middleburg life

A Day in the Life of a Creighton Farms Family

Early on a summer morning, the Groupe family can be found relaxing on the back porch of their home in the Creighton Farms community, overlooking the golf course as they enjoy coffee and breakfast in the sunshine. Katie and Johnny Groupe have lived with their three children in Creighton Farms for the last two years in an atmosphere that Katie Groupe describes as “almost resort living without being at a resort.” Creighton Farms is a gated club community nestled in the rolling hills of horse country just outside of Aldie with abundant amenities including golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, a pool, a social club, and year-round events and activities for children and adults alike.

Katie and Johnny Groupe.

“People see Creighton when they see the gates and they think it’s stuffy, and it couldn’t be farther from that,” Katie says. “It’s really laid back and enjoyable and stress free.” The Groupes were attracted to the slower country lifestyle in Loudoun County after living in Old Town, Alexandria. “When you’re in the city, it’s such a different mindset… from being in an urban environment to being out here where you can see the mountains and the rolling fields. And, I was always drawn to the Middleburg area,” Katie notes. “The view, the horse country, it’s just so peaceful to me, and also Johnny as well.”

Johnny, who is originally from the Northern Virginia area and runs a civil engineering company, is a long-time golfer and was drawn to the golf program at Creighton Farms. “I never knew about the [golf] community in Loudoun County so it was a pretty easy decision for us once we got to meet the members and our friends that we have now,” he says. He highlighted the golf tournament opportunities for adult and junior players, including charity tournaments.

Taking advantage of the driving range.

As parents of three young children, Katie and Johnny Groupe appreciate the safety of the community and the youth opportunities that are offered by Creighton Farms. Katie grew up in a similar community in Augusta, Georgia, and wanted the same environment for her family. “I know what it feels like to grow up in a community where you just feel safe, where you ride your golf carts around and meet your friends and ride your bikes everywhere. It’s just wonderful, so it felt like coming home when we started building here,” Katie remembers.

The Groupe kids.

Creighton Farms hosts plenty of events and activities for families including summer camps, holiday parades, and even weekly movie nights on Friday evenings. “You drop the kids downstairs and they show a movie while the adults can have a nice dinner upstairs and enjoy two hours for ourselves which is kind of like a little built-in babysitter,” Johnny says.

The Groupe’s children attend Loudoun Country Day School where Katie is an active member of the school board, but during the summer they have made the most of Creighton’s golf camps and visiting the club’s pool. Additionally, the club offers fine dining with weekend specials and plenty of family-friendly options. Katie recalls a time when she requested lemon pepper chicken fingers although they were not a listed menu option. “The chef [whipped] up his own lemon pepper seasoning. It was just wonderful. [It] makes you feel special.”

While all lots in Creighton Farms come with a club membership offer attached, it is optional, but most residents accept and embrace the social opportunities of the sports and activities. “I’d say 95% of the residents are members, so you get to know your neighbors very well,” Johnny explains.

The Groupe family relaxes by the golf course.

Katie says that the family has everything they need within the gates of the community or just a short drive away. “Living in here, we always laugh, we really don’t want to leave the gate,” she says. “It’s wholesome.”

The Groupes appreciate the relaxation and fun of Creighton Farms and encourage others to come experience it. “When the right lot and the right builder and the right house all came together, we jumped on the opportunity. We couldn’t see being anywhere else,” Johnny says. ML

This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.

“Shades of Autumn” at the Byrne Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

10th Annual Middleburg Film Festival Announcements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Your Neighbor: Cindy Thompson of the Community Shop

Written by Kaitlin Hill
Photos by Michael Butcher

“The whole idea was to make it for the community,” shares Cindy Thompson, owner of the aptly named Community Shop on S. Madison Street. Thompson, a practicing surgeon, opened the part-consignment, part-thrift shop at the end of 2019, as an escape from her day job and a way to give to local charities. For patrons, the stocked shelves and purposefully cluttered corners are a mesmerizing treasure hunt with a little bit of everything for everyone, making it well worth a visit. 

Thompson, an Ohio native, came to Middleburg for the same reason as many who settle here – horses. “I was always a horse lover,” shares Thompson. “My mother sent me to a YMCA camp where I learned to ride. It was Western.” While earning her undergraduate degree, she learned to ride English, and in medical school at the Medical College of Ohio, she was introduced to foxhunting. 

A desire to blend jumping and riding cross-country, a college friend, and her Irish heritage all culminated in a foxhunting trip abroad. She says, “I had this girlfriend in college who rode horses…and we’d go through this catalog of horse vacations. [The catalog] had foxhunting in Ireland and so I’m like ‘bingo.’” Though the college friend missed the trip, Thompson met plenty of like-minded equestrian enthusiasts, including her future husband.

“There was this really attractive guy at the bar, but he was with a girl,” Thompson explains. Thinking that particular romantic avenue was unavailable, Thompson instead made friends with a different Englishman she met the same trip. She says, “This English guy and I became friends, and we went foxhunting together. I didn’t know anything, I didn’t have the right clothes, and he lent me his shirt, his vest, his stock tie, everything.” 

Having forged a new friendship in the field, Thompson would visit her English pal three months later for another foxhunting excursion. She shares, “I went to England to visit my friend…and we go foxhunting down in the West Country.” She continues, “I came home…and the English guy calls me up and says, ‘Remember that guy from the bar in Ireland? He called me and wants your number.’” 

The couple connected, unsurprisingly, over their love of foxhunting. “He said, ‘If you want to foxhunt, you have to live where it is.’ So, he sent me the yellow pages of Northern Virginia and on a map, he circled Leesburg, Winchester, and Warrenton,” Thompson remembers. Thompson relocated from Ohio to Warrenton where she landed a job as a general surgery specialist. The couple married in 2001, and she joined her husband in Middleburg where they still live with their family.  

Though still a practicing surgeon in Warrenton, Thompson jumped at the chance to open the Community Shop when the retail space became available. She says, “I was going to do it when I retired…but then the space opened up and there was this opportunity.” 

She adds, “It’s just fun to have a shop, but I wanted to figure out how to accommodate the community.” The Community Shop invites both consignment and donation, and it is up to the patron to choose which they pursue. “You can bring your stuff in, and you don’t have to decide one way or the other. You could have some things you want to consign and the rest you want to donate.” 

As for what Thompson accepts for resale, “Whatever I think is good quality.” She adds, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be old; it could be new. It just has to be good quality, interesting, or unusual.” For Thompson, interesting and unusual could come in the form of artwork, clothing, jewelry, glassware, home accents, holiday décor, and even pet collars and catnip. 

Whatever it is, once sold she turns over a portion of the profits to local charities. “Middleburg Humane is our big one. But there is a horse rescue, a cat rescue…I have a couple churches, Potters House in the Plains. It really could be anything, as long as it’s local.” 

While Thompson’s work certainly benefits the community, it is also of benefit to her. She considers her days at the shop as “time off” and insists, “Why do something if it is not fun?” When asked what she likes most about running the shop, she offers a long list. “I like all of it,” she laughs. “I like talking to people when they come in, seeing what they bring in. It’s always exciting and a surprise to see what people bring and what people buy.” She adds, “I definitely like hunting for the stuff. It’s exciting to find something and see what you can sell it for. It’s like treasure hunting.” 

A sign in the front window indicates with a smiley face that the store is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday “based on volunteer availability.” Thompson hopes to expand on those hours and the shop’s offerings when she retires from her post as a surgeon. She says, “I keep thinking when I retire, I’ll have a little more time. I’d like to add an online aspect.” When open, the Community Shop is certainly a must-visit. Stop by to browse Thompson’s impressive collection of “a little bit of everything,” make a donation, consign an item, or simply share a chat with this lovely Middleburg neighbor.

This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.

Remembering Marty Martin: Local Legend & Global Expert on Timber Rattlesnakes

“The plan is Catoctins tomorrow. I do not have high hopes even though a colleague saw 25 at my focal den in [redacted] on Wednesday when I was at a South Mtn, Pennsylvania site and got skunked…Forecast is for upper 30s tonight and I think it may push those Catoctin snakes under. However, if I don’t get out there it is just idle speculation. Having seen over 20,000 rattlesnakes plus about 1000 litters, figuring out exactly what is going on is more important to me than seeing a pile of rattlesnakes.”— An excerpt from Marty Martin’s email to me and other field-ready friends on October 8, 2020

William Henry “Marty” Martin III was known as the world’s authority on Timber Rattlesnakes—a species of pit viper native to mountainous areas throughout the east coast and as far west as Texas. He unexpectedly passed away on August 3, surrounded by his wife and daughters, after receiving a bite from one of his captive rattlesnakes.

Born in Leesburg, VA on December 24, 1941, Martin discovered den sites, studied behavior, and monitored the populations of these often-vilified creatures with dogged consistency for decades. At 80 years old, he was still pursuing his research with an eye to the species’ future, documenting the impacts of habitat loss, climate change, and other human pressures on his study populations while trying to instill a love for venomous snakes in the next generation.

“Marty was a guest educator for our Herpetology camps for the past 23 years and inspired countless budding herpetologists,” says Michael Kieffer, the longtime Executive Director of the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy. “While his research firmly establishes his legacy as a conservationist for Timber Rattlesnakes in the Eastern U.S., his work with kids will have lasting benefits, inspiring conservationists of the future. He was a dear friend.”

Martin shows a Timber Rattlesnake to young naturalists at the Bull Run Mountains
Conservancy Herpetology Camp this June. Photo by Michael Kieffer.

Martin’s own journey as a naturalist began as a young boy; by the age of 13, he had already made his first mark on the scientific community, proving the existence of a Timber Rattlesnake population in the Bull Run Mountains. At 17, he was a founding member of the Virginia Herpetological Society. He put his scientific career on hold to join the military, fighting for his country in the Vietnam War as a paratrooper for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and for his armed service division as a bantamweight boxer.But when this chapter in his life ended, Martin returned to study snakes—and he never stopped.

He received his biology degree from the University of South Florida before traveling the world to conduct independent research on venomous snakes in Africa and South America. His travels would become fodder for conversation later in life, and those who spent time in the field with Martin were treated to storybook-style tales—escaping a Colombian prison by traveling on foot through the rainforest to Ecuador, escaping the epicenter of the first Ebola outbreak in the dead of night, witnessing the start of a civil war in Somalia, narrowly avoiding a deadly plane crash, bringing Australian TV host Steve Irwin to one of his Shenandoah den sites for an episode of “The Crocodile Hunter,” receiving his first and second rattlesnake bites—the list goes on.

While the spirit of adventure and his passion for all venomous snakes took Martin around the world, it was his hometown habitat that comprised the bulk of his life’s work and made him known throughout the herpetological community as a leading expert on Timber Rattlesnakes. “A human of mythic proportions,” writes Joe Villari, Preserve Manager at VOF’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, in his touching personal tribute to Martin. “His love for snakes connected him with humanity, and he connected so many of us to the beauty and joy of rattle snakes.”

Martin continued to work independently, preferring his own strictly field-based research methods to a life in academia, and spent more than four decades visiting the same den sites over, and over, and over again. He learned to predict how weather patterns could influence snake behavior. He saw den sites diminish and ultimately disappear due to human disturbance. And he saw how climate change was altering even the most reliable den locations.

Much of Martin’s knowledge has been published; he contributed to rattlesnake conservation as a member of the Timber Rattlesnake task force for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for 30 years, and in 2021, Martin co-authored the 475-page book, “The Timber Rattlesnake: Life History, Distribution, Status, and Conservation Action Plan,” with the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. But he recorded his raw data the old-fashioned way—in decades of small, spiral-bound notebooks—and researchers will likely continue to learn from the late great herpetologist long into the future.

While he will certainly be remembered for his contributions to science, those who knew him will never forget the deep reverence he held for nature and the passion that drove his work. BRMC founder Andrea Currier recalls turning to Martin at an evening event on a beautiful hilltop in Front Royal and remarking, “Isn’t this pretty perfect?” Martin replied, “Actually, no,” and explained, “There are no rattlesnakes here!”

“Marty’s happiness was intrinsically tied to the presence and well-being of venomous snake populations,” explains Villari, “especially his beloved timbers.”


A celebration of Marty Martin’s life will be held at Morgan’s Grove Park in Shepherdstown, WV on September 25th at 1 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Catoctin Land Trust (catoctinlandtrust.org) or the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy (brmconservancy.org).

This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.

Seven Loaves Services: Fighting Food Insecurity For 28 Years

Written by Victoria Peace

Photos by Gracie Withers 

If there is one thing that Tami Erickson, the pantry manager of Seven Loaves Services, wishes Hunt Country residents would keep in mind, it’s that despite living in one of the richest counties in America, surrounded by wealth and opportunity, there are still people in the community who struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. “It’s hard in our area to remember that the need still exists,” Erickson emphasizes. “I wish people recognized how quickly any of us could be food insecure.”

 In Loudoun County, over 15,000 people experience food insecurity on an annual basis. Unfortunately, this number only increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven Loaves Services was established in 1994 in order to help combat food insecurity by supplying nutritious food to those in need in Middleburg and the surrounding area. Today, the pantry provides approximately 90 families per week with shelf-stable goods, dairy items, meat, breads, and pastries, in addition to special snack packs for households with children.

The food is primarily donated from four local, Loudoun County grocery stores that Seven Loaves has formed partnerships with. The stores donate items to the pantry which would otherwise go to waste including deli items, frozen foods, and meat. Seven Loaves also purchases some canned goods and fresh fruits and vegetables wholesale and receives large quantities of donated vegetables from local farmers. In fact, the day of this interview with Middleburg Life, Erickson received 300 pounds of fresh produce from the Oak Spring Garden Foundation.

About 50 percent of the families that the pantry serves live in Loudoun County. The other 50 percent come from 15 other surrounding counties. According to Erickson, this sets Seven Loaves apart from many of the Loudoun-based pantries that exclusively serve local households. The majority of patrons travel to Seven Loaves each week to pick up groceries from the pantry located in the basement of the Middleburg United Methodist Church. However, Seven Loaves volunteers also do weekly home deliveries to a small group of Middleburg-based at-risk seniors.

Currently there are around 50 to 60 Seven Loaves volunteers. According to Erickson, they do everything from food distribution, to repackaging food, to sorting grocery store donations, and driving to pick up food from local stores.

If you’re looking to get involved, the best way to find opportunities is through the volunteer tab of the Seven Loaves website. The biggest volunteer need that the pantry currently has is for drivers. However, they can always use people to help out with assembly and organization on distribution days.

If you can’t volunteer but you are still looking for a way to support Seven Loaves, the pantry also accepts both food and monetary donations. Monetary donations can be made through Paypal on Seven Loaves’ website, and shelf-stable food donations can be dropped off at the pantry on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Right now, the Seven Loaves team has already started gearing up for the holiday season. “It sounds crazy to say this but we are beginning our holiday food collection,” Erickson says. “Every year we give our families a special bag around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays that includes everything for a holiday meal.” Seven Loaves is specifically looking for donations of boxed mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, canned yams, cranberries, green beans, oil, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. People can reach out to the pantry at sevenloavesservices@gmail.com if they are interested in dropping off one or more of these items. 

Erickson has been the pantry manager at Seven Loaves for almost a year now. For her, the most fulfilling aspect of her job is “providing for families what they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.” With the rising costs of fruits, vegetables, and meats, it has never been more important to have an organization that ensures that all members of the community can have access to healthy, nutritious meals. 

If you are looking for a way to have a direct impact on the lives of your fellow community members, consider donating to or volunteering with Seven Loaves this fall. Even here in Hunt Country, “There are still families in need,” Erickson says. “Don’t forget about your local food pantries.” ML 

For more information about donation and volunteer opportunities, please visit sevenloavesmiddleburg.org.

This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue.

Gatherings for Good: Local Events Impacting Important Causes

Written by Lia Hobel

As summer cools off, charitable giving is just heating up for Hunt Country residents. From signature polo matches to exceptional galas boasting fine dining and entertainment, September is the start of sizzling fun and fundraising for notable causes. Read on to learn more about the biggest local benefits and the organizations they support.

2022 NSLM Polo Classic

Sunday, September 11 | 10 a.m.

Great Meadow, The Plains, VA

The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) will host its largest fundraising event of the year — the NSLM Polo Classic presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™ — the second Sunday of September at Great Meadow. The renowned research library and fine art museum is dedicated to highlighting the rich heritage and tradition of country pursuits. 

Gates will open at 10 a.m. with two exciting matches taking place. First up is the Founders Cup at 11 a.m. followed by the Mars Cup at 2 p.m. The event will feature all the favorite NSLM Polo Classic traditions with the Dog Divot Stomp sponsored by NUTRO,™ a parade of the Middleburg Hunt hounds, and more.

Proceeds from the NSLM Polo Classic benefit the NSLM in its mission to “preserve, promote, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports,” as well as helping to fund dynamic exhibitions, programs, and community events throughout the year.

According to Elizabeth von Hassell, executive director of the NSLM, “Not only does the event benefit the library and museum, but it is also a fun way for people to experience our mission first-hand and to enjoy an exciting day of polo at the beautiful Great Meadow.”

Visit nationalsporting.org for more information. 

Cloverleaf (Formerly NVTRP) Polo Classic

Saturday, September 24 | 12 p.m.

Great Meadow, The Plains, VA

This year’s Polo Classic is a chance to celebrate the new name of Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP). The Cloverleaf Polo Classic is the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraiser. It will include live and silent auctions and a rider demonstration by military riders and students of the therapeutic riding program. 

Executive director of Cloverleaf, Kelsey Gallagher, notes that the new name reflects the growing range of services the organization offers to the community. 

“This event is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the power of equine-based services to improve lives,” Gallagher says.

Cloverleaf focuses on helping individuals realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted activities to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military personnel, and others in need of an inclusive, community setting. Founded in 1980, Cloverleaf operates out of a 17-acre farm in Clifton, Virginia, with the help of 15 dedicated staff members and 20 equine partners.

“It [has] become a cherished tradition for hundreds of people who return year after year for a dazzling day of polo, food, and wine to support Cloverleaf Equine Center,” says Will Thomas, Polo Classic co-chair and Cloverleaf board member. 

Thomas notes that the fundraising as a result of this event allows Cloverleaf to serve more than a hundred weekly clients from the D.C. Metro region.

Visit nvtrp.org/polo for more information.

Sprout Therapeutic Riding Gallop Gala

September 17 | 6 p.m.

Sprout Center, Aldie, VA

Get ready for a whimsical evening at Sprout’s Therapeutic Riding Gallop Gala. According to founder and Executive Director Brooke Waldron, the 2022 gala will “celebrate the magic of Sprout in honor of the barn’s ‘King of Hearts’— Peter, a Dartmoor x Thoroughbred, Middleburg-bred horse.” 

Guests are invited to dress to impress and embrace the magic of Sprout. The gala includes drinks and dinner, a professional magician, auctions, and live music that will have attendees dancing all night long. 

Sprout’s mission is to provide hope, healing, empowerment, and recovery through equestrian-assisted activities and therapies. The organization serves individuals with disabilities and provides life-changing opportunities and treatment in a farm environment. 

“Together, with Middleburg’s support, we will pursue the ‘impossible’ and make magic for those needing hope, healing, empowerment, and community,” Waldron says. 

Visit sproutcenter.org/events/gala/ for more information.

Loudoun Therapeutic Riding Dining in the Dark Gala 

Thursday, October 13 | 6 p.m.

Bourbon Bayou Kitchen, Ashburn, VA 

Snag a seat at a truly unique culinary adventure in October while supporting Loudoun Therapeutic Riding. On October 13 (don’t worry, it’s a Thursday), put your taste buds to the test with an opportunity to dine while wearing eye shades in low light conditions — and raise awareness and resources for Loudoun Therapeutic Riding. 

“Dining in the Dark will be an exercise in ‘experiential empathy,’” explains Executive Director Paul Shane. “For one night only, our guests will have a unique opportunity to experience what it means to have a disability by having their vision taken from them and will gain a small level of understanding into what our clients struggle with on a daily basis.”

Located in Lovettsville, Loudoun Therapeutic Riding “embraces the power of horse-assisted services to promote well-being and community inclusion for people with physical, cognitive, and mental health challenges.” The foundation has been serving the community for 47 years. 

The Dining in the Dark Gala will bring together community leaders, industry professionals, and caring citizens for an evening of fine dining and entertainment. Celebrity chefs will be part of the fun including Chef Christine Ha, “MasterChef” season 3 winner, who is visually impaired. Guests of honor from the visually impaired community will include musician Scott Macintyre and YouTuber Tommy Edison, known for his channel, Blind Film Critic.Visit dininginthedark.net for more informationML

2022 Cloverleaf Polo Classic

The 2022 Cloverleaf Polo Classic will feature:

Halftime Demo

Cloverleaf clients Andrew, Angelica, Joyce and Zoe will soon be hard at work prepping for their 2022 Polo Classic halftime performance.

Guests will be treated to an unforgettable quadrille – a choreographed drill pattern on horseback set to music – that you won’t want to miss!

The performance features skills that the clients are currently working on during their therapeutic riding or physical therapy sessions; demonstrating some of the patterns and use of props that they would use in weekly lessons.

NFL’s Vernon Davis to serve as Hat Contest Judge

A special thank you to this year’s Hat Contest Judge, Vernon Davis.

Vernon is a retired NFL superstar, successful businessman and trained actor and producer. He attended the University of Maryland and played nine seasons with the 49ers, one season with the Denver Broncos and four seasons with his hometown team, the Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins).

He was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl twice and won a Super Bowl with Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2016.

After a successful NFL career, Vernon transitioned into business acquiring an impressive investment portfolio in real estate and started his own production company “Reel 85 Productions” in 2020. 

Vernon has been recognized for his film credits including starring alongside notable actors such as Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. His television credits include Dancing With The Stars, Going Home, MTVChallenge, The ESPYS, Name That Tune, Domino Masters, Cooking With The Stars, Inside Amy Schumer and The League.

Most recently, Vernon joined the ownership group of the Brisbane Bullets of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) as one of their newest minority owners.

Live Music by 2MB

When best friends get together to make music and perform classic jams you get 2MB!

Kendall, Chris and Dave are all locals that grew up in the Northern Virginia area. They are all NoVa professionals, parents, and freaking awesome multi-talented musicians.

Their vibe is fun, smooth and easy; playing everything from 90s alt faves, classics from the 70s, to country covers that everyone knows the words to.

These three came together just a year ago and their momentum continues to grow while playing consistently at favorite local spots, events, vineyards, and breweries. Pop, rock, alt, country…you’ll be entertained by it all when you chill with 2MB.

Diane Roberts Returns as Emcee

We are honored to have Diane Roberts return as the emcee for the 2022 Polo Classic!

With more than 25 years of experience in various communications platforms, including television, radio, and social media, Diane has compiled industry insights from experience in reporting and anchoring for both news and sports on a national and local level. She also coaches clients on the ins and outs of public speaking and being ready for all facets of the media.

Thank you to…

Cloverleaf Equine Center is once again beyond grateful for our Polo Classic co-chairs Will Thomas and Sherrie Beckstead, joined again this year by honorary chair Sheila Johnson. 

This group works tirelessly year round to make the Polo Classic such a fun and successful event.

Will Thomas is a Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty and veteran TV anchor.

Sherrie Beckstead is President of The Lockkeepers Collection Group, and a Principal at Liljenquist & Beckstead, co-founded by the Beckstead family.

Both are also members of Cloverleaf’s Board of Directors.

Sheila Johnson has been involved in the equestrian community for many years including serving as President of the Washington International Horse Show. 

In addition to her efforts to support equestrian interests and among her many business endeavors, Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which operates a collection of luxury properties including the equestrian-inspired Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA.

About Cloverleaf Equine Center

The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program recently completed an extensive rebrand effort in response to organizational growth and future expansion. At the heart of the rebrand is a change of the program name to Cloverleaf Equine Center – representing that services offered now extend beyond the Northern Virginia area – and an update to the center’s logo. 

Founded in 1980, the organization began as a small operation in Clifton, Virginia with a couple borrowed horses and a handful of clients and volunteers. Today, Cloverleaf Equine Center serves over 100 weekly clients from the DC Metro area with the help of more than 250 active volunteers and a herd of 18 horses on a 17-acre farm in Fairfax County. In addition to therapeutic riding, Cloverleaf’s services include physical therapy incorporating horses, equine-assisted learning and psychotherapy incorporating horses. 

MISSION:   Cloverleaf Equine Center, at O’Shaughnessy Farm, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that helps each individual realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted activities to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military personnel, and others in need in an inclusive, community setting.

​VISION: To inspire and enrich people, families and communities through the power of the horse.

Summer Foraging with Clay Morris

Story by Victoria Peace

In January 2022, I took one of Clay Morris’ winter foraging classes at the Salamander Resort & Spa. I came away from the experience amazed at how much the natural world had to offer during a time of year that I usually consider to be extremely barren. You can read the article I wrote about my experience and about Morris’ background here.

Six months later when I was invited to participate in one of Morris’ summer foraging classes, I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t wait to see what new and exciting foods and flavors came along with the changing of the seasons.

Morris starts each one of his foraging classes with a walk through the grounds of the Salamander Resort & Spa. He likes to teach his classes there because it’s a very diverse habitat in a small area. Morris explained that the months of June and July are what he calls “the vegetable stage” of the year. All of the plants that emerged in the spring have started producing flowers, berries, pods, and vegetables.

The Walk 

On our summer foraging walk, we discovered a wide variety of plants and trees including black locust, milkweed, chicory, wild grapes, wild berries, overcup, poke, walnut trees, sumac, coneflowers, cattails, juniper, and heirloom pear trees. Their qualities ranged from utilitarian to delicious  — and often, encompassed both the same time.

One plant that Morris identified as seamlessly blending utility and culinary value is overcup. Its large leaves curl in such a way that they create a cup which acts as a condenser for any mist in the air. When water collects in these cups, it provides a place for hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to stay hydrated. Morris likes to blanch overcup leaves and use them to make a roulade, which he proudly calls “his version of sushi.”

Cattails are another plant Morris pointed out which serves a wide variety of functions. Native Americans used their fluff to stuff diapers and their leaves to make mats. However, the stem of the cattail can also be eaten —  it tastes similar to a cucumber. After our walk, we were able to sample both raw cattail stem and a cattail root and tomato relish that Morris prepared.

On our walk, Morris underscored the importance of being in tune with seasonal and environmental changes in order to know the right time to harvest different plants. Windows of opportunities can be small, and once you miss them, they’re gone. For example, every bit of the milkweed plant can be eaten if prepared properly. However, it has to be harvested within a very specific timeframe. When the plant first starts to emerge in the spring, the stems can be eaten like asparagus. Before it flowers, it looks a bit like broccoli rabe, and can be sautéed or dried and stored for later use. The pods can be blanched and taste similar to okra, however, you have to make sure you catch them when they are very small or else they are poisonous. And finally, when the flower opens, it can be made into a cordial for a refreshing summer drink.

The Tasting

After our walk, we had the chance to sample a milkweed flower cordial along with a variety of other dishes made with foraged ingredients. Morris prepares these dishes in advance so participants can better understand how the flavors and textures of foraged food can fit into our typical everyday diet. His goal is not just to make foraged food edible, but delicious.

The menu that I sampled included lots of picked items, which are traditional for both the season and the region we live in. There were pickled, spice keeper pears, pickled wild onion flowers, and pickled mini pine cones. The pickled mini pine cones were probably my favorite bite of the day because their flavor was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. It was simultaneously, tangy, minty, and spicy, with just a hint of sweetness.

For more savory offerings, Morris prepared fermented grape leaves filled with creole rice and a lambs quarters callaloo. The callaloo, a traditional Caribbean dish, was inspired by one of Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s recipes. Onwuachi will be hosting The Family Reunion at Salamander later this month. Lambs quarters is a fast-growing weed which can be used as a spinach substitute and has a significantly less slimy texture when cooked. 

As discussed previously, every part of the milkweed plant can be eaten at the right time of year. During our class, the pods were in season. Morris prepared them by lightly frying them in a tempura batter. They tasted similar to okra and had a fascinating texture — the inside was almost like mozzarella cheese. 

While the milkweed pods were a more adventurous snack, Morris also created a beautiful charcuterie spread so that guests could make their own canapés using mix of familiar and foreign ingredients. Garlic mustard pesto, cattail root relish, wild greens aioli, and fermented elderberry capers could all be paired with more typical meats and cheeses to create unique bites. “Play with it, there’s no wrong way to do it,” Morris encouraged.

I am already looking forward to seeing what Morris has in store for his fall classes — the focus will be on roots and nuts. To sign up, please visit Salamander Resort & Spa’s website. To be put on Morris’ mailing list, please reach out to jclaymorris@hotmail.com. ML

Foxcroft School Earns Prestigious VAIS Accreditation

MIDDLEBURG, VA — Foxcroft School, an independent college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 and post-graduate in Middleburg, VA, has earned full reaccreditation from the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). Founded in 1973, VAIS is the leader in advancing and advocating for independent school education in Virginia. The VAIS accreditation program is one of the select few recognized at the international level through the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA). VAIS also is recognized and approved by the Virginia Board of Education through the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE).

Foxcroft received the highest report a school can receive in addition to meeting or exceeding all standards for accreditation. A visiting team comprised of the VAIS Director of Accreditation and administrators and faculty from five VAIS member schools also commended Foxcroft in several key areas, including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB); Curriculum and Pedagogy; Wellness; and Financial Well-Being.

“Parents can be sure that when choosing a VAIS-accredited school for their children, the school has been through an intense period of self-reflection and evaluation, which strengthens the entire institution,” said Betsy Hunroe, Executive Director of VAIS.

The voluntary accreditation process is a rigorous undertaking involving a comprehensive self-study, including input from all school constituents. A team of peer evaluators from VAIS member schools spends several days on campus reviewing the self-study report, documentation, and curriculum; meeting with administrators, trustees, students, parents, and teachers; and observing campus life. The team concludes the in-depth visit with a detailed written assessment. The finalized report is then submitted for accreditation approval by the VAIS Board of Directors.

“As a School community, we have much to celebrate and the success of this process engenders a sense of pride,” shared Head of School Cathy McGehee. “At the same time, this important procedure encourages us to keep working to make sure Foxcroft stays strong for the future.”

To learn more about Foxcroft School, visit www.foxcroft.org. To learn more about VAIS accreditation, visit vais.org.

Photo Courtesy of Foxcroft School.

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About Foxcroft School Founded in 1914, Foxcroft School is a college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 and PG with a mission of helping every girl explore her unique voice and develop the skills, confidence, and courage to share it with the world. Foxcroft offers 72-76 courses, including 16+ AP classes and 5+ post-AP offerings, and a STEM program that inspires girls to pursue studies in fields where women are underrepresented. Foxcroft fields athletic teams in 11 sports and has a nationally known riding program. For more information about the School, please explore our website at www.foxcroft.org or call 540.687.5555.

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