By Chelsea Rose Moore

In the dead of winter, when farmers’ markets are hibernating until spring, Loudoun celebrates its rural heritage with the 10th anniversary of the Loudoun Grown Expo. Held on February 29, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Purcellville’s historic Bush Tabernacle Skating Rink & Event Center, the event is reminiscent of a giant, indoor farmers’ market.

The expo features Loudoun’s growers, farmers and artisans, with breweries and wineries in attendance, making it the perfect way to combat the winter doldrums and celebrate local food. The Loudoun Grown Expo is a collaboration with Bush Tabernacle, the Town of Purcellville, and the Loudoun County Economic Development. 

“These three groups are coming together to ensure that the 10th anniversary is a smashing success,” said Philip Message, President of Bush Tabernacle, whose involvement with the expo dates back to its inception. “We are excited to host and are looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings to this whole county.”

For the ten-year anniversary, Message and his team are taking the event to the next level. New this year are sheep and llama vendors and a kid’s passport, giving children the opportunity to receive a stamp from every vendor they visit. There will be many hands-on exhibits and educational content designed to highlight the local agricultural scene. The expo hosts between 40 and 50 vendors from all over the county and welcomes 2,000 visitors each year.

Guests can participate in tastings at winery and brewery booths, purchase meats and produce, sign up for CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and shop from local artisans. 

The event was started in 2010 by Bob Lazaro, Purcellville’s former mayor. “We saw it as a great opportunity to promote those agro-businesses in the community,” Lazaro said. “February has been traditionally a slow time, [and this is] a showcase for those folks who are earning a living in the rural economic space. [It’s a way to] let folks in Greater Loudoun know what’s available to them and enjoy some good hospitality.”

And of course, spending money with a local business means your money stays in the county and helps boost the local economy. Melanie Scoggins, the business development and retention manager with the Town of Leesburg, helped the event get on its feet in its early years. At the time, she was working with the Town of Purcellville as the park and recs division manager and saw this event as a means to help “increase [the] visibility of the rural community” in Loudoun County. 

“Part of the culture of Purcellville and the county is that we have many unique producers and places that make this area special,” said Scoggins. “In order to keep it like that, we have to support our local businesses and educate our community on what they are actually getting for their dollar and help them understand that spending with these businesses helps boost the microeconomy in our communities. In this case, supporting the businesses that participate in this event helps reinforce their success and the sustainability of one of the many assets unique to the county.”

The event, she said, has changed over the years to fit the needs of the community. And even though she is no longer involved with planning the event, it’s still on her calendar, and she can’t wait to attend. 

Admission to the event is $2 per person or $3 per family. Bush Tabernacle is located at 250 S. Nursery Ave, Purcellville. To learn more and see a list of participating vendors, visit loudoungrown.org. ML

This article first appeared in the February 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.