The Rapp for Feb. 28

Let the steeplechases begin!

Photo by Roger Piantadosi.
Photo by Roger Piantadosi.

Saturday’s Thornton Hill/Fort Valley Hounds Point-to-Point Races kick off the steeplechase season, with the first race starting at noon at the Thornton Hill Racecourse just south of Sperryville on U.S. 522.

There’s a full day of timber, hurdle and flat racing, as well as a hound race, at what everyone agrees is one of Virginia’s most beautiful racecourses. Call 540-987-8338 if you haven’t reserved your premium parking spot; general-admission parking is also available. (The Thornton Hill hunter pace event is Sunday.)

RAAC movie: ‘Argo’

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences  – okay, the Oscars – the best movie of the year just happens to be the same one playing tomorrow (Friday, March 1) at the Theatre at Washington, 291 Gay St. The Rappahannock Association for the Arts in the Community – okay, RAAC – will be screening Best Picture Oscar-winner “Argo,” starring Ben Affleck and Alan Arkin, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6 ($4 students), and there will be popcorn.

Rappahannock Cellars takes a Governor’s Cup gold

Rappahannock Cellars’ 2010 Meritage was among the 12 gold medalists chosen from more than 400 entries in last week’s Governor’s Cup competition sponsored by the Virginia Wineries Association.

A bottle from Rappahannock Cellars.
A bottle from Rappahannock Cellars.

The Huntly winery was among five Rappahannock County winemakers who came away from the prestigious annual competition with gold, silver or bronze medals. Rappahannock Cellars is also the only winery in the county that has won the top prize, the Governor’s Cup itself, in 2005. This year’s Governor’s Cup went to Barboursville Vineyards for its 2009 Octagon Meritage.

Silver Governor’s Cup medals went to Rappahannock’s Gadino Cellars (for its 2010 Petit Verdot and 2010 Nebbiolo); to Huntly Vineyards (for its 2008, 2009 and 2010 Meritage); to Amissville’s Narmada Winery (for its 2009 Tannat and 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc) and to Rappahannock Cellars (for its 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc). Amissville’s Gray Ghost Vineyards took home three bronze medals; Narmada won two bronze medals.

The 2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup comprised more than two weeks of blind tastings by indepedent judges of the 400-plus wines entered by winemakers throughout Virginia (and made with 100-percent Virginia-grown fruit) in what many acknowledge as one of the country’s most stringent wine competitions.

Charlie Byrd tribute at the Theatre

At 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, the Theatre at Washington presents guitarist Nate Najar, Chuck Redd on vibes and drums and Tommy Cecil on bass in a concert dedicated to the memory of Charlie Byrd.

The late, great guitarist was one of the first musicians to play at the Theatre more than 20 years ago, when his trio included Redd on drums and vibes; Chuck had joined the trio in 1980 at the age of 21 and he remained close to Charlie, both musically and as a family friend, until the guitarist’s death in 1999.

Najar was also strongly influenced by Byrd. “Charlie was my guy,” says the young guitarist. “I knew Charlie’s records, I loved his sound . . . . There was just this elegant simplicity in his playing; it always seemed like just the right way to do it.”

Najar has played with jazz greats including Clark Terry, Ken Peplowski and Ray Kennedy. In 2008, Nate was invited to perform in a Kennedy Center event celebrating Charlie Byrd and other D.C. area jazz notables. Redd says Najar’s playing has been described as “energetic yet delicate” and that it echoes “the earthiness of Charlie Byrd.”

Bassist Tommy Cecil played with Byrd many times, and it is fitting that the three musicians join in this tribute. Chuck says that this trio has been working together in Washington, D.C. and New York for the last three or four years and there is a wonderful chemistry between them.

Tickets for the March 10 performance are $25 ($10 ages 17 and younger). For reservation, call 540-675-1253 or email

‘Ag in the Classroom’ grows with two new grants

The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom recently received two grants from the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation. The funds will be used for a pilot literacy project during Agriculture Literacy Week (March 17-23) in 16 elementary schools in Rappahannock and Fauquier counties.

One grant is from the Patricia and Nicolaas Kortlandt Community Fund. Nick Kortlandt was a longtime member and past president of Fauquier County Farm Bureau who actively supported Virginia AITC.

The AITC literacy project brings together reading and agriculture, providing a reading book, lesson plan and 26 student activity books per classroom to encourage reading comprehension among beginning readers in kindergarten through second grade.

The book selected for the project is Kelly’s Big Day, written by Tammy Maxey, Virginia AITC senior education program coordinator. The book supports science and social studies educational standards and also gives children knowledge of Virginia agriculture and natural resources.

“The goals of the literacy project are to encourage and support reading comprehension initiatives, provide students with interactive learning opportunities to reinforce classroom instruction and provide teachers with great resources that can be used year after year,” said Carroll Laycock, relationship manager and green industry specialist for Farm Credit of the Virginias and a Virginia AITC Foundation board member.

“Agriculture in the Classroom provides agriculture-themed classroom resources and training directly to Virginia educators so children can learn about agriculture. We are so pleased that we received these grants that will enable us to make this literacy project possible in these schools.”

Virginia AITC is part of a nationwide effort to help teachers and students understand and appreciate agriculture, which is Virginia’s and the nation’s largest industry. The program provides training and materials to more than 2,000 educators each year, and its website ( provides teachers with Standards of Learning-aligned lessons, literacy activities and more. All AITC services are provided to educators at no cost.

Calling all artists

Plans are underway for RAAC’s ninth annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour, Nov. 2-3. In an effort to broaden the tour’s appeal, the planning committee is encouraging open studios to host multiple guest artists in “multi-artist venues” this year – but gently caution that visiting artists’ work must be of high quality and a reflection of serious artists versus hobbyists.

Local potter Susan Dienelt ( has experience with this approach, and would be happy to share what she has learned. Interested individuals should contact tour co-chairs Robert Ballard ( or Nancy Raines ( by March 29.

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