Fairs and balanced: Local fests offer summer fun

Summer in central Virginia means swimming at Sugar Hollow, tubing down the James, climbing Humpback Rocks, and Saturday mornings at the City Market. But the options multiply when festival season begins...

  Ash Lawn Opera Festival

 Ash Lawn-Highland has been delighting music lovers in the area for 28 years. This year's schedule includes nearly two months of full-length operas and musical theater productions, lectures, Music at Twilight, and Summer Saturdays (family entertainment).

The two major 2005 productions, Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Annie Get Your Gun, based on the book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, play July 9 - August 14. In addition, The "Music at Twilight" series offers "Music to Lift the Soul," a night of gospel and spiritual music on July 8; "Rossini, Verdi, Mozart and More" on July 15; and a show tune special, "Broadway Bound," on July 22.

Children revel in the Festival's "Summer Saturdays" puppet shows; this year's are "Knightime" (July 30), "The Magic of Hans Christian Andersen" (August 6) and "Trickster" (August 13).

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


 African American Cultural Arts Festival

 Booker T. Washington Park on Preston Avenue is the site of the 17th annual African American Cultural Arts Festival, this year on Saturday, July 30. A wide variety of crafts, foods, community organizations and artisans is 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. cvilleafrican-amfest.com


 Nelson County Summer Festival

 You know summer is in full swing when the Nelson County Summer Festival happens– this year on June 25 and 26.

Both days from 11am-6pm, the 5,000-acre Oak Ridge estate features 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" offer 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)

Musical acts:

Saturday, June 25: Maria Muldaur and Her Red Hot Bluesiana Band, Deanna Bogart Band, and Barbara Martin and Mac Walter

Sunday, June 26: Jan Smith Band, The Waybacks, and Tigerlily

(nelsoncountysummerfestival.com) 800- 282-8223


 Rhythm on the River

 From days of yore when the July 4 parade and the Batteau 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 seventh year– which are giving now transitioning Fridays after 5 a run for its money– to JamesFest (set for September 17-18) and the weekly farmer's market, Scottsville is a happenin' place.

Music Schedule:

Sunday, June 5:

Hot Soup and Willow Branch

Monday, July 4:

Jan Glennie-Smith, Heather Berry and Virginia Carolina, and Eddie and Martha Adcock (followed by Fireworks over the James)

Sunday, August 6:

Charlottesville Swing Orchestra with John D'Earth

Sunday, September 4:

Wrinkleneck Mules and Monticello Road




 You can't get more American than a fair. Over the last century, not much has changed at the county fair– cotton candy, Ferris wheels and livestock are still entertaining for kids of all ages, and you won't have to look far to find fair fun this summer.

In addition to the Big Daddy of fairs, the State Fair of Virginia– which happens at the Richmond Raceway Complex in Henrico County September 22-October 2– local celebrations are everywhere.


Albemarle County Fair

 Weather can be a fickle mistress, as the Albemarle County Fair learned over several years– including notorious 2003 when storm winds collapsed a tent on huddling fairgoers.

But now, "The hex is broken," director Barbara Shifflett Lundgren declares. Indeed, there was no rain on the fair in 2004, and this year's event has been moved back about a month to better accommodate school and football games. Lundgren says she hopes the weather continues to cooperate and says response to the new dates– August 2– has been "tremendous."

In addition to the usual array of rides, food, games, and entertainment, this year's fair has grown to include, among other things, three new livestock shows (Hereford, Angus, and Simmental cattle), a jousting exhibit, antique farm equipment, a reptile show, pony rides, and a Hershey's Bake-off.

Albemarlecountyfair.com 434-293-6396


 Greene County Fair

 A tornado ripped through the Greene County fairgrounds last September, but the County has spent the last six months rebuilding and promises the show will go on. This year the fair will run from August 9-13. A demolition derby happens at the fairground on August 6 at 6:30. Stay tuned to the website where full schedules and details will soon be posted.



 Madison County Fair

 Dates for the Madison County farm extravaganza are July 12-16. This folksy fair includes a watermelon eating contest, a tug-o-war, and a hay bale toss. Expect lots of musical performances, and a fireman's parade on Main Street.



 Orange County Fair

 A week after Madison wraps up its fair, Orange gets in on the festival action for their celebration July 21-24.

This event on the grounds of Montpelier should not be confused with more plebian celebrations. "Our fair is an old fashioned country fair in the truest sense," boast this fair's organizers. "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 4

 August 29-31, 2005

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 70 years has beckoned folks to a week of fiddling around (this year it's August 8-13).

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

A few of this year's performers are Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie, Donna the Buffalo, Corey Harris, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Old School Freight Train, and Mando Mafia. $110 for the weekend with daily tickets $35-$45.




 Bonnaroo is another relatively new phenomenon on the music circuit, this year June 10-12 on a 700-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 grizzled Woodstock veteran or two– might find the experience worth the trip.

Dave Matthews Band is a regular headliner– this year's no exception– but you'll also catch Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio, the Black Crowes, and Joss Stone as well as lesser known acts like the Heartless Bastards and Umphrey's McGee along with longtime Charlottesville presence Alexandra Scott [See "Facetime," page 48.]

The three-day gig ain't cheap, with full weekend passes ranging from $146.50 to $172.50, including camping and parking.

Last year, the New York Times said, "Bonnaroo, in just its third year, has already revolutionized the modern rock festival." It's a pretty penny, but there aren't many chances to see dozens of big name acts in one weekend. They just might make the nine-hour, 550-mile trip worth it.



 All Good Summer Music Festival

 The All Good Summer Music Festival celebrates its eighth year July 15-17 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, String Cheese Incident, the Flaming Lips, and the Dark Star Orchestra. $135 at the gate ($93 early-bird).



 Bluegrass Festival of Music

 Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria is the site June 2-4 for music, food, and fun. Grammy and IBMA-award winning bluegrass bands and band reunions are scheduled starting 1:30pm Thursday, June 2. Rough camping is included in the $75 3-day ticket price. Single-day tickets $25-30.

(540-923-4231 or gravesmountain.com/bluegrasss.htm)


 Scottsville Bluegrass Festival

 Scottsville goes finger-picking wild on Saturday, August 27 for its annual bluegrass festival. From 11am to 11pm, bluegrass groups including Eddie and Martha Adcock, Paul Fincham and Dark Hollow, the Virginia Ramblers and Willow Branch entertain audiences of all ages at Horseshoe Bend Farm on Rt. 783, overlooking the James River. $25-30. (Scottsville.org/bluegrass/index.htm 286-9267).


Big Summer Classic

 Bonnaroo and All Good are massive three-day affairs, but you can catch many of the same acts in a single day– and just an hour's drive– at the Big Summer Classic at the Richmond Classic Amphitheater on Friday, July 15.

Featured acts include String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Yonder Mountain String Band, Umphrey's McGee, and New Monsoon. 1:30pm. $37.50. (bigsummerclassic.com 804-262-8100)


Rally in the Valley

 Normally a grand opening wouldn't qualify for our festival listing, but when a business does it up like the new Shenandoah Harley Davidson dealership is doing on June 3-5 for the first annual Rally in the Valley, we make an exception.

Along with a blessing of the bikes, a Ferris wheel, rock climbing and airbrush tattooing, you'll see big name rock acts Steppenwolf, Uncle Kracker, Molly Hatchet and Grand Funk Railroad, and fireworks at 11pm on Saturday. Start your engines and head out on I-64 West to Interstate 81 South. Take Exit 220 off I-81 to Route 262. Take the first exit off Route 262 and at the stoplight take a left onto Route 11 South. Go under the overpass and take the next left onto Rolling Thunder Lane, and follow all the way to the end. $50; kids under 10 see concerts free. (800-594-TIXX. Shenandoahhd.com)