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Front Royal Elks Lodge produces facts and thoughts of Independence Day

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american flag

While I’m not a member, Front Royal Elks Lodge 2382 secretary Jane Wine thoughtfully keeps me on the mailing list, and we at the Royal Examiner are pleased to publish Elks news of general interest which I now propose to do on the eve of Independence Day 2019.

Specifically, it is the Independence Day message by Exalted Ruler Dennis Henline that I will liberally quote from since it brings to mind parts of a conversation I had recently with a future candidate for town council, Stephen Wayne Showers. Steve and I don’t agree on much, but we did come together on Ronald Reagan being the best and most productive president of recent times. I worked for him, so I should know, right?!

Actually, Henline swiped the biggest part of his message from the “Legion Magazine” authored by a man identified as Alan W. Dowd, so I’ll go ahead and swipe from Dennis what he swiped from Alan.

The article Henline referred to was titled “Is America still the land of the free?” He prefaced the introduction to Dowd’s article by writing that “we, as Americans, can be proud that we won our independence thanks to those brave men and women who stood against all odds to gain freedom.”

Thomas Jefferson made this observation in 1788, when America’s experiment in individual liberty and limited government was new: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government gain ground.”

Dowd allowed as how America “has changed in many ways since Jefferson warned about the fragility of freedom and relentlessness of government – some for the better, some for the worse.”

He went on: “This is where the Pilgrims fled to find religious and political freedom, where our founders drafted charters of government declaring our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

“According to a number of measurements of freedom, however, the United States is not exactly the land of the free. The decline is largely a function of government expansion… (President Ronald) Reagan wasn’t saying there was no need for government. (He was saying) Government is essential to protect life and property, to carry out justice, to maintain law and order, to deter and defeat enemies abroad, all so individuals might engage in what Jefferson called ‘the pursuit of happiness’.

“Reagan understood that government and private enterprise compliment each other and must continue to coexist and cooperate. But he knew that too much government makes the pursuit of happiness… much more difficult. Just as freedom without a foundation of law and order devolves into anarchy, laws and orders fashioned without regard for the Constitution’s foundational promise to ‘secure the blessing of liberty’ have the effect of undermining it.”

As you gather on the Fourth of July at picnics and fireworks and all, think about it! Is America still “the land of the free?”

The Elks newsletter also offers a few “fascinating facts” about America’s holiday:

  • Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4 – John Hancock and Charles Thomson (Secretary of Congress). Most of the others signed on August 2.
  • Three U.S. presidents have died on July 4: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the country they helped found.
  • The Fourth of July wasn’t deemed a federal holiday until 1870, nearly 100 years after the nation was founded.

Enjoy!


(Malcolm Barr Sr, our contributing writer, is an immigrant from England, a lifelong journalist, and was press secretary for U.S. Sen.Hiram L. Fong (R-Hawaii) in the 1970s and worked for the Reagan Administration in the 1980s).

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Crime/Court

He’s back: Hollis Tharpe’s solicitation charge dropped – will run for mayor

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Flanked by colleagues Bill Sealock and Letasha Thompson, then Mayor Hollis Tharpe listens as former Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger addressed council on March 25 regarding past mistakes on the EDA front. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

An emotional Hollis Tharpe let one of his attorneys speak for him in the wake of Special Prosecutor Heather Hovermale’s request that Judge William W. Sharpe dismiss the misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charge against him Monday afternoon. It was a request Judge Sharpe granted.

“Based on this testimony the Commonwealth believes it cannot go forward,” Hovermale said after posing several questions to Cynthia Bailey, operator of a massage parlor on the 300 block of Biggs Drive in Front Royal. Bailey responded to each question, including whether she knew Tharpe or if he had ever touched her in a way she did not invite, asserting her Fifth Amendment right not to self incriminate.

As noted by her attorney David Downes prior to her questioning by the special prosecutor, the 55-year-old Bailey is facing two misdemeanor and two felony charges related to the operation of her massage parlor under the banner of Blue Valley Services.

Prior to questioning Bailey, Hovermale told the court prosecutors initially believed Bailey would be a cooperating witness, but later learned through her attorney that she planned to exercise her Fifth Amendment right if called as a witness in the Tharpe prosecution. Hovermale noted that the Commonwealth’s case against Tharpe revolved around Bailey, whom she observed was the only person present to hear the alleged solicitation request by Tharpe.

The whole hearing lasted 10 minutes, ending at 3 p.m., Monday afternoon, July 15.

Tharpe initially stopped outside the second-floor Warren County Circuit Courtroom B to address media present, but then quietly turned away arm in arm with his wife Debbie, saying, “I’m a little emotional right now,” as tears welled in his eyes and the couple moved away for some privacy.

Beau Bassler and David Hensley represented Tharpe. As Hensley returned to the courtroom for another case, Bassler commented on the outpouring of support his client had received from old friends and new – “Hundreds, thousands of people have sent prayers to him; they believe in him. He is a man of faith and that faith has taken him far. His wife, family and friends have all stood by him.”

Bassler noted his client’s resignation as mayor of Front Royal in the wake of the charges – “He stepped down so as not to be a distraction to the conduct of town government. Fortunately now the distraction in his life is over.”

“I guess it is appropriate at this time to announce I will be on the ballot for the November 5th election,” Tharpe did manage to say outside the courtroom. He said he had turned about 190 signatures in to the Voter Registrar to get on the mayoral ballot in November, 125 signatures are required to be put on the ballot.

After being indicted on the one misdemeanor count of solicitation by a Warren County Grand Jury, perhaps ironically whose foreman was now Interim Front Royal Mayor Matthew Tederick, on April 15, Tharpe initially announced he would place himself on administrative leave. But four days later on April 19 Tharpe said he would resign as mayor effective May 2. Tharpe explained his decisions as not wanting the charge against him to distract town government from the conduct of its business pending a resolution of his case.

At the time Tharpe called the misdemeanor charge against him “embarrassing” and “baseless”. He admitted to visiting the massage parlor, but for what he said were legitimate massages on his aching 67-year-old body.

Asked Monday if he now regretted stepping down as mayor, Tharpe said no. But he later added outside the courthouse, “They can’t take the mayor’s job away from me, the people gave it to me with 95% of the vote. Tharpe ran unopposed in his last election for a term slated to run to 2020. Interim Mayor Tederick has said he is not interested in seeking election to a full term.

Tharpe converses with constituent following March 25 meeting – could a reprise of such mayoral conversations be on the horizon following Monday’s developments?

Tharpe attorney Bassler praised the special prosecutor for her actions at Monday’s hearing. “Heather Hovermale is a fair prosecutor, a prosecutor of integrity. Instead of prolonging this to torture someone, in the face of developments in the case she let it go.”

Front Royal mayor poised for indictment on sexual solicitation charge

A Virginia State Police press release announcing Tharpe’s pending indictment on April 12 indicated Tharpe’s charge stemmed from an investigation launched at the direction of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

That there was an investigation into Tharpe went public on August 30, 2018, when Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden filed notice he would recuse himself from any possible prosecution relating to an “Investigation Concerning Hollis Tharpe”. Special Prosecutor Hovermale works out of the Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office of Marc Abrams, which was handed the case following Madden’s recusal announcement.

As press releases fly, plot thickens in Tharpe sex solicitation case

Had Bailey testified against Tharpe during Monday’s hearing, arguments on a change of venue request by the prosecution would have been heard. However in the wake of Bailey’s invocation of her Fifth Amendment right, the change of venue request became a moot point.

Trial date of Oct. 25 set in Tharpe solicitation case – prosecution seeks change of venue

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Crime/Court

McDonald criminal plea hearing postponed

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The anticipated entry of pleas on the initial 12 felony criminal financial charges against Jennifer McDonald did not occur on Monday, July 15, due to judicial recusal. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

The entry of pleas to the 12 felony criminal charges of embezzlement or fraudulent misdirection of EDA assets by former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald has been put off to a yet-to-be determined date. McDonald’s plea hearing was scheduled as part of the 9 a.m. docket on the July Grand Jury-Term Day on Monday, July 15.

However newly-seated Circuit Court Judge William W. Sharpe, who is moving from Domestic Relations Court to replace Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. who is taking a seat on the Virginia Appeals Court on September 1, entered a written recusal from EDA-related cases on Friday, July 12. In the wake of that recusal notice neither McDonald nor her criminal attorney Peter Greenspun were in court Monday. McDonald was transferred from RSW Regional Jail to the Fairfax Adult Detention Center on June 11. Greenspun’s office is in Fairfax.

In his recusal Sharpe writes, “It is necessary for this judge to recuse from all cases that may relate to the Warren County Economic Development Authority and Jennifer McDonald, in order to ensure that all parties can be confident the judge has no association with any persons who might be involved in a particular case, either as parties or a witness.”

Sharpe prefaces that statement by pointing out that, “a number of persons who are named as defendants in the pending EDA civil action against Jennifer McDonald and other parties, as well as members of the EDA Board and persons who it appears may be material witnesses in the civil action filed by the EDA, as well as other related civil actions or filed and possible criminal proceedings arising out of the same transactions, are personal friends or former clients or persons with whom the judge has otherwise had regular associations.”

In fact this reporter ran into Judge Athey outside the courthouse on Friday, July 12. During a brief conversation about the coming week’s EDA-related hearings Athey explained that he would be fazed out of the EDA hearings equation during the coming week to accommodate both his pending move to the state appeals court and the transfer of judicial authority over the EDA civil and criminal cases to other 26th Judicial District judges.

Athey was aware of Sharpe’s recusal and even commented that had he not been moving off the Warren County bench as the EDA cases progressed toward evidentiary hearings and trial he likely would also have recused for similar reasons to those stated by Sharpe, personal or professional familiarity with involved parties. He said he felt it acceptable to hear early motions prior to evidentiary testimony becoming involved in order to keep the cases moving forward in their early stages.

Athey’s primary rulings thus far have been to deny McDonald bond as a flight risk in her criminal cases and an order that EDA civil counsel produce the evidentiary basis for what is a currently a nine-defendant civil suit seeking recovery of a total of over $21-million dollars. That order led to the release into court files of public accounting firm Cherry Bekaert’s “working papers” from its contracted investigation of indicators of financial fraud in EDA operations.

Above, former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald was arrested by Virginia State Police on May 24, making her the first person to face criminal charges stemming from the EDA fraud investigation. McDonald’s Administrative Assistant Michelle ‘Missy’ Henry, below, was the second person arrested in the case. Henry has been jailed since June 24 awaiting a once-delayed bond hearing. Photos RSW website


On Monday Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton said it was unclear how the coming judicial appointments might impact other scheduled EDA hearings this week. Motions in the EDA civil action are scheduled for the 9 a.m. docket Wednesday, July 17 and former EDA Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry’s already once-delayed bond hearing is scheduled on the 9 a.m. docket Friday, July 19.

Henry was arrested by VSP on sealed special grand jury indictments on June 24. Retired substitute Judge Thomas Horne deferred a decision on bond for Henry on June 25, citing his unfamiliarity with the case. It now remains unclear if the ongoing judicial juggling may again delay a bond decision for Henry this week.

The Warren County Special Grand Jury empanelled to investigate potential criminality connected to the EDA civil case is also scheduled to meet through the latter part of the week.
In a not directly-related criminal case, former Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe has a motions hearing scheduled Monday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. on his solicitation of prostitution misdemeanor case.

Ranking presiding 26th Judicial District Judge Bruce D. Albertson will be responsible for appointing judges to hear EDA-related cases that Sharpe has recused himself from. According to the Virginia Judicial website, active 26th District judges besides Sharpe and the soon-to-be-departed Athey, include Clark A. Ritchie, Kevin C. Black, Alexander R. Iden and Thomas J. Wilson.

However, it is possible Judge Albertson could appoint another substitute judge, including retired court officers who still help the district fill its judicial requirements when shortages and recusals occur.

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EDA in Focus

EDA Investigation Series Parts 9 – Bianchini 2nd interview

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Lt Landin Waller interviews Roger Bianchini again.

In the second of two Front Royal Police interviews with yours truly, Royal Examiner reporter and editorial consultant Roger Bianchini on June 16, 2017, investigators Landin Waller and Crystal Cline revisit information given them in his initial interview around 10:45 a.m. that morning.

In the interim between the two interviews FRPD investigators have learned from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office that the rock-throwing vandalism Bianchini reported being told about by Jennifer McDonald the previous afternoon, had been reported by McDonald as occurring around 9 p.m. the previous evening. That was some five to six hours after Bianchini said the EDA executive director described the front-door vandalism of her home to him, leading him to believe the incident had occurred over the course of the previous week.

In interview two, Episode 9 of Royal Examiner’s series of FRPD investigative interview videos Bianchini returns around 3 p.m. to confirm the information given to investigators that Friday morning.

Perhaps ironically, McDonald’s lengthy FRPD interview concerning the EDA office break in, separated into three parts in this series, occurred Thursday afternoon, June 15, 2017, between 1:15 p.m. and 2:56 p.m., just prior to the meeting in her office Bianchini would to describe to FRPD the following morning.

Reference FRPD’s June 16, 2017, interview with EDA Marketing Director Marla Jones (Episode 7) in which Jones corroborates Bianchini’s story that he had a lengthy, closed door meeting with McDonald mid-afternoon, Thursday, June 15, and was not at the EDA office the morning of Friday, June 16, to be informed of the vandalism as McDonald attorney David Crump asserted he was during McDonald’s misdemeanor Filing a False Police Report trial of October 31, 2018. Jones’ interview was conducted around 1 p.m., between the two Bianchini interviews of June 16, 2017.

For some reason the prosecution did not call Jones to corroborate their main witness Bianchini’s story, though she was present to be called that Halloween Day and her FRPD interview was available to the prosecution. Also uncalled to testify at that trial that saw McDonald acquitted without having to present a defense were the FRPD officers who developed the false police report case.

As noted in the preface to Bianchini’s morning interview (Episode 8) video, in the coming year and a half the EDA executive director would come under increasing scrutiny by multiple levels of law enforcement, as well as by the Town of Front Royal, and eventually the County and her own EDA Board of Directors, culminating with her December 20, 2018 resignation; as well as apparent written acceptance of responsibility for the return of $2.7 million in misdirected EDA assets McDonald remains jailed without bond as a flight risk in the Fairfax Adult Detention Center, where she was transferred from RSW Regional Jail on June 11. She was arrested by Virginia State Police on four felony counts of fraud or embezzlement of EDA assets on May 24, 2019. She will be in court Monday, July 15, to enter pleas on those initial charges, and possibly on eight related financial felony counts she was served with on June 21.

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Local News

I-66 Outside the Beltway Project: Lane closures and traffic changes Week of July 14, 2019

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Project construction continues throughout the corridor during daytime and overnight hours as weather conditions allow. Current activities include:

• Constructing bridge foundations at I-495, Route 28, and Route 234 Business interchanges, and Bull Run Drive overpass
• Constructing retaining walls along I-66 and Route 28
• Demolishing of structures

• Small charge blasting operations at the Route 28 Interchange
• Clearing trees and brush, grading, and installing drainage throughout the corridor
• Demolishing closed ramps at Route 123 Interchange
• Grading and installing drainage at the future park and ride lots at University Boulevard (Gainesville) and Balls Ford Road (Manassas)
• Grading and excavating for the new E.C. Lawrence Park Access Road and temporary realignment of Braddock Road
• Relocating underground and overhead utilities along I-66 and Route 28
• Corridor-wide roadway maintenance as needed

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will add express lanes stretching 22.5 miles from the Capital Beltway to Route 29 in Gainesville, rebuild major interchanges along the I-66 corridor, create thousands of new park and ride spaces, and expand trail options for cyclists and pedestrians. Learn more at Transform66.org.

Upcoming Lane Closures and Traffic Changes

The following planned lane closures are expected to have significant traffic impacts. All work is subject to change based on weather and schedule. Find the latest information on travel conditions and work zones by visiting 511virginia.org or downloading the Virginia511 app.

ROUTE 29 / GAINESVILLE
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.

ROUTE 234 BUSINESS (SUDLEY ROAD) / MANASSAS
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.

ROUTE 28 (SULLY ROAD) / CENTREVILLE
Route 28 North at ramp to I-66 East
Route 28 South at Braddock Road
Ramps from I-66 West to Route 28 North and South
Turn lanes from Route 28 North and South to Braddock Road
Braddock Road at Newton Patent Drive
Monday, July 15, through Friday, July 19: 11 a.m. to noon
Temporary stoppages of up to 15 minutes between 11 a.m. and noon on Route 28 North and South at the I-66 Interchange, and on Braddock Road at Newton Patent Drive due to small charge blasting at the I-66/Route 28 Interchange. Additionally, the ramps from I-66 West to Route 28 North and South will be temporarily closed for up to 15 minutes beginning at 11 a.m.

ROUTE 286 (FAIRFAX COUNTY PARKWAY)
I-66 West from Route 286 (Fairfax County Parkway) to Route 28
Wednesday, July 17: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Three lanes will be closed on westbound I-66 with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead gantry.

I-66 West from Route 608 (West Ox Road) to Route 286 (Fairfax County Parkway)
Thursday, July 18: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Three lanes will be closed on westbound I-66 with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead gantry.

ROUTE 50 / FAIRFAX
Ramp from Route 50 West to I-66 West
Monday, July 15: Midnight to 4 a.m.
The ramp from westboundRoute 50 to westbound I-66 will be closed between midnight and 4 a.m. Traffic will be detoured farther west to Route 608 (West Ox Road) South, stay to the right for Route 50 East, and then follow signs to I-66 West.

Ramp from I-66 West to Route 50 East
Monday, July 15: Midnight to 4 a.m.
The ramp from westboundI-66 to eastbound Route 50 will be closed between midnight and 4 a.m. Traffic will be detoured farther west to Route 286 (Fairfax County Parkway) South, stay to the right for I-66 East, and then follow signs for Route 50 East.

ROUTE 123 (CHAIN BRIDGE ROAD) / OAKTON – CITY OF FAIRFAX
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.

ROUTE 243 (NUTLEY STREET) / VIENNA
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.

I-495 (CAPITAL BELTWAY)
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.

Commuter Alternatives
VDOT and the project team have invested in a broad range of programs to help commuters and others stay mobile and safe during construction. Learn more about carpool, vanpool, telework, and commuter bus alternatives.

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Local News

Warren County Traffic Alert for July 15-19, 2019

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Here’s the latest from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT):

INTERSTATE 66
(NEW) Mile marker 1 to 0 – Shoulder closures on ramp from I-66 westbound to I-81 southbound for bridge inspection, July 15 from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

INTERSTATE 81

No lane closures reported.

PRIMARY ROADS
(NEW) Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Alternating lane closures just south of Route 605 (Poor House Road) for inspection of Gooney Run bridge, July 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(NEW) Route 340/522 (Winchester Road) – Overnight alternating lane closures between Route 637 (Riverton Road/Guard Hill Road) and Route 639 (Ashby Station Road) for pavement resurfacing, July 14-31 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

SECONDARY ROADS
(NEW) Route 613 (Bentonville Road) – Flagger traffic control for sign installations between Route 738 (Jennings Lane) and Route 672 (Quail Hollow Road), July 15 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming. Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vegetation management may take place district wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.

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Local News

Strasburg mayor charged with DUI in May ATV-library collision

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Strasburg Mayor Richard A. Orndorff

Late Friday evening Virginia State Police released notice of drunk driving charges against Strasburg Mayor Richard A. Orndorff stemming from his May 17 All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) collision with the Strasburg Community Library. The release reads:

“Virginia State Police Trooper C.S. Peer has charged Richard A. Orndorff Jr., 54, with DUI – 2nd offense within 5 years and for driving an all-terrain vehicle on a public roadway. Orndorff was served early Friday (July 12, 2019) at his residence.

“The charges stem from a single-vehicle crash in the Town of Strasburg. The crash occurred May 17, 2019 at 10:58 p.m. on West King Street at South Fort Street.

“A John Deere Gator (RTV) was traveling southbound on West King Street (Route 11) when the driver lost control, crossed the center line, ran off the left side of the street and struck the Strasburg Community Library.

“The operator and only occupant of the RTV, Orndorff of Strasburg, Va., was flown to INOVA Fairfax hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries. Orndorff was the RTV’s only occupant.”

Orndorff continues to recover from his injuries. His term as mayor is scheduled to expire in June 2020.

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Two classes in July – the 18th and 26th at 6:30pm. Pre-Registration is a must! Pour Me Another is an actual class. You will learn the ins and outs of paint pouring and go home[...]
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Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
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Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]
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6:30 pm Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
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Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
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Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
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Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster[...]
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1:30 pm Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
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Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]

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