5 Things to Know Before Heading to the International Gold Cup

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Photo courtesy of Bendure Communications, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Bendure Communications, Inc.

By Michael Balderston

Virginia is off to the races this weekend as Great Meadow in The Plains will host the 77th annual International Gold Cup, often referred to as the crown jewel of the fall steeplechase season. Upwards of 45,000 people are expected to head down to The Plains to attend the event that will feature tailgating, wacky hats and exciting horse races.

If you’re one of those planning to attend here are some vital bits of information for the event as well as some fun facts to make you the hit at your tailgate.


What is Steeplechase?

Steeplechase is defined as a distance horse race in which competitors are required to jump diverse fence and ditch obstacles. The term comes from the early days of the event when the race would often originate from one church steeple to another. Steeplechase is most popular in the U.K., Ireland, France, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

There are two forms of steeplechase in the U.S., hurdle and timber. Hurdle is a race that almost exclusively uses National Fences – standardized plastic and steel fences that stand 52 inches tall and run around two to three miles. Timber races use solid, immovable fences that can top at five feet high and range from three to four miles.



The Gold Cup is one of the only events in Virginia that allows for parimutuel betting, or more simply put the system of gambling where all bets are placed into a single pool and payoff odds are derived from the entire pool. It is the standard way to gamble on horse racing.

That’s the broad view, if you plan on making a bet you need to know these terms:

o   Win – the horse must finish first

o   Place – the horse must finish first or second (you collect the amount for second)

o   Show – the horse must finish first, second or third (you collect the amount for third)

o   Exacta – You must pick the horses that finish first and second in exact order

o   Trifecta – You must pick the horses that finish first, second and third in exact order

Self-service terminals will be located on both the North and South side of the track as well as on Members Hill. The minimum bet for any race is $2. Betting stations open at 10 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m.


Gold Cup History

The first ever International Gold Cup took place at Grassland Downs in Tennessee in 1930. The King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, attended the Gold Cup that year and rewarded a spectacular gold trophy to the winner. That same trophy, appropriately called the King of Spain trophy, is still awarded annually to the winner.

The International Gold Cup has moved around a bit in its history. Originating in Tennessee, the race was moved to Rolling Rock Hunt Meet Course in Pennsylvania in 1932. In 1983 the race was officially relocated to Great Meadows, where it has been held ever since.

In 1984 the International Gold Cup was officially changed to a timber race, keeping in tradition with Virginia’s status as the nation’s leader in timber racing. The National Steeplechase Association awarded the International Gold Cup stake designation in 1989.



There are nine races scheduled for this year’s International Gold Cup. Here is the official schedule:

Noon – The Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle

12:30 p.m. – The Zeke Ferguson Memorial

1:10 p.m. – The VHBPA Open Flat

1:40 p.m – The VHBPA Open Flat

2:10 p.m. – The Orlando Invitation Timber Race

2:50 p.m. – The Maserati International Timber Stakes

3:30 p.m. – The VHBPA Open Flat

4 p.m. – The VHBPA Open Flat

4:30 p.m. – The Old Dominion Turf Championship


Fun Facts

-  One of the more popular events every year is the Terrier Race Exhibition, where Jack Russell Terrier’s chase a foxtail through an obstacle course. Takes place at 11 a.m.

-  Epic Quartet, an all-female barbershop quartet, will sing the National Anthem.

-  It’s joked that jockey’s used to put four marbles in their mouths at the beginning of the Gold Cup, spitting one out after every lap to help keep track

-  Patrons can go home winners by participating in the annual Tailgating and Hat contests. Find out more info here.

The International Gold Cup takes place Saturday, Oct. 25, gates open 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Great Meadows in the Plains
5089 Old Tavern Road
The Plains, 20198

Tailgate with Mint Juleps at the 2014 International Gold Cup
12 Stylish Pieces for the International Gold Cup and Beyond

‘Carbon’ Mines Balance between Entertainment and Current Issues

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Photos courtesy of Allen Media Strategies

Photos courtesy of Allen Media Strategies

By Michael Balderston

The climate change debate is one of the biggest going on in the U.S. today, and a major factor in it is coal. Danny Boyd, a former filmmaker-turned graphic novelist, has been a resident of West Virginia for more than 30 years and is contributing to the debate in the form of his new graphic novel Carbon”.

“Carbon” tells the story of an evil coal operator who discovers a “sacred” carbon that can burn forever. After years of failed attempts, the coal baron has finally found a way to extract his riches. But in his final attempt he awakens and releases a hell the surface world cannot imagine. The only thing that stands in the way of the end of the world as we know it is a disgraced, ex-pro baseball pitcher and a community of courageous coal miners.

Boyd is having a signing for “Carbon” at Four Color Fantasies in Winchester, on Oct. 24. We got the chance to speak with him about “Carbon” coming out at the right time, the reaction among the coal mining community and his upcoming sequel to “Carbon,” “Salt.”

Why was this the right time for “Carbon?”

I’ve been waiting to tell this story for 10 years. Coincidentally, the timing is good with the current climate change debate going on. Course it’s very touchy here in West Virginia, because our most valuable natural resource is coal. I think a lot of us are on the wrong side of history with that, we got to recognize the damage that it has caused and is causing and move on. I wish I had done it years before, wasn’t able to, but it turned out to be good timing.

What is your personal relationship with coal mining communities?

My first real job was in Williamson, which was in southern West Virginia in the heart of the coal fields. I thought I knew West Virginia, but man I didn’t. It was a whole other world down there. I hadn’t really given it a lot of thought and was just around some people who were socially and environmentally conscious and saw the destructiveness in strip mining in particular. That was 34 years ago. I had pretty strong views on that since. A lot of people go it must have been awful; no, it wasn’t awful, it was really a rich few years of my life and a lot of it has filtered into a lot of my work since.

This was the first property that I was able to go full blown on… that had coal as a backdrop.

How has the reaction been among the coal mining communities?

West Virginia is a very interesting place. I was more worried about – I can take heat, but I didn’t really want to offend my fellow West Virginians. But you know what I found? Even though they disagree with some of it, coal miners are all about it, the ones I talked to, because coal miners are the heroes.

As far as the industry goes, the company side of it, I’m not hearing much. I think they’re probably smart enough not to respond. Because I’m not hating; I’m hating on the bad things that people will admit are bad – disreputable coal operators who jeopardize the health and safety of workers for profit, people who don’t care about the environment. I will say, rather than public anger, it’s been more of a politeness.

Where are you going to go with the sequels “Salt and “Gold?”

Happy to tell you I got the sequel written this summer. It was going to be a trilogy but I found in writing it I could combine “Salt” and “Gold” together, so it’s just going to be one more book. It’s written. This weekend I start the process of finding an artist.

“Salt” picks up where “Carbon” left off. The fuse is lit to possibly the end of the world… our unlikely hero, Heat Hatfield, finds himself the leader of his group, sort of the Moses, trying to lead them to safety… as the rest of the world is going into chaos, our heroes are trying to hold it together.

I know I’m sounding preachy, and I kind of am, but I don’t let that stand in the way of entertainment. I do want “Salt,” being the final book, to deal with some of these issues, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m really hoping that it’s entertaining for an audience.

Daniel Boyd will be at Four Color Fantasies from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24 for the signing.

Four Color Fantasies
80 Weems Lane, Winchester
(540) 662-7377

Sling your shots on the course with FlingGolf Demo

Posted by Editorial / Monday, October 20th, 2014


Photo courtesy of PlusOne Sports.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

If you wanted to try a new sport, one with the speed of Jai alai, the skill of golf and the physicality of lacrosse, try all three at once this weekend at Forest Greens Golf Club.

This Saturday at noon, Forest Greens Golf Club hosts a free demo of FlingGolf, a sport that combines golf and lacrosse to create an entirely unique experience.

Once FlingGolf creator Alex Van Alen discovered the fun of slinging a golf ball with a jai alai basket, he created the new sport and prototypes for its equipment in his barn in 2012. Since then, the patent pending FlingStick has been crafted specifically for the sport. It resembles the shape of a golf club combined with the mouth of a lacrosse stick, although the basket of a FlingStick is not woven.

With a FlingStick, players can swing underhanded or over their shoulder to try and fling their golf ball across the course. Like in golf, players must get their ball from tee to hole in the least number of swings—or flings. Players can fling the ball near or far and, when the ball is in the green, players can push their ball towards the hole in a manner similar to putting. The game takes place on a golf course and can be played in company with traditional golf.

Photo courtesy of PlusOne Sports.

Photo courtesy of PlusOne Sports.

While this new and innovative sport can be enjoyed for its own merits, FlingGolf’s semblance to golf—from the initial, high-powered fling/swing, to the game objective—can also encourage a wider audience interest in the sport of golf.

For those who shy away from the golf course, “maybe because they were intimidated about the actual game of golf itself, … this may be a step towards getting onto the golf course,” says Tom Coffman, general manager at Forest Greens Golf Club. Coffman also says that FlingGolf can be a great way for children and teens to begin an invested interest in the sport of golf. Furthermore, FlingGolf may be enjoyed by athletes who play other stick-oriented sports like lacrosse or field hockey.

The free demo at Forest Greens Golf Club will cover the basics of FlingGolf, including its rules and a presentation of the swing. Afterwards, people are welcome to rent a FlingStick and try the sport out for themselves. While FlingGolf has taken residence in courses around the northeast and overseas, Forest Greens Golf Club is the first Billy Casper Golf course to offer FlingGolf.

Expand your horizons with a FlingStick and a new sport that sends golf flying in a whole new direction.

FlingGolf at Forest Greens Golf Club
4500 Poa Annua Lane, Triangle
Noon, Oct. 25
Free demo

6 Haunted Amusement Parks to Visit this Halloween

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, October 16th, 2014

By Michael Balderston

Looking to make this Halloween something special? Add bigger thrills and chills to all Hallow’s Eve by visiting any of these amusement parks, redesigned to scare the pants right off you. Whether you make it a midnight run or a getaway weekend, here are six parks that are doing Halloween right.

Photo courtesy of Kings Dominion

Photo courtesy of Kings Dominion

Kings Dominion – Halloween Haunt (1 hour, 30 min. away)
16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, 23047

Take a ride down 95 to Kings Dominion’s Halloween Haunt. Featuring live shows like “Eternal Jamnation: Lost Souls & Skeleton Crew,” nine mazes, six scare zones and all of the park’s classic roller coasters, Halloween Haunt will have you screaming. Or bring the tykes to Planet Spooky during the day on Saturday and Sundays. Get ticket info here.


Six Flags – Fright Fest Presented by Snickers (1 hour away)
13710 Central Avenue, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20721

Experience “thrills by day” and “fright by night” at Six Flags America’s Fright Fest in Maryland. Kid themed attractions fill the park during the day, including the all new Monster Mash Bash, Kids Halloween Dance Party, and Theater of Magic: Starring Joe Romano. When the sun goes down, the park transforms with attractions like the new Necroville, Voodoo Curse and The Awakening. Get ticket info here.

Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens

Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens – Howl-O-Scream (2 hours, 30 min. away)
1 Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, 23185

Busch Garden’s has been taken over by the cursed, turning  its usual countries into brand new Terror-Tories, including Demon Street, Ports of Skull, Ripper Row, Vampire Point and Wendigo Woods. Howl-O-Scream runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 12 – Oct. 26. Get ticket info here.


Kennywood Park – Phantom Fright Nights (4 hours away)
4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin, Pa. 15122

Kennywood Park takes their Phantom Fright Nights so seriously they recommend that children under 13 don’t come. Attractions include BioFear, Dark Shadows Maze and Haunted Noah’s Ark as well as all their popular rides… but completely blacked out so you can’t see what’s coming until it’s too late. Get ticket info here.

Photo courtesy of Hershey Park

Photo courtesy of Hershey Park

Hershey Park – Hershey Park in the Dark (2 hours, 30 min. away)
100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Pa. 17033

Head up to Hershey Park where all the Halloween candy comes from. Attractions include their Trick-or-Treat Adventure for kids 12 and younger and Creatures of the Night at ZooAmerica. Hershey’s rides are also getting a Halloween makeover, as track lights on coasters Lightning Racer, Wildcat and Comet will be turned off after 9 p.m. for a dark ride. Get ticket info here.


Idlewild – HallowBoo (3 hours, 30 min. away)
2574 U.S. 30, Ligonier, Pa. 15658

The kid friendly HallowBoo at Idlewild runs every weekend leading up to Halloween from noon to 6 p.m. Kids can trick-or-treat through Story Book Forest, ride the HallowBoo Express Railroad or get lost in the Corn-Fusing Hay Maze. The park also will feature a number of live musical shows. Get ticket info here.

Get Scared in NoVA

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Take a break from the hayrides and apple picking and tap into your sense of fear at one of these haunted spots for an entertaining and terrifying experience. – Andy Tran


Photo courtesy of Alan Defelice.

601 Catoctin Circle NE, Leesburg
At Shocktober there is one ghastly and frightening haunted house called Paxton Manor with a dreaded country theme. In the basement is the Haunted Well of Souls, dark and creepy with monsters lurking around each cob-webbed corner. There is also a coffin simulator where you are welcomed to climb inside, the deathly experience lasts about three minutes. And finally the vortex tunnel, a 20- to 30-foot long contraption that throws you off balance and into chaos. If sweat-dripping terror isn’t your thing, you can buy a “no-scare” glow necklace at the door for $5, letting the vampires and ghouls know to take it easy on you. / Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October, as well as November 1, from 7-10:30 p.m.; $30 for the Shocktober Package; $25 for Paxton manor; $10 for Haunted Well of Souls.

Bradley Farm Haunted House

Photo courtesy of Alan Defelice.

Bradley Farm Haunted House
13159 New Parkland Drive, Herndon
This dark, menacing house is filled with loud noises and a gloomy stench; witches, ghosts, goblins and crazy clowns can be found in the house, terrorizing people from left to right, in all good fun, of course. This attraction is sure to frighten and satisfy both younger audiences and older teens/adults. At this haunted house, be prepared to be scared. / Oct. 24 from 6-10 p.m. and October 25 from 1-5 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Tickets are only $5.

Route 29 haunted farm.

Photo courtesy of Route 29 haunted farm.

Route 29 Haunted Farm
4484 Lee Highway, Warrenton
Do not bring young kids or scaredy-cat friends to the Route 29 Haunted Farm unless you want them to have nightmares for months. For twenty minutes, you and your loved ones will get to walk around the haunted farm and experience the terrors in the night. The looming trees and the hard ground will both seem that much more treacherous as you find the ghouls jumping out at you behind bushes and rocks. Not only will you get a great fright, but there’s plenty of food at the concessions stands. / Every Friday and Saturday in October, and November 1 from 7-10:30 p.m.; $15.

Clifton Haunted Trail
Chapel St., Clifton
The Clifton Haunted trail is certain to scare the living daylights out of you and your friends. A long, meandering trail, chock full of banshees, bloody zombies, and creepy skeletons, is an attraction that will not disappoint. As patrons walk down the dim-lit path, your bravery or fear will surely appear once the trail has ended. Started in 2001, the trail has been scaring people for over 13 years and is as entertaining as it is thrilling. / Oct. 25 from 7-10 p.m.; $15, $10 for children 12 and under.

Haunted Hollow
8275 Maple Tree Lane, Warrenton
Enter into the Haunted Hollow, if you dare. This strange establishment has ties to mysterious farm accidents and shocking diary entries. During the walk around the haunted farm there will be strobe lights, fog, and intense noises. The farm itself is shabby and boarded up with rusty nails and rotted wooden planks. Turn back if you’re afraid, for the twenty-minute thrilling journey will take your breath from your lungs and replace it with fear. / Every Friday and Saturday in October starting at 7 p.m.; $15.

Northern Virginia Haunted Houses

Photo courtesy of Alan Defelice.


(October 2014)

The Musical Mystery “Drood” Gets Technical

Posted by Editorial / Monday, October 13th, 2014

Photo by Elizabeth Stevens.

Photo by Elizabeth Stevens.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

This Halloween season, students from George Mason University stage a murder mystery that even the actors can’t solve. “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” presented by the GMU School of Theater and School of Music, uniquely incorporates audience participation to fuel the show.

Want one more surprise? Audiences are encouraged to keep their mobile devices on at all times during the performance in order to participate in the play.

“Drood” is a musical based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished final novel about the sudden disappearance of Mr. Drood and the investigation that follows. The play is meta-theatrical as GMU cast members play as actors from the Music Hall Royale theater troupe, a group that puts on a comedic version of Charles Dickens’ mystery novel.

Just as the novel’s conclusion remains unsolved, the conclusion of this musical adaptation is undecided from the beginning, making the performance unpredictable for both audience members and cast. Viewers, who are really participants, can use their smartphones or other mobile devices to decide for themselves “whodunit,” and cast members play out the conclusion according to their votes.

Photo by Autum Casey

Harrington as Angela Prysock/Princess Puffer. Photo by Autum Casey.

“Usually you go into a theater and you expect a beginning, middle and end out of your musical,” says Rachel Harrington, 24, who plays Angela Prysock/Princess Puffer in the play, “and this is more like we have the beginning and middle, but you as an audience member get to choose the end.” Harrington says the cast members must memorize six different endings for each possible outcome.

But audience members don’t just participate for the play’s conclusion; audience members will be prompted to actively participate from the show’s beginning to end. Ken Elston, Director of the School of Theater at GMU and director of the play, says audience engagement “is the whole reason we have theater. It’s because it’s alive and it’s immediate and it’s interactive,” especially in this particular play.

While previous performances of “Drood” employed hand-counting, Elston hopes to build the audience base at George Mason by utilizing their modern technology in the play.

Throughout the show, audience members can use an app or text a number to participate: their votes go towards customizing costumes, props and even sound. Those without a mobile device have the opportunity to vote just as much as those tech-savvy participants, as cast members count these other votes by hand.

Whether you participate technologically or traditionally, cast your vote at this GMU production of “Drood.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
October 24 – 26
GMU Center for the Arts
4373 Mason Pond Dr, Fairfax
October 31 – November 1
Hylton Performing Arts Center
10960 George Mason Cir, Manassas
$15, $25, free for GMU students after 10/14

Fredericksburg’s Stars Hit the Dance Floor

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Fredericksburg's Dancing with the Stars.

Photo courtesy of T Photography/Shutterstock.com.

By Michael Balderston

Forget Alfonso Riberio pulling out “The Carlton” on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” come see 84-year-old Florence Ridderhof bust out her best moves at the second “Dancing with the Fredericksburg Stars.”

Ridderfhof and nine other local Fredericksburg leaders will lace up their dancing shoes as they vie for their own Mirror Ball Trophy while helping to raise money for University of Mary Washingtons performing arts department.

The contestants will be the first to tell you it’s not as easy as it looks on TV, either. They have spent the last four months learning and practicing dance routines, but according to Lisa Crittenden, that may not have been enough time.

“I need another two months,” jokes Crittenden, executive director of Hope House, a homeless shelter for mother with children.

The contestants have all put in a ton of work to prepare with dance instructors Michael and Melissa Scott from Strictly Ballroom Dance Studio, who will also serve as the dance partners for each competitor.

“It’s not something any of us do all the time,” says Ridderhof, the competition’s oldest competitor. “Ballroom dancing is very different than just dancing, it’s very precise.”

“Ballroom dancing was something I didn’t have any interest in,” says John Moss, a partner at the Fredericksburg law firm Rinehart, Butler, Hodge, Moss & Bryant, PLC. “Now I’ve done a complete 180.”

Through tickets, private donations and sponsors, the University of Mary Washington will fund the creation of of a UMW Performing Arts in the Community Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit full-time students from the Fredericksburg region in good academic standing and who excel in either music, theatre or dance. Last year’s event grossed around $65,000, about half of which went to performing arts scholarships.

The contestants said they know the value the performing arts have on the community, and they are happy that they get to contribute to it.

“Anything to do with music, dance, poetry, anything like that to me feeds the soul,” says Ridderhof. “It’s an important part of life and I just want to keep the steam and not just stand.”

It’s been a rewarding experience for the participants, but that isn’t preventing them from being nervous about their big performance.

“I just want to finish the thing,” says Moss. “I put a 75 percent chance of finishing the thing without messing up.”

“Mentally, you’re trying to prepare yourself to just have fun, that’s what it’s all about,” says Crittenden. “But I want to win.”

Audience members can have their say in that. The Mirror Ball Trophy winner will be determined by a panel of judges, but there will also be a People’s Choice winner determined by the audience. So come out and see which of Fredericksburg stars has the best moves.

The full slate of dancers include Regis Keddie II, Terrie Crawley, Joe Wilson, Janel Donohue, John Fick, Debby Girvan, John Wack, Moss, Crittenden and Ridderhof.

Tickets are still available to purchase for $85, but $75 is tax deductible. Come and unleash your inner-Bruno.

Dancing with the Fredericksburg Stars
Saturday, Oct. 11
7 p.m.
Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall

“Frozen” Hits Ice for the First Time

Posted by Editorial / Monday, October 6th, 2014

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

This October, a cold front blows in as Disney on Ice presents “Frozen” makes its first appearance at the Patriot Center. The Disney blockbuster is touring this year for the first time on ice and will feature everyone’s favorite characters, including Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf. The show will also feature Hans, one of the most multi-faceted and enigmatic characters in the production. He is played by Adam Loosley, a Canadian-born skater who expresses sincere joy and excitement for the show.

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

What makes Disney on Ice presents “Frozen” different from “Frozen” the movie?

“This really is a production that transports you to Arendelle. You get to really be a part of the action and a part of the story. This is a great live production with not only great skating, … but this show especially has a lot of technical aspects that are really cool, pun intended. We have several snow machines, we have a big marshmallow that comes out in the second act. The set itself four or five different big screens coming from the grid to help tell the story and add color. … I’ve been a part of several Disney on Ice productions and this really has been taken to a new level of technical aspects that really help to make you feel like you’re in Arendelle. When it starts to snow, you feel cold. It’s really, really neat.”

Are there any other special and visual effects, particularly with Elsa’s powers?

“Elsa’s powers, when she creates her castle on the North Mountain—of course it’s the end of Act One, it’s her Let it Go that everyone is waiting to see—she actually, with her powers, constructs her own ice palace and she moves this castle into place. … By the end of it, she has crystals and snow and an ice palace and a staircase and the grid has changed and the lighting has changed. You really do feel like, wow, that was just created. And it really is a moment to end Act One and it’s my favorite part of the show.”

Do you change your skating style throughout the performance based on Hans’ character?

“It’s such a contrast right from the movement of my hands, the way I hold my body, the story I’m telling definitely changes. … It’s a very, very challenging but fun role to play because I get to be such contrasting characters but playing the same one at the same time. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of Prince Hans and the complexity of his movements, his acting, and his story.”

Who is your favorite “Frozen” character?

“Olaf because he likes warm hugs! … Who doesn’t like Olaf? Boys, girls, everyone loves the friendly, huggable snowman. He definitely makes an appearance in this show and his humor cracks me up. … He just makes me laugh and smile.”


Even with 12 shows, tickets for Disney on Ice presents “Frozen” are quickly selling out. Available tickets can be found on Ticketmaster

Disney on Ice presents “Frozen”
Patriot Center
4400 University Dr, Fairfax
October 22 – 27

Craft Beer Documentary Kicks-Off Fredericksburg Oktoberfest

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, October 2nd, 2014


Photo courtesy of Take a Penny Productions

By Michael Balderston

One of the more popular things to do nowadays is to head off to a local craft brewery for a beer tasting. However, it wasn’t too long ago this now common occurrence was practically non-existent in Virginia. According to a Fox News report in 2012, there were only 40 licensed breweries in Virginia. According to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, there are currently 88.

“It wasn’t something you could easily do,” says Megan Ann Troy. Now, “there’s a brewery wherever you go.”

This booming growth sparked Troy and Aaron Stanley, both from just outside Richmond, into making a documentary on the advent of Virginia breweries. Doing all the production, post-production and music themselves, Troy and Stanley visited 20 breweries across the state from Richmond to Alexandria and the end result was “From Grain to Growler.”

The film not only chronicles the growth of craft breweries, but the entire beer culture in Virginia, visiting festivals and popular bars and pubs. It also shines a light on the sense of community at each local brewery and the support amongst the brewers. That is what Troy said she found to be the most heartening lesson from her experience making the film.

“The business of Virginia beer is not just about the beer and it’s not just about the brewers,” says Troy.

That same support has been present for the documentary since it premiered in Richmond back in August. People have been asking for digital copies of the film and coming to multiple screenings. Breweries are even using the film as a promotional tool.

Since its premiere, the film has screened in Harrisonburg, at the Spoke and Hops Festival in Hardywood, the Skyline Indie Film Festival, Grandin Theatre in Roanoke and at Lickinghole Creek. It is also scheduled to screen at the Virginia Film Festival in November and has been submitted to the Alexandria Film Festival.

Now, “From Grain to Growler” makes its way to Northern Virginia, with a special screening on Oct. 3 at the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center (FAMCC) to help kick-off the Capital Ale House of Fredericksburg Oktoberfest Celebration. Prior to the film, there will be a reception where guests can sample local beers from Adventure Brewing Company, who was featured in the documentary, and Blue & Gray Brewing Co. and enjoy some live music. Troy and Stanley will be attending the screening for a panel discussion after the film with local brewers. Tickets are $5 for FAMCC members and $10 for non-members and include access to the screening and one beer ticket.

It’s been a good start for Troy and Stanley’s first documentary, but they aren’t stopping just yet. They plan to submit “From Grain to Growler” to more festivals outside of the commonwealth in the near future. What they initially thought would be just a little film has turned into something more, growing almost as rapidly as the craft beer scene itself.

Watch the trailer for “From Grain to Growler” below.

From Grain to Growler – Trailer from Take A Penny Productions on Vimeo.

Kick-Off Oktoberfest! “From Grain to Growler” Screening and Tasting
Oct. 3, 5 – 9 p.m.
Historic Market Square
1001 Princess Anne St.
Fredericksburg, 22401

Get Your Geek On at Anime USA

Posted by Editorial / Monday, September 29th, 2014

Photo courtesy of Anime USA.

Photo courtesy of Anime USA.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

Thousands of people will roam the streets near Washington Marriott Wardman Park in costume—sporting colorful wigs, wearing fluffy ears or wielding giant swords—which may surprise you, or not. After all, crowds have been dressing up for several years at Anime USA. This weekend marks the 16th anniversary of a convention that grows with each new year.

Anime is the term for Japanese animation and cartoons, which have become increasingly popular in the U.S. in the last 20 years.

Anime USA first began as a small convention organized by the Northern Virginia Anime Association to celebrate anime and Japanese culture among fans; the event hosted less than 500 people. The numbers have since grown to a steady 3,000 to 4,000 people per year since the convention moved to Washington, D.C. in 2012.

Attendees can expect to hear panels from anime and video game voice actors, enjoy unique musical performances, attend various informative panels about Japanese culture and, of course, see plenty of cosplay (short for “costume play”). Special guests include voice actors J Michael Tatum and Michele Knotz, musical duo Schwarz Stein, and cosplayer Joshua Hart.

Thousands of fans attend Anime USA in recent years. Photo courtesy of Anime USA.

Thousands of fans attend Anime USA in recent years. Photo courtesy of Anime USA.

Attendance at these anime and comic conventions has been steadily increasing; one of the most popular conventions, San Diego Comic Con, topped 130,000 attendees in recent years. So what has contributed to the recent rise in popularity of anime and comic conventions? Chris Needham, program coordinator and secretary of the board for the Anime USA nonprofit, says anime’s emergence in the mainstream has helped broaden its appeal.

“Probably the biggest factor overall is that ‘geek culture,’ generally, is much more accepted now than it was 5 [or] 10 years ago. … [F]rom Game of Thrones to Harry Potter, to gaming, to cosplay—all these things are becoming much more mainstream. When you turn on the TV, you’re going to see all of it there. So I think people feel more comfortable attending conventions.”

Not only do the media popularize “geek culture,” but the fan base is also proliferating thanks to conventions.

“Conventions have done a good job of diversifying themselves and appealing to more people,” says Needham. “Ten years ago, people would be playing video games or people would be shopping for anime or things like that, but they weren’t as social about it as they are now. Now it’s much more about meeting people.”

Embrace your inner geek this weekend at Anime USA. You won’t be alone.

Anime USA
Washington Marriott Wardman Park
2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 3 – 5
$65 all-weekend pass; additional badges sold at the door

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