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Meet the Author: A benefit for Samuels Public Library

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Peter Houlahan, author of Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History.

On November 9 at 6pm, Friends of Samuels Library (FOSL) will host an event to benefit the library, featuring journalist Peter Houlahan, author of Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History. Including cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, a multimedia presentation, and book signing, tickets for An Evening with the Author are $30 each or $50 per couple. All proceeds will underwrite improvements to the Library’s services, programs, and collections. Tickets, and an optional copy of the book for $25, can be purchased online at www.samuelslibrary.net or in person at Samuels Public Library, 330 East Criser Road, Front Royal, VA.

Norco ‘80 tells the story of how five heavily armed young men attempted a bank robbery that turned into one of the most violent criminal events in U.S. history, forever changing the face of American law enforcement.

NPR’s Michael Schaub says, “… Houlahan proves himself to be an astonishingly gifted writer, breathing urgent life into a true story that still resonates today. Norco ’80 is a fascinating true-crime account that seems likely to be one of the best nonfiction books of the year.”

The New York Times states that “…Houlahan sure knows how to dramatize a scene. His cinematic treatment of the robbery itself reads like wildfire, the fatal shootout with the police ends in colorful chaos, and the huge manhunt through San Bernardino National Forest conducted by ‘Hunt & Kill Teams’ is a nail-biter.”

According to Melody Hotek, President of Friends of Samuels Library, “The Library is very excited to host Peter in November. We haven’t had a book signing in a long time and we’re lucky to get Peter for our fundraiser.”


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:

Peter Houlahan is a freelance journalist and book review contributor to the Hearst newspapers and AP wire. His work has appeared in CrimeReads, Police One, Salon, L.A. Magazine, Criminal Element, The Daily Mirror (UK) and the Southern California Newspaper Group. His book “Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History” was released in 2019. He holds an MFA in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College. In his career as an emergency medical technician, he has contributed to a number of articles related to his profession. A native Southern Californian, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

  • Email: pchwriting@gmail.com
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press, Berkeley Calif.
  • Editor: Dan Smetanka.
  • Release: June 11, 2019
  • Literary Agent: Jeffrey Ourvan, Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.
  • Film Agent: Judith Farkas Management, Los Angeles, Calif.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

PICKS:

  • Amazon – Best Nonfiction Books of the Month. Best History Books of 2019 (so far).
  • New York Times Book Review – Summer Reads.
  • The Wall Street Journal – Reader’s Pick.
  • CrimeReads – One of the Most Anticipated Crime Books of Summer.

REVIEWS:

“[An] alarming account of a bank heist that rocked the country in 1980 and reflected ‘the peculiar zeitgeist of that decade’ in all its cockeyed drama . . . For a first-time writer, Houlahan sure knows how to dramatize a scene. His cinematic treatment of the robbery itself reads like wildfire, the fatal shootout with the police ends in colorful chaos, and the huge manhunt through San Bernardino National Forest conducted by ‘Hunt & Kill Teams’ is a nail-biter.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“Gripping . . . Houlahan, who based his account of the robbery and its aftermath on interviews with the civilians, officers and robbers involved, proves to be a master at pacing—he writes with a narrative urgency that perfectly captures the quick and chaotic nature of the robbery. His prose incorporates the vernacular of the officers and criminals; it’s hard-boiled, shot through with profanity, but never forced. It reads like a crime novel in the best way possible. But what’s truly remarkable about the book is the depth Houlahan brings to the story . . . With his first book, Houlahan proves himself to be an astonishingly gifted writer, breathing urgent life into a true story that still resonates today. Norco ’80 is a fascinating true-crime account that seems likely to be one of the best nonfiction books of the year.” —Michael Schaub, NPR

“Thrilling account of a violent California bank robbery . . . Houlahan’s debut is remarkable for the exhaustive . . . level of detail he brings to every stage of the story, transforming a pulpy true-crime narrative into a reflection of social transformations and class conflict as the countercultural 1970s faded into the Reagan era . . . An impressively well-rendered true-crime saga.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Like American Heiress in the summer of 2016, this looks like the true crime book that will launch a hundred conversations.” —CrimeReads – One of the Most Anticipated Crime Books of Summer

“[A] deeply researched, thrillingly paced tale.” —Peter Larsen, Southern California News Group

“Norco ’80 blends meticulous details with a strong sense of story arc, character and place . . . Addressing the origins of the push to arm police with higher-caliber weapons, the increasingly strained relationships between police officers and their communities, and the effects of trauma on multiple generations, the book has a universal message that is needed now, according to Houlahan.” —Jo Kroeker, Greenwich Time/Hearst Newspapers

Norco ’80 is enthrallingly detailed, down to the pencils thrown by opposing counsel in the criminal trial that followed ‘the most spectacular bank robbery in American history.’ Despite the depth and breadth recounted by journalist and EMT Peter Houlahan, the urge this book generates in readers to explore further this devastating true crime is impossible to suppress . . . Houlahan has admirably mined and winnowed the boundless material . . . He has compellingly translated a high-octane story to the page without losing traction, leaving the reader satisfied yet craving more.” —Lauren O’Brien, Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Norco ’80 is an expertly rendered accounting of these events that reads like a crime thriller and courtroom drama, with all the brutal gravity of a true story. This is true crime at its best.” —David M. Olsen, The Coachella Review

BOOKSELLER REVIEWS:

Norco ’80 is one hell-raising ride through 1970s Southern California with an apocalyptic prophet and the prosecutors bent on turning the tables on the policemen involved in the most violent bank heist ever committed on American soil. From the minute you meet the charismatic George Smith and his flunky friend Christopher Harven, you’ll be hanging on for dear life, waiting for the next catastrophe to take your breath away with each heartbreaking turn of the page. It’s part law and part order, and it’s outstanding!” —Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers (Petoskey, MI)

“On May 9, 1980, what we usually only happens in action-thriller movies come to life in Orange Country, California. I don’t usually read true-crime, but Houlahan’s writing pulled me in. While reading this meticulous researched and documented account, I could almost smell the gun power, hear the cacophony of gunfire making my ears ring and see the dust clear as the largest crime scene in American history came into view. Documented here is how an attempted bank robbery and it subsequent trial would forever change a town, its people and law enforcement nation-wide. The crime and court case may have been an unbelievable fire-storm catastrophe, but this book is pitch-perfect.” —Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, MI)

“In 1980 in California, a group of religiously inspired survivalists set out to rob a bank. With assault rifles and homemade explosives, they significantly outgunned the law enforcement officers they encountered. Peter Houlahan approaches the tale fully armed with facts culled from interviews, police reports, and court documents. He deploys them in steady bursts that hold the reader steady in a literary bullet time while the fast motion mayhem plays out. Norco ’80 is a riveting true crime adventure that also explains one of the predicates for the militarization of modern police departments.” —Keith Mosman, Powell’s Bookstore (Portland, OR)

“If you’re one of those people who don’t read true crime, this book will change your mind about the genre. Loved it!” —Tom Beans, Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe (Bend, OR)

Norco ’80 is a wild ride! The action plays out like a heist film, but the author also shows immense empathy for the wide range of characters—from the robbers to the first responders to the passersby. If you want to have a ton of fun while learning about an event that shaped the way our country responds to crime.” —Hadley Turner, Towne Book Center & Cafe (Collegeville, PA)

BOOK BLURBS:

Norco ’80 somehow makes meticulous research and devotion to the truth fuse with suspense and excitement until the reader is right there, a witness to this guns-blazing account of a crime that changed American law enforcement’s readiness for violence in the extreme.” —Joseph Wambaugh, bestselling author of The Onion Field

“Simply put, Norco ’80 is one of the best true crime accounts ever written. Harrowing, incisive, and important. But also? A goddamned thrill ride. This is a book you’ll read and then talk about for weeks.” ––Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland

“As the astonishing mayhem chronicled in this book unfolds, you’ll find yourself wondering, ‘How much worse can this situation get?’ Answer: a lot. Turning the pages, I kept flashing back to the desperate, duck-for-cover urgency of Black Hawk Down. Meticulously reported and artfully written, Norco ’80 is an utterly absorbing, unforgettable, and haunting study of how a series of bad decisions can snowball into something truly disastrous.” ––Dave Howard, author of Chasing Phil

“There is no doubt that Norco ’80 is poised to become a true crime classic. It’s a marvel of pacing and information—at times racing ahead like a speeding bullet and others slowing down to provide a perfect panorama of a hairsbreadth moment. Houlahan has left nothing unexamined in his obsessively detailed account of this heist, from the emotional to the logistical to the spiritual. Trust me, you’re going to want to read every word.” —Ivy Pochoda, author of Wonder Valley

Norco ’80 reads like a pre-apocalyptic nightmare, and it’s all true. Houlahan’s writing is intimate and stark, and the pacing relentless, as it tells the story of a group of young men who robbed a bank to prepare for the end of the world and succeeded in bringing fire and brimstone to one unfortunate small town and the police sworn to protect it. The reader will feel like a witness to these events as they unfold. Be warned—you will not get anything done until this book is done with you.” —James Renner, author of True Crime Addict

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LFCC Workforce Solutions work from home training

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LFCC Workforce Solutions recognizes the challenges companies are facing as most workers are forced to temporarily work from home. That’s why it has developed this FREE live webinar “5 Ways to Support Employees During this Unprecedented Time” THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 12-12:30 p.m.

Speaker Jelise Ballon, Workforce Solutions’ corporate training product developer, will walk you through how to help your employees adapt – and thrive – during this national emergency. Ballon is an educator, writer, and speaker. She’s worked in a variety of industries, including healthcare, education, professional services, and technology. She has more than 15 years of experience leading and collaborating with virtual teams, and five years of experience designing learning for a blended workforce. She has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communications and is an ATD Master Trainer.

Register Here

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Nonprofit Alliance of the Northern Shenandoah Valley to hold an online forum

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The Nonprofit Alliance of the Northern Shenandoah Valley will present a live, on-line Q and A forum for area non-profits impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis on Thursday, April 2, from 8:30-9:30 am. This dialogue will be hosted by Tom Morley of Snowflake, LLC., a noted consultant to nonprofit agencies both across our region and nationally. The forum will give area nonprofits a chance to ask questions and share how they’ve adapted in these unprecedented conditions.

The nonprofit community is understandably anxious as the current COVID-19 crisis is making life more difficult for area agencies. This free forum will allow nonprofit leaders to interact as they face critical decisions that will affect our non-profits’ futures.

All area nonprofits are welcome to participate in this forum, free of charge, zia Zoom video conference. Registration will be handled online at www.snowflakellc.com/forum.

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Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale – Apr 4, 2020

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Spring is approaching, and Troop 53 is preparing for their annual mulch fundraiser. The funds raised will help support troop activities and send our Boy Scouts to summer camp, where they learn valuable skills in leadership, outdoors, and many more through the scouting program.

They will be accepting pre-orders through April 2, 2020, so please place your order to reserve the quantities needed before we sell out. All pick up orders will be available for pick up on Saturday, April 4, 2020, at the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and deliveries will be made the same day.

The mulch bags are the same 3 cubic feet (larger than standard 2CF bags at the retail stores) shredded hardwood in a dark brown color.

Pricing for this year:

  • $4.05 per bag for pick up
  • $4.55 per bag for delivery

Orders may be placed via:

  • Email the completed order form to mulch@bsa-troop53.org
  • Text 540-692-9110 with name, address, number, email, and quantity.
  • Mail the completed order form to Troop 53 Mulch c/o Britton Bowman, 162 Ascalon Dr, Middletown, VA 22645
  • Call 540-692-9110; If we are unable to answer right away, please leave a detailed message with name, number, address, and quantity and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

The Troop can accept payments via credit/debit cards with a 4% fee to cover the processing fees. Please let us know if you wish to pay via credit/debit card and a payable invoice will be emailed to you.

Please forward this message to family, friends, and neighbors to help us spread the word. Thank you for your continued support of Troop 53.

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“Dare to Dream” awards made at a “breakfast/non-breakfast” by Front Royal women’s group

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An annual breakfast recognizing nine “Dare to Dream” candidates sharing more than $8,000 to help make their dreams a reality became, due to the coronavirus, a “no breakfast/breakfast” on-line where this year’s presentations were made by the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC).

Despite the international tragedy of the virus playing out this year, FRWRC was determined to publicly honor its 2020 list of women, selected from many who dared to dream, breakfast or no breakfast, and did so March 26. The FRWRC, established in 1996, launched “Dare to Dream” in 1999, meanwhile raising more than $100,000 for the program.

In a statement issued on-line, the Front Royal women’s organization said, in part: “One of the things our breakfast does that is subtle but extremely powerful, is to tell each of the grantees that we believe in them. Each of them has a story that touches us deeply and in turn, connects us to them and to each other. So now, in this extremely challenging time…we need to find other ways to reach out to touch, and to inspire, each other.”

Reach out they did, naming Megan Vardiman this year’s winner of the top award, the Elaine Bromfield Memorial Scholarship, including a check for $1,500. Megan, mother of four young children and enrolled at Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC), dreams of becoming a psychologist, specifically helping women heal from trauma. Currently, she volunteers at Blue Ridge Hospice, and with Young Lives, a program offering support to teen mothers.

Other “dreamers” include:

  • Diana Cercy of Linden ($900) who brought her Healing HeARTS Toolboxes and workshops from Prince William and Fauquier Counties. She is expanding her non-profit to cover her new community and Warren County schools.
  • Mary Cook of Browntown Road, an artist, whose dream is to offer free arts experiences to children and adults in need. She received a check for $900 to purchase materials for mobile art workshops.
  • Taylor Fletcher was awarded $1,000 for her nursing studies at LFCC. Taylor’s dream is to become a Nurse Practitioner,
    encouraged by her experience with caring for her ailing grandmother.
  • Mia Coffman, a Front Royal native now in her junior year at the University of Lynchburg where she is working toward a degree in special education. Her dream is to teach children with special needs. She received $600 to cover tuition costs for a class next semester.
  • Amanda Horn, a fine art major at the Art Institute of Chicago and George Mason University, mother of two, with a current focus on painting plants and wildlife. She has shown and sold her work at wineries, art shows, and festivals, also murals in and on buildings locally. Her dream is to further share her paintings in the area. She received $1,000 to purchase a portable art display system.
  • Eka Kapiotis, who established Valley Health’s Reiki Training Program, is a Cranio-Sacral Therapist (CST) dreaming of becoming a certified CST therapist at the highest level – that of “Diplomate.” She was award $600 toward the cost of gaining this certification.
  • Meghan LeCompte is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a medical technician at the Senior Living Center in Front Royal. She also volunteers at Warren County Fire and Rescue while studying for her Registered Nurse (RN) degree next year. She was awarded $1,000 for school expenses.
  • Laura Ruby received $600 toward her dream of better addressing the needs of underserved populations, a trend. she discovered after opening Ruby Yoga in Front Royal three years ago. Specifically, she seeks training in kids’ yoga and in traumatic-informed yoga.

At its first on-line breakfast, FRWC noted that the year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of congressional ratification of the 19th Amendment in which “women’s right to vote was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”

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Belle Grove Plantation to postpone opening for 2020 season, Of Ale and History Beer Fest canceled

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Belle Grove Plantation will delay opening for the 2020 season until Friday, April 24. This is in response to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Executive Order 53, that states “Closure of all public access to recreational and entertainment businesses, effective 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, March 24, 2020 until 11:59 p.m., Thursday, April 23, 2020…[including]…Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers…” We are closely monitoring news and guidance regarding COVID-19 from health and government officials; please check www.bellegrove.org for updates before planning your visit.

There is ongoing uncertainty of this public health crisis and likelihood that large gatherings of people will be discouraged, if not prohibited, by the time of the May 9, 2020 “Of Ale and History” Beer Festival at Belle Grove. We have, therefore, come to the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Beer Fest and expect to resume this great tradition in 2021. “Of Ale and History” Beer Fest is the longest running beer festival in Virginia and would have celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. It is an annual highlight to welcome the community onto the Belle Grove property and to support the craft beer industry as well as local food and merchandise vendors. However, the safety of our guests and participants are of upmost importance.

We continue to plan for a robust and joyful Belle Grove Wine Fest on August 29, 2020. Events such as the Beer Fest and Wine Fest are crucial fundraisers for our non-profit museum, and we appreciate the longstanding support we have received from attendees and sponsors.
Belle Grove’s website will include updates on additional special events to take place in 2020. The Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association GardenFest scheduled for June 6, 2020 has been canceled. Farm to Fork Shenandoah, a bicycle event planned by Wrenegade Sports for September 13, 2020 will be postponed until September 12, 2021.

Visit www.bellegrove.org for content about the historic site. Additional news will be also shared on Belle Grove’s social media streams at:

www.facebook.com/BelleGrove
www.twitter.com/bellegrove1797
www.instagram.com/BelleGrove1797

The Board of Directors and staff of Belle Grove Plantation thank the health care workers and essential businesses for their continued hard work during this challenging time. We send our well wishes to you all.

About Belle Grove—Belle Grove Plantation is located off Route 11 at 336 Belle Grove Road just south of Middletown, Virginia 22645 and is conveniently located to I-81 (use exit 302) and I-66. Belle Grove Plantation is a non-profit historic house museum that is a National Trust for Historic Preservation historic site (www.savingplaces.org). Belle Grove is also one of the partners in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/cebe).

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Community Earth Day Celebration canceled but the support continues

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Governor Northam has closed schools for the remainder of the school year. Thus, we will be cancelling our Community Earth Day Celebration. Thank you to those who have signed on to support the Community Earth Day Celebration! We will try again next year.

We had requested 50 Shortleaf Pine Trees from the Virginia Department of Forestry to plant in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this year. Those trees have all been adopted and will now have a forever home. I will contact the tree adopters as soon as I hear from the Department of Forestry with a plan.

If you wanted a Shortleaf Pine or maybe another type of tree and you missed one of our 50, no worries… Here is another chance to help improve Warren County’s color on the map below. Check out the VA Department of Forestry’s Nursery Page.

More resourceful links:

May you all stay safe in the healing green glow of a pine tree!

Kara Lewallen
Environmental Science, Ecology, Green Team

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Front Royal
44°
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Wind: 2mph N
Humidity: 76%
Pressure: 29.86"Hg
UV index: 1
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57/39°F
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61/43°F

Upcoming Events

Apr
1
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 1 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
Apr
2
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 2 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19: Our stories, songs, and craft this week will be about friends! Come to story time and see your friends,[...]
12:00 pm LFCC work from home training @ ONLINE
LFCC work from home training @ ONLINE
Apr 2 @ 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
LFCC work from home training @ ONLINE
LFCC Workforce Solutions recognizes the challenges companies are facing as most workers are forced to temporarily work from home. That’s why it has developed this FREE live webinar “5 Ways to Support Employees During this[...]
6:00 pm FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
Apr 2 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Front Royal Christian School
3 exciting shows: APRIL 2 – 6pm, April 3 – 7pm, April 4 – 6pm. Bring the family! Filled with fun flappers and a villainess that audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.[...]
Apr
3
Fri
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Apr 3 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
6:00 pm FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
Apr 3 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Front Royal Christian School
3 exciting shows: APRIL 2 – 6pm, April 3 – 7pm, April 4 – 6pm. Bring the family! Filled with fun flappers and a villainess that audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.[...]
Apr
4
Sat
8:00 am Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Apr 4 @ 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Troop 53 Annual Mulch Sale @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Spring is approaching, and Troop 53 is preparing for their annual mulch fundraiser. The funds raised will help support troop activities and send our Boy Scouts to summer camp, where they learn valuable skills in[...]
6:00 pm FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly ... @ Front Royal Christian School
Apr 4 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRCS Spring Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Front Royal Christian School
3 exciting shows: APRIL 2 – 6pm, April 3 – 7pm, April 4 – 6pm. Bring the family! Filled with fun flappers and a villainess that audiences will love to hate, Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.[...]
Apr
7
Tue
10:00 am Focus on Health Employment & Edu... @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Focus on Health Employment & Edu... @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Apr 7 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Focus on Health Employment & Education Fair @ LFCC | Science and Health Professions Building
Two sessions: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Different vendors at each session. Held in the Science and Health Professions Building at LFCC’s Middletown Campus. Contact Taylor Luther for more[...]
4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Apr 7 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, March 17 –  Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! This[...]