The National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA) is hosting its annual midwinter training conference in Alexandria, VA, from February 21-23. NASDVA members represent all fifty states and six territories, and the conference brings them together to share best practices, be briefed by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials, and coordinate efforts on tackling veterans’ issues across the United States.
“Our midwinter conference is so important because it brings us to Virginia to hear the latest and greatest from our partners at the federal VA and gives us a chance to ask questions and problem solve in real time,” said Texas Veterans Commission Executive Director and NASDVA President Thomas Palladino. “The midwinter conference is a great source for new ideas, best practice, and innovative programs to take back to the states and territories were serve.”
Senior VA officials will be participating in the conference to brief NASDVA members on various programs and initiatives ranging from suicide prevention to health innovation to employment and training. Members will receive updates from the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, Board of Veterans Appeals, Veterans Experience Office, and others.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough will be giving an update on VA priorities and presenting the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Awards. The Pillar of Excellence recognizes state veterans programs focused on improving customer experience, eliminating veteran homelessness, reducing claims and appeals backlog, preventing veteran suicides, and creating innovative state programs. Each year seven states are honored with this VA award.
The conference is made possible by sponsorships from organizations that support the association’s mission of serving America’s veterans. The midwinter conference’s underwriting sponsors are Weber Health Logistics and WellHive.
NASDVA was established in 1947 and is the second largest provider of benefits behind the VA. Membership is made up of senior leadership from the veterans affairs departments or administrations of all fifty states and six territories. More information on the association is available at nasdva.us.
Remembering Matthew Shepard: Selah Theatre Project Revives “THE LARAMIE PROJECT”
A Tribute to Acceptance, Love, and the Confrontation of Hate.
Twenty-five years have passed since the tragic death of Matthew Shepard, a poignant moment in American history that sparked nationwide discussions on love, hate, and acceptance. In commemoration of this somber anniversary, the Selah Theatre Project collaborates with the AIDS Response Effort to present THE LARAMIE PROJECT. Directed by the talented LaTasha Do’zia, this play offers an intimate glimpse into the soul of Laramie, based on more than 200 heart-wrenching interviews the Tectonic Theater Project team conducted in the wake of Shepard’s demise.
Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project captured the voice of Laramie’s residents in THE LARAMIE PROJECT, revealing the transformation of an entire town coming face to face with its own reflections on bigotry and compassion. This revival, under the careful direction of Do’zia and co-director Sarah Millard, assembles a diverse ensemble of 14 actors. Spanning teens to adults and hailing from various corners of the Shenandoah Valley, the cast brings authenticity and depth to the narrative.
Notable performances are expected from Aidan Carnell, Naomi Greenwalt, Eric Ibarra, and Danielle Juratovac, among others, ensuring that the audience will be treated to a rich tableau of emotions and perspectives.
Selah Theatre Project has a history with THE LARAMIE PROJECT, marking this their third presentation. The play’s enduring significance isn’t lost on Do’zia, who passionately remarked, “The story continues to be relevant. I believe every possible perspective is represented in this theatrical work. It is immersive and promotes great conversation about human kindness.”
THE LARAMIE PROJECT opens its curtains on October 13, 2023, and runs for three consecutive weekends until October 29. With tickets priced at $15, the play promises to be accessible to a broad audience. An opening night reception will be held on October 13th, and an enlightening Q&A session with the AIDS Response Effort team is scheduled for October 21st.
For those interested in being part of this significant event, tickets can be procured from the Selah Theatre Project’s website or by calling their booking hotline at 540-684-5464
In an era where discussions about acceptance, identity, and love are as pertinent as ever, THE LARAMIE PROJECT remains a touching beacon of hope and a sobering reminder of past tragedies. The Selah Theatre Project’s revival promises to be a poignant tribute to Matthew Shepard and an encouragement for dialogue and understanding.
Boots, Bourbon, and Big Hearts: Rotary Club of Warren County Gears up for Annual Fundraiser
Warren County Fairgrounds Set to Host Popular Event.
The calendar flips, and autumn leaves whisper the return of the Rotary Club of Warren County’s annual “Boots and Bourbon” fundraiser, an event that last year had the town talking and feet stomping. This year, the much-anticipated event finds a new home at the expansive Warren County Fairgrounds, promising more space and even grander festivities. This event takes place on September 30th from 6 to 10 p.m. Special event at 5 p.m. with Judge Ron Napier.
A history that only spans two years, “Boots and Bourbon” has quickly become a staple for locals looking for good times while contributing to a greater cause. The Rotary Club, always keeping the community’s youth at the forefront, aims to raise funds to award five $3,000 scholarships to Skyline High School students. Two of these scholarships are specifically designed for students pursuing community college or trade school, reflecting a growing recognition of the importance of diverse educational pathways.
While the scholarships take center stage, there’s also mention of book vending machines for elementary schools – an initiative introduced last year. Schools have embraced these machines, further motivating students to dive into the world of reading. The success of this project saw active participation from community members like Dr. Craig Zunka, Kiwanis, and Rotary themselves.
For attendees, the evening promises a flurry of activities. From testing grit and balance on a mechanical bull – where staying on the longest might line your pockets with a cash prize – to getting groovy with a line dancing instructor, the fun is unending. A private VIP bourbon tasting, curated by the bourbon connoisseur, Judge Ron Napier, precedes the main event. Here, attendees can savor five exquisite bourbons while Judge Napier unravels the stories behind each.
As for the cuisine? Chef Devin Smith’s mouthwatering brisket and creamy mac and cheese are set to tantalize taste buds. Add to this an open bar featuring select bourbons, and the stage is set for an unforgettable evening. Silent and live auctions, with alluring prizes ranging from ocean-view vacations to gourmet bourbon dinners, offer another avenue for attendees to contribute.
Behind all the festivity is the Rotary Club’s unwavering dedication to serving the community. With sponsors like Jean’s Jewelers, Bill Long Auto Care, and Warren County Veterinary Clinic, among many others, this event stands as a testament to Front Royal’s spirit of unity and generosity.
For those still contemplating, Kathy Napier, one of the key organizers, offers an invite: “It’s always so much fun. Many don’t participate, and they’re really missing out on some of the camaraderie.” Tickets are available at Jean’s Jewelers, Turning Leaf Realty, On Cue, and the club’s official website.
This year, as the cool September wind ushers in the “Boots and Bourbon” event, the Warren County Fairgrounds won’t just be a space for festivities but a confluence of community spirit, commitment, and celebration
Kids’ Day Moves Indoors but Fun Remains Unshaken
Warren Coalition partners with local agencies to adapt and enhance the celebration.
As the first raindrops fall and the sky turns a shade darker, Warren County residents might be revisiting their weekend plans. But, those looking forward to the Celebrate Kids Day have nothing to fear, as the event will go on without a hitch. This event is from 1 pm to 4 pm on Sunday, September 24.
Thanks to quick thinking and a community that rallies behind its children, the Warren Coalition, in collaboration with Warren County Parks & Recreation, has made suitable adjustments. The event, initially planned outdoors, will now be majorly hosted inside the 15th Street Gym at the Health & Human Services Complex and the Diversified Minds Conference Room. This change, aimed at dodging mud and incoming light rain, comes after Diversified Minds graciously opened its space for the celebration.
Despite the change of venue, the day’s line-up remains as exciting as ever. From inflatable rides and pumpkin painting sessions, for the first 200 children to face painting and a plethora of games, children are in for a treat. Additionally, the music, performances, and cake walks promise a day full of energy and laughter. Local agencies have come on board, amplifying the joy and ensuring an array of fun-filled activities for children of all ages.
For those who don’t mind a sprinkle or two, the pitch burst, and pony rides are still on the roster, along with a petting zoo to add that extra touch of delight. As forecasts suggest, the rain should recede by the afternoon, giving ample time for these outdoor activities to shine.
Yet, this spirit of adaptability isn’t just seen in the Coalition’s event planning. The Celebrate Kids Day is more than just an event; it’s a testament to Warren County’s commitment to its children and the community at large. Rain or shine, the county proves once again that the spirit of celebration cannot be dampened.
A Step Back in Time: George Mercer and Winchester’s Historic Weekend
Reliving the 1750s: Mercer’s Legacy and Winchester’s Pivotal Role.
Winchester, Virginia – It’s not every day that one gets a chance to walk through history and meet some of its iconic figures. On Oct 7 and 8, 2023, at Abram’s Delight, history enthusiasts and curious locals alike will get just that chance as members of George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment prepare to recreate life from the mid-1700s.
Tony Elar Jr., a captain of the Mercer’s Company re-enactment group, points out that George Mercer wasn’t just any historical figure. “Mercer was Washington’s aide-de-camp at Fort Loudoun, effectively becoming his right-hand man,” said Elar. The fort, which stands as a testament to Winchester’s defense strategies during the French and Indian War, was also a hub for repairing weaponry and offering soldiers some much-needed rest.
One might imagine the fort as a quiet place, but Elar paints a different picture. “The Virginia Regiment sometimes had about 500 men in town, stationed at the fort. And these soldiers? Well, they had their share of fun, often sneaking off to local taverns,” he chuckles, recalling the many letters Washington had to pen to local innkeepers, asking them to keep his men away from alcohol.
Fast forward nearly 270 years, and George Mercer’s legacy is alive and kicking. Thanks to Elar’s group, which was formed in 2015, the history of the Virginia Regiment and their authentic 1756 uniforms (shipped from none other than England!) are showcased at regional events.
Beyond the reenactments, the weekend promises more than just a visual treat. As visitors explore the camp at 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, they’ll get a sense of the clothing, culinary arts, and weaponry of the period. “We camp out overnight, with tents set up exactly as they would have been back in the day,” added Elar, admitting that the busy South Pleasant Valley Road corridor makes for some noisy nights.
And for those wondering about the heavy woolen attire in potentially scorching weather? Elar laughingly remarked, “Once you start sweating in wool, it’s almost like having an air conditioner!”
But the weekend’s highlight? Engaging tales of Winchester during the French and Indian War. With no battles on record here, the spotlight is on Fort Loudoun and how French officers, upon surveying the fort, deemed it “too powerful, too strong” to attack.
Furthermore, visitors are in for a special treat. Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV will bring a young Col. George Washington to life, with whispers of a surprise visit from General Edward Braddock, the colonies’ commander-in-chief at the war’s beginning.
Winchester isn’t just a location. It’s a time machine to the 1750s, bringing forth the tales, sounds, and sights of a bygone era. An era of resilience, strategy, and iconic figures. All are invited to this journey, with no admission fee for the ceremony, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at Abram’s Delight.
Abram’s Delight is open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: Adults $6.00; Seniors $5.00; Students K-12 $3.00
Experience fall in the mountains at the 2023 Hands & Harvest Festival
Highland County’s annual Hands & Harvest Festival returns with county-wide fall fun during the weekend of October 6 – 8, 2023, where everyone is invited to celebrate the traditions, harvest, and crafts found in this rural mountain community.
From farms to a fire tower, visitors can experience the sights and tastes of the season while viewing the beautiful countryside of fall foliage. On the self-guided Harvest Trail, the public is invited to take part in traditional fall staples like cider pressing, making apple butter, or picking pumpkins at local farms and maple sugar camps, or they can try something different like viewing the process of creating colorful barn quilts or taking a tour of a mini equine sanctuary. While traveling, guests can get their Virginia Maple Syrup Trail passports stamped at five sugar camps – get them while you can before the trail program ends on March 31, 2024 (www.virginiamaplesyrup.com.)
Community activities include an exciting 5K Fall Color Run, Valley AeroSpace Team Rocket Launches, the restored Sounding Knob Fire Tower, popular annual sweater and used book sales, historic Monterey walking tours starting from the Highland Inn, and more. New attractions like the Charles Pinckney Jones House Museum, the working cattle farm of Hazy Hollow Farm, and the grand opening of the local artist gallery The 3rd Space add to the opportunities to create lasting memories.
Free entertainment in Monterey is available for the entire family! Kick off your weekend on Friday afternoon with bluegrass music at the Highland County Courthouse Lawn from Eyes on Him while you shop. On Saturday starting at noon, children can take a ride on Andy’s Bug Train that is sure to bring smiles. On Sunday afternoon, join in the excitement of an old-fashioned Street Dance on Spruce Street with one of Virginia’s oldest clogging groups, the Little Switzerland Cloggers, as well as local square dance callers Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe for a rollicking performance and interactive fun.
Get an early start on holiday shopping at the Arts & Crafts Vendor Market located on the courthouse lawn. Complete your shopping needs by visiting an old general store or unique venue nestled among the countryside like Sugar Tree Country Store, Blue Grass Mercantile, Jenny Wren Gatherings, Ginseng Mountain Farm & Store, The Church at the Old Oak, or the new Highland Roots Market.
Bring your appetite, because there will be abundant food options available around the county. The Friday Highland Farmers’ Market, Puff’s BBQ, and Martinez Kitchen will be open on the courthouse lawn. Fall-themed menus at local restaurants with expanded hours are sure to please. Whether you visit traditional staples like High’s Restaurant and Hull’s Hideaway Restaurant & Tavern or newer establishments like Claire’s Cakes & Café, The Curly Maple, or the Monterey Inn, your tastebuds will thank you! Plus, Big Fish Cider, Co. will be open with their award-winning craft ciders in Monterey.
Many adventures await with a visit to Highland County, Virginia. The full schedule, details, and addresses of all the festival happenings can be found at highlandcounty.org/hands-harvest-festival. Maps with daily schedules will be available at local stores and on the Highland County Courthouse Lawn in Monterey during the event.
The Hands & Harvest Festival is brought to you by the Highland County Chamber of Commerce. Top sponsors include Bath Community Hospital, Fair Lawn Farm, and the Highland County Arts Council.
The Highland County Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) membership nonprofit organization with a mission to lift up local businesses and entrepreneurs, promote Highland County, and champion economic prosperity and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.highlandcounty.org.
Lake Frederick Annual Veterans Association Picnic & Fundraiser 2023
Last week, the Lake Frederick community gathered to honor veterans from all over, including the guest of honor Captain Dale Davis, US Army Retired. Captain Davis has served on the Lake Frederick Veterans Association as President for the last seven years. He was celebrated at the picnic and thanked for his efforts through the years.
At the event, the Randolph-Macon Academy Drill Platoon commanded by Cadet 1st Sergeant Michael Hays ’25, and Color Guard commanded by Cadet 1st Lieutenant Kamila Yusupova ’24, opened the event with the long-standing military tradition of pass in review and presentation of colors. Winchester Pipes and Drums did an amazing job assisting the ceremony. The Association has 307 veteran members from Lake Frederick and the greater Lake Frederick area!
After the ceremony, R-MA cadets were invited to join Lake Frederick residents, guests, and families during the picnic. Music by Robbie Limon Band created a fun atmosphere for the rest of the day!