The Rapp for April 4

Don’t miss the point-to-point

The Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point Races are this Saturday (April 6) at Ben Venue Farm. The first of the nine races on the card – a steeplechase over hurdles, wood fences and walls – begins at noon at Ben Venue Farm, on U.S. 211 at Route 729. Pairs races follow Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $20 per car (with up to four people per car) and are available at the gate. For more information, visit

This weekend in Sperryville . . .

Detail of William Dunlap’s “Blue Ridge-Hunt and Peck,” part of an April exhibit at Middle Street.
Detail of William Dunlap’s “Blue Ridge-Hunt and Peck,” part of an April exhibit at Middle Street.

There’s a lot happening at Middle Street Gallery in Sperryville this weekend and throughout April. Nationally prominent artist Bill Dunlap is on hand to sign his book, “Dunlap,” at a public reception from 2 to 5 this Saturday (April 6) at the gallery, opening his must-see exhibit through April 28 at the gallery. His wife, artist and author Linda Burgess, and his daughter, 16-year-old illustrator Maggie Dunlap, are also there with their new children’s book, “Mount Vernon’s Magnificent Menagerie and the Very Mysterious Guest,” available for signing also.

In addition, photographer Gary Anthes is showing a select few of his recent photographs of the C&O Canal, and he is also on hand Saturday afternoon to sign copies of his new book on that subject.

Middle Street is open 10 to 5 Friday-Sunday (visit for more). It is located at Rappahannock Central in Sperryville – where, next door at River District Arts, “Rappahannock Creates,” a juried show featuring artists who do their creating here in Rappahannock County, also opens this Saturday. (More about that in next week’s column, in time for the show’s April 13 opening reception.)

. . . and in Washington . . .

On Friday at the Theatre in Washington, it’s RAAC’s movie night: See James Bond (okay, Daniel Craig) wrestle with evil (okay, Javier Bardem) in “Skyfall,” starting at 8 p. m. Admission is $6 ($ 4 students).

On Saturday night at 8 at the same spot, pianist Russell Wilson is back by popular demand for a “Ragtime Encore!” show, with music from the 1890s to the 1920s performed by the accomplished member of the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band. Tickets are $25 ($10 for ages 17 and younger) For reservations, call 540-675-1253 or email

. . . and for the kids in Flint Hill  

RappKids, who brought Rocknoceros to The Link, has organized another jam-packed, fun event for the young children of Rappahannock and surrounding counties. Their next event is 4:30 p.m. in Wakefield Country Day School’s auditorium this Saturday (April 6). The doors open at 4, so come early to play with the trains.

The first performers are from Excell Dancers of Warrenton, whose experienced dancers perform several numbers. Oh Susannah, a musical performer for young children, takes the stage next and engages the youngsters with her beautiful voice, clever lyrics and guitar music. Susannah was voted best for families by readers of Family magazine, and nominated recently for WAMA awards for “Best Children’s Artist” and “Best Children’s Recording.”

When they’re not dancing, junior engineers are also welcome to play on the giant wooden train layout. Snacks and dinner may be purchased. Come with your dancing shoes on and get ready to boogie with your kids! The cost is $5 per person.

Learn exactly what a picture is worth  

The Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community welcomes art historian and curator Merry Foresta as the featured speaker at RAAC’s free Second Friday at the Library series at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 12.

Foresta, the founding director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative from 2000-2010, will talk about the recently released book “Photography Changes Everything,” which draws on the extraordinary visual assets of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, science centers and archives to launch an unprecedented interdisciplinary dialogue on photography’s capacity to shape and change our experience of the world.

Ten percent of all the photos ever taken were taken in the last 12 months; three hundred million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. In this transitional moment in visual culture, “Photography Changes Everything” offers a provocative rethinking of photography’s impact on our culture and our daily lives by compiling hundreds of images and responses from leading authorities on photography.

The essays argue that many of those who teach, think about, write about and curate photography have been doing it wrong. As Merry A. Foresta says in her foreword, people have treated photography as if it were “a picture-making form like . . . painting, drawing, even graffiti.”

The unfortunate result, according to Marvin Heiferman, the book’s editor, has been that most discussion of photography has tended to focus only on “a specific category of images: those made as art.” While this has had its benefits, it’s also problematic because photography isn’t simply, or even mostly, an art.

Foresta points out that “most of the billions of pictures that are taken with cameras every year are made for purposes that have nothing to do with art . . . and their value is dependent on how well they serve a purpose that, more often than not, has nothing to do with photography itself.” A true understanding of photography, then, would come “not from placing images into the realm of art but from examining them in their original locations and understanding their original purposes.”

Farm Tour: dinner . . . and changes

There may be big changes to the Rappahannock Farm Tour, as county farms and local businesses that wish to participate in this year’s tour discuss preliminary arrangements and several proposals during their upcoming meeting and potluck dinner on Thursday, April 18, in the conference room of the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Washington.

A major change to the tour is the use of the large field adjacent to the county Visitors Center as event headquarters and location of the artisans’ market, thanks to the generosity of landowners Stan and Christine Skowronski. Their beautiful green barn serves as a perfect backdrop to the “command post” of the event. The move from the former Sperryville location to Washington also places the headquarters and market in the heart of the county and represents almost $2,000 in budget savings.

Related to the artisans’ market, another change is the proposal to open participation to artists from outside the county. Providing vendor space to a regional pool of artisans would enlarge and diversify the market, with the income helping to achieve a balanced event budget. Obviously, all the tour’s farm venues will still be located in the county.

Perhaps the most far-reaching change for consideration is the proposal to rename the event the Rappahannock Festival and Farm Tour. The tour would continue as in previous years, but the change would allow for additional participation to celebrate more of what makes Rappahannock County something special. In addition to our agricultural base, the county also offers uncluttered vistas, picturesque back roads, environmental jewels, wonderful eateries and a diverse array of small businesses.

While farms remain the centerpiece of the event, inserting the word “festival” allows for some flexibility in terms of each year’s content and focus, keeping the event fresh, inclusive and evolving. And it takes pressure off the farm venues that might need a break from participating in the tour from time to time.

Other ideas include having a bike ride as part of the tour, providing maps for scenic drives and allowing attendees to pay for their admission by donating non-perishable food for the Rappahannock Food Pantry.

All are invited to attend the meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m.

– Cathie Shiff

Spring gobbler season

Virginia’s spring turkey hunting season, which runs from April 13 to May 18, is preceded again this year with a special Youth Turkey Hunt Day this Saturday (April 6) for hunters who are 15 and younger.

Expectations for a favorable spring season are high, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), as the recent fall turkey harvest was the highest reported over the past five years.

“Turkeys enjoyed a good fall season and most areas had good mast crops. Coupled with a generally mild winter, gobblers should go into the spring in good physical condition,”says VDGIF upland game bird project leader Gary Norman. “Growth of turkey populations have generally been stable with varying densities. Areas with the highest populations are in the Northern Neck and South Piedmont.”

There’s lots more information from VDGIF at

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