Cedar Creek, Belle Grove to open 2015 programs

After a long, frigid and snow-filled winter, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and its partners are preparing for the warmer weather and crowds for the 2015 season.

Belle Grove Plantation will open to the public from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and will feature programs designed to “show appreciation for its Middletown neighbors.”

“Usually, what we try to do for the first … day that we’re open is to have some sort of special focus, that’s what we chose for this year,” said Belle Grove Executive Director Kristen Laise.

For Saturday only, Middletown residents with identification as well as members of both Belle Grove and National Trust for Historic Preservation will be admitted free.

“We’ll have a special going, if you want to join Belle Grove, you can join that day and use your membership benefit right away,” Laise said.

On top of the member and resident discounts, Laise noted that the plantation will have “historical artifacts” from Middletown on display Saturday.

The Hoffman House will also be open from 3-5 p.m. and Laise said the family will have a small exhibit “of Civil War heirlooms” at the house.

For the most part, Laise said programming at Belle Grove this year will remain the same or similar to what has been done in years past.

A few events, such as the annual wine festival slated for Sept. 12, and Cocktails at Christmas will feature a few new developments.

“Last year we expanded [the wine festival] to be more food and wine, and we’re going to do even more in that direction this year,” Laise said.

She explained that they want to include more area wineries. “We really enjoy featuring local wines and local foods.”

“We’re hoping to do more gardening-type classes with our master gardeners,” Laise said, explaining that the classes would likely be geared toward experienced gardeners looking at specific activities, like “building a bird or a bat house.”

Laise added that the schedule for the gardening class is in the planning stage.

Belle Grove will also be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the plantation’s annual “Of Ale and History” Beer Festival on May 9.

“Last year, we had more than 60 beers to taste, so expect that this year,” Laise said.

Later in the year, Laise said the annual Christmas tours will feature a “Holidays Around the World” theme.

Alongside the plantation, Cedar Creek and Belle Grave National Historical Park will be gearing up to start ranger-led interpretive programming this weekend.

The free programs are weekend-only events from March 22 to June 13. After that, the park will offer daily programming for residents and visitors.

“It’s a great opportunity to get out into the park and see everything that’s going on,” said Amy Bracewell, Cedar Creek site manager.

Bracewell said the park will also have new additions to resident favorite programs like “History at Sunset” and special events like the Aug. 1 Fisher’s Hill Reunion Picnic.

Some of the new additions, Bracewell said, will center on the reconstruction aspect of the Civil War, with a program called “Not Just Black and White: Exploring Emancipation in the Post War Shenandoah Valley.”

“Here at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove, we’ll be looking at that Reconstruction time period. What did it take to bounce back from the war?” she said.

In addition, Bracewell said park rangers will be exploring different aspects of the battlefield through a new battlefield series on Saturdays.

“One Saturday might be focusing on the [8th Vermont] Monument and the Vermont troops or 19th Corps Entrenchment Line,” Bracewell said. “It’s similar topics we’ve done in the past, but in a new way.”

The park also adjusted some of its operating hours for the upcoming season.

Starting Saturday, the park’s Visitor Contact Station in Middletown will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The operating hours for Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park and Visitor Center will remain open daily, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The hours for Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation Headquarters will remain the same: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday.

A full listing of events and updates at the Belle Grove Plantation can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/kufnaum.

More information about the Cedar Creek’s ranger-led programming and summer events can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/khkuamv.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com