25 Hot things to do this summer
GUERRILLA FILM UNIT BOOT CAMP
Want to catch a struggling Spielberg-in-training? Last summer, youthful filmmaker Johnny St. Ours touched off some very Charlottesville film experiences with his free, open-to-everyone "film boot camp." Here's how it works. Aspiring filmmakers and watchers meet at sundown on the roof of his "cave," a big steel cargo container in the parking lot of Club 216 on Water Street. Then the screenings begin. "Boot Camp is about putting your camera where your mouth is," says 25-year-old St. Ours. Indeed, post-screening, he launches a brutal critique session of the short films. Thin-skins beware: "Unless we're glued in our seats," says St. Ours, "we will push the 'stop' button at five minutes." The camp meets every other Friday night beginning June 6. 760-2202
THE PARK MURDERS TRIAL
Not for the squeamish. As details emerge about the 1996 blood-bath allegedly orchestrated by Darrell David Rice, this month-long trial may seem too daunting. Everyone knows that Julie Williams and Lollie Winans had their throats cut at their Skyland-area campsite in the Shenandoah National Park. But why? Evidence suggests that Rice may have told a jailmate that he hates "lesbian whores" in particular and women in general. That probably wouldn't surprise the female Canadian bicyclist Rice attacked in the Park in 1997. He's serving an 11-year sentence for that crime and faces the death penalty if convicted of the double murder. Authorities estimate that the trial– to begin July 24 at the federal courthouse on Vinegar Hill– will last about a month. 296-9284
Because it's there. That 1970s explanation of why mountain climbers do their thing could equally apply to the location of the rock-climbing school at Wintergreen Resort. Located just footsteps from Eagle's Swoop, the big chunk of granite hugs the back of the same peak that holds the resort's most popular intermediate ski run. "It's still remote, but it's very accessible," says Cheston Harris, the director of adventure programming at OWLS, or Outdoor Wilderness Leadership School. OWLS charges $60 per person for three hours of instruction. The rock, he says, is rated 5.6-5.11 or 5.12, which means it has routes for beginners to experts. Open seven days a week. 325-8166.
CHOO-CHOO FOR THE KIDDIES
You think Charlottesville's got trains? Our Valley neighbor, Staunton, is train central– at least for the kiddies. Not only can you ride an Amtrak over to Staunton, but once you're there, there's a miniature train in Gypsy Hill Park. The mini-train was revived by a non-profit two summers ago after several years of flooding and track problems had kept it out of service. Volunteers now operate it on weekends during the warm months. The train makes four aviation-fueled loops around a narrow-gauge track complete with two bridges and two tunnels. Can you scream? "You're supposed to; otherwise the engineer goes to sleep," says the non-profit's president, John Zinn. The costs is just $1 a ride, which consists of four loops– "unless they lose count," notes Zinn, "and then you get five." And when your tots get bored riding the rails, they'll perk up when you whip out a loaf of bread and stroll over to the adjacent duck pond. 540-213-2130
Central Virginia has nurseries galore, but only one specializes in edibles. Located just off Route 151, nearly eight miles south of Route 250 in Afton, Edible Landscaping is the brainchild of Michael McConkey, a 55-year-old nurseryman (and part-time musician). Although he readily confesses that his formal training ended after just a "couple of semesters" of a horticulture major at the University of Maryland, he's run his own nursery for 24 years– in Afton since 1987. McConkey experiments to find the varieties that will resist disease and provide the best-tasting fruit. He sells pears and pecans, juneberries and jostas, apples and almonds, gooseberries and grapes– and more than 100 others. It's primarily a catalogue business which ships bushes and trees all over the world, but we locals get to see, touch– and eat. "Starting in a couple of weeks," says McConkey, "people can come up here and graze." Try to visit on a weekday when the expert is in. 361-9134
ONE MAN'S MISERY...
Some say it's the anemic or critically ill stock market that's prompted the boom in Charlottesville real estate. Whatever. Asking prices even for formerly affordable "starter homes" and "handyman specials" are beyond the reach of most first-time buyers. If you can suspend your chagrin at benefiting from others' misery, you can sometimes still get a bargain at foreclosure auctions in the area. Get the details on the real estate page, research and drive by the property ahead of time, and then go try to snag a bargain. One drawback: You usually can't get inside the place for an inspection before you bid. Call it Real Estate Roulette.
20 YEARS IN THE LIME-LIGHT
Lexington's theater at Lime Kiln celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer with an all-star lineup of concerts in addition to the traditional plays. Dance your head off to C.J. Chernier's Zydeco on June 15, laugh uproariously with the apparently ageless (and totally deadpan) Leon Redbone on June 22, and get wild and crazy with the Austin Lounge Lizards on August 3. If you haven't been to Lexington, make a day of it tour W&L and VMI, take a dip in the Maury River at Goshen Pass, put together a picnic from the Kroger deli, and then head for the Kiln as the sun goes down.
NECKIN' AT THE DRIVE-IN
Neckin'? Drive-in? How retro can you get? Yet these two slices of antiquated Americana are within reach just 40 minutes south of town at the Fork Union Drive-In. Relive your youth, or have a date like your parents used to. Hop in the Chevy with your honey and head south on U.S. 15 to watch a summer blockbuster or not. Load the cooler with beer to smuggle in, and grab plenty of napkins to wipe those buttery popcorn fingers. If all else fails, you can always watch the movie. 842-3624
Find out what all the fuss is about. Put on your walking shoes on a sunny Saturday morning, and head across the bridge. Stop at Spudnuts to fortify yourself for the explorations ahead. After a few of the delectable confections and a cuppa, head out to begin your tour of the hottest new "in" part of town. Give Monticello Avenue a nod, but quickly veer off to the less-traveled and more interesting byways: Goodman, Myrtle, Stonehenge, Palatine. Rest in Belmont Park and enjoy the views, have some tapas and sangria at Mas, and then if you've picked the right Saturday (check with Mark Edwards 293-2137)– take in an outdoor showing of Still Life with Donuts, the entertaining documentary on Belmont. Call it a Living History Seminar, and deduct your expenses as continuing ed.
BASK IN THE BARD
Used to be you had to go to Ashland, Oregon, or Santa Cruz to wallow in Shakespeare. Now, even Alabama has a Shakespeare festival. What these festivals don't have is a theater like the Elizabethans attended. Thirty minutes away in Staunton, of all places, people are flocking to the Blackfriars Playhouse for an authentic dose of the Bard. That means hard wooden benches (cushions and seat backs can be rented), seats on stage if you like, minimal sets, lights on the audience, and an energetic cast. This summer's offerings include Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, and Willy-contemporary Francis Beaumont's packed-with-penis-jokes-comedy, The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Its website is shenandoahshakespeare.com or call 540-851-1733.
SAND, SWIMMING, AND SCENERY
Albemarle and environs are blessed with swimming holes. The county has three public lakes, the most beautiful of which is Mint Springs in Crozet, the lake out-of-town guests always beg to go back to. The mountains form a perfect backdrop for lying on the beach like a whale with an inner-ear disorder or floating serenely on the lake to shut out screaming youthful voices. Lest you fear too many kids will spoil the fun, county lakes have mandatory rest periods every hour, so adults can have 15 minutes in the water without boisterous splashing and the incessant refrains of "Marco! Polo!" On a long summer day, grill out in one of the picnic shelters. And if you don't like making like a beached whale, there's fishing, hiking, and a playground area. 823-5889.
BE A VOYEUR
Okay, you read our "On the Block" real estate column every week, but that still doesn't satisfy your curiosity about how the other half lives. Get the Sunday paper and spend the afternoon perusing realtors' open houses. Houses are typically on view from 1-4pm. You can start big with large country estates and wind down to Fifeville fixer-uppers by the end of the afternoon. Or, you can devote a whole Sunday to one kind all the silly million-dollar extravaganzas with plastic showers plopped in cow pastures one week, all the townhouses next. After your tour, find a little bar, and sit around with your companion saying, "Did you see that place? Think what our house is worth if they can get $345,000 for that pile of sticks!"
PARK ON THE CORNER
Do you ever forget there's a university here? For many townies without UVA ties, the congestion over there makes the Corner seem almost like another world. But now that the students have split for the summer, suddenly it's not a chore to find parking, and frequent Corner spots that would normally be off the list because it's too much of a hassle are suddenly appealing. Shop, eat, and drink. Better yet, for those out-of-town guests who want to see Monticello, the cheapy version of Jeffersonia is a tour of the Rotunda and Lawn, free and uncluttered with students.
MONSTER TRUCKS, HEE-HAWWWW
Yes, it's wonderful to live in a culturally vibrant university town. But there's a lot to be said for getting the hell away from that delightful effeteness we so adore and tasting simpler, more down-home (dare we say, redneck?) pleasures. We're talking those ridiculously overpowered pickup trucks with giant wheels that serve no practical purpose whatsoever except to jump over cars. Gravedigger's coming to bury 'em at Expoland in Fishersville August 1 and 2. Grab your John Deere Tractor cap and a cooler of your favorite beverages (and we're talking Buds, not Newcastles) for an evening of bone-rattling fun. 540-662-5202
READ 'TIL YOUR EYES BLEED
What is summer if not to sink into a trashy novel on the beach? Even inland, there are plenty of good curling-up places. For air-conditioned reading, Clemons Library couches are perfect for lounging. So is the tucked-away McGregor Room at Alderman. To read and be seen, go to Mudhouse or Higher Grounds or Greenberry's. For scenic outdoor reading, hit an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or toss a blanket out on the Lawn or at Beaver Creek Reservoir and be glad it's summer and it's beautiful and you made time to read even if it's not pure trash.
FEATHER THAT OAR
Loath to spend hours in the gym on a beautiful summer day? Shin-splints acting up from all that running on asphalt? Can't find a softball team with compatible compadres? Sign up for a session sweeping your oar over the Reservoir in a long skinny boat with seven other nature-loving exercisers. Rivanna rowing offers "Learn to Row" classes for people who don't know a starboard from a port, as well as competitive training for experienced rowers. Classes are under way, so call quick. Before you know it, you'll be happy to "sit easy" and "weigh enough." "Layback," "hands on," and "cox" are other titillating terms you'll soon be babbling with the best of them. 978-2092.
CRANK IT UP
Remember that old summer standby, the crank call? Well, caller ID has put an end to that but what a shame to let such a classic pastime die out. By dialing *67 you can disable caller ID and then let the good times roll. (Just hope you don't get the whistle a favored defense of the frequent crank call recipient.) Remember, it's only fun if it's not truly sinister, so let the nostalgia roll. A few favorites:
You say: "Is your refrigerator running?"
They say: "Yes"
You say: "Well, you better catch it."
You call. They answer. You say: "May I have the number you're dialing?"
They say: "What are you talking about you called me!"
You say: "That's impossible; I'm an operator, and I can't place outgoing calls."
They say: nothing, because they've hung up.
You say: "This is the power company; we're having some trouble with the lines. Your phone may ring in the next few minutes, but please don't answer. Our technicians could be badly shocked."
They say: "Huh?" You thank them and hang up.
You call back. If they answer, you enthusiastically scream the sound effects of an electrocution.
You say: "Is your fish fresh?"
They say: "Yes"
You say: "Well, if it gets too fresh, slap it."
LET'S BE CIVIL
You've seen them in films (in addition to sweeping sagas like Gettysburg, Civil War re-enactors got some attention in the recent comedy Sweet Home Alabama). But why not see them up close and personal? This summer, 19th century troops will be gearing up for battle several times around the state and you'll get close enough to see the whites of their eyes... oh wait, wrong war.
June 6-8 is the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station in Culpeper County. The weekend features ghost walks through downtown Culpeper, guided battlefield tours, a cavalry skirmish, and medical demonstrations, as well as a silent auction and a gala dinner at the Inn at Kelly's Ford. For information call 703-403-1910.
June 7-8 is also the 141st anniversary of the Battle of Slash Church the reenactment's at Meadow Farm Park in Richmond. Take in a morning tactical and an afternoon battle each day. You can even take a farmhouse tour, complete with mourning widow. 804-222-6448.
On June 14-15 head to Prince George County for an encampment and reenactment of Grant's 1864 Crossing of the James River and Battle of Baylor's Farm. Union engineers will reconstruct a pontoon bridge, and there's still time to join up as a re-enactor! 804-541-8897.
For even more Civil War events, visit civilwarnews.com.
TAKE A SHOWER
A meteor shower, that is! UVA's McCormick Observatory on O-Hill holds public viewing nights on the first and third Fridays of each month from 9-11pm, but there are several amazing astronomical events you can enjoy from your own backyard. The most well known is the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event that takes place over two weeks in August. The shower is produced when the Earth passes through the debris trail left by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun every 128 years. Best viewing this year is August 13, according to information on capitalastronomers.org, and stargazers can expect to sight as many as 200 shooting stars an hour on that peak night.
Everyone knows about tubing on the James, but how about snorkeling? Dive Connections, a local dive shop, sponsors snorkeling trips on the James River throughout the summer, starting Saturday, May 31. For $35 each, the whole family (including kids six and up) can strap on a life vest, mask, and snorkel to get a fish-eye view of life under the surface of the river. Reservations are required, and Dive Master Lenny Monopoli suggests making them at least a week ahead of time.
Dive Connections also offers a variety of scuba trips both locally and farther afield (Virginia Beach and Moorehead City, North Carolina, are destinations). Call them, and take the plunge!
There's been hot debate over the future of the Woolen Mill Dam, and if certain environmentalists have their way, it may not exist for many more summers. Those who favor its removal say it has to go to protect wildlife, such as the Virginia shad, which swims upstream to mate but currently encounters the dam and turns away in frustration. Opposed to breaching the dam are Woolen Mills neighbors who fear it could convert the scenic and swimmable river in their backyards into unusable swampland. Though no decision has been made, this could be the last year the river exists in Woolen Mills as a lake-like body of water. So grab your suit and a canoe (or kayak) and head down Market Street to check out the dam-ing evidence for yourself.
SUNDAYS AFTER SIX
It's a bit harder to find free music festivals nowadays, but you need look no further than our neighbor to the south, Scottsville. This summer, on three Sundays and one Wednesday, head to Rhythm on the River. Sunday, June 1 brings old-timey tunes from the Hackensaw Boys with Jackass Flats; on July 4 (the only Wednesday) Willow Branch will play with opening act The Jan Smith Band; on August 3, Corey Harris will sing his award-winning blues with opener Paul Curreri performing his Bob Dylan-esque folk. The season closes on Sunday, September 7 with a reggae party featuring Inner Rhythm with opener Ban Caribe. All concerts start at 6pm and, like our own Fridays After Five once were, cost only the gas you use to get there.
SEE A MUSEUM BEFORE IT DIES
Okay, the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Emmet Street is still optimistic that a generous angel will come to the rescue after all of its funding was cut, but the odds are exceedingly slim. That's why this summer may be your last chance to see one of Charlottesville's hidden jewels. Educators and parents alike are impressed with the quality of the exhibits and programs offered by this tiny, run-on-a-shoestring museum. The Lewis and Clark exhibit features animals like the bighorn sheep and buffalo that the explorers encountered, as well as exhibits about the habitats they navigated. The summer mini-camps are an excellent way to entertain elementary-school kids for three hours a day, and the museum also provides a birthday party venue. Other summer Museum options: Take in a bat watch June 18 at Chris Greene Lake, or learn about butterfly gardening June 14 at Ivy Creek Natural Area. Too bad some of Albemarle's millionaires haven't stepped forward to endow this little community asset. 982-4830.
BECOME AN ALUMINUM MAGNATE
When Albemarle County ceases its curbside recycling pickups July 1, a lot of empty Coke cans are going to be headed to the landfill. For the budding entrepreneur, that's an opportunity to rake in some cash and to provide a service for lazy neighbors who don't want to travel to McIntire Recycling to do the environmentally correct thing. At press time, the going rate for aluminum is 30 cents a pound, and there are about 30 cans in a pound. Coiners' Scrap Iron and Metal Inc. at 100 Meade Avenue is buying. Cans should be in plastic bags, but they don't have to be crushed. 296-6465
GET STUCK IN TRAFFIC
You don't need any special equipment for this activity and it's free! Try to drive someplace at 5pm almost anyplace in town will work. But for real teeth-gnashing delight, try to cross 29 at Hydraulic or Rio. Or try to get from the UVA Hospital to Barracks Road. How about attempting to get up Pantops Mountain on Friday afternoon! But you can take the misery out of the inevitable. Keep a cache of relaxation tapes in the car. Stash a bottle of cologne in the seat pocket, spritz yourself when the light is red again after only three cars have made it through, and pretend you're poolside. Buy 10 postcards, address and stamp them, and put them in the glove compartment. Most signals around town stay red just long enough for you to dash off a loving note to someone you've been meaning to write. You stay connected with a friend and lower your blood pressure you might almost forgive the maddening old duffer in front of you who's had his left-turn signal on for the last ten blocks.
COMPILED BY LISA PROVENCE, HAWES SPENCER, ROSALIND WARFIELD-BROWN, AND COURTENEY STUART