event

The People Behind The Parade

A few hours before the 11 a.m. Hunt Review, the traditional start of the Christmas in Middleburg Parade, Tara Wegdam helped her employees move crockery-laden tables to expand the aisles of Crème de la Crème, the Washington Street gift and tableware shop she owns with her husband Ben. “The parade brings thousands of people to town,” Wegdam explains. “We get so many people coming in dressed in big winter coats, we don’t want them bumping into each other or anything else.” When she heard the parade had begun, she went outside to watch the Middleburg Hunt, resplendent in their crimson and black coats, trotting down Washington Street under a crisp, blue winter sky.

In front of the riders came the hounds. One broke away from the pack and turned toward Wegdam. She felt a woosh of chilly December air, and by the time she saw the brown and white tail disappear through her open front door, the other 35 hounds had also rushed through on either side of her. She reached the shop’s front door and saw the interior had literally gone to the dogs. “They went everywhere, around every table, up and down every aisle. Then they came out and were back on Washington Street before I could say a word. They didn’t break a thing,” she recalls. Then she saw a pastoral painting that had been propped up against one table. It had slid to the floor in the commotion and in the center of the picture was one big, dark pawprint. “[It] sold almost immediately because the person who bought it couldn’t believe what had just happened and thought it was hilarious — what better souvenir for the day,” Wegdam remembers.

For Wegdam, the entire experience was magical. “There are other Christmas parades in other places, but nothing like this. Ours is really, really special.” Current co-organizer Michelle Myers offers another word to describe the parade: Unlimited!

“Last year we had to limit everything because of COVID-19. This year everyone is contributing,
everyone is part of it,” Myers says. This year, the parade will include — for the first time ever — a marching reunion of at least 10 members of Middleburg’s undefeated 1971 Little League team, most of whom haven’t seen each other in 50 years.

From dawn to dusk on Saturday, December 3, Route 50 and Washington Street will be closed to automobiles to make room for as many as 20,000 spectators. Parking for participants and spectators will be confined to intercept lots along the outskirts of town (see ChristmasinMiddleburg. org for more details). Most restaurants in town will be open during the parade’s midday pause to serve lunch. They will be supplemented by food trucks.

Jim Herbert, a commercial realtor who has helped organize the parade as far back as 1979, calls it “a genuine celebration of love and the Christmas message. It is also the best time of the year to show people what the Middleburg community is all about.”

He ticks off the statistics: A mile and a half long, beginning with the Middleburg Hunt (and their hounds!) and ending with Santa Claus on a horse-drawn carriage, lasting over an hour and a half (with a break in the middle for lunch) with spectators lining Washington Street “in every kind of weather,” including the blizzard of 2009.

“We all met at 6 a.m. when we heard that snow was expected. There was talk of canceling the parade, and if we had known what we were getting into, we probably would have,” Herbert says. But they didn’t.

Photo by Nancy Kleck.

The snow came down just as the hounds hit Washington Street, and photographers snapped what Herbert calls the “iconic” shots of the parade: the hounds leaping before 140 riders in bright red and black jackets peppered with big flakes that would soon fill the region in nearly nine inches of snow.

Penny Denegre, joint-master of the Middleburg Hunt, also has fond memories of the blizzard. “We have concerns when the weather gets very cold, but that time, and every other time the weather seems to be against us in Middleburg, it was magical.”

The Middleburg Christmas Parade is one of the hunt’s most important yearly activities, one that emphasizes the town’s unique relationship with Hunt Country and the traditions that go all the way back to Virginia’s colonial history. It is one of the only times when people who don’t hunt can watch the hounds and riders that do. And the horses know it. “We don’t have spectators normally. On the parade morning, the horses are always a little concerned when there is something out of the ordinary,” Denegre shares.

But when they round the corner at the top of the hill and the hounds take off, “it becomes this lovely outpouring of warmth.” When the parade resumes at 2 p.m., few groups are as highly anticipated as the thirty Middleburg Charros who demonstrate Mexican rope wrangling and rodeo skills that, according
to Charro rider Juliana Ortiz, have been passed down through her extended family for generations. “What we do is rarely seen in the east,” says Ortiz, who, when not teaching horses how to dance, is an accountant. “The decoration, the dances, the roping, and the salutes are all part of our heritage, so it is important for us to be in the parade and show everyone how exciting and magical it can be.”

New for this year will be even more of Ortiz’s cousins standing on horseback, jumping through ropes. “It started last year with one or two [of us] having some fun. Now everybody wants to do it!” she says.

The more than 100 corgis that follow are always a huge hit with children “because they are incredibly cute!” says Holly Hudimac, who will be joined by her dogs Abby and Panda. “This is hysterical and a lot of fun and the children love the dogs because they’re small and adorable. Where else are you going to see so many corgis in one place?”

Competing in cuteness will be the 70 children, ages 4 to 8, from The Hill School, dressed as elves and gift-wrapped presents. Having decorated the front windows of the Washington Street Safeway Supermarket during the previous week, some ride on The Hill School’s float. First grader Adelaide Hottel enjoys the float “because I get to ride with my friends, and we see a lot of people.”

“When I first saw the parade ten years ago, it was pretty spectacular. Of all the nice things you can do in Middleburg, it’s just wonderful to watch the town literally celebrate itself in the warmest, funniest, kindest way. To be part of this, even if it’s just to keep track of the kids and wave at the people, it’s pure joy,” shares Kelly Johnson, the school’s enrollment director.

The pure, distinctively snorting growl of thirty motorcycles decorated with antlers and flashing holiday lights, all ridden by members of the Winchester Harley Owners Group, is music to the ears of club president and Winchester motorcycle dealer Barbara Grove. “I prefer to watch from the sidelines and let the others get the glory,” says Grove, who is hoping to snag a table at the Red Horse Tavern, where, on any other weekend, bikers hailing from every point on the compass tend to congregate. “We love that ride to Middleburg so much that around fifteen years ago, we decided to help out,” Groves explains. For the past two months, members of the biker group have brought food on their rides from Winchester and given it to Seven Loaves food pantry. This year alone, the Harley Group has donated well over 1,000 pounds of food. “Canned goods, turkeys, whatever might be appreciated,” Grove adds. “We may not live here, but Middleburg makes us feel at home.”

Weaving in and out of the parade you are likely to spy Suzanne Obetz, the executive director of the Middleburg Museum, in her “emergency Mrs. Claus” suit. In addition to presiding over the town’s tree lighting ceremony (at 5 p.m. on the Friday before the parade) and handling any and all letters to Santa children may leave at the museum, Obetz is one of more than 100 volunteers who will “basically do whatever is needed to be done.” She adds, “You’d be surprised how often a child’s happiness, or the fate of the entire parade itself, can depend on a needle and thread, scissors, or, heaven forbid, a Band-Aid.”

The parade typically ends with Santa who bears an astonishing resemblance to Lost Barrel Brewery’s tap room manager, Bobby Martz. “It gives me an opportunity to see the magic on everyone’s face,” he says. “The holiday is all about magic, bringing back those nice childhood memories when everything happened to make you warm, and happy to be with family and friends. What better place to celebrate than Middleburg!” Mr. Claus likes Middleburg so much that he promises to visit Lost Barrel on Saturday afternoons following the parade, where, in addition to being available for photos, he will serve a range of non-alcoholic drinks and snacks for kids. When asked how he intends to slip up and down Middleburg’s numerous chimneys on Christmas, he simply responds: “It’s magic!”

This story first appeared in the December 2022 issue.

Middleburg Film Festival: Still Magnificent 10 Years On

Written by Laticia Headings
Photos by Shannon Finney Photography 

While walking the 340-acre property where the Salamander Resort & Spa now stands, actor Robert Redford suggested to his friend, owner Sheila Johnson, that she start a film festival. The conversation ignited a chain of events that ultimately led to the launch of the inaugural Middleburg Film Festival in 2013, the same year the Salamander Resort opened. 

Now celebrating its tenth year, the Middleburg Film Festival is a tour de force that rivals the likes of Sundance and Telluride. It quickly gained a reputation as a must-attend contender festival on “the road to the Oscars,” and has even received a prominent write-up in the October 5, 2022, issue of Variety Magazine, the entertainment industry’s leading weekly publication. “We set out to build something special that would be embraced by film lovers and ten years in, we’re proud of where we are and of what this festival has become,” Johnson says.

Longtime film producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, founders of Bona Fide Productions, have been on the festival’s advisory board since year one. Over the past three decades, they have  produced dozens of Oscar-winning and nominated films and audience favorites, including “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Election,” “Cold Mountain,” and “Nebraska.” Five of their films have been screened in Middleburg, including this year’s “Somewhere in Queens,” starring and directed by Ray Romano, who was also in attendance. Yerxa says, “I’m a big, big supporter of this festival because no other film festival has music, the kind of community, discussions and films, and this level of guests.”

Other prominent guests attending the festival this year included actor Brendan Fraser and screenwriter Samuel Hunter (“The Whale”), writer-director Rian Johnson and film editor Bob Ducsay (“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”), director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King,” “Love and Basketball”), director Noah Baumbach (“White Noise,”“Marriage Story”), director J.D. Dillard (“Devotion”), and actors Micheal Ward (“Empire of Light”), Anna Diop (“Nanny”), Stephanie Hsu (“Everything, Everywhere All At Once”), and Dolly De Leon (“Triangle of Sadness’). 

Yerxa adds that the international acclaim the four-day event has received makes it a desirable destination. “Studios and production companies feel like they need to have their film here, their clients, their director. They want to be here,” he says. “The festival has a lot of pre-existing conditions to support it but it’s mainly Sheila and Susan [Koch] being unrelentingly ambitious, and it’s paid off.”

Executive Director Susan Koch explains that the hard-earned success comes with year-round planning and extensive logistical execution. “It takes a tech crew of 15 working for four days to turn four venues -—Salamander Ballroom, Middleburg Community Center, Hill School’s Sheila Johnson Performing Arts Center, and the National Sporting Library — into state-of-the art movie theaters,” Koch says. 

A large outdoor tent is also set up to accommodate additional events, special concerts, and Saturday night’s after party at the Salamander. The resort’s elegant library is a favorite spot to hear Q&A’s with notable filmmakers, writers, directors, actors, and composers. “I love the library for conversations,” Yerxa says. “For seeing films and meeting people, this is the best film festival out there.”

This year’s milestone celebration was preceded by a Middleburg Film Festival 10-Day Countdown. Each night, a different local business hosted a free community event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. “We’re very grateful to the Town of Middleburg for all their support,” Koch emphasizes.

The Salamander Resort & Spa kicked off the countdown followed by Mt. Defiance Cider Barn, Boxwood Estate Winery, Lost Barrel Brewing, Master of Foxhounds Association, McEnearney Associates with co-sponsors Middleburg Life & Greenhill Vineyards, the National Sporting Library & Museum, Middleburg Community Center, The Hill School, and Old Ox Brewery. 

Terry Harrak and David Leifer, residents of Vienna, Virginia, attended three of the community events. “It was the best. We met all of these people and everyone was so welcoming, it was just like a big hug,” Leifer says. “We come to Middleburg all the time but have never been to the festival and didn’t really know anyone.” 

The couple attended all four festival days. “When we saw everything that the town was doing to support this, the 10-Day Countdown, we said let’s really dive in,” Harrak remembers. “If it weren’t for the countdown, we wouldn’t have extended our AirBnB and I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable as I did coming into this. I already felt like we had built a community and knew people.”

Community is a big part of what makes the Middleburg Film Festival run smoothly. It relies heavily on its local volunteers and those who make the annual autumnal pilgrimage from surrounding areas just to be part of the excitement. Roanoke resident Warren Dreiling says, “Getting to share and draw on that excitement…is something I really enjoy.” 

Dreiling is a first-year venue manager at the National Sporting Library and has volunteered at four previous festivals. “Being able to build people up – our volunteers, special guests, sponsors, film goers — and also help to enable all of this to happen is a big aspect of why I enjoy it,” he says. 

Romey Curtis is a Middleburg resident and volunteer who was born and raised in Hampshire, England. As a former actress, Curtis appreciates having the film festival in her backyard. “I love meeting the people and feeling that I’m making a contribution by supporting an artistic event, which is my particular interest,” adds the second-year volunteer who wants to lend her time again next October.

From the beginning, Sheila Johnson focused on making music a key cornerstone of the festival. Classically trained in piano and violin, Johnson has an esteemed musical background and taught music at Sidwell Friends School for three years. “It’s also about celebrating the film composers and the other unsung heroes behind the camera whose names you might not know but whose contributions are invaluable to the great films we screen at the festival,” Johnson says. 

Every year, a “Distinguished Composer Award” is given to honor the achievements of a film composer or songwriter, and the honoree is invited to give a live performance. Past recipients include Emmy and Oscar-winning artists Mark Isham, Marco Beltrami, Kris Bowers, Charles Fox, Nicholas Britell, Terence Blanchard, and songwriter Diane Warren. 

For the 10th anniversary, a special concert featuring this year’s honoree, Michael Abels (“Nope, Get Out, Us”), in addition to many past recipients, captivated the crowd. During the 90-minute event, each artist gave a live performance accompanied by a 45-piece orchestra while clips of their films and television shows were shown. 

“It was such an honor to be a part of that concert with so many incredible composers and artists who I’ve admired for some time. I greatly appreciated being included in that list,” says composer Kris Bowers (“Green Book,” “King Richard,” and “Bridgerton”). “Sheila Johnson is an inspiration, and it means such a great deal to have her support.”

The Middleburg Film Festival is known for its heavy-hitting Hollywood blockbusters, but it also offers a well-rounded roster of something-for-everyone films and documentaries. “I brought my nieces because I wanted them to see all of these powerful leaders and women of color in the industry who reflected what we look like,” says Terry Harrak, who is half Moroccan, and whose nieces are Moroccan and Latinx. “I wanted them to watch a film and then have the experience of diving deeper into its meaning.”

Diversity is a significant consideration when selecting films for the festival, and this year’s 45 carefully curated films were no exception. Sherrie Beckstead joined the Board of Directors in February 2022. “The festival’s mission recognizes and supports the power of film to inspire, educate, and engage audiences of diverse backgrounds and perspectives – and through this it helps build bridges of empathy and understanding,” says Beckstead, Partner of Liljenquist & Beckstead and President of The Lockkeepers Collection.

Films like “Good Night Oppy” harness the educational component of storytelling. The documentary chronicles the remarkable true story of two NASA robot rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and their mission on Mars to find evidence of water. Oppy, as she was affectionately nicknamed by NASA scientists, was only expected to stay functioning for 90 days, but remained in operation for 15 years. 

“Kids are buzzing about the film. We love that an 8-year-old girl seeing a Black female engineer who’s one of the lead NASA scientists on the mission may say, ‘I can do that!’” says Director Ryan White. “This film is about the best of humanity and coming together to do something extraordinary.”

In fact, extraordinary may be the best way to describe this year’s festival of films. “Those who were here felt it! It’s been magical and it will be lasting,” Harrak emphasizes, noting that she and Leifer will mark this weekend on their calendar every year. 

The future is bright for the Middleburg Film Festival and for those who want to share in its spotlight. “I am excited to begin planning for the next 10,” Beckstead says. “The human connection and camaraderie is a synergy and the best of what life offers to us.”

“There’s so many rewarding moments but I think the ones that mean the most to me are the comments from filmgoers who tell me they look forward to returning every year and that this is their favorite weekend of the year,” Susan Koch says. “It’s very special to us to experience the genuine sense of community that’s created by a shared love of film.”

Until next year, that’s a wrap! 

For more information, visit: middleburgfilm.org.

This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue.

Search for Sugar Man, Find Yourself

Written by Kaitlin Hill 
Images courtesy of
Sony Classic Pictures

Editor’s Note: This article includes a mention of suicide.

This October marked the 10th anniversary of the Middleburg Film Festival, bringing with it A-list celebrities, exclusive screenings, packed houses, and standing ovations. Ray Romano made his directorial debut with “Somewhere in Queens” and Brendan Fraser’s triumphant return to the spotlight was celebrated by raucous applause as credits rolled on “The Whale.” But, arguably, the most powerful moment of the festival occurred on its closing afternoon, in the intimate and understated auditorium of The Hill School, in front of a modestly sized crowd. 

The documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” produced by Sony Classic Pictures, tells the most curious tale of Mexican-American, Detroit-based singer and songwriter Rodriguez. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s the point. Unlike Prince, Elvis, Sting, or Madonna, the single name is not a signifier of notoriety. Instead, the documentary explores how an artist of a similar caliber of talent could live in absolute obscurity in the United States with, unbeknownst to him, Elvis-level fame in South Africa. 

“Searching for Sugar Man” opens on a winding Cape Town highway with a disturbing rumor. “He set himself alight on stage and burnt to death in front of the audience,” says Stephen Segerman, a South African record shop owner, as he navigates a twisting road high above an endless expanse of steel gray water.

Over the course of 86 minutes, interviews with Segerman, guitarist Willem Möller, American music executive Clarence Avant, “Bonanza” actor and record producer, Steve Rowland, Detroit bar owner, Rick Emmerson, and others explore the rise of Rodriguez in South Africa and the shroud of mystery surrounding him as they seek to discover whether he is dead or alive. 

Rodriguez’s story unfolds to the soundtrack of his on-the-nose lyrics, percussion guitar, and soulful voice. In his song, “This is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues” from his first album “Cold Fact,” released in apartheid South Africa in 1971, Rodriguez lays bare the delusion of the American dream, pinpointing concerns that still dominate headlines over fifty years later. 

“The mayor hides the crime rate 
council woman hesitates 
Public gets irate but forget the vote date 
Weatherman complaining, predicted sun, it’s raining 
Everyone’s protesting, boyfriend keeps suggesting 
you’re not like all of the rest

Garbage ain’t collected, women ain’t protected 
Politicians using, people they’re abusing 
The mafia’s getting bigger, like pollution in the river 
And you tell me that this is where it’s at.” 

“To many of us South Africans, he was the soundtrack of our lives,” Segerman explains in the film. “The message it had was ‘be anti-establishment’…We didn’t know what the word anti-establishment was until it cropped up on a Rodriguez song, and then we found out it’s okay to protest against your society, to be angry at your society.” 

And music journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom adds, “This album somehow had lyrics in it that almost set us free as an oppressed people.” 

While some songs provided inspiration for the anti-apartheid movement, years later, others offered clues for Segerman and Bartholomew-Strydom in their search for Rodriguez’s origin and outcome. 

As the film demonstrates, they used the following lyrics from “Can’t Get Away,” on Rodriguez’s sophomore album, “Coming from Reality,” to find him. 

“Born in the troubled city
In Rock and Roll, USA
In the shadow of the tallest building
I vowed I would break away.”

To share too much more of the plot would be to deny potential viewers the chance to experience a masterfully captivating mystery, complete with dead ends, breakthroughs, multiple identities, moments of self-reflection, and a surprise ending. But perhaps the biggest plot twist was the Q&A following the film, where Rodriguez, yes, the Rodriguez, appeared to answer questions from the crowd. 

As the audience heaped on their praise, Rodriguez proved to be witty, soft-spoken, and above all, humble. 

When asked how he managed to stay so grounded considering his fame in South Africa, he answered simply and with a small laugh, “I’m from Detroit. We are accustomed to some noise.” 

And responding to an inquiry from the crowd on what message he would share to inspire others, he stopped, contemplated, and said “Copyright your music.” 

Though the crowd gathered at The Hill School was undoubtedly eager for more, Rodriguez, purposefully or not, didn’t deliver, continuing the legacy of mystery that has characterized his whole life. He ended simply by saying, “Goodbye, good luck, and stay well,” a sentiment similar to his song “Forget It” from “Cold Fact.” 

“If there was a word, but magic’s absurd
I’d make one dream come true
It didn’t work out, but don’t ever doubt
How I felt about you

But thanks for your time
Then you can thank me for mine
And after that’s said
Forget it.” 
ML

This article first appeared in the November 2022 issues of Middleburg Life.

Ribbon Cutting at The Rosemary

Photos by Callie Broaddus

On October 23, the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce joined The Rosemary owners, the Washer family, to celebrate the ribbon cutting for the new boutique hotel in Marshall. The event was well-attended and opened with comments from Alec Burnett, the CEO and President of the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce.

Following the ceremony, the Washer family invited guests into the parlor or lunch, drinks and a tour of the hotel.

Stay tuned for more on The Rosemary in the December 2022 issue of Middleburg Life.

IDENTITY & RESTRAINT: Art of the Dog Collar

Story by Richard D. Hooper

Another must-see exhibition will open at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) on October 7. The exhibit highlights more than 60 dog collars from the 187 collars donated to the museum by Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan in 2014. The exhibition is a collaboration between the NSLM and The American Kennel Club (AKC) Museum of the Dog in New York City which is sending 48 works of art from its collection to accompany the collars.

The first section of the exhibition focuses on collars and art from the 17th century into the middle of the 19th century. Among these collars is a very practical hinged, iron collar, and another iron collar of flattened disks with upturned spikes connected by iron rings. Both are from the 1600s.

Some collars in the collection are engraved with the dog’s name, the identity of its owner, or both. Others don’t have either but still convey the high status – its own form of identity – of its owner through both design and richness of material. One such example is an extremely large 18th-century collar from India which would have graced the neck of a Tibetan mastiff. The horsehide leather is set with brass-mounted, agate cabochons along with elaborate metalwork. Two other 18th-century leather collars are from Germany; one is adorned with brass seashells and bosses, the other with stylized initials. 

Silver collars conveyed a similar cachet. Of those included in the exhibition, there is one identified as being from the year1834. It is a simple design, and, although the dog is not named, it identifies the owners, Miss C. & E. Senhouse. Their names are elegantly engraved above their beguilingly named abode, “Nether Hall,” a structure in Cumbria at the northwest corner of England with portions dating from at least the 1400s. 

Pierced metal collars from the 18th and 19th centuries are certain to be among the highlights of the exhibition. These were made from wide bands of brass with sections removed leaving dates, letters, and designs as the surface. Contrasting leather was usually used as a liner, stitched to the collar through small holes near the upper and lower rims. An unusual example in the show has a metal liner with round-ended spikes bent over its rims.

The earliest painting on display is “The Lion Hunt,” dating from 1605 by the Flemish artist Paul de Vos. The Dutch artist Abraham Hondius is represented by several pieces including “The Amsterdam Dog Market” painted in the early 1670s. The scene is generally considered to be an imaginary construct. Nonetheless, it is an amazing painting with more than 40 dogs depicted, possibly to advertise Hondius’ expertise in painting them. In the lower right of the painting, an array of collars is laid out for perusal. Among other artists in this section of the exhibition are Philip Reinagle, George Morlandl, Henry Alken, and two paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer, including the well-known painting “Alexander and Diogenes.”

The other sections of the exhibition focus on particular breeds or types of dogs such as mastiffs, terriers, bulldogs, pointers, and setters. Included here is Richard Ansdell’s “The Poacher at Bay,” depicting a poacher trying to protect himself by desperately clutching to the collar of the gamekeeper’s mastiff. Some of the other artists on display in these sections are Percival Rousseau, Gustave Muss-Arnot, Arthur Wardle, George Earl, and George’s daughter, Maud Earl. 

Collars extend through these portions of the show as well, displayed alongside breed types or by use. These collars feature styles that were becoming more broadly available through means of manufacturing including collars with linked metal plaques or bands and interlocking, delicate chains. Many of these were for simple practicality; others strove for a high degree of decorative pleasure.

The catalog of the show contains contributions by Dr. Timothy Greenan, Claudia Pfieffer, the deputy director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the NSLM, and Alan Fausel, adjunct curator at the AKC Museum of the Dog. 

The show will run from October 7 to March 26, 2023, before traveling to the AKC Museum of the Dog in New York where it will be on display from April 5 through September 4, 2023. Finally, it will be at Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia, from November 3, 2023, until May 3, 2024.

This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, Garth Greenan Gallery, Mark Anstine, and Marianna Lancaster. ML

This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue.

History and Art Collide at Burwell-Morgan Mill

Written by Heidi Baumstark

In 1782, during the final stages of the Revolutionary War, two men struck out on a business venture – the Burwell-Morgan Mill – which became one of the most successful merchant mills in the colony of Virginia. Continuing a 200-plus-year legacy in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, its wheels still turn today to produce freshly ground grain. 

The two founders – Nathaniel Burwell (1750-1814), a Tidewater planter and great grandson of former royal governor of Virginia, Robert “King” Carter, and Daniel Morgan (1736-1802), honored Revolutionary War hero and wagoneer – came together to initiate the project in the tiny hamlet of Millwood, just 23 minutes from Middleburg. 

Art Old and New

The mill itself is a piece of art. Its lower portions are built of rugged, native limestone, and a walk through the front door opens to 200-year-old scroll and block lettering on the rustic walls. The structure is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Twice a year, the mill transforms into an art venue for the Art at the Mill show. Fine art in various forms – paintings, metalwork, pottery, ceramics, woodwork, and sculptures – is on display and for sale from over 300 gifted artists near and far. The 2022 fall show will be held from October 1 to 16. Patron’s Night, a ticketed evening gala event that includes local eats and spirited beverages, will kick off the exhibit on September 30. 

Nathan Stalvey is the director of the Clarke County Historical Association (CCHA), the organization that owns the mill. Stalvey earned a Master of Arts in Public History and Museum Management and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of South Carolina where he worked as curator of traveling exhibits and graphic design at McKissick Museum.  

“Art at the Mill is our primary fundraiser,” Stalvey says. “Funds generated help keep the water wheel turning now and for future generations so they can understand the important history it plays in the story of Clarke County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Kathy Campbell is a former CCHA board president and in the past has chaired the art show committee. She lives in neighboring Boyce and is an artist who taught art at Clarke County High School for 12 years. 

“The first [art] show was in 1990; it started as an idea to raise money for the mill’s restoration,” Campbell explains. “We have a little bit of everything in the art pieces: horses, barns, landscapes, foxes, nature scenes, abstract art. The jury works hard on picking different things to showcase. A whole team of people set up the show which includes hanging each piece (a puzzle in itself). This team is led by Snow Fielding who has been involved with the show in many capacities since the early days.”

Kathy Hudson of Berryville is on the CCHA board and currently chairs the art show committee. “We get local artists and many others from out of state,” she notes. Hudson came to Clarke County in 1985 from Pennsylvania. When she first spotted the mill, she remembers, “I was instantly enamored and taken with the area’s history.” She credits the mill as the reason she chose to stay in Virginia.

“Over the years, the caliber of the art [has been] amazing,” Hudson says. Local artist Gwen Casey-Higgins supports the art shows behind-the-scenes by responding to artists’ inquiries and handling all the advertising. “She’s my right-hand person; I’d be lost without her,” Hudson shares. 

The show is juried, requiring artists to submit photos of their work for possible inclusion. Art is displayed on the main and upper levels; extra wall units are installed for additional space to hang the multitude of pieces. “People make it an annual event to come here,” Hudson says. “Art is one way to bring people together.” 

The Mill’s History

The mill was built between 1782 and 1785 when the changing economy in Europe caused a sudden demand for grains. With Burwell’s 8,000 acres, he had the land, but he needed a partner. Enter Daniel Morgan. 

Before the war, Burwell was a 1774 graduate of the College of William and Mary. Morgan was from the north but his exact birthplace is unknown; he lacked a formal education and was a farmer. He became an experienced wagoneer who hauled freight to the eastern part of the Virginia Colony. Though Burwell and Morgan had very different starts in life, they shared one thing: their military service in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).When Burwell chose Morgan as his business partner, he had already known of Morgan’s success in the military and as a businessman. Thus began a partnership between the Colonel and the General.

The lowest level of the four-story mill houses the mechanical gears including the huge wooden water wheel that is 20 feet in diameter and turns the French buhr stones on the main level for grain grinding. These gears rotate as a result of falling water provided by Spout Run.The wooden third and fourth stories were added in 1877.

“The mill’s number one purpose was to make money. This mill was used for mass production. Its [products] were put in hogshead [barrels] for export,” Stalvey shares. Flour produced here was sent to ports in Alexandria and Dumfries for shipment to Europe and the West Indies.

According to the 1969-1970 “Proceedings of the Clarke County Historical Association: The History of The Millwood Mill 1782-1785” booklet, the area “mushroomed into a thriving post-Revolutionary village with the large merchant mill as its economic heart, including also a tanyard, a fine extensive manufactory of leather, a boot and sow maker, a large store, a tailor, a blacksmith, a waggoner, one tavern, two distilleries, and a post office.” 

Carl Maples of Berryville has volunteered at the mill for 20 years. “The Buttery [Restaurant] across the street was originally the grog shop,” he confirms. “That’s where they stored barrels [of spirits].”  

On Saturday mornings, local volunteer millers and Stalvey stay busy grinding various grains including corn varieties, buckwheat, rye, nine-grain, and wheat, all of which are available for purchase at the mill. The mill also sells recipe books so customers can bake up a fresh batch of bread at home. According to Jess Foltz, wine manager at the Locke Store across the street, “The Buttery uses the mill’s rye flour in their sourdough breads.” 

In addition to owning the 18th-century mill, CCHA owns two more 19th-century structures on the property: the miller’s house and a tollhouse that allowed paying passengers through on what was then a section of the original U.S. Route 50. The meadow surrounding the mill is an inviting space with picnic tables dotted around Spout Run, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.   

Preservation for Future Generations

To walk around this mill is to witness the vision of Burwell and Morgan and appreciate the investment and hard work by many villagers to make it a success. As the nation was just breaking free from Britain, the mill was busy providing a valuable resource for those who lived here.

Stalvey points out, “Millwood sprung up around this mill and was a center of economic activity. In its heyday, the mill served as a local gathering place. And it continues to serve as an anchor for Millwood, bringing in people from all over. Making sure the mill is preserved and operational for present and future generations is at the very heart of CCHA’s mission.”

With regard to the art show, Hudson emphasizes, “It’s a labor of love for the mill and the community.”

Burwell-Morgan Mill is located at 15 Tannery Lane in Millwood. For tickets to Patron’s Night, (September 30, 6 – 9 p.m.) and more information on Art at the Mill (October 1 – 16, Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday through Friday, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.), please visit: clarkehistory.org/art-mill.html. ML

This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue.

Village of Leesburg Pet Festival on September 24

Photos courtesy of Village of Leesburg.

Families and furry friends are welcome!

LEESBURG, Va., Sept. 19, 2022—Village at Leesburg (located on Route 7 just east of Leesburg, Va.,) will hold its annual Pet Festival on Saturday, September 24 from noon until 4 p.m. The event takes place on the Village at Leesburg plaza (in front of 1602 Village Market Blvd. SE, Leesburg, Va.) Well-mannered pets on leashes are welcome. 

Enjoy a day full of tail-wagging, live music, a 360-degree photo booth and a vendor market. Activities include luring for dogs, a balloon artist, 360-degree photo booth and Michael Horne on stilts. Paxton Lepage will DJ and play fun music throughout the event.

A group of animal rescue organizations including Virginia Shepherd Rescue, Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League, Humane Society of Loudoun County, Bobbie’s Pit Bull Rescue & Sanctuary, Doe Eyes Sanctuary & Rescue, M.A.M.A.S. Safe Haven for Puppy Rescue and others will be on hand to greet attendees and showcase animals they have for adoption.

For more information on Village at Leesburg, go to www.VillageatLeesburg.com.

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About Village at Leesburg

One of the premier shopping, dining and entertainment locations in Leesburg, Va. Village at Leesburg has more than 60 boutiques, restaurants and entertainment experiences including Wegmans, CMX Cinemas, Bowlero and more! For more information, visit www.villageatleesburg.com.

About Rappaport

Founded in 1984 by Gary Rappaport, Rappaport is an owner, developer and provider of leasing, tenant representation, property management, marketing and development. The firm’s multiple service lines and broad diversity of clients ensure an enhanced perspective on the entire retail real estate process, making the company one of the most well-known and well-respected retail real estate firms in the Washington, DC region.

Rappaport provides all facets of retail leasing for some of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most prominent developers, national brands, and emerging retailers. Led by President Henry Fonvielle, the Rappaport leasing team includes the region’s top experts in retail real estate with demonstrated success in all types of transactions across all retail property types, including urban storefronts, mixed-use, lifestyle, neighborhood, as well as development and redevelopment projects in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. 

With more than 30 years of broad and deep market presence, Rappaport has the ability to successfully adapt to the ever-changing, fast-moving, innovative, and entrepreneurial retail industry. As a trusted advisor with the right connections, unique experience, and in-depth market awareness, Rappaport has mastered the art of cultivating places. For more information, visit www.rappaportco.com

“Shades of Autumn” at the Byrne Gallery

For Immediate Release:
September 22, 2022
The Byrne Gallery 
Middleburg, VA

The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, Virginia, is proud to present Shades of Autumn, the latest series of plein air landscape and garden oil paintings by noted Virginia painter, Robert Thoren. This new exhibition for the month of October features impressionistic views that showcase the beauty of the Virginia countryside as well as scenes from Italy and France. Goose Creek and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are both represented in the splendor of the autumn season with color and majesty. The exhibition will be on display from October 5th – 30th, 2022. There will be a reception for the artist on Saturday, October 8th from 4:00 – 7:00, and a gallery talk on Saturday, October 15th, from 2:00-4:00. Drinks and refreshments will be provided. Both events and the exhibition are open to the public and all are invited to attend. 

Robert Thoren is an avid proponent and practitioner of plein air painting.  He has relished the opportunity to paint the Northern Virginia landscape, particularly the lush terrain of the Shenandoah Valley. Before moving to Virginia in 1993, Robert studied with teachers closely associated with the late Russian emigre impressionist Sergei Bongart.  Mr. Bongart’s work was often featured in exhibitions at the Frye Gallery in Seattle along with other noted artists and fellow emigres Nicolai Fechin and Leon Gaspard. 

Like Sergei Bongart, Robert Thoren paints in a sensual, impressionistic style emphasizing vivid color and employ fresh dramatic brushstrokes. His artistic goal is to suggest spontaneity while maintaining a firm mastery of drawing and painting techniques. In his many still lifes, Robert celebrates the Bongart school’s focus upon color and its ability to transform everyday objects into scenes of powerful emotion. Robert teaches both oil and acrylic landscape and still life painting through the Fairfax County Parks Authority.  He is an active member of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters.

The Byrne Gallery is located at 7 West Washington Street in Middleburg, Virginia. Gallery hours are Monday and Tuesday by appointment only, Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Contact the Byrne Gallery for more information by phone at (540) 687-6986, by email at byrnegallery@aol.com, or online at thebyrnegallery.com

10th Annual Middleburg Film Festival Announcements

Middleburg, VA, September 22, 2022The Middleburg Film Festival announced today a first
round of programming for its 10th year, which is returning with a selection of film screenings,
conversations and events October 13-16. Launching the four-day festival is WHITE, NOISE
from Academy Award-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach. Based on Don DeLillo’s
novel of the same name, the black comedy stars Adam Driver as a renowned professor of Hitler
studies who along with his wife (Greta Gerwig) and children face an “airborne toxic event”
hanging over their town that threatens everyone’s lives. Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, Sam
Nivola and Raffey Cassidy also star. Baumbach will be returning to MFF to accept the 10th
Anniversary Spotlight Filmmaker Award – he attended in 2019 with his Oscar nominated film
“Marriage Story.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY will screen on Friday, October 14 as the
Friday Centerpiece Film and will include a discussion with writer/director Ran Johnson where
he will receive the Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Additionally, Johnson and his film
editor Bob Ducsay will be presented with the inaugural Variety Creative Collaborators
Award and participate in a separate conversation that will not only focus on their current film
but take a look back at their previous collaborations including “Looper,” “Star Wars: The Last
Jedi,” and “Knives Out.” In “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Daniel Craig returns as
detective Benoit Blanc who time travels to Greece to uncover a fresh mystery involving a new
cast of colorful suspects. Joining Craig are Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Dave Bautista,
Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick and Madelyn Cline.
Screening as the festival’s Saturday Centerpiece film is Ray Romano’s directorial debut
SOMEWHERE IN QUEENS which he also wrote and stars in. The family dramedy and love
letter to New York’s largest borough is produced by MFF Advisory Board members Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa (“Nebraska,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) who will join Romano at the
festival to discuss their film following the evening screening on Saturday, October 15. Co-
written by Mark Stegemann, the film features an ensemble cast that also includes Laurie Metcalf,
Jacob Ward, Tony Lo Bianco, Sadie Stanley, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Jennifer Esposito.
The Friday Spotlight Film is THE WHALE, directed by Darren Aronofsky and based on
Samuel D. Hunter’s acclaimed stage play of the same name from which he adapted the
screenplay. Brendan Fraser turns out a remarkable performance as a reclusive English teacher
living with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one
last chance at redemption. The film also stars Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and
Samantha Morton. Fraser and Hunter will be on hand for a post screening conversation to discuss
their collaboration.

MFF will recognize Stephanie Hu with the Rising Star Award for her breakthrough
performance in EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE opposite Michelle Yeoh.
She will participate in a conversation following a special screening of the film after which she
will be presented with the award. The box office hit film broke records by becoming A24’s first
film to surpass the $100 million benchmark

“We’re honored to be joined by so many artists and filmmakers, both new and returning, who are
coming to Middleburg to share their work with us as we celebrate our 10th year,” said MFF
Executive Director Susan Koch

Saturday afternoon will see the return of many of MFF’s previous Distinguished Composer and
Songwriter honorees who will each have a selection of their works performed by a 40-piece
orchestra. Joining the 10th Anniversary Concert celebration are songwriter Diane Warren,
composers Mark Isham, Marco Beltrami, Kris Bowers, Charles Fox and the 2022
Distinguished Composer Award recipient Michael Abels. Abels is known for his genre
defying scores for Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” “Us” and this year’s “Nope.” He also composed the
upcoming LA Opera production Omar,” which is premiering October 22.

“Showcasing film music has been a signature event of our festival from the beginning. We’re
thrilled to celebrate our festival’s 10th year by bringing so many world renowned composers
back for an anniversary concert – and to also welcome this year’s talented composer honoree,
Michael Abels” said MFF Founder and Board Chair Sheila C. Johnson.
Festival ticket packages and passes are currently for sale at www.middleburgfilm.org, and
individual tickets will go on sale in early October.
The Coca-Cola Company returns as the Festival’s Presenting Sponsor. The Washington Post is
the Founding Media Sponsor.

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