Festive and fun: From wine to steers to Dave and Rossini

Summer in central Virginia means Fridays after 5, tubing down the James, climbing Humpback Rocks, and leisurely Saturday mornings browsing yard-sales. But those are just the more obvious summer fun happenings– Charlottesville also means festivals...

 Ash Lawn Opera Festival

 Ash Lawn-Highland has been bringing musical delight to our area for 27 years. This year includes nine weeks of full-length operas and musical theater productions, lectures, Music at Twilight, and Summer Saturdays (family entertainment).

The two major 2004 productions, Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Martin Charnin's Annie, play July 6 - August 15. In addition, The "Music at Twilight" series offers concerts by Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri (July 6), salsa band Bio Ritmo (July 9), and "Prairie Home Companion" regulars Robin and Linda Williams (July 23). "Mostly Mozart" (July 14) and a show tune special, "Broadway Bound" (July 16), round out the schedule.

Children revel in the Festival's "Summer Saturdays" puppet shows; this year's are "Let's Do Opera" (July 31), "Aesop's Fables" (August 7) and "The Reluctant Dragon" (August 14).

(293-4500 or info@ashlawnopera.org for fees and schedules)


 African American Cultural Arts Festival

 Washington Park on Preston Avenue is the site the 15th annual African American Cultural Arts, this year on Saturday, July 31. The 2003 gala opened with dancers and drums. A wide variety of crafts, foods, community organizations and artisans are always part of the fun. All are invited to listen to storytellers, watch the performers, and discover more about local and national African American history and the contributions of African Americans to the community.

)980-3164 or cvilleafrican-amfest.com/)


 Nelson County Summer Festival

 While the Ash Lawn Opera Festival offers delights all summer long, the fun at the Nelson County Summer Festival happens one weekend only– June 26-27.

Each day from 11am-6pm, the 5000-acre Oak Ridge estate spotlights national and regional musical talent as well as regional artisans, wineries, and rural businesses.

In addition to the music, "Kids Fest" offers games, crafts, and activities, while the "Rural Living Tents" display goats and sheep for petting, prize poultry, and gardening exhibits. Six local wineries bring a selection of wines, and the Festival Marketplace houses dozens of regional artisans and vendors. New this year to accompany food is the Starr Hill brewery truck. ($10 advance; $15 at the gate; under 12 free with adult)

Music Schedule:

June 26

11-12 TigerLily

12:30-1:30 Terri Allard Band

2-3 Baaba Seth

3:30-4:30 Terri Allard Band

5-6 Baaba Seth

June 27

11-12 Jan Smith Band

12:30-1:30 Seldom Scene

2-3 Hackensaw Boys

3:30-4:30 Seldom Scene

5-6 Hackensaw Boys



 Rhythm on the River

 From days of yore when the July 4 parade and the Batteaux festival were the highlights of Scottsville summers, events down Route 20 have mushroomed into almost non-stop excitement. From "Rhythm on the River" concerts, now in their sixth year– which are giving big-town Fridays after 5 a run for its money– to JamesFest (set for September 18-19) and the weekly farmer's market, Scottsville is a happenin' place.

Music Schedule:

June 6

eastmountainsouth with Red Beet

July 3

Dixie Power Trio with The Rogan Brothers

August 1

Daybreak with Ryegrass Rollers

September 5

Vassar Clements with Uncle Henry's Favorites




 What can we say about fairs? They're the quintessential American summer activity for any kid who lives in– or near– the country. If there's one summer icon of the Way it Used to Be, it's a little girl with pigtails eating pink cotton candy as she waits in line to ride the Ferris wheel for a look over the livestock barns and the midway of "guess your weight" barkers and throw-a-ring-around-a-milk bottle.

In addition to the Big Daddy of fairs, the State Fair of Virginia, which happens at the Richmond Raceway Complex in Henrico County September 23-October 3, local celebrations are everywhere.


Albemarle County Fair

 Albemarle's fair, hoping to rebound after two years of torrential downpours– culminating last summer in a tent collapsing on fairgoers– is trying again August 31-September 5. In addition to ducklings toppling down sliding boards into wading pools, and "pet-owner lookalike" and "husband calling" contests, the site at North Garden will host the usual array of rides, food, games, and entertainment.



 Greene County Fair

 Greene County celebrates its country roots in Stanardsville August 5-9. In addition to champion hogs, steers, and rabbits, as well as tomatoes that resemble bowling balls, and afghans that would keep Paul Bunyan toasty, the Fair up 29 north always offers a fascinating lineup of performers. Check the website where full schedules and details will soon be posted.



Madison County Fair

Dates for the Madison County farm extravaganza are July 13-17. Making a bid for "most folksy," Madison County includes a watermelon eating contest, a tug-o-war, and a hay-bale toss. Nods to the 21st century include shows by performers Brian Keith, the Paul Fincham band, Alvin Breeden and the Virginia cut-ups, and the Desert Wind Band. But best of all, the whole shebang kicks off with a fireman's parade on Main Street. Everybody knows the drill for a fireman's parade: fire engines and rescue squad ambulances in abundance and "absolutely no sounding of sirens in line of march." Oh, and lots of flying candy. It's the one undeniable sign that summer has arrived in the country.



Orange County Fair

Take a week to rest up after Madison County dismantles the funnel cake machine, and some grocery store trucks away the grand champion steer (we won't mention his destination), and head over to Orange for their celebration July 22-25.

In case you might be tempted to confuse this summer event on the grounds of Montpelier with other, more plebian celebrations, let the organizers of Orange Fair set you straight: "Our fair is an old fashioned country fair in the truest sense; no midway carnival, no high pressure selling activities. Each year we put together a collection of activities, contests, and entertainment aimed at creating a fun atmosphere for all members of our community."

So instead of tramping through smelly barns full of braying donkeys and busy-bee 4-H'ers, expect the equivalent of a genteel tea party– a patriotic tea party– up in Orange.



Floydfest 3

August 13-15, 2004

Old-time music fans the world over are familiar with Galax, home of "the world's oldest and largest Old Fiddler's Convention," which for 69 years has beckoned folks to a week of fiddling around (this year it's August 9-14).

For the last three years, an upstart neighbor, the tiny town of Floyd, west of Danville, has been luring music lovers of all stripes to a similar spectacle– Floydfest, three days of music, art, dance, children's activities, and healing arts demonstrations.

Some of this year's performers: The Del McCoury Band, Tempest, Dar Williams, Culture, Enter the Haggis, Larry Keel Experience, Railroad Earth, Mountain Heart, African Showboyz. $105 for the weekend with daily tickets $35-$45.




Bonnaroo is another relatively new phenomenon on the music circuit, this year June 11-13 on a 600-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. While getting to the site 60 miles beyond Nashville isn't as easy as the three-hours to Galax or Floyd, die-hard rock fans– maybe even a grizzly Woodstock veteran or two– might find the experience worth the trip.

Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Wilco, Patti Smith, Gillian Welch– and oh yeah, Dave Matthews– headline this year, but lesser lights String Cheese Incident, the North Mississippi Allstars, Jem, and Yo La Tengo are only a bit "lesser." The three-day gig ain't cheap, with full weekend passes ranging from $139 to $164, including camping and parking.

Still, folks longing to turn back the clock (Bob Dylan!) to hang and groove like they did back in the day– or to get a glimpse of "Dave with friends"– might find the nine-hour, 550-mile trip worth it.



All Good Summer Music Festival

The All Good Summer Music Festival celebrates its eighth year July 9-11 with three days of music and camping. Marvin's Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virginia, offers 40 hours of music on one central stage.

Chill with a brew and enjoy the likes of Keller Williams, Leftover Salmon, The Disco Biscuits, the North Mississippi Allstars, Soulive, Ekoostik Hookah, and the Del McCoury Band. Rumor has it that local faves the Hackensaw Boys will also put in an appearance at this $119 event ($79 early-bird, eg., now).



Bluegrass Festival of Music

Graves' Mountain Lodge in Syria is the site June 3-5 for music, food, and fun. Grammy and IBMA-award winning bluegrass bands and band reunions are scheduled starting 1:30pm Thursday, June 3. Rough camping is included in the $65 3-day ticket price ($70 at the gate).

(540-923-4231 or gravesmountain.com)