How to Break into the Intimidating Sport of Fox Hunting 

Fox Hunting 101: How to Break into the Intimidating Sport of Fox Hunting 

Written by Victoria Peace

Photos by Joanne Maisano 

I stepped out of my 12-year-old Volkswagen convertible and peered down at the creek. It looked to be about a foot deep, but the water was flowing pretty fast, so it was difficult to tell for sure. I didn’t want to chance it. I hopped back into the car, reversed toward the gate that separated the creek from a larger field, and then dashed out to close it behind me. Sighing, I realized I had lost the hound truck for good. How had I found myself in this situation? It’s a long story. 

That chilly March morning, Gregg Ryan, Joint Master of the Snickersville Hounds, had invited me to witness my first-ever fox hunt. Coincidentally, it also happened to be their last hunt of the season. So, without time to borrow my Dad’s truck for the weekend, I decided to brave the morning in my trusty Volkswagen. Initially, I had only planned on watching the start. However, after Kennel Huntsman Gale Cayce invited me to follow the hound truck in my car, I accepted, not wanting to miss any of the action. 

I grew up showing in the jumper ring in southern Maryland. While I’ve always known fox hunting existed, it wasn’t until my family bought a house in Middleburg just over two years ago that I gained any first-hand exposure to the sport. Initially, I didn’t expect to spend much time in Middleburg since I was a full-time college student living and working in D.C. However, the pandemic dramatically changed my plans, and within the span of a few months, I suddenly found myself thrust into the heart of hunt country for the very first time. A passionate student of art and history, I decided to spend my summer interning for the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg (NSLM). And, it was this experience that really sparked my interest in hunting. The sense of tradition, the rich artistic heritage of the sport — I was fascinated.

Over the course of the year and a half I spent at home in Middleburg, I was lucky enough to make several amazing contacts in the fox hunting world through both my internship at the NSLM, my part-time job at a local tack shop, and my work as a contributor for Middleburg Life. Through their generous invitations, I attended point-to-point races hosted by local hunts, interviewed jockeys, and toured the Snickersville kennels. And, this was how I ended up just narrowly avoiding bottoming out my Volkwagen in a creek on that chilly but wonderful morning in March, trying to keep up with the hound truck. 

After months of learning about the world of hunting from the outside looking in, I had finally started dreaming of actually riding to hounds myself. But, there was just one problem. As many of you may know, fox hunting is not the easiest sport to break into for beginners: it requires time, patience, specialized equipment, solid horsemanship skills, and financial investment. And despite having a background in riding, there was no getting around the fact that I was a college student with no horse, no hunting experience, and limited funds. I didn’t think it would be possible for me to participate. 

That chilly March morning, Gregg Ryan, Joint Master of the Snickersville Hounds, had invited me to witness my first-ever fox hunt.”

However, the fox hunting community is one of the most open and generous groups of people I have ever met. I was continuously astonished at how willing they were to introduce a newcomer to different aspects of the sport. And when I expressed an interest in trying hunting for myself, the staff and members of the Snickersville Hunt went above and beyond to help me have a safe, and incredibly fun, first experience. Just six months after observing my first hunt, I found myself swinging into the saddle of a sturdy black-and-white horse named Rolls Royce. Nervous, but brimming with excitement, I set off with the second field. True to his name, Royce piloted me across the rolling hills in an expertly smooth manner — it was a feeling of pure joy. 

If you have ever considered trying fox hunting, this article is your sign to do so. It may seem daunting at first, but there are many resources for riders who are interested in getting involved with their local hunt. Here are some of the best ways to break into the sport from the perspective of a fellow beginner. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Research and Outreach

Most hunt clubs have websites with helpful information about their history, territory, schedule, staff, and contact information. Once you find this information, don’t be afraid to reach out! You can send a message expressing your interest to the general inbox, or to one of the masters if their contact information is listed. 

Many hunt clubs also host “Introduction to Fox Hunting” courses. These are a great way to meet the members of the hunt and gain a solid introduction to the sport. Before my first hunt, I also read William Wadsworth’s book, “Riding to Hounds in America.” It provided a helpful foundation of knowledge for what to expect in the field. 

Getting Outside the Ring

One of the biggest obstacles to hunting is learning how to ride outside of a ring over rugged terrain. This can be nerve-wracking at first, especially if you are riding an unfamiliar horse. However, a great way to become more comfortable with the environment is by participating in hunt trail rides. According to Snickersville Kennel Huntsman Gale Cayce, the trail rides are great because they give you an idea of what fox hunting is like in a casual environment before you are actually pursuing a fox and galloping through the countryside. 

However, other types of cross-country riding can also be great ways to prepare for hunting. A few months before my first hunt, I took a month-long job exercising polo ponies in Millwood, Virginia. I practiced galloping up and down hills in an open field, which was a major confidence builder for my first time in the hunt field. 

It is also important to keep in mind that there are different fields that you can ride with when you hunt. First field is for experienced fox hunters with fit horses who can jump obstacles at a gallop and keep pace with the hounds. However, second field riders have the option to circumvent jumps, and ride at a slower pace than first field. And, if you are not yet comfortable galloping, the third field or the “hilltoppers” allow riders to observe the hunt and enjoy the country at a leisurely pace. There are many options for different skill levels. 

Visiting the Kennels

While riding through the Virginia countryside is a thrill, as Cayce told me during my visit to the Snickersville Kennels, during a hunt, “the hounds are the real magic.” Understanding the hunting process, how the hounds work together as a group, and what special characteristics enable them to do their job is fascinating and contributes immensely to the enjoyment of the sport. 

Each noise a hound makes during a hunt signals something different. Experienced fox hunters can decipher this “hound music” and know exactly what is going on in the hunting process. Although, as a beginner, it’s hard to think about anything else besides staying on your horse, and staying out of everyone’s way.

  If you’re interested in trying out hunting and would like to learn about the hounds in a more relaxed environment, consider setting up an appointment to visit the kennels. Many hunt clubs are happy to have people come to the kennels and talk to the Kennel Huntsman if you reach out in advance. Several also host puppy shows, puppy walks, and hound walks, which are great ways to get up close and personal with the key players of the hunt.

Finding a Horse 

The most important aspect to having a successful first hunt is having the right horse. According to Cayce, it is important, especially for beginners, to have “a horse that takes care of you and knows a little bit more about the hunting process than you do.” 

If, like me, you don’t own a horse that is an experienced fox-hunter, don’t panic — there are cost-effective options available to you. For my first hunt, I rented a horse that was extremely experienced and took amazing care of me. This is an economical way to gain an introduction to the sport in a safe and fun manner since you don’t need to worry about buying tack, committing to a several-month-long lease, or covering trailering fees. If you are interested in renting a horse, reach out to the staff of your local hunt, and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Looking the Part

Besides the horse, the amount of stylish and specialized clothing and gear that fox hunters use might seem daunting. However, when I went on my first hunt, it was still cubbing season. Cubbing season starts in autumn and is a time when horses, hounds, and riders are focusing on getting conditioned for the months ahead. It is less formal than the regular season, and the pace is a little slower, making it a perfect time for beginners to try the sport out. The attire required is also less formal — I was able to wear the same clothing that I wore when I competed in the show ring. Each hunt does have its own guidelines about attire, so be sure to check with their website or local staff before making a final decision on what to wear. But, especially if you are going during cubbing season, you won’t have to sink hundreds of dollars into attire before finding out if you even like the sport. In addition, if you do decide to commit to buying a full hunting kit, there are several used tack and clothing stores in the Middleburg area where you will be able to find wonderful pieces at much-discounted prices.


Gregg Ryan’s favorite part of hunting is “when the hounds are in full cry and screaming after the fox.” He explains that “both you and your horse will get your blood up and off you will go jumping and galloping along to keep up with the pack. The chase will conclude when the fox gives the hounds the slip or he will find his hole (gone to ground). You will look around and see a lot of smiling faces.”

After my first hunt, I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire day. I kept thinking about the beauty of the territory I was privileged enough to go hunting on, the incredible talent of the hounds and horses, and the feeling of community that came from experiencing both of these things with a group of other people who love the countryside and riding as much as I do. 

As someone who didn’t grow up fox hunting and who is relatively new to the Middleburg area, I wasn’t sure I would be able to participate in such a specialized sport. However, with the support of an amazing community, the many resources available for beginners here in hunt country, and a little bit of determination, I not only tried it but fell in love with it. If you are at all interested in fox hunting, reach out, attend events hosted by local hunts, and look for ways you can get involved. You never know what might happen! ML

Some helpful links to start your research:


This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

Upland Hunting in The Piedmont 

Photography by Georgina Preston

Creative Direction by Jennifer Gray for Middleburg Life 

Hunters: Tom Rice (The Plains), Annie Bishop (Middleburg), Brian Courtney (Middleburg). 

Hunting Dogs: Boykin Spaniels, owned by Annie Bishop. 

Vehicle: Land Rover by Expedition Vintage. 

HEXy, the camo green Rover, is a Series 3 109 Land Rover. Owned by John Carter. 

Location: Private farm in Upperville, Virginia owned by Jacob and Jacqui Porter.

Annie’s look: Dubarry vest, blouse, and boots, sold at Tri-County, Feeds, Fashion, Finds.  

Annie’s hat is by Jack Murphy/Ireland, pheasant feather hat fastener by Spruced Plume, Haley Fitzgerald sold at Highcliffe Clothiers

Brian’s look: Dubarry pheasant tie, Dubarry cap, Dubarry cable knit sweater, Dubarry boots and Barbour jacket sold at Tri-County, Feeds, Fashion, Finds.  

Guns: Baretta Silver Pigeons shotguns in 20 and 28 gauges. Owned by Annie Bishop. 

Tom’s look: Barbour jacket, Dubarry pheasant tie, and men’s shirt all available at Tri-County, Feeds, Fashion, Finds.


This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

A Conversation with Cinematographer Ari Wegner

A Conversation with Cinematographer Ari Wegner

Written by Kaitlin Hill

What do Lady Macbeth, a trending Twitter stripper saga, and a rancher from 1925 Montana have in common? The answer is Australian-born cinematographer Ari Wegner’s talent for translating stories to screen. At just 37, Wegner’s resume is already impressive. She’s an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award Nominee (2016), British Independent Film Awards Winner (2017), and Toronto International Film Festival Artisan Award Winner (2021). During her first visit to the Middleburg Film Festival, Wegner presented her film “The Power of the Dog” and took home the well-deserved award for Distinguished Cinematography. Starting behind-the-scenes to the big screen reveal, Wegner shares her process for producing stunning films and how she and director Jane Campion bring “The Power of the Dog” to life.

When asked how she picks projects as different as “The Power of the Dog” (2021), a moody Western with a dark secret, and “Zola” (2020) a stripper’s story that starts in a Detroit Hooter’s and unravels over Twitter, Wegner says, “It’s really the combination of the director and the script … it’s a kind of alchemy or synchronicity of those two. Once I read the script and decide that it looks interesting, I’ll meet the director and see if there is chemistry.” 

For “The Power of the Dog,” Wegner paired up with writer and director Jane Campion to adapt the 1967 Thomas Savage novel of the same name. Before learning the lighting of the landscape, framing the shots, and curating the color palette, Wegner starts new projects with a deep understanding of the director she is working with. 

“I love working with directors and really getting to know them,” Wegner says. “You find out how they see the world, what’s important to them, what interests them, how detail-oriented they are, and what details they will fixate on … I love to use that pre-production time to get to know [a director], and then be able to create a shot that, hopefully, they are going to love based on what I know about them.” 

In getting to know Campion, Wegner discovered a common interest in art and artists like American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. “Jane has a fine arts background, and my father is a visual artist,” Wegner says. “So, we both had a pretty good common language in art. And usually, one of the first things I do when I start a new project is look at art. It really is a color palette. Or look at the minimalism of Wyeth’s work, I really love that. There is a real simplicity and minimalism of people in rooms or people in nature.” 

Part-drama, part-romance, all-Western, “The Power of the Dog” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, tells the story of the Burbank Brothers and a twisted year of manipulation, intimidation, and gritty ranch work that takes place in the shadow of a menacing mountain which could fairly be considered an additional main character. 

Avoiding any spoilers, as relationships shift and minds unravel, Wegner shapes the story with captivatingly simple shots and obvious influence from Wyeth. Transitions take place through open windows with unobstructed views of the imposing mountain in the distance. And empty rooms minimally laid with color schemes seemingly straight from Wyeth’s brush increase the feeling of isolation, so crucial to the film. 

“We knew that we wanted to have a really restricted color palette … and Wyeth’s work really captured it,” Wegner says. “There is something in the atmosphere of his work that I like, the feel, the loneliness, or desperation. [His work] doesn’t romanticize the places. There is some kind of unease in his work that is hard to define.” 

More than nailing this color palette, for Wegner transporting audiences to 1925 Montana and creating believable characters was about understanding the landscape, thus creating a set that felt “lived in.” “The landscape, in this film, in particular, is more than just a setting because the characters, especially Phil, have such a strong emotional connection to the place,” Wegner says. 

Stills from Ari Wegner’s film. Photos courtesy of Netflix.

For Phil Burbank, the film’s lead played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the sprawling family is part of his personality. “We wanted [the landscape] to be beautiful, striking, and hopefully, iconic,” Wegner says. “And we were also really interested in tiny things that make up a place – whether it is a micro shot of the grass or a big wide shot of the house with the mountain behind it.” 

Beyond character and narrative development, Wegner’s blend of minuscule detail and big picture shots results in an audience experience that is immersive, captivating, and almost unnervingly real. This feat is particularly impressive, given the convincingly classic Americana Western was filmed in New Zealand. “Obviously, not all of New Zealand looks like Montana … It took some planning to make it convincing,” Wegner says, joking. “We did a lot of research and looked at photos of the landscape. I actually did a lot of driving around on Google Maps, just clicking along the road to see if this feels like New Zealand.” 

In addition to pre-production research, onset framing was essential too. “We definitely needed to choose angles that worked,” Wegner says. And where others might lean on green or blue screens, Wegner took a different approach aimed at achieving authenticity. “We actually ended up printing these billboard-sized backdrops of photos that we shot on location. We printed them, stretched them out, and had them in the studio.” Filming with the printed backdrops, “allowed me to be riskier with my work because I knew what the final [look] was, versus having to be a bit safe because I couldn’t visualize what was going on outside the windows,” Wegner says. “That was something that started as a challenge, but ended up being incredibly satisfying and also just a super cool optical illusion.” 

Perhaps optical illusionist is a better job title for Wegner, as her work on “The Power of the Dog” is nothing short of true movie magic. She pairs her razor-sharp vision with a willingness to let a film “reveal itself,” resulting in immersive viewing experiences that stay with her audiences and almost implore them to watch her films a second, if not third or fourth time. 

“I think I can adapt to any style because I can break down the elements of something and pull them apart … but the really interesting part for me is knowing what image I want to create and then to create it,” she says. “I start to plan and then it starts to reveal itself even as I am shooting it.”

Though her next project is yet unknown, her success at the Middleburg Film Festival with “The Power of the Dog” (available to stream on Netflix starting December 1, 2021), it is a safe bet that Wegner’s talent will only continue to “reveal itself” and she is certainly a cinematographer worth watching. ML

This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

Notable Moments From Middleburg Film Festival 2021

Notable Moments From Middleburg Film Festival 2021

Written by Kaitlin Hill

Photos by Shannon Finney

Celebrating its ninth year and a return to fully in-person screenings, the 2021 Middleburg Film Festival did not disappoint. Passholders and ticket buyers were treated to celebrity appearances, fascinating Q&As, special spotlight events, well-deserved tributes to some of Hollywood’s finest, and, as always, a wonderfully diverse set of films with something for everyone. Here is a look back at some of the highlights from the mid-October weekend hosted by Sheila Johnson. 

Left: Women in Film luncheon hosted by Greenhill Winery with Red Rocket cast, Brittney Rodriguez, Suzanna Son, and Bree Elrod. Right: Women in Film luncheon hosted by Greenhill Winery with composer Kathryn Bostic, songwriter Diane Warren, actor Ann Dowd, and composers Lesley Barber and Amie Doherty.


Past Middleburg Film Festivals have always hosted their share of celebrities, and this year was no exception. Day two of the festival opened with a screening of “The Lost Daughter” at The Salamander Resort and Spa, followed by a tribute to lead actress Dakota Johnson. During the tribute and conversation, Johnson was awarded the actor spotlight award for her role opposite Academy Award winner Olivia Colman.

Also on-site throughout the weekend was actress Ann Dowd, perhaps best known for her role as the brutal Aunt Lydia in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Dowd attended the film festival as a representative of the film “Mass,” which debuted Friday afternoon at The Hill School. Dowd not only attended the post-screening tribute to her, but she also mixed, mingled, and posed for photos at the Women in Film luncheon at Greenhill Winery.

“Capote” (2005) and “Star Trek” (2009) fans will have recognized actor Clifton Collins Jr. who showed up to present his new film “Jockey” in which he plays the main character, Jackson Silva. In a post-screening conversation with Clayton Davis from Variety, Collins Jr. delighted viewers with anecdotes from filming on a live track with real jockeys. “I got there a week and a half early to hang out with the jockeys – spending all day with them, helping them with the horses, whatever I needed to do,” he says. “I didn’t want to be ‘the actor.’ I told [my producer] I don’t care if my house has burned down. I don’t want to know until I wrap because I have to be here.” His dedication to the project earned him a standing ovation as the credits rolled and the distinguished performance award.

Left: Lead actress Dakota Johnson “The Lost Daughter” at The Salamander Resort and Spa, MFF.
Right: Post-screening conversation with actor Clifton Collins Jr. from “Jockey.” 

A highly anticipated appearance of the weekend was that of actor, director, and five-time Academy Award nominee, Kenneth Branagh who came to Middleburg to showcase his autobiographical hit “Belfast.” “Belfast” was the sold-out centerpiece film of Saturday night with moviegoers eager to view the film following its success in Telluride and hear from Branagh in the subsequent Q&A session. Branagh also greeted festival attendees Sunday morning on the Salamander Resort Middleburg Terrace for a well-deserved and illuminating tribute. Those up early enough were treated to an artfully crafted highlight reel of Branagh’s best work from “Othello” to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Additionally, Branagh sat down with festival advisory board member John Horn for a conversation covering Branagh’s life and career where he described his latest project about childhood in Northern Ireland as “tender.” He also regaled the crowd with some of his favorite on-set moments with cast members Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Gerard Horan, and Jude Hill. For his work as the film’s director, Branagh was awarded the director spotlight award by Sheila Johnson.


Another bright spot of the weekend was the attention given to women in the film industry. Saturday morning’s Women in Film Music Conversation at the Salamander Resort Middleburg Terrace highlighted four talented film composers and songwriters including Kathryn Bostic (“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America”), Dianne Warren (“Four Good Days”), Lesley Barber (“Manchester by the Sea”), and Amie Doherty (“Spirit Untamed”) in a panel hosted by Jazz Tangcay, Variety’s Senior 

Artisans Editor. Women took the spotlight again at the Women in Film luncheon hosted by Greenhill Winery. The afternoon event was attended by Britney Rodriguez, Suzanna Son, and Bree Elrod from the film “Red Rocket,” as well as Ann Dowd from “Mass” who shared with attendees the realities of being a woman in the business.

Beyond luncheons and panels, notable women dominated the screen in the films on dock through the weekend. “Spencer” and “Julia” told the tales of real-life icons Princess Diana and Julia Childs. And “Passing,” “Prayers for the Stolen,” “Petit Maman,” and “The Lost Daughter” centered around female figures as well, powerfully sharing their stories.

But the theme of powerful women perhaps most notably extended to the awards granted throughout the weekend. In addition to Dakota Johnson’s actor spotlight award, Ann Dowd was recognized with the Agnès Varda trailblazing film artist award, and “The Power of the Dog” cinematographer Ari Wegner was awarded the distinguished cinematographer award.

Left: John Horn, a host on KPCC and a member of the festival’s advisory board, with Kenneth Branagh on stage at Salamander. Middle: Tim Gordon (from DC Radio/Keeping it Real with Film Gordon/co-President of the Washington Area Film Critics Association), Benjamin Price from Kids First! and Washington Post Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday. Right: Filmgoers at MFF.


As always, attendees were given the chance to rate each film with one, two, three, or four stars immediately after viewing by ripping a slip of paper and returning it to one of the festival’s many helpful volunteers. Of the 34 films representing every genre, including documentaries and international entries, Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” was awarded the audience’s highest honor of top narrative prize. The film, which was sold out for both screenings, documents Branagh’s Northern Irish upbringing through the character “Buddy,” played by Jude Hill. Set in the 1960s, at the beginning of The Troubles, the black and white film blends meaningful humor with moments of tense violence, for a well-rounded film deserving of every laugh, tear, and standing ovation it received.

The crowd cheers at MFF for the Belfast Q&A with Kenneth Branagh. 

Branagh described the film best in his Sunday morning conversation with John Horn. He said writing this story was, “something riddled with pain and difficulty and loss, but through which there must be some way to find hope and a future. The film seems to be opening a portal for other people’s experiences of their own childhood. And that is the big thrill.” ML

This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

A Sweet Place Opens

A Sweet Place Opens In Middleburg

Written by Dulcy B. Hooper | Photos by Joanne Maisano

The celebratory grand opening, ribbon cutting, and signage installation are still in the works, but Raymer’s Homemade Candies opened its Middleburg shop in June, a delightful treat for chocolate lovers.

Raymer’s Homemade Candies is a family-run business with its primary location in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It is owned by Mark and Sue Raymer, “with a lot of support from their children and grandchildren in both the candy-making and operational side of the business.”

In 1967, Mark Raymer, serving as an apprentice to his father-in-law in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, learned the art of “pan candy.” Pan candies are recipes based on the natural caramelization of fresh cream and sugar, poured into pans or hand-rolled. In 2001, Raymer’s Homemade Candies was launched in its Doylestown location, using the traditional recipes from the late 1880s. As an addition to the original recipes, Raymer uses only pure Belgian chocolate in his creations.

Mark Raymer still does most of the candy-making, with help from son Cory Raymer and son-in-law Kelly Kujath. The Raymers’ daughter, Lisa Kujath, runs the retail portion of the family business, and Cayce Rockhill, whose significant other is Cory Raymer, manages the Virginia location.

With Raymer family members living in the Ashburn area, the business expanded to Ashburn in 2018, opening its local outpost at One Loudoun. That location closed last December, one of the many businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

Rockhill said that she and Cory are enthusiastic about opening Raymer’s Homemade Candies in Middleburg. The Raymer name will be familiar for knowledgeable sports fans: Cory Raymer played in the National Football League for 11 seasons, playing with the Washington Redskins from 1995-2000 and 2004-2005 and with the San Diego Chargers from 2001-2003. He was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. Raymer’s jersey (#52) is prominently featured on one wall in the shop, overlooking a shelf of chocolates.

“We knew we would be opening in another location,” Rockhill said, who managed the Ashburn location and now manages the Middleburg shop. “When we were at Loudoun One, we had a lot of great customers, but the difference is that it was more of a ‘nine to five’ kind of business community. There are a lot of restaurants there, but we found that people didn’t just come for the day to wander around, walk up and down the street and stop into shops the way they do here.”

The chocolates are still made daily in Doylestown, and in another family endeavor, the Pennsylvania and Virginia members of the team meet at the halfway mark to keep the flow of chocolates coming to Middleburg.

“It is a close-knit family,” Rockhill said. “So it’s almost like ‘date night’ — we drive halfway to meet each other, have lunch or dinner and catch up with each other. Then we load up the chocolates to come back here.”

Rockhill said that she and Cory had been coming to Middleburg for several years prior to the shop’s opening. “We dined here, we enjoyed cocktails here, we shopped here. We love Middleburg and appreciated the small-town feeling it has.” The couple felt that this community was “conducive to what we wanted to do — a very natural expansion for us.” Rockhill added that she “likes knowing customers by their first name and knowing what they like — it’s part of what makes this special for me.”

On a recent visit, Rockhill was busy decorating the shop with a fall theme in anticipation of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Raymer’s is beautifully (one might even say “tastefully”) laid out, with an abundance of homemade candies that will beckon to anyone with a love of chocolate. In a nod to the local community’s interests, an assortment of horse heads and horseshoes can be found on a prominent shelf, and visitors can arrange to have wine bottles dipped in chocolate.

Whether to purchase a gift for others or a well-deserved treat for yourself, Raymer’s is well worth a visit. With chocolates of every kind, shoppers can find such fall novelty candies as jelly pumpkins, sour pumpkins, gummy pumpkins, and candy corn. The caramel apples cannot be far behind! ML

Raymer’s Candies
19 South Madison Street Middleburg, Va. 20117 540-326-8909 | RaymersCandies.com

This article first appeared in the October 2021 Issue.

A New Voice in Music

A New Voice in Music:


Story and photos by Jennifer Gray

Hannah Juliette Rutti is a small-town girl from Upperville, Va., with big dreams of where her musical profession may take her. If you hit play on her latest single, “lazy boy,” or another favorite, “Air Supply,” you’ll hear why her powerful voice and pop melodies are meant for bigger things than what this small town has to offer.

Rutti attended Wakefield in The Plains before setting her sites on Berklee College of Music. During the pandemic, Rutti returned to Upperville to finish out her senior year remotely. We caught up with Rutti to find out more about who she is, what she’s listening to, and what’s next for the aspiring young artist.

Can you tell us about Berklee College of Music and what you focused on while you were there?

I graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston with a major in songwriting. I learned about the art of songwriting, how to work in the professional world, the technicalities, and the many ways to earn income as a songwriter.

What was your biggest takeaway from attending Berklee?

Berklee was an amazing school of music with incredible facilities and faculty, but it was a place where you had to network and go above and beyond to get the most out of it. Music is a very competitive field, but there are so many different facets of the music industry, and Berklee was so helpful for students to seek those opportunities out.

Do you think you will relocate for music now that you have graduated?

I am living in Virginia and am pursuing my music career, and if I feel that I get to the point that moving to either LA or NYC will benefit me, I will begin to make the move.

“My style of music is pop music with a very warm, fun twist to it.”

– Rutti

Can you tell us about your performance at Trinity while you attended Wakefield?

My senior recital was at Trinity Episcopal. It was for my music-directed study at Wakefield. I studied with my jazz teacher, Dr. Adrien Re, and my vocal teacher since 12 years old, Professor Emeritus at Shenandoah University, Dr. Janette Ogg. Dr. Ogg and I studied vocal anatomy and classical music history. It was a culmination of my high school musical journey. The recital was a combination of my classical and jazz repertoire.

What do you see as your more immediate next steps in your music career?

I am releasing music and building my social media following, and pitching songs for synch work (tv shows, movies).

How would you describe your style of music?

My style of music is pop music with a very warm, fun twist to it. I often incorporate indie styles and dark pop [into] some of my music.

Do you write your songs?

Yes, I write all my songs.

The lyrics in your songs are fun. Are they about anyone in particular? What inspires you?

Yes, they are about my longtime boyfriend, and [they are] fun-loving, ode[s] to summertime song[s]. I am inspired by so many things: relationships, nature, my feelings, movies, books, music.

What’s your new single about, and where can we listen to it?

It’s about being in the moment and doing nothing with someone who means a lot to you. It is on all streaming platforms. “Lazyboy” came out on August 20, and since then, I have gotten [over] 9,000 streams.

What other artists influence your music?

I am very inspired by Charlie Puth, Elley Duhe, Lennon Stella, Fletcher, Sasha Sloan.

What’s currently on repeat in your playlist?

I am listening to Fletcher’s new single “healing” on repeat and Sasha Sloan’s “hypochondriac.”

If you could fulfill all of your musical career dreams, what would that look like?

I would be a Grammy winner and be a very successful recording artist who has written hit songs for artists and myself, and done big synch movies, tv shows, play live shows, and be able to make a living solely on my music.

Can we expect to see you play a live show in the local area at some point soon, or are your sights set on bigger venues?

I do not have a live show on the books just yet, but I am hoping in the near future to release my next song and do a show next year! ML

This article first appeared in the October 2021 Issue.

A Record $180,000 in Net Income Raised At NVTRP Largest Annual Event

Photos by: Tony Gibson/ 22Gates.com

The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP) held its 15th annual Polo Classic on Saturday, September 25, 2021, at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA.

The event was a huge success – with a record-setting net income of $180,000 to support program operations – while complying with all safety standards and protocols for a safe, in-person fundraiser in light of COVID-19.

“What a spectacular day! We are so grateful for, and could not do it without, all of our sponsors, guests, volunteers and staff that make NVTRP’s largest annual fundraiser such a success,” shares NVTRP Executive Director, Kelsey Gallagher. “It takes a village and we are truly thankful to have such a passionate group of people that care about and support the work we do.”

Guests were treated to an afternoon of polo, live and silent auctions, music, drinks, and dining in the heart of Virginia’s picturesque hunt and wine country. The event benefits NVTRP’s mission to provide equine-assisted services to children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel, and their families. All proceeds are used to subsidize lessons for NVTRP clients and assist with general operations at the farm.

The COVID-friendly event format included individual guest tents with private lawn and deck space to allow for social distancing, a self-serve bar area, boxed or plated meals, increased restroom facilities, and contactless registration. This year, we were also able to offer a limited number of general admission tickets while still maintaining a safe and COVID-conscious environment.

Above: NVTRP established the “Greg Pellegrino Excellence Award” which will be presented annually to a military client who has demonstrated excellence in pursuing both their own recovery and the advancement of the NVTRP community. The Greg Pellegrino Excellence Award was presented to Carol Baillie. Carol is an 8-year veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

Special events included music by local artist, Jahnel Daliya, the Color Guard of St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, DC accompanied by NVTRP military riders and NVTRP therapeutic riding clients participating in a halftime quadrille – a choreographed drill pattern on horseback set to music.

Will Thomas, NVTRP Board Member and Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, and Sherrie Beckstead, partner at Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers, returned to co-chair the event and were joined this year by honorary co-chair and respected entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sheila C. Johnson.

Above: Sherrie Beckstead, Sheila C. Johnson, and Will Thomas

Many individuals and local businesses donated more than 100 items to this year’s live and online silent auctions, including weekend getaways, golf packages, restaurant gift certificates, autographed sports memorabilia and more. 

A special thank you to the lead 2021 Polo Classic sponsors: ITCON, Crescent City Charities, Deloitte, AT&T, Gary Cubbage, Barry & Alla Cline, The Peterson Family Foundation, Ginny & Bill Craig, Sheila Johnson and Salamander Resorts, Sherrie Beckstead, Will Thomas, and Campbell Wealth Management.

The MVP award was named in honor of Debbie Nash, a champion in growing the NVTRP Polo Classic

About NVTRP: Originally chartered in 1980, NVTRP is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping individuals realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted services to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel, and their families in an inclusive, community setting. Learning to ride and care for a horse not only improves the physical health of the rider but also generates a critically important sense of accomplishment. Riders participating in NVTRP’s program represent a range of disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, and genetic syndromes. NVTRP is a Premier Center accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl), and a member center of the Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia (TRAV). NVTRP is located in Clifton, VA. For more information on NVTRP and more on this event go here.

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Will Ballhaus received the Debbie Nash MVP award.

This article was published in October 2021


MIDDLEBURG, VA — The 67th annual Virginia Fall Races will run on Saturday, October 9, 2021, at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, VA. Gates open at 8:00 am and post time for the first race is 1:00 pm.

Witness the nation’s best steeplechase horses and riders as they contend for total purse money of $110,000 over the pristine turf course at Glenwood Park, which offers the best view in jump racing, amongst the century-old oaks of the Virginia countryside.

The $30,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup returns as the day’s marquee race, a timber race run over three and one-quarter miles. New this year is the addition of the $25,000 Magalen O. Bryant Memorial, run in memory of Mrs. Magalen O. Bryant, an entrepreneur, conservationist, and staunch supporter of thoroughbred racing in the US and Europe. For decades, a loyal advocate and friend of the community, Mrs. Bryant’s family continues her grand legacy at the Virginia Fall Races.

Photo by Douglas Lees

Spectators are encouraged to arrive early and behold the excitement and pageantry of the Theodora A. Randolph North American Field Hunter Championship Final, which kicks off at 9:00 am. Foxhunting enthusiasts from across the country will compete for the title and $4,000 in prize money.

General Admission and Reserved Parking arrangements can be made by calling the Race Office at (540) 687-9797 or emailing the Secretary at secretary@vafallraces.com. Race day General Admission is $50.00 CASH ONLY per car (admits one vehicle and four occupants). More information is available on www.vafallraces.com as well as Facebook and Instagram.

The Virginia Fall Races has run at Glenwood Park in Middleburg since 1955.  All proceeds from the race weekend benefit the INOVA Loudoun Hospital Foundation in nearby Leesburg, Virginia. Virginia Fall Races has consistently contributed more money to the foundation than any other sporting event.


Your Favorite Fall Festivals Are Back



Written by Chelsea Moore

The return of fall ushers in a few of our favorite things: pumpkin spice lattes, apples, and fall festivals. Your favorite events are back this fall with some fun, new twists. We’ve compiled a list of a few you shouldn’t miss.

50 West Vineyards in Middleburg, Va., and Artistic Fuel in Leesburg, Va.

In its second year, the Loudoun Arts Film Festival is shaping up to be a favorite fall event. The festival is hosted by the Loudoun Arts Council, 50 West Vineyards, and Artistic Fuel.

The 10-day, in-person event, offers four days of film screenings at Artistic Fuel in Leesburg and six days of drive-in showings at 50 West Vineyards, along with an art show, food trucks, wine, live music, and red carpet events.

“It’s a mixture of local and regional talent,” Kaeley Boyle, the festival director, said. “At the heart of it is the local business community coming together. It’s a collaboration between local businesses to get this off the ground, and it speaks to the community support in Loudoun County.”

Last year, the festival hosted anywhere from 70-100 guests per day. This year, they are prepping for significantly more attendees.

Boyle’s favorite part? “For me, it’s the community,” she said. “Last year, it was nice for us, with everything going on, to have something that was completely safe when we all needed something to look forward to. To see all the different films and build a sense of community around the arts is something I absolutely love.”

Want to find out more? Visit loudounartsfilmfest.com

B Chord Brewing, Round Hill, Va.

Back for its second year, the Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival celebrates Round Hill’s designation as an Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

With over 1,000 people at the festival’s inaugural event in 2019, this year’s festival has expanded into two days, making it an entire weekend of fun and education.

“The idea is to get people to care about the outdoors and green spaces and be more aware of them,” said Jody Brady, the festival’s director, and a Virginia Master Naturalist. “We do a lot of things that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail.”

There are 40 Appalachian Trail communities along the trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine. Others include Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., Berryville, Va., and Front Royal, Va.

“I believe in sustainability and being environmental stewards,” Brady said.
“What I love about [the festival] is the sense of community and the crosssection of people it brings together, everyone from people who have never walked on a trail to hikers.”

The festival is filled with live bluegrass music, food and ice cream trucks, non-profit organizations and workshops with topics like tick safety, trail cooking, and hammock camping. Attendees can play games, such as trail bingo and Appalachian trail trivia, and participate in a scavenger hunt and raffles. Kids will enjoy a giant inflatable slide, nature-inspired crafts, pony rides, and coloring pages.

Learn more about the festival at roundhillat.org.


The Bluemont Fair, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is back for its 51st year. This family-friendly event will feature live music, Colonia reenactors, a. petting zoo, craft and farming demonstrations, local art and authors,
a wine and beer garden, a blacksmithing demonstration, antiques and collectibles, a pie-baking and pickle-making
contest, and so much more.

This year’s theme is “farmers’ markets,” which is designed to honor Western Loudoun’s rural heritage. The fair takes a “green” approach, encouraging recycling and reusable shopping bags. Recycling receptacles are placed throughout the fair, and recycled materials are used when possible.

A favorite event amongst locals, the Bluemont Fair serves as a welcome to fall. Step back in time and enjoy this day with both the young and old in your family.

Learn more at bluemontfair.org.

Aldie Mill Historic Park, Aldie, Va.

Celebrating over 50 years of the Goose Creek Association, this new family-friendly festival will

have a little something for everyone. With a variety of environmentally based exhibits, live music, food trucks, and children’s games, attendees should come ready to learn and play.

For kids, the festival will host a face painting station, pumpkins, and educational wildlife exhibits with birds and reptiles. For art lovers, there will be a local art show and sale. For the foodies, there will be two food trucks, Hammerdown Barbeque and Nomad Provisions, and an ice cream truck.

Don’t miss this fun and free event to celebrate the Goose Creek Association, which is dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment in the Goose Creek Watershed in Fauquier and Loudoun counties. The event will run from 12– 4 p.m.

For more information, visit goosecreek.org.

Aldie Mill at Goosecreek Fall Festival
Aldie Mill at Goosecreek Fall Festival

Middleburg, Va.

Middleburg’s own film festival is just around the corner. With four days of films and conversations with filmmakers and actors, this event is not to be missed. “This year’s festival will feature a carefully curated slate of films including ‘Oscar buzz’ films, international features, fascinating documentaries, and independent gems you might not otherwise get a chance to see,” Susan Koch, executive director of the festival, said. “As in the past, there will be an emphasis on film music with concerts featuring renowned film composers and a conversation with women composers and songwriters.”

The festival will look the same as previous years, with a few differences.

“One holdover from last year’s hybrid festival will be the pop-up drive-in in the lower parking lot of Salamander Resort,” Koch said. “Films will also be shown at various venues throughout the town of Middleburg. Conversations and special events will take place at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, Boxwood Winery, and Lost Barrel Brewery.”

Proof of vaccination will be required for all attendees, and additional safety measures may be required (such as masks, reduced capacity at screenings, and proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours) to strictly comply with the CDC and State of Virginia health and safety protocols.

The schedule and film slate won’t be released until the end of September when individual tickets will be available. Advance ticket packages and passes became available in late August.

To learn more about the festival, visit middleburg film.orgML

This article first appeared in the September 2021 Issue.

Celebrity Chef Event Celebrates Diversity In Hospitality


Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Chef Kwame Onwuachi teamed up with FOOD & WINE to host the first-of-its-kind experience at Salamander Resort & Spa

Photo Credit: Clay Williams

(Middleburg, VA, August 25, 2021) – This past weekend, Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Meredith Corporation’s FOOD & WINE hosted the inaugural Family Reunion presented by chef and author Kwame Onwuachi. 

The immersive, multi-day event celebrated diversity in the hospitality community through cooking classes and demonstrations, wine tastings and dinners, and thought-provoking panel discussions with world-class chefs, sommeliers, and industry leaders including Carla Hall, Rodney Scott, Padma Lakshmi, Gregory Gourdet, Mashama Bailey, Andre Fowles, and Pierre Thiam.

The Family Reunion took place from August 19 – 22, 2021 at Johnson’s Five-Star-rated Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, located in the heart of the state’s wine country and just one hour from Washington, D.C. Throughout the weekend, speakers, chefs, and sommeliers delved closely into the Black cooking traditions that have shaped cuisine in America, shared lessons from the past, and focused on building a better and more inclusive future. Virginia Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Rémy Martin, while Dave Chappelle and Estelle also made special appearances. 

Held predominantly outdoors on Salamander Resort’s 340 sprawling acreage, attendees also had an opportunity to enjoy musical performances and indulge in several recreational activities like ziplining, ax throwing, and horseback riding led by celebrity participants. A limited attendance created opportunities for social distancing and appropriate safety protocols. 

The Family Reunion benefited from Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help end childhood hunger, while the event is also helping to create a mentorship and scholarship program to foster diversity in the hospitality industry.

The event enjoys sponsorship support from Rémy Martin, Lexus, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Brett Johnson Collection, United Airlines, Sheila Johnson Collection, Williams-Sonoma, Visit Loudoun, Resy and American Express, the Town of Middleburg, McBride Sisters Collection, and McEnearney Associates.

The Family Reunion is part of the expanding FOOD & WINE Classic network of events anchored by the celebrated FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, a mainstay in the culinary world for over three decades, as well as the recently launched FOOD & WINE Classic at Home virtual events, among others.

About Salamander Hotels & Resorts

Salamander Hotels & Resorts delivers comfortable luxury through signature, immersive experiences which enrich the lives of guests. The company is privately owned and operated, and based in Middleburg, VA, just outside Washington, D.C. Founded by entrepreneur Sheila Johnson in 2005, it has a luxury portfolio featuring the Forbes Five-Star Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a 340-acre equestrian-inspired property near Washington, D.C.; Half Moon, the iconic luxury resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which features three distinct resort experiences including the newly opened Eclipse; The Henderson, a 170-room grand beach resort in Destin, FL; Hotel Bennett, a spectacular 179-room hotel in Charleston, SC, overlooking the city’s historic Marion Square; and Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, which hosts the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship each year on its Copperhead Course. All Salamander properties are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. For additional information visit www.SalamanderHotels.com.

About Salamander Resort & Spa

Salamander Resort & Spa is a Forbes Five-Star rated and LEED Green Building Certified resort situated on 340 picturesque acres in the historic village of Middleburg, Va. Located only one hour from Washington, D.C. and just 35 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport, the resort is designed to respect the architectural traditions of Virginia’s countryside with 168 spacious rooms and suites that blend into their natural environment. Resort Owner Sheila C. Johnson has created a luxurious destination featuring an award-winning 23,000-square-foot spa, Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill, the Gold Cup Wine Bar, a dedicated Cooking Studio, a chef-inspired Culinary Garden as well as the adventurous Tree Top Zip Tour. The resort includes a full-service Equestrian Center with unique programming, a 22-stall stable, and a riding arena. All spa, culinary and equestrian facilities, and programs are open to the community. The resort is also developing Residences at Salamander, which offers 49 luxury, built-for-sale homes within a pristine landscape. For more information, visit www.SalamanderResort.com.


FOOD & WINE is the ultimate authority on the best of what’s new in food, drink, travel, design, and entertaining. FOOD & WINE has an extensive social media following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. FOOD & WINE includes a monthly magazine in print and digital; a website, foodandwine.com; a books division; plus newsletters, clubs, events, dinnerware, cookware, and more. At FOOD & WINE, we inspire and empower our wine and food-obsessed community to eat, drink, entertain and travel better—every day and everywhere. FOOD & WINE is part of Meredith Corp.’s (NYSE: MDP: Meredith.com) portfolio of best-in-class brands.

Contact: Matt Owen, VP of Communications, Salamander Hotels & Resorts

mowen@salamanderhotels.com | 843-991-0213