Spring Happenings: Fireworks, Festivals, and Community Fun

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Spring Happenings: Fireworks, Festivals, and Community Fun

By Ken Wilson – 

Although it’s hard to say when exactly it happened this year, spring has sprung, and with it the hundred ways we show it. Whether it’s to make us parade down Market, run along the Rivanna, or jog up a mountain, spring energizes us all. Here are a few of the many ways.

Charlottesville Dogwood Festival
Its official mission is to promote goodwill and community service, and promote Charlottesville and Albemarle and their adjacent counties as springtime tourist attractions. But really, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. With everything from a grand parade to a municipal band concert, a benefit breakfast, a movie in the park, and a carnival, the 68th annual Charlottesville Dogwood Festival, March 23 through April 23 is a month-long celebration of springtime and springtime’s renewing vigor. Many events are free.

The Dogwood Carnival in McIntire Park takes place evenings from April 6 through April 23 starting at 5:00 p.m. The fireworks display in the park starts at approximately 8:45 p.m. on April 7.  Disney’s 2016 animated hit film Finding Dory will be shown at 7:00 p.m. on April 8 in the park’s softball field. The Doubletree Hotel hosts a breakfast with a Silent Auction to benefit the Monticello Little League Challenger Division on April 21 from 7:30 to 10:00 a.m. Doors open at 7:00 a.m.; the buffet starts at 8:00.

The Grand Feature Parade begins on McIntire Rd at 10:50 a.m. on Saturday April 22, heads down Market St. to 7th St NE, then East High St, and finishes back at McIntire Road. This year’s theme is Red, White, & Bloom, and awards will be given out for Best Floats and Dogwood Spirit. The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial rededication is the same morning at 11:00 a.m. in McIntire Park East. The Charlottesville Municipal Band’s Dogwood Festival Spring Concert in Dickinson Auditorium at Piedmont Virginia Community College is on April 23 at 3:30 p.m.

As always, the Dogwood Court will be made up of eight “princesses,” ages 16 to 24, winners of pageants in surrounding counties. These young ladies spend the final week of the Festival with the Dogwood Queen, attending events and visiting in the community. The Queen’s Ball will be held at the Doubletree Hotel on April 22 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person.

This year’s Dogwood Queen, Georgianna Kaylee Woodward, will graduate from Madison County High School with honors this spring, and hopes to attend either Radford University or West Virginia University. Her career ambition is to work with special needs children. Woodward’s platform—her special Festival cause, which she hopes to speak about whenever opportunity arises—is “Raising Tourette Awareness.”

Woodward herself was diagnosed with Tourette in the fourth grade and has spoken to many different groups about the disorder and the bullying that often accompanies it. Also at the Queen’s Ball, the Dogwood Community Achievement Scholarship will be awarded to the high school senior who best personifies an ongoing commitment to “exemplary community service.”

Charlottesville Marathon
Starting and finishing at historic Court Square, it passes by the Rotunda and along the banks of the Rivanna River on a course voted one of the most scenic in the East. This four-in-one race—the Charlottesville Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay, and 8K & Kids K—has been called America’s Destination Marathon for the beauty and historical import of its course. Twenty-five hundred runners (including walkers in the 8K) are expected to participate in the 2017 race, April 1 starting at 7:00 a.m. for adults and 8:00 a.m. for kids. Paid advance registration is required. 

Bow Wow Walk
Animal lovers can support the animals and life-saving programs of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA on Saturday, April 8 with a K-9 2.5K Bow-WOW-Walk beginning at 10:00 a.m. in Charlottesville’s Lee Park. The walk is for both dogs and their humans (and humans carrying photos of their cats), and winds through the lovely and historic downtown mall neighborhood before heading back to Lee Park for a post-walk festival featuring human and doggie entertainment, a canine competition, treats for dogs and dog owners, and animal-friendly sponsors. Pre-registration can be completed online or in person on April 8 from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m., costs $35 for adults and $25 for persons 18 and under, and comes with a pet bandana, a human tee-shirt, and a walker goodie bag. The walk begins at 10 a.m.

Remembering Vinegar Hill
On Saturday, April 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center in Charlottesville holds a “day soirée” entitled Remembering Vinegar Hill: The Neighborhood Beneath the Pavement. Co-created by students from the Miller School of Albemarle, the annual event honors the former Vinegar Hill neighborhood, the city’s principal black business district and the center of African-American social life, which was demolished in the name of urban renewal in the 1960s. Expect music, food and games.

Tom Tom Founders Festival
While the demolition of Vinegar Hill is remembered today with shame and sorrow, the city that is home to the University of Virginia and has nurtured the minds of such notable figures as Edgar Allen Poe, Georgia O’Keefe, Woodrow Wilson and Tina Fey has a rich legacy of creative thought and innovation. The Tom Tom Founders Festival, April 10 through 16 at fifty venues in Charlottesville, is intended to build on this history “through a diversity of disciplines and engagement with forward thinking makers and doers.” Beginning on Founder’s Day (April 13), the Festival re-imagines the city “as a creative canvas for innovators, visionaries and artists.” More than sixty bands, 200 speakers and 400 community organizations will take part.

The weeklong festivities will kick off with a Community Potluck on Monday, April 10 at 5:00 p.m. in IX Art Park. The Founders Summit, April 13-15 at the Paramount Theater, will feature over fifty innovators and entrepreneurs including New America President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter and New Belgium Brewing Company cofounder Kim Jordan to share their stories and offer advice on start-ups. The Hometown Summit, April 13-15 at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, will explore the future of small and mid-sized cities with dozens of keynotes, workshops, and peer-led panels featuring three hundred elected officials, practitioners, policymakers, and investors in such dynamic small cities as Akron, Boulder, Madison, and Chattanooga.

At the Paramount Theater at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 13, birthday of the third and most locally celebrated U.S. President, the Festival will present a three part program, co-sponsored by the Miller Center, entitled “Innovations In Democracy: First 100 Days Of Trump.” Mark Warner, U.S. Senator from Virginia, and Bill Antholis, Director and CEO of the Miller Center, will speak. Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh of the PBS history program Backstory will join Christa Dierksheide, a historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, in a panel discussion on the “History of Media and the Presidency.” Other speakers will include Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent of The New York Times; Chris Cillizza, Washington Post columnist and soon-to-be CNN commentator; Russell Riley, co-director of the Presidential Oral History Program at the Miller Center; Douglas A. Blackmon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and host of the Miller Center’s American Forum TV program; and Nicole Hemmer, columnist for US News & World Report and Vox.com and assistant professor of presidential studies at the Miller Center.

Earlier at the Paramount, at 6:00 p.m., UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science will present “Innovations In Energy,” exploring the future of renewable energy with Zoetic Energy Founder & Chairman Jerome Ringo, University of Virginia professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Eric Loth, and Apex Clean Energy President & CEO, Mark Goodwin.

Open air block parties in Lee Park, April 14, 15 and 16 will feature hip bands, a craft beer garden, tech and art showcases, and dozens of local and regional food trucks. 

Founder’s Day and Jefferson’s Birthday Celebration
On Thursday, April 13 Monticello will mark the 274th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birth with a celebration and ceremony on its West Lawn. The pre-ceremony performance will begin at 9:45 a.m., and will feature a keynote address by renowned chef, author and foodie movement pioneer Alice Waters, the 2017 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership. Past recipients of the medal include economist and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and civil rights leader John Lewis. Admission to the ceremony is free. Regular pricing for house tours will apply.

Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival
Longsuffering Thomas Jefferson might not believe it, but today there are over 30 wineries within 25 miles of Charlottesville, scarcely more than a day’s ride from where that famously ambitious agriculturalist repeatedly tried and failed to produce a decent vintage.

If only Jefferson were around for the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival, Friday April 13 through Sunday April 15 at the Sprint Pavilion and the Jefferson Theater. As a veggie lover, he’d be amazed by the creativity of the modern day chefs at Friday’s Rosé Lunch, Sparkling Wine Brunch, and the Winemaker’s Dinners. As a farmer and scientist, he’d be fascinated by what he’d learn on Friday’s vineyard tours. As a serious wine lover, he’d be thrilled and amazed by the nationally and internationally acclaimed vintages he’d sample at each event. And as a late 18th-early 19th century guy, he’d be amazed at the rate of inflation reflected in the actually quite reasonable ticket prices, ranging from $29 for Saturday’s Tasting, featuring 25 wineries and live entertainment from the Rick Olivarez Trio, to $175 for a three-day, all events pass.

Tickets to Thursday evening’s Monticello Cup Awards at the Jefferson Theater are $65. Individual wineries will host a variety of activities on Friday, followed by winemaker dinners at some of Charlottesville’s best restaurants. Jefferson, in spirit, will attend each day.

C’ville Earth Week Eco Fair
The mission of the 2017 C’ville Earth Week Eco Fair is to “bring local communities together in ways that promote awareness of the value of the natural world and encourage the public to learn about the environment, with the goal of creating strong, engaged stewardship that lasts beyond [the] April events.” The Fair and other Earth Week activities, featuring eco-friendly non-profits and businesses and organizations, count several thousand attendees each year.

This year’s fair takes place on April 23 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the eastern end of the Downtown Mall, and at the adjoining Sprint Pavilion. Participating will be over 50 Earth conscious organizations and businesses, plus local vegetarian & vegan friendly food trucks.

Expect live music, fun and educational activities for kids, raffles and a free noontime Yoga class by Rebel Yogi.

The Montalto Challenge
Runners will gather at the base of the Saunders-Monticello Trail on Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 a.m. for the Montalto Challenge, a 5K race to the top of the mountain rising 410 feet above Monticello, Jefferson’s first acquisition of land in 1771. The tough course offers views of Monticello, Charlottesville, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The entry fee is $35 ($45 after April 20), and will benefit the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to preserve and maintain the Saunders-Monticello Trail. Runners who wish to donate more may purchase entry at the Race & Trail Support level of $55.

Sipping, sauntering, sampling and staring (openmouthed)—these are just some of the ways we celebrate spring in Central Virginia.

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