Celebrate 250 honors Charlottesville's 250-year history

 When Charlottesville was formed on a 1,000 acre tract of land back in 1762, it was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. Known for her patronage of the arts, she admired and supported the likes of George Frideric Handel and a precocious young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It seems appropriate, then, that a quarter of a millennium later our city is in the middle of Celebrate 250, a yearlong birthday bash honoring Charlottesville’s rich history of arts and culture. The city’s royal namesake is even getting her own turn in the spotlight with “Queen Charlotte,” the latest Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society exhibition, which opened at the McIntire Building last Friday.

Songwriting diva Sarah White & her Pearls bathe you in their rock solid sound and offer seven inches of latest cuts Friday at The Jefferson’s Rob & Dana Benefit Show. (Photo by Tom Daly)

That exhibition is one of many Celebrate 250 events and programs in store for the rest of the year. Later this month, Celebrate 250 will join forces with the 18th annual Virginia Festival of the Book, which runs March 21 through March 25. City Council Chambers will host a handful of festival talks, including “If Buildings Could Talk” on March 22 and “What You Didn’t Know About Charlottesville,” on March 23, which will both feature local authors and highlight fascinating parts of local history. Council Chambers will also welcome a royal visitor. No, Queen Charlotte’s ghost won’t be checking in to see if we’ve lived up to her name. We’re talking about Peggielene Bartels, the co-author of King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village. On March 23 she’ll talk about how she became the King of Otuam, a seaside village in Ghana. What does this have to do with Charlottesville, you ask? As it happens, Otuam is not far from Winneba, Charlottesville’s Ghanaian sister city.

As the year progresses, Celebrate 250 will dig deeper into local history, both figuratively and literally. The inaugural Virginia Festival of History, which runs from May 26 to June 3, will feature lectures panels and living history presentations, as well as the unearthing of the time capsule that was buried as part of Charlottesville’s 200th anniversary celebrations in 1962. A gala and birthday party will take place in November, and a variety of other events are also in the works, so stay tuned to our weekly calendar.

While 2012 will provide plenty of chances to learn about the city’s previous 250 years, you can also help write the latest chapter in Charlottesville’s history. Next Tuesday, March 13, Celebrate 250 will present a workshop at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s Central Branch showing Charlottesvillians how they contribute to Cvillepedia, a local Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia curated by Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Friday night benefit
We also want to give a big old Feedback Stamp Of Approval to a great event happening at The Jefferson Theater this Friday. A diverse group of some of the area’s finest musicians will come together to play a benefit concert for Rob and Dana Leonard, who suffered a terrible accident on the last day of their honeymoon in Belize back in September. While the newlyweds were snorkeling in front of thedock of their hotel, a water taxi struck them, causing serious injuries, including the loss of Rob’s right leg. “The Rob & Dana benefit is a particularly dear one for the venue and its staff, as Rob is manager of the theater’s box office and ticketing,” says the Jefferson’s Danny Shea.

With such a good cause, it’s no surprise that a great group of musicians have come together for the concert. It’ll feature the Nelson County mountain music of ex-Hackensaw Boy Bobby St. Ours, the down-home Virginia twang of Sarah White & The Pearls, the hard-hitting melodic rock of Harrisonburg duo The Cinnamon Band, and smart and catchy tunes of Borrowed Beams of Lights. On top of that terrific lineup, the show will also feature a benefit raffle and a silent auction, giving you the chance to snag a wide variety of goodies, including tickets to Bonnaroo and Dave Matthews Band shows this summer, autographed merchandise from artists including Trey Anastasio, Josh Ritter, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and gift certificates from local restaurants and businesses.

On the record
Friday’s concert will also be one of your first chances to pick up a copy of Sarah White & The Pearls’ new 7" record. Featuring the songs “Married Life” and “ILY,” which the band recorded last summer, it’s the very first release from WarHen Records, a new local label that plans to release hand-numbered, limited editions “on glorious vinyl.”

And since we’re talking vinyl, here’s one more bit of exciting news. This Saturday the Charlottesville Record Fair will set up shop at the Holiday Inn on 29-North from 10am to 4pm. Organized by veteran North Carolina record dealer Greg Neal with assistance from longtime Plan 9 record buyer Jimmy Blackford, the fair is bound to offer up many great records. Go forth and groove!

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