hunt country

Virginia Gold Cup Races to Hold Historic Hat Contest on May 6

Hat expert provides tips for a winning hat on race day.

THE PLAINS, VA – One of the nation’s oldest and largest steeplechase events, the Virginia Gold Cup, celebrates its 98th anniversary this year on Saturday, May 6, at Great Meadow in The Plains. One of the hallmarks of the legendary event is its hat contest that draws dozens of contenders vying to win one of the five contest categories: most glamorous or elegant; best racing theme; funniest or most outrageous hat; best child’s hat; and best men’s hat. Celebrity judges will decide whose hats are the most impressive and competition is fierce.

Devon Zebrovious has won the Virginia Gold Cup hat contest’s “most glamorous” hat for multiple years. This year, she’s helping others organize their hats. Zebrovious has been competing in hat contests at races in the mid-Atlantic region since 2004 with wins at more than five different race locations. In 2018, she started designing and making her own hats. Soon, friends were coming to her to borrow hats. Her hats have been to the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup, and Saratoga races with her friends.

When asked what makes for a winning hat, Zebrovious provides the following tips: 

  • Decide on your dress or suit first, then select your hat. Your millinery should be part of your outfit, and it’s far easier to find or make a hat to go with the outfit than vice versa. Bigger brimmed hats typically work best with more fitted clothes. If you have a dress with statement sleeves, you want the hat to work with them, not battle them for supremacy, in your overall style.
  • Don’t choose a hat you can’t confidently wear, either in size or design. Bigger isn’t always better! Fascinators, hatinators, and crowns are all excellent options, in addition to a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Choose a hat in appropriate materials for the season. Straw, sinamay, and light fabrics are for spring and summer racing. Felt, leather, and heavier fabrics are for fall and winter racing.
  • Don’t forget to consider the weather! If it is pouring rain on race day and you will need to carry an umbrella as an essential accessory, don’t wear a hat that can’t fit underneath it and stay dry. 
  • Play around with the position of the hat on your head to find the best angle, or the best side on which to place a fascinator, that will suit your facial structure. Don’t hide your eyes!
  • Don’t forget to think about your hairstyle! Unless going for a boho or casual look, an updo will usually be the best choice to finish your look, rather than having your hair down. If your hat has an elastic, having a bun around which you can wrap it will help keep it secure on your head.
  • If it is breezy, remember to use a hat pin, or an attached elastic, to keep your hat on your head. Chasing your loose hat around or having to have a death grip on the brim is not how one wants to spend the day!

“Many may think that the Virginia Gold Cup is all about horse racing, but there are a good number of attendees who are more focused on the social aspect of the event,” explains Zebrovious. “The hat contest is one of the day’s most anticipated events.”

The Gold Cup’s long-standing tradition beckons to national celebrities, local VIPs, D.C. politicians, as well as visitors from around the world. Characterized by fancy hats, lavish tailgate spreads, sleek thoroughbreds, and exciting hoof-pounding competition, many individuals and companies have capitalized on what the day has to offer by getting involved with sponsorships, purchasing tents to entertain, and some actually end up doing business there.

The 98th Annual Running of the Virginia Gold Cup will take place on Saturday, May 6, at Great Meadow in The Plains. Gates open at 10 a.m. with the national anthem and color guard pre-race at 12:30 p.m. The tailgate contest judging begins at 12:45 p.m. and the first of eight horse races will be underway at 1 p.m.

Tailgate packages, which now include tents in most areas, and Members Hill entertaining tents are available. Purchases can be made online at or by calling 540-347-2612. General admission ticketing has returned for 2023.

Great Meadow is located just 45 minutes west of Washington, D.C., and is in close proximity to Dulles International Airport. To get there from Washington, D.C., take I-66 west to The Plains exit. Turn left at the end of the ramp onto The Plains Road (Route 245 south), and follow signs to Great Meadow which will be on your left. Call 540-347-2612 for additional information or visit the web site at

The 2023 Virginia Gold Cup Races are presented by Atlantic Union Bank, Brown Advisory, Virginia Equine Alliance, VHBPA, Charles Schwab, and the Virginia Thoroughbred Association.

Photos by Richard Clay.

Posted on: March 22, 2023

If the Shoe Fits: A Farrier’s Story

Written by Bill Kent / Photos by Callie Broaddus

Thirty horseshoes hang on a wall in Gwen Nardi’s Rixeyville rancher, which she shares with her wife Katy, two horses, and as many as seven rescue dogs. 

Instead of luck, each horseshoe comes from a horse whose life Nardi helped prolong and improve. Nardi either detected an illness early so a vet could treat it in time, or made a special shoe that corrected a problem that, without it, would have made the horse lame.

“It’s about making things better for the horse, the client, the rider — everyone,” she says. “That, and a feeling and a knowledge of doing the job right. Being a farrier is an art as much as any other, and this is my art.”

And yet, at 34, having practiced her art professionally for more than a decade, Nardi readily acknowledges the challenges. “This can be a thankless job. Only about five percent of the apprentices who train to be farriers are still working after five years,” she notes. “Very few last more than 25 years. You can tell the older ones because their legs are stiff from squatting and they stand hunched over from bending their backs.”

Not to mention swollen thumbs and fingers from those moments when they did not hit the nail precisely on the head, or scarred skin on the hands and forearms from red-hot metal particles that fly into the air while the farrier hammers a shoe into shape.

However, Nardi persists even after a horse’s hoof broke her jaw and battered her skull a few years ago. After a month of sipping meals through a straw, she was back to work, treating and shoeing eight horses a day during Hunt Country’s summer hunting and jumping season. 

And she does not pay attention to those who think — wrongly — that women farriers can’t do the job as well as men.

“It’s true that there are more male farriers than women, and that women tend to have less body mass, that our hands are smaller. But the farrier’s art goes back to Celtic times and there’s evidence that women farriers have worked since then.” 

Nardi’s tool rig sits inside a custom-made trailer that includes racks of pre-made horseshoes, bars of metal she can shape into a custom shoe, an anvil, and a toaster-oven-sized forge that burns at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and can “heat a can of soup in record time.”

But Nardi doesn’t eat lunch. She works a full eight to 10 hours on a 32-ounce Yeti mug of coffee.

After taking a sip, she holds up a pair of nippers. “These used to come in one size. Now, because there are so many farriers, and some of us have smaller hands, this is made with an intermediate-sized grip.”

When the hardships of the job threaten her resolve, she looks at the horseshoes hanging on her home’s wall, or she calls one of her mentors, Professor Travis Burns, chief of Farrier Services at Virginia Tech. “We commiserate about the job, and I learn more every time we talk,” she notes.

“Most farriers leave the profession for many reasons,” Burns says. “Some of those include the physical toll of the job, difficult clients and horses. Gwen has dedication and a work ethic that is unmatched,” he adds. “She is relentless in her commitment to increasing her knowledge and skills to make her the best possible farrier she can be.”

The word “farrier,” a person who shoes horses, comes from the Latin word “ferrus,” for iron. Today, steel is the preferred metal for shoes, with aluminum also employed for a lighter fit.

For centuries, making horseshoes was one more job for a blacksmith. The farrier’s task was cleaning and trimming the hoof, and attaching the shoe. To shape the shoe more precisely to the hoof, farriers acquired the skill of metalworking. 

As the breeding, care, uses, and competitive roles of horses became more sophisticated, so did the farrier’s job. Organizations such as the United Kingdom’s Worshipful Company of Farriers (founded in 1356) and the much younger American Farriers Association (founded in 1971) now mandate proficiency examinations and apprenticeships that expand the farrier’s ability to identify and correct problems relating to the hoof.

However, in the United States, a farrier need not have any formal training, pass a test, or earn a certification in order to work with horses. It’s impossible to say how many American farriers are not certified or achieve journeyman status. Nardi has an added therapeutic endorsement qualifying her to make special shoes to accommodate injuries and illnesses. Within the year, she plans to complete her UK certification.

“It is the toughest and strictest in the world,” she says. Why pile on distinctions? “I’m proud of what I do.”

Born in New York state to a family of five, Nardi and her twin sister rode their first horses shortly after their father died. They were 6 years old.

“My mother encouraged us to ride as a way to help us deal with our loss, and it worked.” At the stable, Nardi was the farrier’s shadow and liked their manner and characteristic leather apron. “I liked its clean lines, and I think I knew, even at that early age, that I had found my life’s work,” she explains.

The sisters supported their riding passion by caring for others’ horses. After high school, Nardi decided to attend the Kentucky Horseshoeing School’s 22-week workshop where, in addition to learning to always open the soup can before you heat it on the forge, she slept very little and worked hard to graduate with the highest distinction.

Her apprenticeship to the late, legendary Paul Goodness at Forging Ahead in Round Hill brought her to Hunt Country, where, with the exception of seasonal working trips to Florida, she has remained, mentoring younger farriers and, on days off, going for hikes at the Manassas Battlefield and “other places where it isn’t too crowded.”

During the height of the pandemic, Nardi actually worked harder, seeing her clients more often as those with horses found themselves with the time, if not the means, to give them even more attention. “People used the barn to escape their homes and confinement,” Nardi remembers.

But the post-COVID inflationary rise in prices has affected her costs. Prices for just about everything she uses, from the metal for her shoes to the propane that fires her forge, have gone up.

“So I work harder,” she says stoically.

Terri Turner Smith has known Nardi longer than most of her horses. The trainer and owner of TS Show Stables, Smith is one of 70 Hunt Country clients and owns 15 of the 210 horses that Nardi visits every four to six weeks, more often during the summer jumper and hunting season.

Smith first hired Nardi nine years ago on the recommendation of her veterinarian. She cites that Nardi’s “attention to detail and pride in her work make her stand out in her profession. Her knowledge base and ability to work with veterinarians while understanding the anatomy and pathology of the horses is an invaluable asset. She is as important to the health and success of my horses as my veterinarian.”

Dr. Paul Anikis, a veterinarian with Piedmont Equine, learned of Nardi’s work when she was apprenticed to Paul Goodness. Since then, all 14 of Piedmont Equine’s vets have worked with Nardi in treating hoof pathologies.

“We have had a lot of cases where infections to the foot will require the removal of the majority of the hoof wall,” Dr. Anikis says. “Depending how much we take off, the horse can lose the stability and integrity of the foot. Gwen can make a special shoe with a Kevlar cuff that will restore some of this stability and prevent further injury while the foot is healing.”

The dimensions, construction, and installation of the shoe must be extraordinarily precise. Errors in these hospital plates or other special shoes for horses surviving white line disease, keratomas, laminitis, or injuries resulting in deep cracks in the hoof, can lame a horse. When the shoe fits and the horse gets proper care, the animal’s longevity and quality of life can be greatly improved. And Gwen Nardi will add another shoe to her home’s wall. ML

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Thoughts On Film with Tom Davenport

Written by Will Thompson / Photos by Callie Broaddus

The streets of Middleburg hovered between 20 degrees and just below freezing on a wind-chilled February evening. Even as the sun began to set on Washington Street, a warm light glowed welcomingly from the Middleburg Community Center. Inside, a crowd had gathered from across Hunt Country and beyond to share in experiencing films by local filmmaker Tom Davenport. The screening celebrated the golden anniversary of the production of Davenport’s film, “Thoughts on Fox Hunting,” while raising funds for Friends of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in nearby Delaplane. 

Since the early 1970s, Davenport, who was raised in Fauquier County, has been making films in which the folk cultures of the Piedmont play the leading role. Davenport’s films include documentaries portraying families, communities, and local cultural institutions such as fox hunting, rabbit hunting with beagles, and country music. He has also made scripted films based on folktales set in Hunt Country. Some of his best known are his adaptations of Grimm’s fairy tales set among the Piedmont landscape and culture.

The octogenarian filmmaker first came to live in Northern Virginia in the 1950s when his father purchased a run-down farm on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains which he renamed Hollin. After growing up working and living on Hollin Farms, Davenport traveled out of Hunt Country, receiving a degree from Yale University in 1961, teaching English and studying Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and working as an apprentice to documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock and Don Pennebaker in New York City. Davenport returned to Hollin Farms in 1970 and founded the independent film company, Davenport Films, in partnership with his wife, co-producer, and designer, Mimi Davenport. These days Davenport is not making new films but directs videos for, a non-profit focused on preserving American folklife through documentary film. He also helps out on the farm, managing the Hollin Farms natural beef sales.        

After five decades of documenting and telling stories of life in Hunt Country, Davenport’s films have themselves become part of the community’s culture. It’s not uncommon for viewers to recognize their families, neighbors, or favorite landmarks in his films. And his works, particularly his adaptations of Grimm’s fairy tales, have become educational bulwarks in area libraries, classrooms, and on public broadcasting stations.

Following the screening of his films at the Community Center, Davenport talked conversationally and joked with the audience which included current members of the fox hunting community and family members of Melvin Poe, the subject of “Thoughts on Fox Hunting.” “This is a bit like attending my own funeral,” he said with a smile while looking out over a crowd of his friends, neighbors, and colleagues of past and present. Davenport’s anecdotes bubbled over with such enthusiastic detail that his audience was transported to late 20th-century fox hunts, scrambling alongside the filmmakers as they chased a pack of baying hounds and galloping horses while carrying heavy 16 mm film cameras. Davenport also passed around one of the actual cameras used to capture the film: a World War II-era Bell & Howell windup camera weighing nearly 20 pounds that the filmmakers ran with or carried on horseback. 

“You don’t have to go to some fancy tourist place to find something wonderful; you can find it in your backyard,” Davenport shared. “You can find something wonderful in your family or your local community that is worth documenting and you do it in a way that gives it honor, and beauty, and meaning.” 

Recognizing the need for American folklife stories to reach wider audiences, Davenport founded in 2002 in partnership with Dr. Daniel Patterson of the University of North Chapel Hill. The American Folklore Society described their work as a visionary project, started at a time when streaming films on the web was in its infancy. It has gone on to become an extraordinary democratic initiative in public folklore and education, exponentially increasing the visibility of the field and giving grassroots communities across the U.S. access to their own traditions, folklore, and cultural history.

“Telling stories is a profoundly human act,” said Davenport. “It’s an attempt to transcend our human limitations of distance, time, and even death. We may pass on, but the best of us, our lessons, values, and heroes, lives on in our stories and reaches generations far beyond our own.”

Davenport’s films, as well as those by other filmmakers, are available to stream free of charge at ML

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Spring Racing is Right Around the Corner

Written by Victoria Peace / Photos by Joanne Maisano 

Spring is finally in the air, which means racing season is right around the corner in Middleburg. If you are anxiously awaiting the return of tailgating with friends and a program packed full of exciting races, read on to get the latest updates about the spring race calendar in Hunt Country. 

This year, the National Steeplechase Association (NSA) is teaming up with the Old Dominion Point-to-Point to host three sanctioned races with purses on April 8. “This provides an extra opportunity for our horsemen to run for races with large purses,” NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo says. He is excited about the partnership and the benefits that it brings to both the Old Dominion Hunt and the NSA.

Gallo is responsible for directing the racing program throughout the year for the NSA. In this role, he is in constant contact with trainers and race meet directors. During the racing season, Gallo travels to a meet every weekend where he works with the stewards, walks the racecourse, coordinates the video cameras, and helps with the countless other aspects of race officiating. 

“We are looking forward to our Virginia meets which are certainly some of the most popular on our circuit,” Gallo emphasizes. “The Virginia steeplechase program has been important for years and years.” To Gallo, the Middleburg Spring Races and the Virginia Gold Cup are “key stops during the spring” and “play a big role in the National Steeplechase Association.”

For those new to racing, the Middleburg Spring Races and the Virginia Gold Cup are both sanctioned races, which means they are regulated and run by the National Steeplechase Association. Jockeys compete against each other for monetary purses and the races tend to have a larger number of entries. In contrast, point-to-point races are organized and run by local hunts. Jockeys do not compete for monetary purses. However, many jockeys who compete in sanctioned races also compete in the point-to-points in order to practice for larger races later in the season.

Don Yovanovitch, secretary and treasurer of the Virginia Steeplechase Association and president of the Virginia Point-to-Point Foundation, encourages Hunt Country residents to attend the point-to-point races this season because they often provide a more intimate spectating experience than the bigger sanctioned races. Everyone is welcome to visit the paddock and stand right up next to the rail to see the horses go by, whereas at some of the bigger races, these areas might be restricted. 

Yovanovitch also encourages spectators to attend multiple race meets per season in order to follow the progress of their favorite horses and jockeys. The intimate and personal atmosphere of the point-to-point makes it easy to develop a “fan club” for certain horses, and it is fun to watch them advance throughout the spring.

Yovanovitch spent 32 years as a jockey, during which time he won seven leading rider awards. In the early ’80s, he started training for himself and had an extremely successful career developing young riders and amateurs. It was also during this period that he got involved with the Point-to-Point Association, which he later changed into a foundation, creating an avenue for the organization to accept donations. Today, the foundation helps promote racing, amateur racing, continued education seminars for officials, and safety requirements, among other initiatives. In addition to his role at the Point-to-Point Foundation and the Virginia Steeplechase Foundation, Yovanovitch has held numerous other leadership positions in the sport including being the first American appointed to the board of the Paris, France-based Federation of Gentlemen and Lady Riders.

Personally, his favorite point-to-point race is the Rokeby Bowl at the Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point. He won it six times as a rider and nine as a trainer. According to Yovanovitch, the 3.5-mile race is a “strategic race to ride” and requires endurance from the horses early in the season. It is one of the races that provides early spring preparation for the Virginia Gold Cup, which is run in May.

John Wyatt, master of the Warrenton Hunt, reported that this year, the hunt has made several new additions to the point-to-point race they host on March 18. Firstly, they have added a direct link to their website where the public can buy tents, parking spots, and general entry tickets and view pertinent information about the race. Wyatt encourages anyone who is interested in attending to visit the site which includes information about parking, attire, and directions to the course.

Secondly, Warrenton has added two new zones to the race in order to make the event even more fan and family friendly: a vendor zone featuring six local businesses, and a kids zone with activities including coloring, face painting, and a miniature kids’ racecourse with jumps. Wyatt says that Warrenton aspires for the point-to-point to be a local, family event that everyone can attend to have an up-close experience with racing. ML

Rappahannock Hunt Point-to-Point
Location: The Hill
Boston, Virginia
Date: March 4
Time: 12 p.m.

Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point
Location: Airlie Race Course
Warrenton, Virginia
Date: March 18
Time: 12 p.m.

Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point
Location: Salem Course
Upperville, Virginia
Date: March 25
Time: 1 p.m.

Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point
Location: Ben Venue Farm
Ben Venue, Virginia
Date: April 8
Time: 12 p.m. 

Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point
Woodley Farm
Berryville, Virginia
Date: April 16
Time: 1 p.m.

Middleburg Spring Races
Location: Glenwood Park
Middleburg, Virginia
Date: April 22
Time: 1:30 p.m. 

Loudoun Hunt Point-to-Point
Location: Morven Park
Leesburg, Virginia
Date: April 23
Time: 12 p.m.

Middleburg Hunt Point-to-Point
Location: Glenwood Park
Middleburg, Virginia
Date: April 30
Time: 1 p.m.

Virginia Gold Cup
Location: Great Meadow
The Plains, Virginia
Date: May 6
Time: 1 p.m.

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Sixteen Works by Foxcroft School Students Earn Prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Four receive Gold Keys and advance to the national competition.

MIDDLEBURG, VA — Nine Foxcroft students created 16 outstanding works of art and writing that have been selected for special recognition in the 2023 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards regional competition.

Four works achieved the coveted Gold Key status — the highest regional designation. The “golden” artists are senior Helen Ventikos of Purcellville, VA, who earned two Gold Keys in the photography category; senior Vassiliki Margas, Washington, D.C. (ceramics); and sophomore Huston Sgro, Asheville, NC (photography).

A panel of noted visual and literary leaders in New York City will now judge the Gold Key works. The National Medalists they select will be invited to a ceremony at Carnegie Hall, and their works included in a national traveling exhibition. No stranger to this process, Ventikos earned a national Gold Medal for her photograph titled “Kafes” during last year’s competition and attended the Carnegie Hall ceremony with Fine Arts Department Chair and Photography teacher Julie Fisher to accept her medal.

“Through the creative process, our students share their unique voices and perspective on the world around them, gaining important skills in confidence and self-expression,” explains Head of School Cathy McGehee. “I am proud of their accomplishments and of our expert arts faculty who support them.”

Silver Keys were received by seniors London Hershey of Hagerstown, MD, and Ventikos for their works in the critical essay and photography categories, respectively. Sophomore Rowan Jones of Haymarket, VA, also received a Silver Key for her mixed media submission.

Senior Sophie Matthews of Ashburn, VA, earned four honorable mentions in the ceramics category, and junior Juliana Rose, Dayton, WY, acquired two in the photography category. Additional honorable mentions were earned by Ventikos (photography), junior Madison Burget, Philomont, VA (drawing), and sophomore Ella Johnson, Upperville, VA (ceramics). 

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, established in 1923, are presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers in partnership with more than 100 visual arts and literary arts organizations across the country. It is the nation’s largest, longest-running, most prestigious visual and literary arts program recognizing the accomplishments of students in middle and high school.

Among the artistic luminaries who have served as judges are Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Edwidge Danticat, David Sedaris, Nikki Giovanni, and Roz Chast. The list of past winners is equally impressive, with Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Sylvia Plath, and filmmaker Ken Burns — as well as Foxcroft Fine Arts teacher Karin Thorndike — among the honored.

Photo courtesy of Foxcroft School.

Posted on: February 21, 2023

Meet Your Neighbor: Hannah Lessard of The Willow

Written by Dulcy B. Hooper / Photos by Gracie Withers

At The Willow, Hannah Lessard can often be found bubbling over with enthusiasm about her shop, her clients, and her special affinity for weddings. “I never thought I would actually be able to open a shop here in Middleburg,” she says, “but it has all just come together so perfectly.” 

Lessard is delighted that word about The Willow — and her work with brides and wedding parties — is getting around. “I do weddings,” she notes, “but that’s only a part of what I do.” Since The Willow’s opening in June 2022, Lessard has built up nearly 500 clients. “Someone will put a photo or two of something I’ve done on social media, and right away, I will get all kinds of reactions. Or one of my clients will say, ‘Oh, my husband really needs a haircut,’ and next thing you know, I have a lot of men making appointments and coming into the shop, as well. It’s all been so rewarding and so much fun.”

Lessard credits Dwight Grant, owner of Salon Aubrey, for being so welcoming to her when she initially began to explore opportunities in the area several years ago. “I really got to grow there,” she explains. “Dwight was so wonderful. He was always saying to his male customers, ‘You ought to bring your wives in here to meet Hannah!’ That really meant a lot to me.” 

Lessard began doing weddings in Middleburg and the surrounding area in 2018, much of it through word of mouth. “I would get a call about a wedding from someone at Salamander,” she said. “And I have done a lot of weddings at Red Fox — they have so many rooms to help wedding parties prepare.” Lessard says that it’s better to do weddings on location “especially since weddings have gotten a lot bigger.” 

The largest wedding party Lessard worked with was a party of 12. “I did the hair, and a colleague working with me did the makeup. It was about six hours to get everyone ready,” she remembers. Lessard frequently traveled to clients’ houses during the pandemic. “I was really looking for a mobile van initially — I thought that if I had a van and could travel and do weddings, that would be ideal.” 

Lessard shares that she “moved around a lot in childhood as part of an Army family” before the family settled in Ashburn. “When it came time to decide what to do, I knew I just loved playing around with hair and makeup.” She was concerned about the business aspect, though, and knew that it would be an important component to master in order to be successful. She studied at Paul Mitchell, a nationally accredited hair and beauty school, in Maryland. Fortunately, one of her teachers was a wedding specialist, prompting Lessard to take extra classes on makeup and providing her with the opportunity to study the business side of what she wanted to do.

“The wedding business has just boomed,” Lessard says. “So many weddings were pushed back during [the pandemic] — some for two years or more — and it’s all really coming back now.” She anticipates that spring and summer will be “packed back-to-back with weddings.”

What Hannah Lessard loves most about weddings is “just being surrounded by all the energy. It is just so much fun! I feel so grateful for this business — for meeting brides and members of wedding parties and for being part of such a special day that they will always, always remember.”

One of Lessard’s favorite memories is that of working with a couple in Purcellville who eloped. Several months later, the couple flew her to Palm Beach to do hair and makeup for their more formal wedding. “I just felt so special,” Lessard recalls. “A driver met me at the airport. It was my first time in Palm Beach and it was so much fun. I remember thinking at the time, ‘I’m 23 years old. How fast this is all happening!’” ML

The Willow is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Willow
7 East Federal Street
Middleburg, VA 2-117
[email protected]

Services and booking information can be found at

Published in the February 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Bored Rebel: Graphic Undershirts with Something to Say

Written by Will Thompson / Photos by Michael Butcher

Boundaries are meant to be pushed. Rules are made to be broken. Expectations are set to be exceeded. So why can’t an undershirt be the most self-expressive article in a wardrobe?

Long the unsung, load-bearing heroes of a smart ensemble, a decent undershirt can soften the touch of stiff fabrics, extend the life of dress shirts, and, a friend in all seasons, wick sweat in the heat and provide a layer of extra warmth in the cold. Despite their comfort and utility, the undershirt has varied very little over collective couture memory from being a stark, plain white T-shirt. To call the undershirt downright boring would not be undeserved.

Bored Rebel, a Haymarket-based startup, is spinning a new thread in the garment game, turning the humble undershirt into an avenue for self-expression, humor, and empowerment.

In the rebel spirit, Bored Rebel is the first of its kind: a graphic undershirt company. Adorning the ultra-soft fabric of each shirt is a hidden message designed to sit behind the placket — the row of buttons on a dress shirt — which won’t show through even the whitest button-up. The slogans range from the inspirational (for example “Unleash Your Inner Superhero”), to the comedic (“Smartest Person in the Zoom”), to the downright irreverent (“My Boss Sucks”). By placing the words on an undergarment, these messages are for the wearer, their own personal postmodern mantra to help them laugh off workplace strife, get through a mountain of chores, or even to mark special occasions.

Bored Rebel’s founder, Stacy Flax, began the graphic undershirt company after spending time in the corporate world delving into executive strategy, marketing, business development, and strategic partnerships consulting. Suffering from severe burnout and searching for an endeavor that would feed her creative side, Flax’s stroke of genius came when her husband all-too-frequently left his undergarments on the bathroom floor. “The boxers all had fun designs on them. I looked at his undershirts and wondered why they were so boring,” says Flax. Like a true rebel, Stacy challenged that status quo, and Bored Rebel was born.

Since its earliest days, Bored Rebel has now grown to offer a wide range of personalized graphic undershirts. Shoppers can combine 54 messages with three different ink colors (“Not So Corporate Grey,” “Bcc: Blue,” and “Punt it Purple”) to create their unique garment. Shoppers in Middleburg can also find an exclusive design, “Get the Fox Out,” at Highcliffe Clothiers on West Washington Street. Along with our hometown fashion scene, Bored Rebel shirts will soon be gracing the red carpet, being part of the famous Oscars gift bag given to nominees at the upcoming 95th Academy Awards in March.

In early 2023, Bored Rebel also launched a wedding collection featuring more than 100 different wedding-themed slogans and a space on each shirt for customizable text to commemorate the event. The shirts, with slogans such as “Groom Squad,” “Happy AF For You Two,” and the perhaps inversely related “Here for the Open Bar” and “I’ll Behave” can make fun bonding experiences and keepsakes for wedding parties, and will add a celebratory personal touch to a wedding outfit.

The shirts themselves are an incredibly soft blend of cotton and moisture-wicking synthetic fibers. When designing the first prototypes, Flax sampled almost 300 different fabrics to find just the right material to make a shirt that is soft, comfortable, breathable, and durable. The longer cut of the shirts will ensure that they stay tucked and flatter every figure. “They’re very comfortable,” says Mark Metzger, owner of Highcliffe Clothiers. “You hardly know that you have them on. It’s a fun play on something that most men take for granted.” Bored Rebel tees are highly functional as an undershirt, yet of high enough quality and cut to be worn alone as outerwear T-shirts. 

“Printing on an undershirt instantly felt rebellious,” says Flax, explaining how the name Bored Rebel was created to reflect the company’s goal to disrupt the classic, boring undershirt. “Many people say to me, ‘I’m a bored rebel!’” she continues. “It’s a bit like art; people identify with the name, but they take from it what they want.”

In terms of Flax’s own journey, leaving the corporate world to create an entirely new fashion product in an entrepreneurial landscape where only 3% of venture capital goes to women-run businesses was an act of rebellion. “It’s incredibly hard,” she explains. “This is an unpaved road, and you’re building it as you’re going, and you’re constantly having to deal with issues and challenges. But that creative problem-solving is fun. It’s the best kind of hard.”

Bored Rebel and Flax’s entrepreneurial journey are reminders that with creativity — and perhaps a bit of rebellion — the seemingly mundane, expected, or overlooked can be transformed to something exciting, vibrant, and even treasured. “Every day is a leap of faith,” says Flax. “The risks are real and scary. But I’m more afraid of not doing this.”

Bored Rebel shirts, including the wedding line, are available at The company donates 10% of its profits through in-kind gifts of their “You’ve Got This” shirts to Washington, D.C.-area workforce development nonprofit organizations, including A Wider Circle and D.C. Central Kitchen. ML

Suits supplied by Highcliffe Clothiers
Cocktails supplied by Anna Adams at The Red Fox Inn & Tavern

Published in the February 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Seven Students and One Faculty Member Elected to Foxcroft School Chapter of Cum Laude Society

MIDDLEBURG, VA — Four Foxcroft School seniors, three juniors, and one faculty member were recently elected to the Foxcroft School Chapter of the Cum Laude Society. They join four members of the senior class who were named to national high school scholastic honor society a year ago as juniors.

Seniors Gabby Garrison (Morgantown, WV), Wilhelmina McQuarrie (London, UK), Cate Williams (Las Cruces, NM), and Sage Wolf (Warrenton, VA) were elected to the Foxcroft School Chapter of the Cum Laude Society (modeled on the collegiate Phi Beta Kappa). In addition, Grace Pumphrey (Goochland, VA), Katelyn Smith (Ashburn, VA), and Elizabeth Viney (South Riding, VA) received the impressive distinction of being selected during their junior year. Assistant Head of School Dr. Tanya Hyatt was also elected to the Society to honor her dedication to the scholarship, teaching, and love of learning fundamental to the ideals of the Society.

Seniors Molly Catlett (Middleburg, VA), London Hershey (Hagerstown, MD), Lucy Moan (Middleburg, VA), and Helen Ventikos (Purcellville, VA) were inducted last year as juniors. They, together with current faculty members of the Chapter (Head of School Cathy McGehee, Athletic Director Michelle Woodruff, Director of The Innovation Lab and History Department Chair Alex Northrup, and STEM teacher and Chapter President Dr. Meghen Tuttle) will officially welcome the new members into the Society during the Cum Laude induction ceremony held at Foxcroft’s annual Awards Assembly in May.

The presence of a Cum Laude chapter at a secondary school indicates a commitment to outstanding scholarly achievement. Students selected for induction must have superior academic records, as reflected in their course load, grade point average, and other factors. They must also demonstrate a serious interest in the pursuit of knowledge and academic integrity. National guidelines limit membership to 20 percent of a senior class; up to half of those students are eligible to be elected in the junior year.

The Cum Laude Society was founded in 1906 and has grown to include 382 chapters, with the vast majority located at independent schools in the United States. Foxcroft’s Chapter was established in 1958.

Photo courtesy of Christine McCrehin.

Posted on: February 7, 2023

Best of Hunt Country Weddings 2022

Hunt Country had no shortage of gorgeous weddings in 2022. From a traditional Hindu ceremony at Goodstone Inn to a classic Hunt Country celebration at Stoke Farm, here are some of our favorites that are easy to love.

Nikita & James

Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, Middleburg, VA
6.2.22 – 6.4.22

Nikita and James celebrated their nuptials across two days with both a traditional Hindu ceremony followed by a Cinderella-inspired celebration complete with a baby blue dress. The couple shares, “Our two-day fusion wedding was a dream come true in every way possible! We hosted a traditional Hindu ceremony on the first day that allowed James and I to fully embrace my Indian background, while sharing all the cultural significance with our loved ones. … We couldn’t have imagined a more magical time with our friends and family!”

Venue & Catering: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant 
Planning and Design: Cherry Blossom Weddings and Events
Photographer: Jordan Maunder Photography
Florist: Wild Fleurette Floral
Hair: Shannon Kappel and Maria Arsha
Makeup: Sara Mabrou
Officiant: Rakesh Pathak and Wedding Ceremonies by Jeff
Horse: Harmon’s Carriages
Cake: Market Salamander
Henna Artist: Maria Arshad
Indian Attire: Custom Shyamal & Bhumika

Morgan & Joseph

Red Fox Inn & Tavern, Middleburg, VA

Morgan and Joseph exchanged vows and hosted guests in the heart of Middleburg. Their ceremony was held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church and followed by a reception at the Red Fox Inn & Tavern. Morgan and Joseph share, “Our wedding perfectly married who we are as a couple and our love for Middleburg, the place where we grew most as a couple. So much credit is owed to our incredible planner, Kim Newton. We explained to Kim that we wanted the details to accentuate our incredibly beautiful venue, Red Fox, which to us is the epitome of Middleburg charm.”

Venue: Red Fox Inn & Tavern
Planner: Kim Newton Weddings
Photographer: Vicki Grafton Photography
Florist: Floral & Bloom
Cake: Market Salamander’s Jason Reeves
Rentals: Party Rental Ltd., White Glove Rentals, BBJ La Tavola
Tent: Sugarplum Tents
Band: Good Shot Judy

Emily & Micah

Rust Manor, Leesburg, VA

Emily and Micah’s late summer celebration could best be described as “marvelous,” with touches from the Marvel universe like the Infinity Gauntlet and Captain America socks, a glow stick send-off, and an abundance of love which is apparent just from the photos. Pops of dark green and pale gold added extra elegance to this stylish wedding weekend.

Venue: Rust Manor House
Wedding Coordinator: Meghan Farra
Photographer: Karis Marie Photography
Florist: Wander & Whimsy Floral
Hair & Makeup: Beauty by Aubrey
Cake: Honey Bee Pastries
DJ: Ian Lade

Kelly & Andrew

Stoke Farm, Middleburg, VA

Andrew and Kelly’s Stoke Farm wedding is classic Middleburg with Hunt Country touches around every corner. When asked about his wedding day, Andrew says, “Two moments stand out to me when I think back to our wedding in the fall. The first was seeing Kelly walk through a pergola of wisteria down to the garden where our ceremony took place while a string trio played our favorite song. It was the exact scene that we had dreamed about for over seven years since we first came to Stoke Farm together. 

And the second was when we were finishing up our dinner at the sweetheart table and looked out across the tables of guests. Not one person wasn’t engaged in conversation with someone else, a lot of them [just] meeting for the first time, and it filled us with so much joy seeing everyone else laughing and smiling with each other.”

Venue: Stoke Farm
Catering: Bluewater Kitchen
Planner: Joy Suits
Photographer: Danielle Towle
Florist: Mini Rose Farm

Ryann & Kevin

Mortgage Hall Estate and The Middleburg Barn, Middleburg, VA

Ryann and Kevin describe their wedding best, saying, “It was really important to us that our wedding was a true representation of the people that we are. We are proud to have showcased that in all of the details that we included on our big day. From our epic entrance, dancing on a cloud, a horse at cocktail hour, our late night speciality cocktail, a getaway car, and cold sparks, our wedding was a dream and we feel lucky that we were able to celebrate our special day at two of the best Middleburg venues, the Mortgage Hall Estate and The Middleburg Barn.”

Venue: Mortgage Hall Estate and The Middleburg Barn
Catering: Main Event
Planner: Alyssa Carl from B.Mingled
Photographer: Kir Tuben
Florist: Lisa from Rosy Posy
Desserts: Simply Dessert 
DJ & Special Effects: John Howard from A2Z Music Factory
Hair: Nam Nguyen
Makeup: Kaytee Spanoghe
Tap Truck: Bubbles & Brews
Videographer: Michael Lemley
Stationary: Designs by Allison Rene

Jessica & Brandon

Great Marsh Estate, Bealeton, VA

For Jessica and Brandon, the color orange took center stage at their Great Marsh Estate wedding. The groom’s suit, groomsmen’s ties, pops of orange in the table settings, and the venue’s fall foliage all added up to a very autumnal feel. The duo exchanged vows in front of friends and family on the sprawling lawn with the statuesque Manor House as the perfect backdrop to their big day.

Venue: Great Marsh Estate
Catering: Serendipity Catering & Design
Planner: Vida Events
Photographer: Jennifer Gray Calcagno Photography (Second Shot under Victoria Heer Photography)
Florist: Sarena Floral Designs 
Hair & Makeup: Evergreen Beauty Makeup & Hair Design 
Desserts: Signature Sweets by Amanda
DJ: Repeatable DJ

Erchless: A Stunning Custom Home Situated on 53.32 Acres

3616 Millwood Rd, Boyce, VA 22620
Offered at $2,200,000
4 BD | 3/1 BA | 7,000 SQFT | 53.32 AC

Erchless — this stunning custom home situated on 53.32 acres in Clarke County was built by Ritter construction in 2007-2008. Combining a contemporary open floor plan with traditional details — 12- to 16-foot ceilings, crown molding, solid hardwood doors, custom hardware, beautiful stone exterior, hardwood floors and custom finishings — this home is exquisite, leaving no detail unfinished.

Entering this home through a custom hardwood door to a gorgeous foyer, you are invited to a charming library with custom built-ins on your right and a formal dining room to your left with attached wet bar. Continue down the foyer to a large open family room perfect for entertaining. The family room, kitchen, and large sunroom take up half of the main level open to much natural light and beautiful views of open pasture and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The kitchen is an entertainer’s delight: Sub-Zero double refrigerator, GE Monogram double wall ovens, GE Profile built-in microwave, compartmental built-in warming drawer, Wolf 4-burner gas range with center griddle and custom exhaust, GE Profile dishwasher, double sink, second sink, and disposal. Granite counters surround, custom cork floors, and top-of-the-line cabinets. Kitchen opens to a separate dining area and large sunroom with super views and natural light.

Main level Master Suite with sitting room, office, walk-in and walk-through closet, large bath with walk-in shower and soaking tub, and gas fireplace with remote is privately located in the back of the house. Large, open, and light-filled, this area is peaceful with beautiful views. Two more bedrooms are located on the main level with a full bath.

The lower level of this gracious home is also built for entertaining, an in-law suite, or a nanny living area — very versatile — 3,000+ square feet built above grade, and tons of natural light. Open with large rooms. Full bath, galley kitchen, dining area, exercise room, or bedroom. All opens to lower patio socializing space. HVAC room houses geothermal heating system, two furnaces, water treatment system, air purification system, two hot water heaters, and a utility sink. Also has loads of dry, temperature-regulated storage. The upper level of Erchless is a large walk-in attic accessed by a stairway from the laundry room — approximately 2,000 square feet. It has plenty of dry storage and a large walk-in cedar closet.

The home also has a large garage attached with entrances to the house via the laundry/mudroom and the wet bar. Laundry room/mudroom has direct access to kitchen area. Generator powered by 800-gallon propane tank powers kitchen, well, and heating system in case of power shortage.

The surrounding 53.32 acres is in great condition — hay has been made on this property for the past 25 years. The back 10-acre strip has been planted in alfalfa and the farmer will be able to harvest it until the end of 2023. A potentially perfect horse property. Property is in VOF conservation easement. Building of barns and agricultural buildings permitted. The building of an indoor arena also permitted with VOF approval of site. There are no additional DURs.

Please call agent to view or show. 24-hour notice and NO showing time.

Listed by

Anne McIntosh
REALTOR® | Licensed in VA
703.509.4499 | [email protected]
Middleburg Real Estate


Maria Eldredge
REALTOR® | Licensed in VA
540.454.3829 | [email protected]
Middleburg Real Estate