A Whole Lot to Celebrate: Fall Festivals in Central Virginia

Virginia Fall Foliage Art Show Virginia Fall Foliage Art Show

Why are there so many festivals in Central Virginia every year? Because we have so much to celebrate, of course. From pop music to classical, from fruit to foliage, and from art to antiques, we have an abundance of riches to delight in, this autumn. Here’s a look at how we’ll do it.

The Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival
The Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival is the gift of violinist Timothy Summers and cellist Raphael Bell, two former Charlottesville High School and Julliard classmates now enjoying international careers who return every September to host concerts in some of Charlottesville’s most beautiful spaces. Twenty colleagues will join them this year for seven typically ambitious programs of classical and contemporary compositions, plus a talk with a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

This year’s Festival kicks off Thursday, September 8 at 8:00 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre with an especially intriguing program beginning with Charles Ives’ mysterious “The Unanswered Question,” written in 1908 and revised in the 1930s. Leonard Bernstein believed the question was “whither music?” Ives called the composition a “cosmic drama” in which a trumpet solo poses “the perennial question of existence.”

Ives’ query will be followed by a world premiere of a composition by the young British composer Edward Nesbit. His “Funeral Music (after Purcell)” reimagines a work written by the great 17th century British composer Henry Purcell for the funeral of Queen Mary—a work later played at his own funeral. Next up is 21st century Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa’s “The Raven,” a one-act opera in English, with supertitles, based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same name, sung by acclaimed Finnish mezzo-soprano and festival favorite Virpi Räisänen. Pulitzer-Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson has written extensively on Poe. She will join Summers on stage for a brief conversation on the subject of “Music and Words: Foreign and Domestic.”

The Festival’s free, one-hour “concert for all ages,” Friday, September 9 at 12:30 p.m. at the Paramount, will present works by Mozart, Rossini, Benjamin, and Enescu. Music Fresh Squeezed, at Live Arts on Saturday, September 10 at 8:30 p.m., will break the traditional mold for classical music concerts with an evening of mixed programming—Jacques Brel songs, jazz-classical crossovers, percussion improvisations and yes, even selections from the classical repertoire—in a casual setting. Surprises are promised. Refreshments will be sold.

On Sunday, September 11 at 3:00 p.m. the Festival moves to the University of Virginia’s Old Cabell Hall, for Paul Hindemith’s Trumpet Sonata, George Frideric Handel’s Arias for Soprano, and Johannes Brahms’ String Sextet in B-flat, Op. 18. On Thursday, September 15 at 8:00 p.m. it heads to V. Earl Dickinson Theater at Piedmont Virginia Community College for Claude Debussy’s “La Mer,” Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s “Aura” for three percussionists, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141.” On Sunday, September 18 at 3:00 p.m. it’s back to Old Cabell Hall for Ernest Chausson’s “Pièce, Op. 39,” George Enescu’s “Concert Piece,” and Gabriel Fauré’s “Piano Quartet No. 2 in g minor.” Finally, on Thursday, September 22 at 8:00 p.m. at the Paramount, festivalgoers will hear Bohuslav Martinu’s “Duo No. 1 for violin and cello,” George Enescu’s “Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano, Op. 6,” and Antonin Dvořák’s “Piano Trio No. 2 in f minor, Op. 65.”

Heritage Harvest Festival
Visitors to Monticello learn that Thomas Jefferson loved vegetables and loved to experiment with how to grow them. Monticello’s Heritage Harvest Festival, hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in partnership with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Seed Savers Exchange, celebrates Jefferson’s agricultural legacy by promoting gardening, sustainability, local food, and the preservation of heritage plants. The 10th annual Festival takes place Saturday, September 10.

Educational programs on seed-saving, botanical medicine, heirloom plants, organic gardening, edible landscaping and regional cookery will demonstrate techniques for sustainable living, while local food vendors will offer everything from jambalaya and barbecue to whole-fruit popsicles and apple cider donuts. Heirloom foods and plants will be on sale. Hourly tours will take in the home’s restored garden, or focus on natural history and native plants. Cooking programs highlighting the cross-cultural nature of Monticello cuisine will be held in the restored kitchen. In the Tasting Tent, festivalgoers will meet farmers, educators, and non-profits spearheading the local foodie scene. The Discovery Tent will hold demonstrations, exhibits, and activities for kids. Tickets for the Heritage Harvest Festival are $15. Combination tickets for $25 include admission to the house.

Tomtoberfest Fall Block Party
The spirit of Thomas Jefferson will pervade Tomtoberfest, Friday September 23 and Saturday September 24 in Charlottesville’s Lee Park. Not the Jefferson who penned the Declaration of Independence and served as the country’s third president necessarily, but the ingenious Jefferson, Jefferson the innovator, the man who designed the Great Clock in the hall at Monticello, and a Spherical Sundial and a cylindrical Wheel Cipher to send secret messages. Jefferson the restless and creative thinker who would be captivated and thrilled by today’s technology, and by the likeminded folks who dream it up.

The same folks that bring hundreds of bands, start-ups, artists and visionaries to town each April for the Tom Tom Founders Festival—a week of music, art, and innovation to celebrate “creative founding”—are putting on a free block party, with a dozen free concerts, a dozen local food trucks, and a great big New Belgium craft beer garden. A crowd of 7,000 is expected for Saturday’s Regional Tech Mixer, where more than 60 of the region’s innovative companies will attract investors, entrepreneurs, and freethinking souls to create the next cool app, the next hot startup, or the next forward-thinking community project.

In past years, Tom Tom’s “The Founding Cville” project has honored 27 artists, civic leaders, and entrepreneurs “whose groundbreaking and original work has impacted Charlottesville and the world,” in so doing inspiring “the next generation of ideas and founders.” The third annual Founding Cville Award, to be presented over the weekend, will recognize more contemporary Charlottesvillians, nominated by the public, “who embody the Jeffersonian spirit of multidisciplinary creativity in art, business and civic leadership.” Banner portraits of these “founders” will hang on Downtown Mall lampposts throughout September.

Graves Mountain Lodge Apple Harvest Festival
October is beautiful in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria is a family-owned and operated rustic mountain retreat that has been welcoming guests since the late 19th century. Graves Mountain will hold its 47th annual Apple Harvest Festival from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16, with bluegrass bands, cloggers, horseback and pony rides, hayrides, a hay mountain and hay maze, and more than 70 arts and crafts vendors. Admission and parking are free, and the celebration will take place rain or shine.

Festivalgoers are free to stop by the farm and see the animals. Apple lovers can choose between Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Stayman, York, Winesap, Mutsu, Fuji, Granny Smith, Rome, and Empires at the picnic pavilion, or go out into the orchard and pick their own. Apple butter will be cooked in kettles over an open fire—just like in the old days. Music will be heard from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and the cloggers will dance from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Home cooked meals of Brunswick Stew, cornbread, apple butter, applesauce and apple cider will be served in the covered picnic pavilion each day from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Burgers, hotdogs, pork barbecue, french fries and apple pie will be available as well. Snacks will include funnel cakes, apple butter donuts, fried apple slices, apple cinnamon ice cream, apple pies, and apple slices with caramel sauce. Lunch will also be served at the Main Lodge from noon to 1:30 p.m. Dinner will be from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Advance reservations are required for meals at the Lodge.

Virginia Fall Foliage Art Show
The Virginia Fall Foliage Art Show, held outdoors in downtown Waynesboro, draws a crowd of 20,000 to what is considered one of the finest arts and crafts shows on the East Coast. The 39th annual show, on Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9, will include paintings, photography, sculpture, pottery, metalwork, glasswork and other media, plus craft beer tents and food trucks, and a kid’s craft area. Local roots bands will entertain.

59th Shenandoah Antiques Expo
The 59th Shenandoah Antiques Expo, at the Augusta Expoland in Fishersville on Friday October 14 through Sunday October 16, will draw dealers and collectors from up and down the East Coast. Two couples—Raymond and Martha Stokes and Mary and Sanford Ferguson—created the event 30 years ago and still direct it today.

“I came to Lynchburg for college in 1961 and married a girl who is a Jamestown descendant,” Raymond Stokes says. “She and Thomas Jefferson share a common grandmother. Her grandfather was captain of the first football team at William and Mary. I guess that makes me almost a Virginian, even if by marriage. It was the beautiful girl and beautiful Central Virginia that pulled me away from my low country South Carolina roots.”

Today the Expo is billed as the best indoor/outdoor antiques market in the Mid-Atlantic, but one New York City customer told Stokes it should be advertised as “the best antiques market on the East Coast.” More than 300 antiques dealers from all over the country fill three exhibition halls and three barns, while hundreds of others exhibit on 200 outdoor acres, attracting more than 5,000 people to each event.

Americana and high country furniture and accessories predominate, but exhibitors also show fine jewelry, silver, glassware, primitives, Oriental rugs, and high quality collectables like doorstops and decorated stoneware. Free parking is available on site. Hot dogs, burgers, chips, and the like will be for sale, and sit-down restaurants may be found nearby.

“The customers and dealers who come from all over the USA just love the Shenandoah Valley culture, landscape, and people,” Stokes says. “Over the years this event has introduced the area to thousands and thousands of people who would have never known it. Fishersville is a household word in the world of the antiques collector. Several have actually moved to the area.”

The Augusta Expo is just off Interstate 64 in Fishersville, only 5 miles from the junction with interstate 81. The Expo is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 Friday and $5 Saturday, but shoppers who wish to enter early, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Friday, pay only $10 for a three-day pass.

Wintergreen’s Harvest Fest Weekend
Wintergreen will hold its 2016 Harvest Fest Weekend on Friday October 21 through Sunday October 22. Storyteller Bill Wellington will entertain Friday at 8:00 p.m. The ghoulishly fun Spooktacular Workshop, with pumpkins, cookie decorating, and crafts, will be from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Saturday; the cost is $29 for all activities, and reservations are required. The peep roast starts at 4:00 p.m, followed by a Trick-or-Treat Parade at 4:30 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for the best, the most creative, and the creepiest costumes. At 7:00 p.m. it will be time for a family movie (Hotel Transylvania 2) on the big screen. The popcorn, like Wintergreen’s gorgeous mountain views, will be free.