I add, Broadway High School is like a talent factory or something. Harrisonburg’s music scene is crawling with BHS grads, and I’m really proud to be at least peripherally affiliated with all of ’em. And I’m not the only one – two other BHS teachers, Shirley and all-the-way-from-Russia Anne were also there, tapping their fingers and stomping their feet.

burgIMG_8743burgIMG_8737 burgIMG_8725 burgIMG_8717burgIMG_8667Just when everyone thought it was cooling down a little, Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts took the stage. Heat rolls off them like steam from a highway after a summer storm.We’re totally bummed we had to scoot out so early, but it was time to relieve the babysitter. We’ll catch them again soon, though, because those guys tour like crazy.

As I mentioned before, THIS Friday, July 24, is Run, Sweat, and Beers at Brothers Craft Brewing. Show up at 5pm, complete your run, and reward yourself with a discounted brew and some grub from Wing It!

burgIMG_8696 burgIMG_8703 burgIMG_8710 burgIMG_8695 burgIMG_8694Copyright © 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.

here’s the deal: harrisonburg pokemon league.

burgIMG_2639The kids and I returned from a 24-day tour of America this week, and my original plan was to publish this post sometime during that trip. However, because I was driving a lot and doing a lot in places with little or no Internet connection, I just never got the opportunity to put it all together, until now. But, you know, it’s a good thing, because my knowledge of Pokemon increased about 200% during the trip.

The size of my car severely limited what each of us could bring on the trip. Just a couple changes of clothes, a tent and sleeping bags, a few books, and one – ONE – toy per child. So Bree and Cal decided to bring their Pokemon cards. Every night, wherever we were camping, I insisted that we all be in the tent before dark, and since we weren’t always ready to sleep at that time, we stayed up playing Pokemon. And I joined in, too.

Before the trip, if I had tried to write about the game, it would have sounded very much like this post about roller derby, when I didn’t understand a dang thing that was happening. All I knew about Pokemon just a few short weeks ago was that cards are dealt, characters battle each other, points are deducted, and players speak in some weird Star Trek language, saying things like “charizard” and “kyogre,” “gengar” and “voltorbe.” Now I understand, and I owe my new-found knowledge not just to our trip, but to the group that started it all for my family: the Harrisonburg Pokemon League.

burgIMG_2634The League was created nine years ago by a Harrisonburg couple, William and Juanita. They have six sons, the oldest of which is now 21. In essence, they created the club for him, and they have generously continued it for any kid who’s interested. When their first son was little and became interested in Pokemon, William and Juanita looked for a place where he could practice and play with other Pokemon fans. Along the way there were some groups; one group met, for a short time, at the library. Then a few groups formed at stores like Books-A-Million and Toys ‘R Us. William and Juanita learned the game, they took their boys to the club, and it sort of became a family hobby. But eventually, all the local clubs closed. At that point, with a growing family of Pokemon fans, the couple took it upon themselves to start their own league.

The League currently meets on Sundays from 1 – 3pm at 8Bit Oasis, a gaming store owned by Lauren Davis in the Cloverleaf Shopping Center. Anyone who wants to play Pokemon is welcome. It’s completely free and open to all people of all ages. Even if you’re not ready to sit down and play with the others, a visit to the store to check out the scene is a must. Walking into 8bit Oasis gave me an overload of sense memories. They’ve got a huge inventory of vintage gaming systems, equipment, accessories, and games. I was an Atari girl, myself. My childhood friend Kathy and I would play Missile Command and Frogger and Yars Revenge for like twelve hours straight, eating nothing but Dr. Pepper and pixie sticks. We’d have thumb cramps and bloodshot eyes and all. So seeing that wall of Atari cartridges – wow! It made me swoon. Other vintage items include Gameboys, Gamecubes, joysticks, and old games like Top Gear Rally. They also carry new and used games for current systems – Wii, Xbox, Playstation, and the like. At the back of the store is small gaming lounge. You can borrow a game to try out on their system, or you can play one of their arcade games, like Donkey Kong Jr., Mario, Galaga, or PacMan.

burgIMG_2621 burgIMG_2620The League is very organized. On our first visit, William sat down with all our kids and led them through a battle, explaining all the official rules in detail (believe me, Bree and Cal had improvised at home A LOT before learning the proper way to play). Even though there were several other players there, William took the time to patiently coach each child. One of William and Juanita’s sons also helped answer questions and strategize with the kids. All the kids picked up really quickly and have been able to play independently ever since. A battle starts with the dealing of cards. Each player gets seven cards for his hand and six for his “prize cards.” The rest of the 60-card deck remains face down. The deck is composed of a variety of Pokemon (characters), energy cards (you need those to make your Pokemon be able to attack), and trainer cards, which usually grant a player some special advantage for a single turn or for the remainder of the battle. Next, each player chooses which Pokemon will battle. Then it’s a series of picking cards and discarding, attaching energy cards to the Pokemon, attacking (things like “peck,” “stomp,” “continuous headbutt,” “hopeless scream”), and deducting points for each attack. Once a Pokemon’s “health” score is decimated, it’s been defeated, and the winner gets to pick up one of his prize cards. The player who gets through all six prize cards first wins the battle.

burgIMG_2625While William walks around to facilitate the battles and serve as referee as needed, Juanita keeps track of everyone’s wins. After you’ve accumulated a certain number of wins, you get a prize. And once every three or four months, they hold what’s called a Booster Pack Tournament. They purchase newly released cards in packs of ten. Each kid pays $20 and gets six packs of cards. They sit at tables, open one pack at a time, take their favorite card from that pack and pass the rest to the left. The cards keep moving around the table until they’ve all been distributed. Then they all open pack #2, and repeat the process. By the end, each kid has more than 50 new cards, which they use to create a 40-card deck and play two battles right then. It was really fun for everyone, and a cool way to add excitement and anticipation to an already challenging and complex game.

burgIMG_2640Brandy and I have been so impressed with William and Juanita that we felt compelled to share this with you. They are just the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Their patience and friendliness to all the kids… their willingness to create and maintain this league for nine years with no compensation… their relaxed demeanor and acceptance of anyone who wants to play is exactly what should come to mind when one thinks of The Friendly City. Thank you, William and Juanita (and their sons!), and 8bit Oasis, for providing a fun, educational, and wholesome activity for kids of all ages.

If you haven’t been to 8bit Oasis or the Harrisonburg Pokemon League, you should come Sunday and check it out!

burgIMG_2638 burgIMG_2630Copyright © 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.

heart attack: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

More photos of Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts! Read the whole story here!

Bryan_Elijah_Smith02 Bryan_Elijah_Smith04 Bryan_Elijah_Smith13 Bryan_Elijah_Smith40Bryan_Elijah_Smith49 Bryan_Elijah_Smith57 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater04 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater09 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater13 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater17

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.

follow your hearts: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

Bryan_Elijah_Smith20Earlier this spring, possibly even the first day of spring, Brandy and I busted out of our winter-battered houses, boots, and souls and headed out of town for a day of unbridled adventure. The warm, sunny day actually required sunscreen and we looked forward to a day outside and a night of live music with two of our favorite local musicians. First up was a trip to the Richmond Zoo to try out their Treetop Zoofari which is just a really cheesy name for a ropes course. For a reasonable fee, you guide yourself along 40-ish challenges, sometimes balancing your Jell-o legs across some strung together two-by-fours, sometimes climbing a twenty-foot completely vertical ladder to a two-foot square platform a hundred feet in the air, and sometimes zipping on a line perched just high enough that zoo animals can noisily chase, but not catch, you. There were some white-knuckle moments, yes, but the level of concentration it required made us forget everything for a couple hours. The wind was crisp and bright. Everything felt new. The best part was when we approached the final stop where we’d unhook and remove all our gear, and the employee smiled at us and said, “Oh, are you two enjoying a mother-daughter day?” Perhaps Brandy shot him a warning glance, because he slowly backed up, as if we were bears on his trail, and then disappeared. Back in the car, we applied make-up and changed clothes for phase two: Jack Brown’s over on Grove Avenue! And who did we see there? Ol’ Matt Abraham who used to work at the Harrisonburg location. We sat on the lively patio with other first-of-spring revelers and caught up with our friend Sarah. burgIMG_7325 burgIMG_7330But the icing on our cake that day was a trip to Culpeper to see Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts perform. Beers in hand, we made our way to the front row, eager to see both Bryan and his opener, Justin Jones, also of the Burg. Justin performed alone, him and his guitar and his harmonica, but his laughter and his humor and his perfect, pulpy, tender voice filled the stage, disarming and hushing the enamored crowd. burgIMG_7334burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7341 burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7361Not only did I get to see Bryan’s performance that night, but not long thereafter, I had a chance to chat with him. Sitting across from him, I realized I’d only ever seen him holding a guitar, leaning into a microphone. On that day he held a flimsy cup of coffee and rubbed fatigue from his eyes. I reminded myself that this average-sized, soft spoken man in front of me was the same one who blows the roof off every place I see him play, with his loud, five-piece band The Wild Hearts and his giant thunder voice. Bryan_Elijah_Smith30Born and raised in Dayton, Virginia – the land of horse-drawn buggies, farmers’ markets, and redbuds just south of Harrisonburg – Bryan first cut his musical teeth playing guitar at age five, then in the awkward realm of middle school band. The band director, using some kind of one-size-fits-all questionnaire, tried to peg him as a trumpet player, but Bryan insisted on percussion. Later he played guitar in Turner Ashby High School’s Jazz Ensemble. In late high school he took guitar lessons, and even scored a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. When I asked, “And then?” he answered, “And then? And then I just started writing songs.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith14Bryan and current band-mate Jeff Miller (banjo) formed a band called Albuquerque for about three years with Michael Stover (now of Shenandoah Alley). After Albuquerque (circa 2007), Bryan quit performing live for a bit and instead worked on a farm milking cows to save up some cash, then recorded a truckload of music (according to Bryan, about ten albums worth), a fraction of which comprised his first Bryan Elijah Smith solo album Forever On My Mind (2009). He toured Virginia and the southeast coast on his own, promoting the record, and linked up with Staunton-based musician Nathan Moore to tour the northeast. The Wild Hearts formed in 2010, and over the years the band has evolved to include, in addition to Bryan and Jeff, Jay Austin (violin), Justin Shifflett (drums), and Blanks Blankenship (2014). Now more than a decade into his career, Bryan has played all over the U.S. and even toured Australia last year – a long stretch from a cattle farm in Dayton where he owns a production studio, Empty Sound Productions, that allows him to balance his love of writing and performing with his love of recording and producing his music. Describing himself as “obsessed” with learning the methods of his favorite producers and staying abreast of emerging technologies, excitement shone on his face as he talked about his recent analog/digital studio overhaul: “Being able to paint a sonic picture that I see in my mind is worth a million words to me.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith45His most recent release, These American Hearts, involved a year and a half of writing more than 100 songs, followed by a grueling selection process, but resulting in what he calls an honest album. All his music is “honest,” per se, he explained – it’s all “true to the time and head space I was in when I made it,” but with age and experience he’s stopped trying to make songs adhere to a particular label or category and just let the songs be what they are when they “come to me.” Indeed, he’s hard to pin down when you ask him what music he likes to listen to. He’ll list Dylan, Waits, and Springsteen as influences; newer artists, though, like Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, and War on Drugs are never too far from his stereo. Likewise, his own music is neither country nor rock, neither blues nor bluegrass. He is all those things, authentically, and he believes his most honest record is still out there, in the ether, waiting for the right time to descend. Bryan_Elijah_Smith43Bryan remembers fondly the local basement shows of the early days – the Crayola House, little restaurants and pubs — which gave way to festivals, and theaters, his favorite venue. So when Brandy and I saw him and The Wild Hearts at the State Theatre in Culpeper – a grand old space where their sound had room to stretch and songs could morph into twenty-minute jams – we witnessed the full expression of them as musicians. Fibers hung from Jay Austin’s exhausted bow like long strands of corn silk. The whole place rumbled like a train platform, every seat abandoned after the first song. Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater02 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater03 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater07 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater14Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts have a busy summer lined up, with performances all over Virginia, including several area vineyards, Wintergreen Resort, and The Southern in Charlottesville, to name a few, before Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the spectacular creation of Harrisonburg Action Figure Jeremiah Jenkins that brings together upwards of forty bands for three glorious days at Natural Chimneys State Park in Mt. Solon. Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts hit the Southern Stage at 2pm on Friday, July 10. Bryan_Elijah_Smith11Copyright © 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. 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