The Rapp for June 13

Free Park-ing

Reminder: This Saturday (June 15) is Shenandoah Neighbors’ Day at Shenandoah National Park, when entrance fees are waived for residents of counties bordering the park. You’ll need to show your driver’s license when you enter the park for proof of localness.

Summer camp update

As this photo – taken on top of Old Rag Mountain in 2004 – proves, Belle Meade’s summer camps have made county children happy for years – and this summer, in fact, marks the 20th anniversary of of the F.T. Valley school’s popular day camp.

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

To celebrate that achievement, former campers, staff and families are cordially invited join a swimming party at Belle Meade from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 30. And there’s still space available in this summer’s day camp sessions (June 10-21, June 24-July 5, July 8-19, July 22-Aug. 2 and Aug. 5-16) and two swim camp sessions (July 8-12 and 22-26). For more information, call 540-987-9748 or visit bellemeade.net.

Hearthstone School also has a full schedule of summer camps, including Mountain Adventures camps throughout June and into July, and backpacking, music and day camp sessions throughout the summer. Contact Hearthstone, on U.S. 211 west of Sperryville, at 540-987-8978 or info@hearthstoneschool.org.

Finally, the best compilation of summer camps and other activities for kids in Rappahannock, if you don’t already know about it, is on the Headwaters Foundation website at headwatersfdn.org (click on the link on the lower right of the home page for “Summer Programs for Children”).

Meet the director at ‘Copperhead’ screening

Come to the preview screening of “Copperhead” at 7 p.m. June 25 and see the film before it hits theaters. You’ll also have a chance to meet the director, Ron Maxwell, in person. Maxwell is also the screenwriter and director of “Gettysburg,” and “Gods and Generals.”

The screening takes places at Highland School’s Rice Theater (597 Broadview Ave., Warrenton). This exciting film takes place during the War Between the States behind the war front in the North, where Southern sympathizers played a very important (and nearly decisive) role in aiding the fledgling Confederacy.

Tickets are $12 ($10 in advance). Raffle tickets ($20) are also being sold and offer a chance to have dinner with Maxwell; the drawing takes place Sept. 29 at the Visitor’s Center in Washington. All proceeds benefit the non-profit Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration event. For more information, call 540-270-4849.

Award for O’Connell, room for Richman

Photo courtesy of The Inn at Little Washington.
Photo courtesy of The Inn at Little Washington.

FoodArts magazine chose the Inn at Little Washington chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell for its June 2013 Silver Spoon Award, a coveted monthly honor. “From its first days, in an era when fancy meant French and French meant the fish was flown in and resuscitated with beurre blanc, O’Connell looked for ingredients more likely to be flown in by bike,” food writer and former longtime Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman wrote in a perspective-filled essay for FoodArts about our 35-year-old local landmark – a place she says she still visits at least a couple of times a year with friends.

“What wasn’t available locally he commissioned to be grown to his standards,” she continued. “It was the diners who began to be flown in.”

During a visit a few weekends ago, after FoodArts had made its choice but before the choice was published, O’Connell surprised Richman by greeting her upon her arrival for a rare weekend stay to accompany dinner at the Inn. He detoured her upstairs to one of the suites in the Inn’s main building – and, with a small private ceremony, revealed that he’d named one of the rooms after her. “It was a great surprise,” she said over the phone this week. “They had a brass plate, and everything. And it’s next to the Julia Child room, too, so it’s quite an honor.”

Thanked a bee today?

Bees are more than pests at a summer picnic. Some of the food we enjoy at that warm-weather feast is provided by bees. Small but hard-working, these insects make it possible for us to enjoy apples, peaches, almonds, avocado, strawberries and a host of other epicurean delights. If bees are at risk, then so are our food choices, so don’t discount these mighty buzzing machines.

There are people who love bees and wonder at their organizational skills, their fierce dedication to community and their work ethic. Studying their habits and finding joy in their sounds may be reserved for a chosen few, but beekeepers are stewards of one of the most important insects in our ecosystem. Producing honey, an important industry, is not the only reason we need bees. Bees are essential to the human food supply. Insect pollination supports one-third of human crop growth, and of this number, honeybees are responsible for 80 percent.

So it seems important to pay attention to bee survival.  One-third of honeybee colonies in U.S. died last winter. Preliminary survey results indicate that 31.1 percent of managed honeybee colonies in the country were lost during the 2012-2013 winter. This represents an increase in loss of 9.2 points, or 42 percent more than the previous winter’s total losses.

So what causes bees to die? Many recent reports have covered the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides on commercial food crops. The European Union recently banned them, at least for two years, pending further safety studies. EU officials determined earlier in the year that this particular class of chemicals poisons bees at an alarming rate. Hundreds of other pesticides being found in honeybee hives are also problematic.

On Sunday, June 23, the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) will host a Bee Forum from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with a panel of experts and beekeepers. The presenters include Ann Harman, international bee expert, Bob Duxbury, local beekeeper and honey producer, and Bob Wellemeyer, Virginia apiary inspector. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and resource material will available.

There is no charge for the event, but reservations are appreciated. Contact RLEP at 540 675-RLEP or mail@rlep.org.

– June Geoffray, RLEP executive director

Open casting call

Lately, it’s an embarrassment of riches for actors and theater-goers around here. In addition to the casting call announced recently for a September production of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” by Nora and Delia Ephron, the RAAC Community Theatre is holding another open audition for Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound.”

Auditions are on three days: this Sunday (June 16) and next Saturday and Sunday (June 22-23), from 2 to 4 p.m. each day at the theater (310 Gay St., Washington). Specifically, RAAC is looking for five men and three women, in their 20s and older. Performances are scheduled for Aug. 16-17.

The play is being directed by Russell Paulette, the drama teacher at Rappahannock County High School. This is the third summer he has directed a play for the theatre. Three summers ago, he co-directed a production of “The Dining Room” by A.R. Gurney and last summer directed an evening of zany one-acts by playwright David Ives.

“The Real Inspector Hound is a hilarious send-up of drawing-room murder mysteries, by turns both respectful and ribald,” says Russell. “The play eventually questions the very nature of theatrical reality, drawing the audience into the action both figuratively and literally.” For more information, contact Paulette at rspaulette@gmail.com.

Fridays on the porch at Laurel Mills’

Owner Bill Sharp (standing, center) holds forth with guest on the porch at the Laurel Mills Store at its First Friday seafood party last week. Photo by Chris Doxzen.
Owner Bill Sharp (standing, center) holds forth with guest on the porch at the Laurel Mills Store at its First Friday seafood party last week. Photo by Chris Doxzen.

Surely Norman Rockwell was watching from above last Friday evening as Laurel Mills’ historic country store held its first First Friday celebration. Rockwell might have captured yet another masterly snapshot of old Americana, still alive and well in Rappahannock, as more than 100 residents, families and friends flocked to the wide-brimmed country store porch, savoring the tastes of soft shell crab sandwiches, fresh fried catfish, homemade pea salad, sea salt chips, ice cream and, of course, conversation. Ambrosial desserts were prepared in honor of Lee Payne’s birthday by Pat Compton from the Laurel Mills Store.

What was once a thriving wool mill where Confederate uniforms were made continues to be alive and well under the able stewardship of Marion and Bill Sharp, who last year purchased the historic landmark, built with the craftsmanship so celebrated in days of old.

Enjoying the picnic-table scene at Laurel Mills store are (clockwise from top left) Tom Massie Jr., Mike Cannon, Barbara Mercuro and Loretta Gibson. Photo by Chris Doxzen.
Enjoying the picnic-table scene at Laurel Mills store are (clockwise from top left) Tom Massie Jr., Mike Cannon, Barbara Mercuro and Loretta Gibson. Photo by Chris Doxzen.

The masonry and brick bespeaks an Italianate architectural style, and you can feel the history chattering within those cavernous walls. Shelves are stacked with dried goods, fresh eggs and milk, cold cuts and sandwich bread, fishing rods and other local favorites. Betsy Pullen, manning the cashier counter, smiles broadly while greeting all the guests.

Laurel Mills is in the national registry of historic places, as well it should be. What a wonderful, magical place to host First Fridays, with fresh and scrumptious seafood offered up by Matt Corbin’s Country Cafe Catering of Culpeper and sides provided by the Laurel Mills store. The First Friday in July can’t arrive quickly enough for me.

– Chris Doxzen

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