By Josette Keelor
This weekend, free events, festivals, and family togetherness sprout from the valley as springtime weather draws residents out of doors and into nature. The Of Ale and History Beer Fest in Middletown, the Wine and Trotter Festival in Woodstock, National Public Gardens Day events in Winchester, a Mother's Day weekend garden fair in Boyce, and the Battle of Front Royal Civil War Roundtable event will offer something for any taste.
It all begins Friday with National Public Gardens Day. In Winchester, The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley will join more than 500 others around the nation in offering tours and activities free for all ages. Visitors can tour its six-acre Glen Burnie Gardens and the museum galleries. A dedication of the city's Green Circle Trail will take place at 11 a.m. and a special family-oriented Galleries at Night event will be that night.
Julie Armel, director of marketing and public relations said Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor and Tim Youmans, planning director, will be at the trail dedication.
"It's on the museum property and the museum gave the city an easement for that," Armel said. "And we're thrilled with this partnership with the city."
The museum owns the largest green space in Winchester, with 254 acres, she said.
"The green circle gives even more access to the museum property," said Armel.
Children's activities also will take place throughout the day, with face-painting in the gardens from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and inside the museum from 4 to 7 p.m. Children's musician Peter McCory will perform at 6 and 7 p.m. in the Reception Hall.
Tai Chi in the gardens for children also will return, from noon to 1 p.m., Armel said.
Museum exhibition "Moveable Feasts: Entertaining at Glen Burnie" takes visitors through a garden maze to see vignettes of brunch, afternoon tea, the cocktail hour and dinner that museum benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr. and his partner R. Lee Taylor hosted at the site. A "Fancy a Fold" station will teach visitors to fold dinner napkins into a crown or a peacock, and the "Butler Bamboozle" touch screen game challenges visitors to set a formal table before time runs out.
"This is the third year that we've done it," Armel said. "It's just a big celebration of the open space," she said.
Free admission to the gardens will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and free gallery admission from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 540-662-1473, ext. 235, or visit www.theMSV.org.
Saturday at Belle Grove Plantation the Of Ale & History Beer Festival will take start at 11 a.m. and offer beer tasting from noon to 6 p.m. More than 50 microbrews, imports and specialty beers will be featured, and fine food, snacks, cigars, crafts and entertainment will keep the fun going all day. The Deanne Bogart Band and Westcott Band featuring Tommy Lepson, both of D.C., will perform.
Belle Grove's 1797 Manor House and grounds will be open for touring as part of the festival ticket. Bring your own chairs and picnic blankets.
Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. Designated drivers pay $10. For more information, call 540-869-2028 or visit www.bellegrove.org.
In Woodstock at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, the Shenandoah County Fair Association and Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail will present the Wine & Trotter Festival from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Harness racing, music, food and crafters will entertain all ages. Eight wineries will be represented, and visitors receive a souvenir wine glass. Proper ID is required to receive a tasting band.
Tickets are $20 for wine tasting and racing, $10 for races without wine and $2 for those 16 and younger. For more information, call 540-459-3867 or visit www.shencofair.com.
At the Virginia State Arboretum in Boyce, Blandy Experimental Farm will host its 2013 Garden Fair from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
A huge plant and garden supply sale will include annuals, perennials, small trees, berry bushes, boxwoods, garden art, garden tools, pottery and even clothing.
Saturday includes a wildflower walk at 10 a.m., children's activities from noon to 2 p.m., an arboretum tour at 1 p.m. and a tree relocation demonstration at 2 p.m. Sunday, planned programs are a bird walk at 10 a.m., children's activities from noon to 2 p.m., an arboretum tour at 1 p.m., a tree relocation demo at 2 p.m. and a cooking demo at 3 p.m.
A garden fair preview night will take place Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
The cost to attend is $10 per car. For more information, call 540-837-1758 or visit blandy.virginia.edu.
Also Saturday, valley residents can purchase plants at the Mother's Day Plant and Bake Sale at North Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue, 186 Rosenberger Lane near the entrance to Shawneeland. The sale, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. will benefit the fire company.
Saturday the Warren Heritage Society will host a Lower Shenandoah Valley Civil War Roundtable battlefield tour with Ed Bearss talking on the Battle of Front Royal.
The battle overview will be at 1 p.m. with a tour following from 2 to 4 p.m. The program will begin at the Warren Heritage Society, 101 Chester St., Front Royal. Tickets are $10 per tour and can be purchased there between noon and 1 p.m. Saturday. The tour is by car caravan, and carpooling is recommended. Driving maps will be available.
For more information, call 540-636-1446 or visit www.warrenheritagesociety.org.