The Rapp for Sept. 22

It’s Farm Tour weekend

By Molly M. Peterson

The Rappahannock County Farm Tour — a free, two-day, self-guided annual tour offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Rappahannock’s working farms — is 10 to 5 this Saturday and 11 to 5 Sunday (Sept. 24-25) — with about 20 venues this year offering tours, products and special events. The Farm Tour’s mission is to present an unforgettable, educational and enriching experience of Rappahannock County’s (agri)culture. Stop by the Visitors Center at 3 Library Rd., Washington, for tour guidebooks (not to mention Wi-Fi and public restrooms), or download the tour guidebook and find out lots more at rappfarmtour.orgRead more about the event in Cathie Shiff’s Amissville column and Phil Irwin’s letter to the editor.

Fun in the name of fundraising

There are several family-friendly fundraising events this weekend, including Chester Gap Volunteer Fire and Rescue’s open house from 11 to 3 Saturday (Sept. 24) at the fire hall, with free hot dogs and chips, fire and rescue and law enforcement demonstrations, a moonbounce and a serious sportsman’s raffle. Read more about it in Chris Ubben’s Chester Gap column.

The other fundraiser Saturday is a bluegrass benefit for Gary Jenkins Jr. at the Washington fire hall grounds starts at 4 with Amazing Grace the Mule with Steve Foster, and, from 6 to 10 p.m., music by four excellent bluegrass bands. All proceeds of Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue’s food and drink sales also benefit Gary, who was seriously injured this summer while responding to an rescue call. There’s more about the benefit in the Events listings.

A Starry Night in Flint Hill

The Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection hosts the first-ever Rappahannock Starry Nights Festival next Friday, Sept. 30, at Caledonia Farm in Flint Hill. The free event features photographs by Joyce Harman of the Milky Way over a series of local private residences, a project funded in part by RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Fund and supported by RLEP, whose own Dark Skies Initiative is meant to promote “our mission of keeping Rappahannock County natural by encouraging citizens voluntarily to reduce their use of artificial light at night.” RLEP is also working with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to reduce the cost to homeowners of down-shielded lighting, which keeps the light on the ground and out of the night skies.

The event starts at 6 p.m. The sun sets at 7.

A Democrat in the donkey barn

Next Thursday, Sept. 29, there’s an informal opportunity to hear Jane Dittmar, 5th District congressional candidate, at the 18th-century mule barn (now known as the donkey barn) at 105 Mount Vernon Lane, about a half-mile north of Sperryville off U.S. 211. Pilgrim, the farm’s donkey and newly appointed Democratic mascot, will greet you. All interested in learning more about Jane are welcome, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the barn (six-tenths of a mile down the lane from 211). For more information, call 540-987-3165.

A River District Artists open house

The dozen artists who’ve formed River District Artists — now in the same complex as Ginger Hill Antiques and Mountainside Physical Therapy at 12625 Lee Hwy., Washington — host an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 at their new place. There will be food and drink and, of course, the works and artists themselves, who were part of the now-closed River District Arts complex in Sperryville: Mary Allen, watercolors; Kate Anderson, oil and printmaking; Marilyn Armor, watercolor and collage; Bonnie Dixon, oil and mixed media; Gary Lohman, acrylic and oil; Sally Mello, weaving, hooked rugs, and felting; Michele Soderman, pottery; Jennifer Webb, fused glass; and Old Rag Photography (Ray Boc, Joyce Harman, Bette Hileman and Francie Schroeder). Call 540-987-8440 for more information.

PEC’s photo contest

Submit your photographs to PEC’s 2016 Photo Contest while there’s still time! Send them images of stunning natural landscapes, bustling streetscapes, life on the farm or wildlife in its habitat. There’s also a Youth Category for ages 17 and under. The winners of each category will receive a $75 gift certificate to a nearby Buy Fresh Buy Local restaurant. The Youth Category winner will receive a $75 iTunes gift card. Each finalist will receive a free PEC membership and have her or his work featured in upcoming PEC print and online publications.

Categories include: Beautiful Landscapes or Streetscapes, Native Plants and Wildlife, Local Farms and Food, and the Youth Category. Photos must be taken within PEC’s nine-county region — Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties.

The deadline for submission is next Friday (Sept. 30). Visit for contest details. If you have questions, contact Paula Combs, PEC’s senior editor, at or 540-347-2334, ext. 7021.

The kids, the park and the music

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, a new Kid Pan Alley initiative has brought children from eight gateway communities up to the magnificent Shenandoah National Park. They go on hikes with the park rangers and learn all about the ecosystem. And then, they write songs with Kid Pan Alley about the experience.

A group of Hearthstone School students hear from Park Ranger Mike earlier this month about the wildlife at Shenandoah National Park as part of Kid Pan Alley's park-centric songwriting residency, which ends with a free concert Friday at RCES.
A group of Hearthstone School students hear from Park Ranger Mike earlier this month about the wildlife at Shenandoah National Park as part of Kid Pan Alley’s park-centric songwriting residency, which ends with a free concert Friday at RCES. By Cheryl Toth

You’ll have an opportunity to hear some of these amazing songs in concert tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 23) at a free Kid Pan Alley concert, 7 p.m. at Rappahannock County Elementary School, featuring Kid Pan Alley’s Paul Reisler, Sahffi Lynne and sax virtuoso Marshall Keys, performing with the kids from RCES, Hearthstone and CCLC.

Though the park is literally in our backyard, many of the local schools have never visited the park and learned about the diversity of the ecosystem from the rangers. One of the goals for the park’s centennial year is to inspire children and community to become the next generation of visitors, supporters and stewards. By responding to their experiences in nature with a creative act, these encounters deepen their understanding and often become life changing events. According to the late Maestro Lorin Maazel, “There is nothing more helpful to a developing human than to learn how to express feelings in sound. Kid Pan Alley is a fabulous way of bringing young people into the loop of reflective behavior, of constructive action.”

Just to give you a little idea some of the wonderful experiences the children have had, KPA’s executive director, Cheryl Toth, wrote this about an encounter the children from Hearthstone had in the park last week.

The Bear and the Deer: The title of this email sounds like an Aesop Fable, but in fact, it is a true story. The weather was a breezy 95 degrees with gnats and flies in abundance doing what all gnats and flies do. :) As we moved across the trails into the meadow (Big Meadow) the students found joy in the simple things, caterpillars, spiders, milkweed, goldenrod, and soft grasses. They branched off from each other with a handheld device used to capture and inspect small insects. They danced; laughed, calling out to each other to come and share their discoveries … then something very unusual happened …

Off in the distance, one of the children spotted a bear … “A bear … a bear? … where? … there!” This was the too familiar sound at such a sighting. But something was different … this bear was sprinting across the meadow. Yes, running at full speed … a most unusual sight as most bears I have seen just lumber along, turning over trash cans and raiding henhouses. As we watched in amazement, a whitetail deer darted out from the grasses. Could it be? Was the bear after the deer?

Park Ranger Mike said that bears do not chase deer. ‘It is a waste of their energy.’ But sure enough, we witnessed an adult black bear chase a deer into the woods. I quickly opened my iPhone and tried to capture it in video. I did get a glimpse of the historic chase … but what is priceless are the conversations of the children and the ranger as we all witnessed this amazing event. We were all grateful that the bear did not catch the deer … we were not prepared to witness such a “National Geographic” moment. While this Olympic sprint was a first for us all, the butterflies and caterpillars, spiders and milkweed still captured the imagination of the children today.

Our work with the Shenandoah National Park has been incredibly rewarding, igniting the explorer inside all of us. So in true Aesop style: The moral of this story is … Life will gift you with wonderful experiences, when you are present to receive it! Today, I was present and I got a gift that I will cherish forever.

Inspired by the chase, the Hearthstone students wrote “Sometimes You’ve Got to Run for Your Life,” from the point of view of the deer.

Sometimes you’ve got to run for your life
Cause only the fastest survive
Run through the meadow, run through the wood
Run like Little Red Riding Hood
Gotta’ get away

It was a sunny day up in big Meadow
Just grazing on grass and goldenrod
Then I saw something moving fast
something odd, something big and black
Stalking me. Chasing me


I ran for the wood and for my life
But the bear stayed right on my tail
Maybe I can wear that old bear out
It was rough it was tough
I was freaking out
With that bear stalking me. Chasing me


I was so glad the bear ran out of gas
So I’d live to graze another day
Another day, another day

You can hear the song and take a musical hike in the park at 7 p.m. Friday at RCES. Admission is free; the project is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Shenandoah National Park Trust and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Rappahannock residency is also supported by RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Fund. For more, visit

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