middleburg life

A National Campaign and Local Effort for Greener Horseshows 

Written by Kaitlin Hill 

More than historic, the site of the Upperville Colt & Horse show is undeniably green. The sloping lawns, towering hundred-plus year-old trees, and the familiar evergreen paint on nearly every structure all contribute to a feeling of being one with nature upon entering the gates of the showground. And in recent years, there have been efforts to make Upperville even greener by operating the show with environmental impact in mind, led by a national campaign called Green is the New Blue and aided by local efforts supporting the cause. 

Founded by amateur equestrian Stephanie Riggio Bulger, Green is the New Blue (GNB) partners with horse shows across the country to reduce the impact of equestrian events can on the planet. Emily Cleland of GNB shares, “With year-round horse show circuits available to us, we are such a transient population. And in the effort to get from show to show, we just don’t realize the amount of waste we produce, especially in the form of plastics: supplement tubs, shavings bags, twine, water bottles… just for one horse and rider, it really adds up.” 

As the oldest horse show in the nation, it seems appropriate that Upperville was also Green is the New Blue’s original partner. Cleland says, “Upperville was actually our very first horse show partner!” She adds, “Its management team has made such a commitment to the future with their forward-thinking approaches to sustainability.” 

Caitlin Lane, executive director of Upperville Horse Shows, LLC notes, “We have been working with Green is the New Blue for a few years to develop a sustainability program. We’ve been brainstorming with them on how to expand the program and get more people involved, more sponsors.” 

For this year’s show, the team at UCHS and GNB connected with Maria Eldredge and Anne McIntosh of Middleburg Real Estate and Atoka Properties. Lane shares, “In talking with Middleburg Real Estate, we put forward the idea that we wanted to add these hydration stations and it would be something new this year.” 

Coincidentally, Eldredge explains, “Middleburg Real Estate had just come up with a new program where, as agents, if we wanted to sponsor something we could, and we’re trying to do more locally.” A single-use to reusable convert herself, Eldredge jumped the idea of sponsoring the hydration stations and partnered with McIntosh and Middleburg Real Estate to cover the $10,000 project. She says, “Instead of selling thousands of [single-use] plastic bottles, there will be tents set up with bamboo cups. You can refill your water bottle and there will be bigger jugs of water.” 

This latest initiative is one of many that Upperville has adopted to reduce its environmental impact. Lane says, “We are doing wider facility recycling. We’ve been able to recycle the shavings bags which is a big source of plastic for us. We are trying to work on where the manure goes after an event, how it can be reused.” She adds, “We’re really looking at how we can be more sustainable. It’s deliberate choices on what products we can use and how we can set things up to reduce our footprint…Ideally, we are helping spread [the idea] to other events across the country.” 

Cleland adds, “We want to see horse shows and facilities adopt initiatives that are reasonably actionable in their geographic areas. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ — some municipalities simply don’t have recycling programs for show organizers to utilize, for instance. Some facilities have the means to tackle issues like erosion and water runoff that other facilities don’t. That said, recently we’ve been inspired by the horse shows like UCHS that have substantially cut their use of single-use plastics by committing to water refill stations with compostable cups. That choice alone produces exponentially less plastic waste.”

In addition to national campaigns and locally sponsored programs, an impact can be made on an individual level too. Cleland says, “Make a habit out of bringing your own refillable water bottle to horse shows and everywhere you go! Be vocal! Let your horse show organizers and venue managers know that sustainable practices are important to you.” 

As horses, trainers, and spectators show up June 6 through 12 to enjoy the 169th Upperville Colt & Horse Show, they will take part in the new green legacy of this historic event, as Cleland says, “to preserve our planet for generations of equestrians to come.” ML

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

History on Display at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show

Written by Bill Kent
Photos by Michael Butcher 

Ask anyone within 50 miles of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show what it’s like and you’ll hear of great things. After all, the show has been going on for 169 years.

However, this year, America’s oldest show has a new designation. After more than two years of research and advocacy, Upperville is now the only showground on the National Register of Historic Places.

It can be argued that one can’t go anywhere in and around Middleburg without finding a significant connection to history. The inclusion of the Grafton Farm showgrounds on the register honors the importance of horses and the equestrian arts in the larger story of our country, as well the 1,800 horses and even more people from all over the world who will come to the region to compete this month.

Maral Kalbian, the historic preservation consultant whose application to the National Park Service won the show its registry status, credits Huntland equestrian, philanthropist, Canon, and 17th Baroness of Lochiel, Scotland, Dr. Betsee Parker’s support for the application. “Dr. Parker was the prime mover. I know that the community has wanted official recognition for quite a long time, but without Dr. Parker, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Kalbian calls the seven-day show, which begins June 6, “a jewel of a resource to have in your own backyard.” She adds, “It makes you appreciate where you are and how absolutely important the horse has been in our history.”

As an architectural historian who savors the old and the interesting, Kalbian says she fell in love with the show’s Grafton Farm site (about two miles east of Upperville on the south side of Route 50) on her first visit when she noticed “how free it was of intrusions. With just about any structure that has survived to this century, you’re going to find changes, upgrades, modern touches. You see almost none of them at Grafton Farm. If you sit in the grandstand at Grafton Farm as I did, and you look out onto the immediate surroundings and take in the unquestionably beautiful natural hills, you get a profound feeling of tradition. You don’t need much imagination to connect what’s going on right now all the way back to the time it began.”

“If you sit in the grandstand at Grafton Farm as I did, and you look out onto the immediate surroundings and take in the unquestionably beautiful natural hills, you get a profound feeling of tradition.”

– Kalbian

That’s not exactly how Olympic gold medal winner and Hall of Fame member Joseph “Joe” Fargis IV remembers his first time at Grafton Farm. “I was 12 years old and it was raining and there was mud everywhere. I was knee-deep in it and enjoying it.”

Now 74, Fargis is the president of the show and is still a leading figure in show jumping. He notes that while some things have changed, others have remained the same. “We’ve upgraded the footing so the horses can have [the] best possible surfaces to move around on, but we haven’t been able to fix the weather. When it rains, everyone feels it.”

They also feel a closeness that is not common at other horse shows. “This is the gathering of a tremendous extended family. We’re all very proud of our horses and how long this show has lasted,” Fargis says.

And there’s one thing that everyone loves, rain or shine, no matter how the competition shakes out. “It’s the oak grove. Some of these trees are quite old. Some we’ve replaced over the years with donations. You go out and stand there in the shade and look around, see your friends and family. It’s like coming home.”

The Grafton Farm oak grove is that rarest place in horse shows: a place of common ground where everyone — former and future Olympic riders, first-timers, and old-timers — meet and greet.

Among those whom you might find in the grove is Barbara Riggs, a former competitor who is now part of a group of 150 Upperville volunteers. These individuals do everything from bringing breakfast to the barns to acting as concierge for any last minute needs of the show’s participants. 

“If you’re coming to the show for the first time, every day has something interesting and exciting going on.”

– Riggs

“If you’re coming to the show for the first time, every day has something interesting and exciting going on,” Riggs advises. “But there are two events you really can’t miss. The Sunday Grand Prix, which is the top competition with the best riders and the biggest prize, and the Saturday lead-line event where you see children on ponies who may be showing for their first time. The kids you see on the ponies now are the same ones who will come back as competitors later.”

One such former lead-line participant is saddle-maker and leather designer Dorothy “Punkin” Lee. She started in the lead-line class and is now in her 25th year as a volunteer. “This show gets into you like no other show anywhere. The lead-liners come back as competitors, and the competitors become volunteers. Once you’re part of it, it’s hard to let a year go by without coming back, seeing friends and family, and serving and helping the horses. It began for the horses and it’s stayed that way ever since.”

Helping and caring for horses — in this case a struggling colt with nearly frozen feet — inspired Colonel Richard Henry Dulany to hold the very first show back in 1853. Though horses had been a fixture of country fairs previously, Dulany’s Upperville gathering was devoted to improving the care of horses and celebrating what horses can do, not just in Virginia, but throughout the emerging American nation. “And we try to keep it that way,” says Tommy Lee Jones, a third generation equestrian who has managed Upperville’s show since 1982. “[The show] is unique because of its placement — you feel you’re at a farm, out in the country, and not in a stadium or arena — and the people who have made it what it is, who have given it so much time, effort, and support. Go to the Wall of Honor and you can see some of the names of those who have come before. For every name up there, there are thousands more that have been part of it.” ML

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

Letter From The Editor

If I could describe summer ‘21 to future generations, I would tell them it was the summer that life happened again. I like to think it will go down in history as the “summer of reunions.” After being forced apart due to the pandemic, the feeling of joyfulness was fleeting for most of the year. But now, as we begin seeing relatives and friends and getting back to the things we love doing, this thrill radiates through the air. It’s electric and we want more of it.

I find myself asking: How will we be different after such a life-altering year? What changes will we make for the better? Or will we revert back to our old ways?

After giving birth (on Mother’s Day) to a beautiful little boy named Asher James, I have been through significant changes myself. We have gone from a family of three to a family of four, and transitioning while we both work demanding jobs has been no easy feat. My husband and I may be sleep-deprived, but we are powering through and hoping to attain some sort of balance in life again.

Middleburg Life is also going through necessary changes. Changes that will allow us to keep up with a world that continues to push back at print media. For starters, to remain competitive, we will continue increasing our reach to benefit our advertisers. This will be achieved by covering topics across more of the region that embodies the “hunt country” lifestyle.

In print, you will see these changes reflected through our new logo, “Middleburg Life & Hunt Country.” You will continue to see stories that focus on the lives of people who live in or near Middleburg and who represent this unique lifestyle that connects us. Finally, in August, the magazine will be upgraded to a higher quality full gloss print with a slightly modified size.

As we grow, we will continue our efforts to reach a larger audience through even more online stories and through a broader distribution that places the magazine in the hands of more people in similar equestrian communities up and down the coast.

A heartfelt thank you to our readers and loyal advertisers for your continued support as we ride forward in an endlessly changing world.

Jennifer Gray
Editor in Chief

This letter first appeared in the July 2021 Issue.

Gardening: Making The Most Of Your Minutes

Story and Photos by Ashley Bommer Singh

There never seems to be enough time. My friends and I have been following Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients cookbook for dinner to try to pare down the chaos in our lives. Why try to do it all when you can simplify? Oliver focuses on five ingredients that come together beautifully and quickly to make things fun like super green spaghetti with just garlic, greens like cavolo nero or kale, parmesan and ricotta. Yum.

This got me thinking about the gardens. What could we do with just five items to beautify our spaces? Could we make our gardens look more natural in less time? The Chelsea Garden Show in the UK comes together in just weeks; but they have armies of people and volunteers and money for thousands of plants to make it happen. Could some gardening be made as simple as putting dinner together in 30 minutes or less? With this in mind, I took a walk around our property.

This flowering wild carrot even adds a touch of beauty.

The vegetable garden had found its own rhythm mostly because I let winter things go to seed during a busy spring. Carrots were in flower and the rocket lettuce is almost three feet tall covered in seed pods. The wildness is charming and quite beautiful against the red paprika yarrow. But in truth I’ve been dreading days of work to ensure a summer harvest. Using Jamie’s approach, I decided that we don’t need to plant the entire garden center or seed catalogue. What five vegetables do we really want in the summer garden and on our dinner plates? For me it was: tomatoes, zucchini, squash, runner beans and peppers.

After reading A Garden Can Be Anywhere, Lauri Kranz’s great resource for creating edible gardens, I appreciated the author’s desire to add pollinator friendly plants to all her vegetable gardens. My yarrow and carrots gone wild certainly fit that bill, as do the purple salvia nemorosa and statuesque foxtails. The author suggested adding African basil which she noted is the heart of all her vegetable gardens.

Paprika Yarrow.

Keeping it simple, I thought I should add just five flowers to the vegetable area: zinnias and cosmos and three edible flowers nasturtium, anise hyssop, and Orange Gem marigolds (the only marigolds you can eat!). My herbs mostly stick around year after year – oregano, thyme, chives, and mint. I add as much basil as I can plant. I like to make pesto.

Five plants for our new brick garden? A combination of asters, Karl Foerster grass, echinacea, agastache and white catmint. To spice up your entrance, you can’t go wrong with roses, boxwood, and dwarf hydrangeas with geranium and catmint to soften the edges. A shade garden? Try astilbe, Japanese painted ferns, hostas, hellebores and columbine.

Now, the pots. The spring annuals such as pansies and violas are done. It is time to fill with perennials or summer annuals. Can five ingredients apply to the pots as well? David and Diane at Abernethy & Spencer Greenhouses think so. They make pots in minutes drawing on about 20 plants. A good top five would be dusty miller, dipladenia, melampodium, sweet potato vine and wave petunias. Or do just three: dipladenia, diamond frost and English ivy. Tell them what colors you want and throw things together. Use good quality potting soil with peat moss, add some compost on top and water regularly to keep patios and balconies brilliant.

Allium ‘Ambassador’ around the fountain with Salvia nemorosa, Russian sage, Allium ‘Millenium’ and Caryopteris.

And don’t forget about fall bulbs. Summer is the best time to order for November delivery. My five favorites: alliums (my favorites are ambassador, nigrum, and drumstick), Sir Winston Churchill daffodils, parrot tulips, grape hyacinth for borders, and Camassia for under the apple trees. I have a lot of gardens, but thinking about five key ingredients makes each one more manageable.

Whether you have a dozen areas or a few pots on the patio, try to simplify and stick to what works. Pay attention to plant preferences. Shade plants should be in the shade. No azaleas in full sun, please, and likewise move the asters to the sun. Once you have things under control, you can layer on your gardens every year, but thinking about five ingredients is a pretty good – and manageable – way to get started.

This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.

Meet Middleburg: Catherine Wycoff, Physical Therapist, Feldenkrais Practitioner

Story and photo by Kerry Phelps Dale

The thing about Catherine Wycoff is that although she is very friendly and accessible, she’s difficult to describe. She has so many talents and skills, so many degrees and certifications, that’s she’s hard to reduce down to something simple. One thing that rings true in her professional experience and current endeavors is that her main purpose seems to be helping people.

Every Friday, Catherine comes to her Middleburg studio on Federal Street to teach her Feldenkrais Method class. A few of her regulars sing her praises like a Baptist choir on Sunday. They have total faith in both Catherine and the Feldenkrais Method, which the founder, Moshe Feldenkrais, touted will “…make the impossible, possible; the possible, easy; and the easy, elegant.”

If that quote doesn’t bring you closer to understanding the method, try this—moving without pain through improving “kinesthetic sense”—the ability to sense, feel and coordinate easy, effective movement. It’s rewiring the brain to move more efficiently and easily. It is an effective approach used by athletes, people with special needs, seniors, and even musicians. Born and raised in Belgium, Catherine has lived and been educated all over the world. “My husband works for the state department, so I have lived a lot of places,” she says. An avid horsewoman, Catherine owns, rides and uses horses for therapy as well as providing rehabilitative therapy to horses. She lives in Lovettsville with her husband and has two children in college. She finds Middleburg to be a comforting reminder of small European towns and feels right at home with the town and countryside that reveres the horse.

Though the Feldenkrais Method is a bit elusive, the classes are not. The owner of Kinetic Balance invites you to join her for a Friday class at noon, at The Studio on West Federal Street.  “If you know what you do, you can do what you want,” she quotes Feldenkrais. “It has to do with awareness: Awareness is the key,” explains Catherine. For more information on the method, visit www.kineticbalance.com.

This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Middleburg Life. 

Capturing the Magic

Photo by Jim Poston

Renowned Middleburg Life photographer Jim Poston captured the essence of the annual Middleburg Christmas Parade once again on Dec. 1. Poston’s iconic Middleburg Parade snow shot can be seen throughout the town.

The official parade photographer has shared many of those shots on the pages of this magazine through the years. Poston’s work graces the walls of businesses, the halls of schools and on the pages of publications.

Enjoy a special collection of his 2018 parade shots!

A Look Back at the 2018 International Gold Cup

Photos by John Scott Nelson Photography

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these riders from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. While the International Gold Cup like the United States Postal Service has no official motto, the die hard Gold Cup fans could steal the postal workers motto for this October’s event.

Despite the not so cheery weather, fans donned their best hats and put on their smiling faces to brave the damp weather and enjoy what turned out to be an exciting day at Great Meadows on Saturday, Oct. 27.The lush green grass was a bit wet and made for some muddy boots, but the steeplechase races went on and the horses didn’t seem to mind. The day didn’t go to the dogs. However, the entertaining Terrier Races in the paddock did start the day and grabbed everyone’s attention. 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 Issue of Middleburg Life.

 

Hanging History: The Official White House Christmas Ornaments

Story by Kaitlin Hill | Photos by Randy Litzinger

The tradition of decorating Christmas trees can often turn into a walk down memory lane, with each ornament acting as a ghost of Christmases past. Since ornaments are often given as gifts, the markers of special occasions or, sometimes embarrassing, reminders of now-grown children’s elementary artistic pursuits, they hold their own unique histories and serve as jolly juggernauts of nostalgia. Add string lights, weaving ribbon or twinkling tinsel, and the finished fir can tell the intimate story of a family, a new couple or a set of lifelong friends.

As Americans, our shared history is boldly and beautifully told across the country, and right here in Middleburg, on towering trees and magnificent mantels that are bedecked in Official White House Christmas Ornaments. For local Nancy Novak McMahon, the ornaments are both patriotic and personal. She orders multiples each year and has the entire collection—all 37—which she displays every Christmas. She received her first as a gift from a co-worker after moving to Virginia from Chicago.

The first White House Christmas Ornament, a two-dimensional golden angel with outstretched wings and a festive horn, was released in 1981. It bears a simple inscription, “Christmas 1981. The White House.”

“I had a new co-worker who, the first Christmas that we worked together, as a kind of welcome to the Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. area, gave me the White House Christmas Ornament, which I had never even known existed.” She continues, “I just thought it was the neatest thing and every year for eight or ten years, she always gave me an ornament as my Christmas present.” To Nancy, the ornament is special because of its ties to the Washington region and friends she made while living here.

Even since moving to Middleburg, McMahon carries on ritual by buying one for herself, and giving them as gifts, too. She even sends two as far as Holland, one to a close friend and the other to her friend’s in-laws, who recently downsized.

The White House Historical Association’s 2018 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Harry S. Truman. This ornament is designed to illustrate three significant changes made by him during his administration, one to the Presidential Seal, and two to the White House itself.

“They let me know, the ornaments made the cut…the [current] ornament is still up every year and has a place of honor in their new apartment.” They watch for McMahon’s package with the newly released ornament each year. She laughs, “It’s quite the tradition.”The ornaments started as part of an outreach initiative by the White House Historical Association (WHHA). Founded by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, the non-profit and purposefully non-partisan association was created as a means to educate Americans about the rich history of the White House. Twenty years and six presidents later, including her husband Ronald, former first lady Nancy Reagan launched the White House Ornaments as a continuation of Kennedy’s focus on historical preservation and education.

The first ornament was released in 1981, a two-dimensional golden angel with outstretched wings and a festive horn. It bears a simple inscription, “Christmas 1981. The White House.” Over the years, the ornaments became more elaborate, including colors, three-dimensional designs and even moving pieces.

In 1984, the fourth ornament is the first to depict a president’s face. Thomas Jefferson sits regally in a circle of gold, called “Jefferson’s Medal of Peace.” And in 1987, the first touches of color are added—evergreen wreaths with Christmas red ribbons adorn the “White House Doors.” The 1999 Lincoln-inspired collectible is a golden book inlaid with a pensive looking Honest Abe that even opens. The portrait was painted by George Healy and still hangs in the State Dining Room.

The 2007 White House Christmas ornament honors the first administration of President Grover Cleveland.

Not only do these annually revealed Christmas treasures showcase specific presidents, but they also capture moments in time and executive mansion memories that may have been forgotten. The 2016 edition is a gleaming red and gold miniature representation of the fire trucks that responded to the 1929 Christmas Eve blaze at the White House during a children’s gathering. Herbert Hoover, who was president at the time, invited the same children back the following year and presented them all with toy versions of the red engine as a keepsake.Each year, a new designer is selected to conceptualize the ornament. Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association says, “Over the years we have used various sources of design. We have had a competition among professional designers, a competition among design school students and we have used the design team at the manufacturer of our ornaments in Rhode Island.” He adds, “From time to time we even receive an unsolicited design.”

The process of choosing a design is collaborative. “We talk it through as a staff and with members of our board of directors and react to several designs,” McLaurin said. Sometimes the WHHA even asks artists to team up. “Occasionally, we will like a couple things from one design and a couple of things from another design and we will ask those designers to work together.”

As for selecting which president to feature each year, that decision was made long ago. “Fortunately for us, back in the Reagan administration when the idea was first presented to Mrs. Reagan to do a Christmas ornament, the decision was made then that we would feature a different president each year and we would do it sequentially.” He continues, “It started with Washington and we have now worked our way up to Harry Truman. That takes the politics out of it, that takes any favoritism out of it when we know that the next year, it’s the next president.”

The 2003 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Ulysses S. Grant and his family.

As McLaurin mentioned, 2018’s ornament honors Harry S. Truman, and highlights the renovations he made to the White House while in office. The front of this delicate white and gold ornament features the Truman Balcony added between 1947 and 1948. On the flipside, you’ll find The Blue Room, complete with an extravagantly decorated Christmas tree. Perhaps the most significant of Truman-era changes is seen in the Presidential Seal. Prior to Truman’s presidency, the American eagle’s gaze focused on instruments of war clutched in his left talon. Truman shifted the eagle’s focus to its right talon, which grasp olive branches of peace.Once a concept is selected, ChemArt, a veteran-owned small business—the same manufacturer that has produced every ornament from the start—is trusted to bring the vision to life. McLaurin says, “They have worked with us since the ornament started. They know us. They know the ornaments.”

Customers know the ornaments, too. And as McLaurin tells it, collectors are often eager to purchase the next in line. “There is a big excitement about what the ornament is going to be.” He adds, “Once you start collecting, you have the one the next year. Even more than that, once you start giving them as gifts, the recipient expects to receive one next year.”  Tracking down the ornaments is easily done, and if you happen to miss a year, don’t worry. The entire collection is available for order on the White House Historical Association’s website; shop.whitehousehistory.org.

The Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg is one of the only shops in Virginia to carry the entire collection. “We are the largest supplier of this ornament in Virginia. We carry the entire series and we have them in stock all the time,” said Linda Tripp Rausch, who owns the Christmas Sleigh with her husband, Dieter Rausch. They are one of the store’s most popular sellers, and it is not difficult to understand why. In fact, the store had to reorder before Thanksgiving. “People are getting something that is unique, it’s historic, it’s a collectible and the proceeds go to a cause,” McLaurin said.

Their philanthropic nature reflects the holiday season’s focus on giving, but moreover, the ornaments themselves are manifestations of the true American spirit. A spirit that is undeniably patriotic, built by veterans and loved by both sides of the aisle. They speak to the class, elegance and majesty associated with the White House, and remind us of those who have come before us to make this Christmas, and those that follow, possible.

 

Lighting up the Night for All to See

Photos by Randy Litzinger

Joyce Mullins, owner of Mullwyck Manor in Upperville, Virginia, shares her love of Christmas with her friends, her family and even strangers. Joyce graciously offered her home, Mullwyck Manor, as the backdrop for this month’s cover shot. Although her home already featured three Christmas trees and decorations in every room, she offered her den as the backdrop for our Hunt Country Christmas tree which was designed and decorated by Linda Tripp Rausch and Diane Spreadbury of the Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg.The Christmas tree features two complete sets of collectible White House Ornaments, a nod to our nation’s history and our close proximity to Washington, D.C. However, what’s under the tree makes it distinctly Hunt Country. Look closely. The hostess went room to room and gathered her personal treasures to help get that perfect Hunt Country feel. She even added two of her own wrapped gifts alongside the beautifully decorated ones Linda designed and brought for the shoot.

Mullins, along with her son, Rick, creates her own spectacular decoration display that takes a week to put up and tear down for friends, neighbors and strangers to enjoy each year. Most notably, Rick decorates their pond every Christmas with dazzling lights that can be seen from the road. She gives him full creative liberty with the pond. “He just goes wild,” she says.Each year, the Christmas light elf tries to up the ante as he knows passersby are excited to see the latest installment. “It’s to make people smile as they go to and from work. Even when I am putting it up, they beep and wave. They expect it.”

If you happen to drive through Upperville as the sun goes down, be sure to keep an eye out for Mullwyck Manor. This seasonal spectacle is one of the community’s favorite traditions and is not to be missed.

 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life.

Meet Middleburg: Punkin Lee, Leather Goods Designer

Story and photo by Kerry Phelps Dale

She’s as Middleburg as they come. Punkin Lee has lived all but a few years of her life in the Middleburg community. After graduating Hill School, she lived away from her hometown only to attend high school at St. Catherine’s in Richmond followed by two years at Centenary University in New Jersey, then graduating college at Florida State University.

As a child she always had horses of her own. “I had two ponies to take care of before I went to school. I would ride one before school and when I’d come home I’d ride the other one.”

“We would ride all weekend, riding wherever,” says Punkin about the way she and her friends spent their spare time. “We would ride over to somebody’s house, pick up somebody else, ride into town. You didn’t come down the road, you would just cut through farms.”

“When I was home from high school and college, I’d ride a horse during my lunch break and jump in with the hunt and then drop out and go back to work,” recalls Punkin who also fox hunted and showed horses. Clearly, the town has changed over the years, “It’s gotten bigger and busier.” But the reason Punkin has made Middleburg her lifelong home is the one thing that’s remained the same. “Community. It’s a great place to live if you get involved in things.”

Punkin’s involvement in Middleburg has centered around keeping it healthy for businesses and residents while preserving the history and heritage that make Middleburg so unique. Volunteering as the Middleburg Business and Professional Association president, serving on town landscape and Historic District Review committees, and whatever else comes up in the community, keeps her busy when she’s not at Journeymen Saddlers on Madison Street.

While most people have jumped around from one job to another throughout their careers, Punkin leaves the jumping to her customers. She has owned and operated her shop that specializes in custom riding chaps and belts with finished needlepoint, and repairs to saddles, boots, tack and strap goods for 41 years. Her staying power is matched closely by the majority of her colleagues, most of whom have been with Journeymen Saddlers since the beginning years.

In her shop, there are leather goods everywhere—bridles and halters lie in heaps on the floor, rolled hides stand at the ready in different departments, saddles rest on stands, chaps hang on hooks, boots set on the floor, dog collars are displayed on a board. The intoxicating smell of leather hangs in the air and its soft feel is always within reach.

Leather is organic, artistic, practical and magical in its possibilities. “You take half a hide and you create. You cut it, you strip it,” says Punkin. “And then it’s something,” At Journeymen, that something is beautiful, functional and of the highest quality. The store’s reputation draws people from afar and keeps customers coming back year after year. The professionals, the really good horsemen and women, make up the bulk of Punkin’s business, but the weekend horse riders appreciate the craftsmanship of her workshop, too.

A customer came in the shop and wanted to order custom chaps for her very tall boyfriend who was to stop by later to be measured last month. She handled a chain of leather samples of every color and finish imaginable, her fingers ran over the smoothness of the squares. “These are so cool,” she said as she flipped through the selection over and over again.

Leather repair and custom repair work require a pair of human hands. Little of the work can be accomplished by a machine alone, though the treadle sewing machine in the corner is an indispensable tool. Like many trades, there aren’t many young people interested in learning leather work. “We’d like to continue as long as we’re healthy,” says Punkin of herself and her employees. “What else are you going to do? I’m not a sitter.”

Not a sitter at all, Punkin runs regularly. “We run on Landmark (School Road) a lot, eight miles to the Y and back, 17 hills,” she added. “But, who’s counting, right?” She and her group of women friends have been running together for more than 20 years and have completed an Ultra Marathon, a marathon, several half marathons and countless shorter races. She said they always run as a group and have picked out a marathon to run next fall in Nags Head, North Carolina. “If we’re going to do one, go flat. If you train on the hills here, you ought to be able to crank that out on the flat.”

Committed, consistent and hard-working, Punkin is a stayer. A get up and go person who is happy to stay put in Middleburg, a life choice our community is all the better for.

 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life. 

“Lucky 7” Charity Gala Celebrating Seven Years of Serving Individuals with Special Needs

November 19, 2018 | Courtesy of Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center

Therapeutic Riding and Education Center’s “Lucky 7” Charity Gala and Gaming benefit kicked off the celebration of their “lucky” seventh year of serving individuals with special needs with fun, food, drinks, and a little “gambling”.

The gala was held in the organizations’ barn, complete with twinkling string lights, professional gaming tables with dealers and a farm to table dinner, courtesy of Fields of Athenry Farm and RSVP Catering.A cocktail hour eased guests into the night, featuring beer from Solace Brewing Company and wines by Slater Run Vineyards, both of whom partnered with Sprout on this special anniversary event. A “Big Board”, a fresh take on a silent auction, entertained guests by featuring items to anonymously bid upon. This “interactive” auction added to the excitement and theme of the night as guests could take their pick from any auction item listed on The Big Board, ranging from designer silk scarves, spa treatments, personal chef dinners, weekend getaways and more.Executive Director, Brooke Waldron, delivered an inspiring speech about the importance of serving others through the power of horses. With not a dry eye in the house, Sprout students arrived in the arena, accompanied by their trust four-legged friends and Sprout instructors for the “Sponsor a Horse” portion of the evening. With warmth and love in their hearts, guests generously bid to sponsor a therapy horse for an entire room – resulting in ALL seventeen of the horses being sponsored!With the generous support of the event sponsors of Sue Fitzgerald and Associates, Newstead Farm, Alison Robitaille and Family, TriSept Corporation Northwest Credit Union and many others, the “Lucky 7” gala was a huge success.Event Chair, Kristin Quinn, and her committee worked to make the gala a night to remember, and their efforts did not go unnoticed, as Founder and Executive Director Brooke Waldron revealed following the charity gala that support from all those who attended raised over $300,000. Save the date for next year as it’s sure to be a “don’t want to miss event!”

 

 

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