As far as fame (or infamy) goes, November was a month to remember in Rappahannock County.
It’s been true for some time that Rappahannock’s singularly talented populace, and its mom-and-pop-and-beyond businesses, pop up often in headlines in the larger world – but November brought an exceptional outburst of attention.
First, of course, was the worldwide attention that focused, briefly but intensely, on the county when Gen. David Petraeus confessed that he’d had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and resigned his CIA director post. The world’s lenses focused here because when the news broke, Broadwell and her husband were having a quiet weekend in the country and staying at the Middleton Inn, and had had dinner at the Inn at Little Washington and the Thornton River Grill.
“I’d say it lasted about five days,” said Middleton Inn proprietor Mary Ann Kuhn of the onslaught of phone calls and visits (and a few bogus room reservations) from media concerns – including news crews with the New York Post and “Inside Edition,” both of which were politely escorted off the inn’s Main Street property by Sheriff Connie C. Smith.
Kuhn paused, amending her estimate of this moment in the limelight: “Okay, it was 15 minutes.”
Robert Ballard, meanwhile, says it took much longer than 15 minutes to put together a three-dimensional collage after he was invited to participate in the SRAM pART Project, an annual benefit auction of works made by artists around the country from state-of-the-art bicycle parts provided by SRAM. The proceeds of the auction (which is tonight, Nov. 29, in New York) help those in need through the World Bicycle Relief project.
“It took a couple months,” Ballard said of the assemblage he titled “Rotation,” fusing the parts with pages from an antique illustrated French novel on bicyclists, a nod to the Tour de France, and which the auction valued at $5,000. “It was a challenge, but it was fun.”
Just before Thanksgiving, Sperryville’s Triple Oak Bakery was included in a short list by The Washington Post’s Food section editors of where to pick up Thanksgiving desserts. “Everything at this Sperryville jewel is gluten-free,” said The Post, “including the pumpkin roulade ($28), the pumpkin cheesecake with a sweet-savory pecan crust ($50) and the vanilla bean cream puffs ($10 per dozen).”
Then there were the TV shows. At election time, CNN aired small-business-owner interviews it had conducted in Washington with, among others, Stonyman Gourmet Farmer owner Susan James, and furniture artist Peter Kramer. CBS’s “Sunday Morning” aired a piece on raw pet foods made by the Marshall company Pawgevity, and filmed part of the sequence at Mount Vernon Farm in Sperryville, with farm manager Mike Peterson and Dexter the border collie seen in a couple of shots with the farm’s chickens and sheep.
Lori, a therapy dog raised by Heidi and John Lesinski for the budding organization Veterans Moving Forward, which helps veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome get back on their feet, was featured in a video by Washington’s WJLA-TV-7, which visited Lori and her new owner, a former Marine partnered with a dog he credits with making a big difference in his life.
“As John is a former Marine, we are especially delighted that she found a Marine,” Heidi said. “He takes her on hikes and by all accounts, they are an amazing team.”
A Thanksgiving video and article on Voice of America featured the heritage breed turkeys raised at Amissville’s Crowfoot Farm and farm owner Rachel Summers. An innovative cash-for-startups project that Sperryville resident Lynn Sullivan is working on was featured a couple of weeks ago in The Washington Post’s business section; she founded the Private Employment Partners Program earlier this summer.
Finally, Patrick O’Connell, chef and proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington, was invited to be among the 240 of the world’s most celebrated chefs (from 27 countries) at a 25th anniversary party hosted by Alain Ducasse at his Louis XV restaurant (though “restaurant” is hardly a sufficient word for Louis XV) in Monte Carlo. More than 300 Michelin stars were represented. O’Connell had an opportunity to chat with the three-day event’s underwriter, Prince Albert of Monaco. Ducasse, who stayed at the Inn at Little Washington a few years back and says it is among his favorite places in America, has reportedly encouraged Prince Albert to come for a weekend.
If that happens, even the Rappahannock News would send a photographer.