hunt country

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.

The Spirit Plate

Written by Bill Kent
Photos by Callie Broaddus

Just before everyone sits down at the table, Chris “Comes with Clouds” White takes a large dinner plate and fills it with small portions of venison leg, fire-roasted oysters, tallow-fried quail, pemmican soup, three sisters stew, a dollop of pawpaw ice cream, and all of the other dishes guests bring to the November Frost Moon feast. But instead of digging in, he takes it outside.

“This is to welcome our ancestors,” explains White, a Cherokee senior elder and medicine man who lives in Bluemont, Virginia, with his wife René Locklear White, a member of the Lumbee tribe and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. “We want them to know we are grateful for the life they have given us and all the good things they have done for us.”

Exactly where he will put the plate on his 22 acres he won’t say. “The spirits would rather not be watched as they’re eating,” he explains.

What if birds, squirrels, or even a bear gets to the food first?

“The spirits can handle that,” he says. White adds that he has gratitude for all creatures. “We’re grateful every day for the Creator and what we’ve been given. Living creatures are part of that gift. Gratitude for this is one of the tenets of Native American people.”

What better way to celebrate than in a November ceremony that’s all about being grateful for the harvest? The autumnal chill makes the land and its inhabitants want to rest and relax, and friends, family, and community members come together to enjoy themselves in one big, bountiful feast.

Though, this isn’t Thanksgiving. 

The Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian is clear that some people with indigenous ancestors find the holiday to be problematic. An educator’s guide on the museum’s website states that many Native Americans have difficulty with the holiday because “the Thanksgiving celebrated today is more a combination of Puritan religious practices and the European festival called Harvest Home, which then grew to encompass Native foods.” The holiday can also be a reminder for some Native Americans that whatever peace was shared during that famed Massachusetts gathering did not last. 

Long before Europeans came to the American continent, Indigenous people held numerous celebrations that involved feasting. “Different tribes do different things, but we all have ceremonies around the solstices and equinoxes,” White notes.

Thirteen times a year, Chris and René take turns hosting feasts in their extended community that follow full moons. This month they will celebrate the “Frost Moon,” which traditionally marks the end of the harvest, the gathering of seeds, the drying, smoking, and preserving of food, and the distribution of food, firewood, and other staples to those in need.

Preparations begin with harvesting. René says that “planting and harvesting food is part of our spiritual DNA. We only take what is in season, when it is at its peak.”

Her mother used to tell her that what isn’t in season is poison. René tries to follow that guidance because “food is so much healthier, tastier, and beautiful when it’s at the peak season. We try to grow, forage and harvest all we need right here, so you won’t see us in a supermarket that often.”

The best of their harvest goes into the Harvest Bowl: a box, basket, or easily handled container  filled with items that neighbors want to share. Chris and René take what they want, fill a new box or basket with pickings from their gardens, and then take it to the next neighbor in the community network.

René says she never sees bruised fruit or over-ripe tomatoes in the Harvest Bowl. “My sister Janice taught me you would never think of keeping the best for yourself. She and our mother taught us many ways to preserve foods. If the receiver looks at the harvest as a gift, then they can’t help but honor that gift by using what they receive and sharing their gratitude with others.”

On the morning of the feast, Chris splashes cold water on his face. “Water is life, life is ceremony,” he says. Then he goes to his outdoor fire pit, places a bit of sweet grass on the wood, and lights it up.

Every guest invited to the feast must bring a dish that has special meaning to them. Some will also bring seeds for next year’s planting.

Carrie Fox, a member of the Lenni-Lenape, and her husband, Nathan, a carpenter, former Marine, and Cherokee, have a small farm in Berryville where they raise quail, ducks, chickens, honey bees, and seasonal vegetables. For them, the Feast of the Frost Moon is “one more way of reconnecting,” Fox says. “Growing up, we knew about our heritage but we were not immersed in practicing traditions. Chris and René have created a kind of intertribal space for us, and others who want to rediscover the natural world.”

Fox finds that growing, celebrating, and eating food that is part of, or relates to, the world of her ancestors is the most direct and satisfying way to do that.

And she’s not alone. Among this year’s best-selling non-fiction books is “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. A member of the Potawatomi Nation and an environmental science professor at the State University of New York in Syracuse, Kimmerer wrote the book for her academic peers. She never expected it to sell 1.4 million copies, or to be translated into 20 languages. 

“If we use a plant respectfully, it will flourish,” Kimmerer writes. “If we ignore it, it will go away.”

Kimmerer told The Washington Post that she “was sensing, as an environmentalist, this great longing in the public, a longing to belong to a place. I think about how many people have no culture, have no ancestral home….That sense of not belonging here contributes to the way we treat the land.”

Just last month, Kimmerer was among several artists, writers, scientists, and educators to get an $800,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation. 

Chris and René call this newfound awareness of Indigenous knowledge a “New Tribe Rising.” Earlier this year, René received a fellowship from the Lumbee Tribal University at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, to map out America’s Native Food Trail. In December, she will go to Minneapolis to meet Oglala Lakota Chef Sean Sherman, whose restaurant, Owami, was just named the best new restaurant in the United States by the James Beard Foundation.  

Owami is one of a dozen or so American restaurants now serving what Sherman calls Indigenous cuisine. (Among the first is the Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.)

In his 2017 cookbook, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” Sherman asks, “Why isn’t the Indigenous diet all the rage today? It’s hyperlocal, ultra seasonal, uber healthy….This is a diet that connects us all to nature and to each other in the most direct and profound ways.”

In a recent New Yorker Magazine profile, Sherman spoke of the importance of seasonal feasts. “The best food just happens to us when we get together with friends and we just try things. As long as it’s fresh, grown by us, in season, or, if it comes from somewhere else, without any preservatives and processing — and we maintain our respect for the food as a gift we have been given — the results are almost always amazing for all of us. This isn’t about one of us being a great chef and the others sitting in awe of what that person makes. It’s about all of us sharing what we have, what we can do, what we can teach and enjoy.”

That’s why Clay Morris is invited so frequently to celebrational feasts. A restoration ecologist, ethnobiologist, and native wisdom keeper, he also teaches seasonal foraging courses at the Salamander Resort & Spa. Whenever a feast is scheduled, he takes his time to thoughtfully select a dish to make from over a hundred locally foraged Indigenous dishes that he knows.

How about an appetizer of pickled cattail shoots, pine cones, wild onion flowers, ramps and elderberry capers? Or smoked trout with mashed sunchokes, lamb’s quarters sauteed with wild onions, garlic mustard pesto, roasted burdock root, pashofa (pork with hominy), washed down with dandelion root tea and, for dessert, heirloom pears poached in elderberry syrup?

“All are made with ingredients that are right here in our backyards, prepared through the lens of traditional knowledge, and then brought to the level of fine, contemporary cuisine,” Morris says. Thinking it over, he decides he will bring the paw-paw ice cream. “Everybody loves it.”

Morris isn’t at work on a cookbook — yet.

Guests tend to arrive early to finish cooking their dishes or just sit around the fire and talk. “The fire is always a safe place of conversation,” White says. “It’s a time to catch up on how we’ve been, what new things are happening in our life and, as always, what we have to be grateful for.”

Any kind of complaining — about jobs, traffic, politics, social media, sports teams — is discouraged. A smudge bowl of burning sage and sweetgrass sits near the fire pit. The fragrant aroma helps guests cleanse themselves of negative feelings.

Children help with some of the cooking. “Kids will show an interest in everything and anything, if you will let them. It doesn’t matter if they grow up to be chefs. It’s important that they learn our ways so that they can feel a connection to the land and the Creator, and pass that on to their children,” White notes. 

As the night darkens, guests sit around the fire in a circle. Each guest takes a turn talking about their dish and why they brought it. 

Chris takes samples for the spirit plate. When he returns, there is a brief pause “in which we thank the Creator for the gift of life and everything else we have received.”

Then they dig in. ML

This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue.

Family Fun at Cobbler Mountain in Delaplane

Written by Lia Hobel
Photos by Michael Butcher

Cobbler Mountain is especially beautiful in autumn with vibrant tree canopies dotting a family heirloom now in its third generation. It’s a majestic, peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life for visitors  and even the owners. “Every season on Cobbler Mountain is a gift of nature, wildlife, and changing plant life,” said owner Laura McCarthy Louden. 

The Louden Family.

A Celtic symbol is etched on the welcome sign and branded material. It’s a permanent marker designed by Louden, to emphasize the family connectedness that stemmed from her father’s heart when he purchased the mountain in 1959. Louden remembers her father, Lawrence Daniel McCarthy’s, dream to make it into a family working farm. His Irish heritage gave him a strong work ethic and love for nature. He taught in the countryside at a school in nearby Marshall. “He was a forward-thinker in the early 60s, inviting families with children in wheelchairs, walkers, and limited by sight or sound to explore Cobbler Mountain on hikes and camp-outs,” Louden shares.

Shortly after meeting the future Mrs. McCarthy, he was recruited to direct a facility in South Carolina in 1967, where Louden and her sibling would grow up. Her father passed at the age of 42, but her mother held onto the Cobbler Mountain farmland to save for her grown children.

In 2011, Louden and her husband, Jeff, made her father’s aspiration for the land a reality. They opened Cobbler Mountain Cidery out of their basement with a couple of ciders and a few wines and became Fauquier’s first cidery. Her husband’srecipes started in their South Carolina home where his craft hobby first developed. In 2006, they took the leap to move close to the Virginia farm to start researching the opportunity. After three years of planning and paperwork, a new infrastructure of road, electricity and wells began in 2008 followed by their hilltop house construction in 2009. By 2015, with the growing popularity of their ciders,  the Loudens chose to focus on them exclusively and constructed a separate building for larger operational use and visitor space. 

Today, guests who come to the mountain can sip on a hot toddy or choose from one of the two dozen handcrafted ciders on the seasonal menu. Currently, autumn flavors are bountiful with the Harvest Pumpkin, Kickin’ Cinnamon, Ginger Snap, Cinnamon Pumpkin, Cider Donut, and Maple Stout. Other in season ciders include the Jammin’ Cranberry Ginger, Cranberry Hard Tea, Cranberry Hard Seltzer and the Red Sangria. These are in addition to other ciders including the Pomegranate Black Currant, Wild BlackBerry Hop, Original Honey, Traditional Jeffersonian, Mountain Top Hop, Golden Pineapple Sunset, and Razzle Dazzle Raspberry.

Daniel Louden shows off what’s on tap.

On the drive  to the cidery, visitors will travel across Thumb Run Creek. The creek runs to the Shenandoah mountains and finally to the Chesapeake Watershed but originates from a neighboring spring dating to the 1700s, explains Louden. There is a second spring on the mountain above their residence that offers spring water used in the hard seltzer and hard cider production. “Many say it is the best water ever tasted,” she shares. Around the creek, guests can spot n year-round wildlife visitors, including resident families of black bear, deer, fox, raccoon, skunk, wild turkey, heron, and many birds including the pileated woodpecker all of which are featured on the cider bottle labels.

With over 90 wildlife-protected acres, the cidery is much more than a place to stop through for a crisp beverage. All guests, including children and pets, are welcome to hike the 45-acres of wooded trails with scenic vistas, as well as picnic on the sprawling grounds. For precautions, Louden notes that  hikers are required to sign-in to the guest log, as well as leave their ID and sign out upon return. They are also  encouraged to hike with a partner or group.

Thumb Run Creek.

To enhance the outdoor seasonal experience, warm campfires await guests and are scattered about the hillside. Louden recommends walk-ins come early to grab a spot, but they are available to reserve for larger groups or special occasions. “Throughout November, December, and January, many regular customers bring family and friends to celebrate the holidays,” she says.  Children are welcome to visit the “little bear cub playhouse,” which is hidden under the staircase of the cidery. There are also table games, like checkers, and options for coloring at the tables in the back game rooms. As an added treat for little ones, every September, a fresh batch of non-alcoholic cider juice is pressed and served on tap until sellout (usually by March). Year-round, youngsters may also order root beer on tap or the non-alcoholic sparkling fruit spring waters which have flavors changing each season. 

As their award-winning cidery continues to grow, the Loudens’ twin son and daughter, Daniel and Olivia, have also joined the cidery business, making it the family operation their grandfather had hoped for. ML

Cobbler Mountain Cidery

5909 Long Fall Lane, Delaplane, Va 20144

The cidery is open year-round for walk-ins on Saturdays 11:00-5:00pm, Sundays 12:00-5:00pm and weekdays by appointment. Groups of all sizes are welcome with advance planning.

Local dog groups meet monthly; the Fauquier Scottish Heritage Society hosts Game Outings; plus many special occasions are celebrated throughout the year.

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.

Three Listings from Laura Farrell

Fun Shop, 115 Washington St W, Middleburg 

  • Link: https://www.ttrsir.com/id/279-l-84598-valo433476
  • Brief Overview: Middleburg mixed-use development opportunity on approximately an acre of land. Exceptional offering due to the amount of land and the potential for developing a residential and business community for Middleburg’s next generation. Property includes the Fun Shop building with four separate entrances and three additional detached residences. Prime west-end location across from the National Sporting Library & Museum.
  • Please Tag: @bundlesmurdock @ttrsir @laurafarrellrealestate 

4868 The Dell, Hume

  • Link: https://www.ttrsir.com/id/279-l-84598-4l34mx
  • Brief Overview: Ideally located minutes from The Plains and Middleburg, this 26-acre property offering has a large main residence, slate patios, pool, horse stable, detached garage, and several fenced paddocks. The residence is an interesting blend of historic elements and modern additions creating a comfortable, yet charming mix of living spaces, lending itself well for guest accommodations and entertaining.
  • Please Tag: @ttrsir @laurafarrellrealestate

3819 Landmark, The Plain

  • Link: https://www.ttrsir.com/id/279-l-84598-r6hrwf
  • Brief Overview: The Dell, a rare offering in which old world luxury meets a modern private retreat in Northern Fauquier County. This c1840 estate offers endless possibilities such as a private residence, family compound, retreat, wellness center, or boutique bed-and-breakfast. An exceptional offering of 5 dwellings including the Georgian style main residence, renovated modern secondary residence, guest house situated in the inner courtyard, stone lodge office with attached log cabin, large horse barn, and 2-floor apartment, welcomed by the enchanting tree-lined drive. 
  • Please Tag: @ttrsir @laurafarrellrealestate 

Online Exclusive: Conversation with Kenny Grandon of Goodstone Inn

Written by Kaitlin Hill

In September, Kenny Grandon took over the helm as Goodstone Inn’s new Wine Director. The Woodstock, Virginia, native and certified sommelier shares with Middleburg Life, in an exclusive online interview, what guests of the Hunt Country retreat can expect when they come looking for a good glass of wine.

When asked what brought him to Goodstone Inn, Grandon says it was, “the opportunity for growth and to expand my horizons” that really attracted him. He adds that he plans to “take on the already nice wine list and push it forward.”

Grandon comes to Goodstone after five years at the Inn at Little Washington, where he was the cellar master. In his new post he will manage wine needs for both The Bistro and The Conservatory and also hopes to “revitalize the retail wine program.”

Expanding on that, “I think it was started back in [the height] of COVID,” he says. “It gives guests the opportunity to email me their preferences of what they like, [so that] I can help them discover new wines in the range of what they would like to spend.” He finishes, “The guests have to come pick up the wines, so it’s a great reason to come to dinner as well!”

In addition to revamping the retail program, Grandon has his sights set on prestigious wine awards. “Right now, we have the second Wine Spectator award, but we are certainly pushing to get the Grand award of which there are only 97 in the entire world.” He adds, “That is my first goal. To do what I can to get that award.”

As for what types of wines he plans to bring to Goodstone, it will be a mix of vintages sourced from around the world and just around the corner. “I am going to have some old worlds because you have to have your French wines like Bordeaux and Burgundy. There will be some Italian and Spanish as well,” he says. “But I also certainly have a soft spot for Virginia.”

His partner, Melanie, is the winemaker at Cana Vineyards. “I have added some of her wines to the list and Boxwood as well.” He continues, “I’m excited to continue to expand the Virginia wine sections and use some in our upcoming tastings menus.”

Grandon is looking forward to the collaboration with the Goodstone kitchen staff as part of his new role. “Wine dinners will happen in the near future…I definitely plan to bring some winemakers in and do some fun dinners on the weekends. [That way] everyone can actually enjoy themselves. We can sell out The Conservatory and people won’t have to go to work the next day.”

More than wine dinners, his work with the kitchen is centered on a common goal. “We as a team are certainly pushing for Michelin recognition in the future. It’ll take all of us hard work to get there, but that is our goal.  I’m looking forward to being a part of the process.”

As for personal goals he shares, “I plan to continue to study. Studying and reading to be continuously engrossed in wine.”

For those who cross Grandon’s path at Goodstone, they are in for a treat. Not only is he knowledgeable enough about wine to recommend the perfect bottle he says, “I’m a people pleaser. So, whatever I can do to bring a smile to someone’s face, to be a part of their experience, that has driven me for the past 16 years.”

This article first appeared online in November 2022.

The Dine After the Dash: Hunt Breakfast Memories

Written by Heidi Baumstark

In foxhunting circles, it is called “the dine after the dash.” Afterall, who wouldn’t be hungry after a morning of chasing a fox on horseback in the fresh country air?

The hunt breakfast is so named no matter what time of day the feast is served. Since hunts historically started with the rising of the sun, the first meal afterwards would be breakfast; hence, the hunt breakfast term stuck.

Here in Virginia, hunt breakfasts typically feature ham biscuits, stews, and desserts with equestrian and foxhunting themes. And of course, many hunts begin with the ritual of a stirrup cup – a bit of “liquid courage” – traditionally filled to the brim with Irish coffee, hot buttered rum or sherry; or, perhaps ginger brandy served to riders while their feet are already in the stirrups just before they leave for the hunt.

Saturday hunts are typically followed by the traditional hunt breakfast at the host’s property. Coming in from the field, riders peel off hunting coats trading them in for tweed hacking jackets, gather inside where it’s warm, and where food and drink are plentiful, to recount the drama of the hunt. 

Recollections From Local Hunt Breakfast Hosts

Zohar and Lisa Ben-Dov of Kinross Farm near Middleburg host a hunt breakfast the Saturday before Thanksgiving for Orange County Hounds (OCH), opening their property to fellow hunt enthusiasts, friends, and guests. 

Kinross, a 500-acre property under conservation easement with Virginia Outdoors Foundation, is near Wexford, once the country estate of former President John and First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

“We were living in upstate New York and Zohar wanted to hunt more often. So, we moved to Virginia for better weather, bought the farm in 1985, and since 1989, have hosted a hunt breakfast on the property – every year except 2020 because of COVID,” Lisa explains. Zohar has hunted with the Middleburg Hunt, Piedmont, Orange County, Loudoun, and Old Dominion.

The brick house at Kinross dates to 1837 and breakfasts were first held there. But the house was not large enough for the number of guests they invited, so Zohar built another complex on the farm that could accommodate additional guests. Lisa added, “For decorations, I picked different flowers depending on what linen colors I decided to use. Being originally from New Orleans, it became a tradition to serve jambalaya and horse-shaped cookies.” 

At Kinross, people begin arriving around 9:30 a.m., and the meet kicks off with a stirrup cup of port or sherry. By 10 a.m., the hunt takes off. After hours of hunting, breakfast usually starts at 1 p.m. 

Last year, the Ben-Dovs decided to have the breakfast outside and hosted it in the field. The menu included wonderful hot soups, ham biscuits, and sandwiches, and a full bar. Lisa recalls, “It was great! Everyone loved it. This year, I’m having it outside again.” 

Another popular hunt breakfast is hosted the Saturday after Thanksgiving at Welbourne. Dulany Morison continues Piedmont’s long tradition of hosting at Welbourne, which sits on 520 acres that are protected in a conservation easement with Virginia Outdoors Foundation. But theirs is an evening affair, a cocktail dinner complete with Hunt Country attire. 

When hounds come in around 2 p.m., riders take their horses home and get ready for the evening before returning. Bartenders are on the porches. Servers offer ham biscuits to start. Then there is a formal buffet spread in the dining room which includes beef tenderloins, sliced ham, and mashed potatoes. “We keep the menu pretty traditional,” Dulany adds. “And there’s always roaring fires in every fireplace. I also recall an old photo of children sitting on the stairs at Welbourne with dinner plates on their laps.”

Photo by Karen Fuog.

“It’s a chance to interact with some of the landowners and riders to toast their ‘hopefully’ successful day,” Dulany says. “It’s a camaraderie-building occasion that benefits rider and landowner alike; it ties everyone together in support of the landscape. There’s a driving force and motivation to preserve the territory for fox hunters. And it’s trickled down to others who support the industry in so many ways: those who provide horse care, feed, equestrian supplies, caterers, designers, etc. There are so many layers. Some of the most passionate enthusiasts are those who are doing a lot of the work. They take great pride in it.”

Dulany and his wife, Eleanor, also subscribe to Orange County Hounds, and Eleanor is a steward on the OCH board. Since 2015, the Morisons have hosted a breakfast at their Stoke Farm in OCH territory. “We host it closer to Christmas, so everything is decorated for the holidays,” Dulany says. Stoke’s 285 acres are protected under conservation easement with Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

These breakfasts include hearty fare, live fires, and festive drinks – mostly red wine or bourbon is consumed, but there’s always a full bar. Dulany adds, “With these breakfasts, the host is thanking their fellow hunters and neighboring landowners for allowing the use of their land, and they serve as a venue for inviting others.”

Another local foxhunter, Rose Marie Bogley, has hosted her share of hunt breakfasts at her Upperville estate Peace and Plenty at Bollingbrook. She hunted with Middleburg Hunt from 1975 to 1985. In 1985, she moved to Bollingbrook where she has hosted breakfasts for Piedmont for over 30 years. Her estate includes a grand manor house that dates to 1809 on 400 acres, with 365 of those acres in a conservation easement with the Land Trust of Virginia.  

Hunts usually start around 9 a.m. Before the pandemic, she hosted it as close to Christmas as possible. “I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Bogley shares. “During the breakfast, horses can be put in stalls since there are several on the property. We had valet parking and gave people rides up to the house. There’s a healthy crowd of about 100 at a time, people coming and going. It got bigger each year.”  

Last time Bogley hosted, she served chili. “I found this wonderful recipe in a cooking magazine called Bourbon Chili; it was the best, everyone loved it,” she remembers. “It cooked all night, and at four o’clock in the morning, I’d come downstairs and could smell it. We had corn muffins too, along with ham, salads, and a big dessert table. I’m from Pennsylvania and my sister knew someone there who made really good nut rolls. We had a full bar – actually, two bars – and bartenders.”

Dulany sums up the significance of the hunt breakfast perfectly: “It’s a happy time during a cold season, and it’s a great way to celebrate a day of sport. Instilling this interest into the next generation is key on everyone’s mind in the fox hunting world. Hopefully, it will be kept alive for future generations.”

We can all toast to that. ML

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue.

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