Stephens City’s biggest annual event gets underway Memorial Day weekend.
The Newtown Heritage Festival, Inc. was organized in 1993 to bring the Stephens City community together to awaken and honor the prolific history of the village once known as Newtown. According to the By-Laws of the Newtown Heritage Festival, Inc., the purpose of the annual festival is to provide a forum for the citizens of Stephens City to celebrate, study, and embrace the rich cultural heritage and history of the town for both residents and non-residents alike.
At the request of the Town council, a group of local citizens came together to establish a festival that would celebrate and acknowledge the place of Stephens City in the Shenandoah Valley. Later, under the leadership of Tootie Rinker, first festival president, the volunteer festival committee began to organize a debt free, volunteer and donations driven event. The monies reserved would allow for the organizers to pass on the savings with admission to all indoor and outdoor events—offered free of charge.
The focus would be to erase the town’s perceived historical obscurity as the small hamlet just south of Winchester and recognize Stephens City as the second oldest town in the Shenandoah Valley (est. 1758). The festival theme would feature the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth centuries, when the town, then known as Newtown/Stephensburg, became prosperous as a crossroads village with small scale industries, featuring production of the renowned Newtown Wagon. The Civil War would receive deserved attention as history reflected constant troop movements in the Valley causing the town to change hands thirty-five times, six times in one day alone, but with minimal destruction of private property.
The first festival included craft demonstrations and displays at the Old Stephens City School, Civil War “Living History” encampments near Applegate Antiques (Ritenour-Miller house), self-guided walking tours of the historic district, a festival parade traveling north-south down Main Street, spring fling family fun at the United Methodist Church, an outdoor music concert at both the Old School and Newtown Commons and a carnival at Jamesway Plaza. Four museums with distinct themes were set up on Main Street. Dr. David Powers gave an 18th century interpretation at the Stone House on the south end of town. The old store-front adjoining Mildred Grove’s home displayed old town relics and memorabilia. Old Time Apple Growers Association exhibited the town’s commercial farming industry at the Flower Center. The Turner Ashby chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Mosby Gang, a Civil War history acting troupe highlighted Civil War demonstrations. The festival drew 10,000 people in its first year and continued to draw large crowds going forward.
The committee held a contest among the local schools to design a logo which best represented a freight wagon because of the town’s history as the Newtown Wagon makers. The prize was recognition from the festival organizers and knowing the design would be placed on t-shirts, coffee mugs and other related commemoratives. A male student from Aylor Middle School who won received this recognition and the opportunity to ride in the parade.
According to current and three-time festival president, Tootie Rinker, the committee decided on a paperweight as the first commemorative for $10 because it was universal, and the new logo would fit. “We only ordered 250 and they sold out quickly,” she said. “We later chose a pottery item because the town was also known for its red clay pottery. We produced a red clay pot one year, but it was not popular with attendees. We tried other items but people were enamored with quality pottery. Folks really liked the Granville pottery items which are individually hand-thrown limited edition keepsakes and the committee continued with it from 1997 onward.”
The festival began with local artisans who displayed, quilting, basket weaving, chair caning, barrel-making and lath work at various locations about town. But as the years went on those folks passed away or no longer displayed their craft and the committee could not locate enough artisans to keep it going.
In the first few years, the Committee provided music with church or family bands located in both Newton Commons and the Old School. Later, there was interest in expanding the variety of music and the committee decided to compensate more well-known entertainers. The music venue then was consolidated at the Commons, where most people congregated. The festival acquired a number of extremely popular entertainers who drew large crowds, including Ronnie Dove and Ellen Irlene Mandrell.
Ray Ewing was the Stephens City Mayor from 1994 through 2010. He remembers five significant players then on the festival committee like Tootie Rinker, Betty Wymer, Donna Steward, Mary Alice Barley, and the late Janet Carbaugh. “Betty and Tootie were real sparkplugs for getting things done. Donna headed the parade beginning in 2000 and continues with it today. It was these ladies’ long-term commitment that played a key role in sustaining the success of the festival” Ewing said.
“The festival committee relied heavily on the town staff, especially Mike Kehoe who managed the logistics. The festival would not have succeeded without the full support and involvement of the town. The town’s acquisition of the Old School property and the Commons proved to be quite a boost to the festival, providing important venues for activities and entertainment,” Ewing added.
“One delightful event that sticks in my mind is the Lions Club sponsored Apple Crate derby because my eight-year-old grandson took part in it for a couple of years. He came in second one year and won a trophy. After the race he told me ‘Thanks granddaddy, this is the first trophy I have ever won in my whole life.’ I am certain there are other folks in the community who also hold such fond memories from this local and family friendly festival,” Ewing concluded.
In 1994, A Newtown Festival Handbook was published by the festival to better identify committee responsibilities, meeting dates, entertainment, transportation, and logistics. A fold out brochure was disseminated revealing the full two-day schedule of events, a town map identifying location of parade, museums, information center and parking and shuttle service.
The 1995 festival was the first to experience inclement weather as it rained off and on all day Sunday. However, the 1:30 pm Main Street parade went off without a hitch and the rain failed to dampen crowd enthusiasm. New that year were rides in the Newton Wagon built by Dennis Clem and pulled by tractor down Main Street. Clem’s Garage celebrated their 50th anniversary, sharing a six foot by 8-foot birthday cake with the crowd. The cake required fifteen cases of cake mix, 168 eggs and an unknown amount of frosting. Food options were abundant with local restaurants, churches and civic groups operating booths, food trucks and serving suppers.
1997 provided festival goers with the opportunity to purchase a print of the Stephens City Route 11 Toll House by local artist Chuck Thorn which was sold as a commemorative.
The 1999 festival activities began early Saturday morning with the 5th Apple Crate Derby sponsored by the Lion’s Club featuring homemade carts. The Derby took place on the Locust Street hill adjacent to town hall. Newtown Commons was the two-day site for the antique tractor and auto show. Trinity Lutheran Church served an authentic German style dinner at 11 am and the United Methodist Church served a country chicken dinner in the late afternoon.
The festival included an original Virginia freight wagon owned by Rod Graves of Luray. This wagon closely resembled a Newtown Wagon from the early part of the 19th century and displayed in a shed beside the Stone House Museum. The museum offered free horse drawn wagon tours of the historic district twice on Sunday afternoon. A highlight of the festival was an old-timer’s baseball game showcasing twenty-five former Stephens city High School players from the 1930s, 40s and 50s and occurred at the baseball field next to town hall.
2002 marked the Newtown Festivals 10th anniversary. The festival kicked off Friday night with the Miss Newtown Heritage Pageant. The Stone House Foundation featured an exhibit and presentation on Mudville, a business and residential community located just west of down-town and split by Marlboro Road (Route 631) and the railroad tracks. The Tavern (now the History Center), on the corner of Main and Fairfax Streets, served as the nucleus for the town’s history exhibits. Stephens City Volunteer Fire and Rescue hosted their famous barbecue chicken dinner at noon at the fire hall on Mulberry Street. The festival commemoratives were a hand-thrown limited edition batter bowl as well as a 10th Anniversary cookie jar, both selling for $25. A Sunday Decoration Day memorial service took place at Greenhill Cemetery, a precursor to future services at the brick Veterans Memorial on Main Street, dedicated in 2015.
Under the management of committee member Donna Steward, the 2 pm parade down Main Street continued to wow the crowds with local marching bands, floats, dignitaries, civic groups, automotive entries, firetrucks and military vehicles.
The 2008 festival celebrated the Stephens City, Newtown, Stephensburg 250th anniversary (1758-2008). To launch the historical celebration, Sherando High School, for the first time, had the annual spring concert preform outside of the school building. The school’s concert and symphonic bands held a pre-festival concert under a tent on the Commons lawn for public viewing. Over one hundred teenagers, members of the school’s concert, symphonic and marching bands practiced for one year and eagerly preformed music scores and pop melodies.
The festival had nine museums along Main Street featuring historical exhibits and living history experiences. The highlight of the annual walking tours included an archeological dig at the home of the town’s first settler, Peter Stephens, on the southwest side of Main Street, near Stephens Run.
The Old School had museums, including a classroom with items displayed from that earlier era and the actual teachers who instructed back then. It was immensely popular with former students who could reminisce about school days with their beloved teachers. The artifacts were all from Dennis Clem’s collection.
The Newtown Festival celebrated 20 years in 2012. Business sponsorships and the sale of festival items continued to support the event. This year, a stoneware flowerpot was sold for $25. Saturday afternoon’s parade down Main Street featured a descendant of town founder Peter Stephens, floats, restored freight wagons, fire trucks, sheriff’s vehicles, classic convertibles, and the Sherando Marching Band. A massive fireworks display (the largest ever in Stephens City) climaxed Saturday’s events.
According to Rinker, interest in the Newtown history aspect started to wane around 2015 as attendees desired great food, good music and spectacular fireworks. “But Rick Kriebel has given us a unique way to showcase our prolific history and brought it back to life,” Rinker said.
Rick Kriebel, Stone House Foundation Manager of Collections and Programs, wrote a narrative for a tractor drawn wagon history tour down Main Street. “I focused the tour on the town’s most important places on Main Street. Frontier history, African American history, Great Wagon Road, and the Civil War were top priorities,” Kriebel said. “From there, my next priority was writing in a way that could engage people. You are out in the open air, looking at the places where history took place and because it is geographically bound you can point out where stuff happens.” The 2019 wagon tour was a great success.
The family focused event continued to be a big hit, year after year, with locals, out of towners and entertainers alike. Admission to the festival, concerts and exhibits continued to remain free. “The festival is put on by the town residents for the people of the community,” Rinker said of the all-volunteer event. “It’s a family celebration and we want people to be able to afford it.”
Committee members continue to volunteer their talents to ensure the festival’s success. Adrian O’Conner’s knowledge and music contacts have enhanced our ability to obtain top notch entertainment. “When I took over as president in 2012, I drew upon some from friends in bluegrass music and recognized how eclectic our local talent (Robbie Limon, Souled Out, Springfield Exit, etc.) was,” O’Conner said.
“We had some stumbles along the way — an ill-fated Friday high-school “Battle of the Bands,” for e.g., — but then we hooked up with Souled Out and now we have a true “heritage” gold mine in Heather Butler and the Newtown Music Center. Frankly, I was lucky to see all this fall in place. What serendipity!”
The craft show under Kim Begnaud has expanded to obtain increased vendor participation at the Commons and more varied hand made products. Amy Groah has built relationships with food vendors and knows how to negotiate and arrange to have the best food available at the festival.
“In the 1990s, when we started thinking about the festival, we thought, our town merited the same approach to promoting history as other small towns had. We believe Newtown Festival is one of the best of its type in the entire Valley” O’Connor said. “We do it and continue to do it on a shoestring budget. We try to put in a new and fresh event each year and grow the festival,” O’Conner added.
The 30th Annual Newtown Heritage Festival (May 27-28) begins Friday evening and continues with a day full of activities from 10 am until after dark Saturday, concluding with massive fireworks at 9 pm. For more information, call 540-869-3087.
Festive Flights of Fun: Front Royal-Warren County Airport Hosts ‘Breakfast for Dinner & Reindeer Games
A Unique Evening of Holiday Cheer and Community Engagement.
The Front Royal-Warren County Airport is all set to host an evening that promises to blend festive joy with a delightful twist. On Saturday, December 9, 2023, from 3 to 6 pm, the airport will transform into a Christmas-themed playground, offering an event titled ‘Breakfast for Dinner & Reindeer Games.’ This unique event is geared towards bringing families and community members together for an evening of fun, food, and holiday spirit.
The event is designed to offer something special for every attendee. The highlight is the ‘Breakfast for Dinner’ menu featuring mouth-watering reindeer-decorated pancakes alongside classic breakfast favorites like bacon and sausage. At an affordable cost of just $5 per person and free entry for veterans, this event makes for an inexpensive family outing.
But the excitement doesn’t stop at delicious food. The event has lined up a ‘Reindeer Games’ series to keep everyone entertained. Activities include ‘Shrinky Dink Ornament Making,’ where attendees can craft their own festive decorations, and ‘Pin the Nose on Rudolph,’ a holiday twist on the classic party game. Additionally, families can participate in spreading ‘Reindeer Food’ on the lawn, a magical way to guide reindeer to your home the night before Christmas. For those who love a keepsake, there’s an opportunity to get ‘Reindeer Portraits’ done, capturing the holiday spirit in a memorable way.
The Front Royal-Warren County Airport, typically known for its aviation services, has increasingly become a hub for community events. This holiday-themed event is a testament to the airport’s commitment to serving and engaging with the community in fun and innovative ways.
‘Breakfast for Dinner & Reindeer Games’ at the Front Royal-Warren County Airport is more than just an event; it’s a celebration of community spirit and the joy of the holiday season. It offers an opportunity for families to come together, enjoy good food, partake in festive activities, and make lasting memories. This event is a shining example of how community spaces can be creatively used to bring people together and spread joy.
The Harlem Globetrotters: Bringing Hoops and Hope Back to Winchester
Shenandoah University Set to Host Globetrotters’ Exhilarating Performance on March 7.
The Harlem Globetrotters are gearing up to bring their unique blend of basketball artistry and family-friendly entertainment back to Winchester. Presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs, the Globetrotters will showcase their skills at Shenandoah University’s James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics and Events Center, marking their fourth appearance at the venue.
As part of their 2024 World Tour, the Globetrotters are set to perform on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m., facing off against their long-time rivals, the Washington Generals. The event promises to be a spectacle of high-flying dunks, impressive ball handling, and comedic antics that have defined the Globetrotters’ performances worldwide.
Tickets for this much-anticipated event are available starting at $25, with a total of 1,800 seats up for grabs. Considering the team’s popularity and the sold-out shows in 2018, 2021, and last spring, early ticket purchase is advised to avoid missing out on this entertaining evening. Attendees can also opt for the Magic Pass, a special pregame experience offering an up-close chance to interact with the players through activities like learning tricks and taking photos.
Organized by Russ Potts Productions, Inc. (RPPI) and sponsored by United Bank, the event is more than just a basketball game. Zach Franz, president of RPPI, shared his excitement during a recent Shenandoah University basketball game, highlighting the family-friendly nature of the event and its importance to the community.
In keeping with the spirit of giving, a food drive will be conducted during the game to support Bright Futures-Frederick/Winchester. This nonprofit organization works to meet the needs of local K-12 students, showcasing the Globetrotters’ commitment to community engagement.
The Harlem Globetrotters, with a rich history dating back to 1926, have always been more than just a basketball team. Known as the “Ambassadors of Goodwill,” they have played in 123 countries and territories, reaching more than 148 million fans globally. Their blend of athleticism, theater, and comedy continues to delight fans of all ages, making their events a memorable experience.
The Harlem Globetrotters’ return to Winchester is not just an exhibition of basketball prowess; it’s a celebration of community spirit and the joy of the sport. As they take to the court at Shenandoah University, they bring a legacy of goodwill and a promise of an evening filled with laughter, awe, and inspiration.
Ride for a Reason: Winchester Community Revs Up Support for Evans Home for Kids
Skyline Harley-Davidson Hosts Festive Fundraiser with Shenandoah Valley Christian Riders.
As the festive season approaches, the spirit of giving is revving up in Winchester, Virginia. The Henry and William Evans Home for Children has teamed up with the Shenandoah Valley Christian Riders (SVCR) for a unique Christmas fundraising event. Dubbed the “Christmas Fund Ride,” this event invites motorcycle enthusiasts and community members to hit the road for a noble cause: bringing holiday cheer to children in need.
Set against the scenic Shenandoah Valley backdrop, the event will kick off at the iconic Skyline Harley-Davidson, located at 140 Independence Road, Winchester. Registration begins at 2:00 p.m. on December 10, 2023, with engines starting at 2:15 p.m. In case of rain, the event has a backup date set for December 17, ensuring that the ride will go on, come rain or shine.
Leading the pack will be members of the SVCR, a local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, known for their commitment to community service and love for the open road. Participants are encouraged to contribute $20 per rider or non-motorcycle vehicle and $10 for each motorcycle passenger. These donations will go directly towards purchasing Christmas gifts for the children residing at the Evans Home, making the holiday season brighter for those who need it most.
Mitch Berkenkemper, the President of SVCR, is the go-to person for more information about the ride. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 540/520-0330. His enthusiasm for the event is infectious, as he calls on the community to show their support not just as riders but as benefactors of a heartfelt cause.
This Christmas Fund Ride is more than just a motorcycle event; it’s a testament to the power of community spirit and the joy of giving. As the engines roar to life on December 10, it won’t just be about the thrill of the ride but the collective effort to make a difference in the lives of children. In the true spirit of the holiday season, the Winchester community is invited to come together, ride, and spread joy where it’s needed most.
This Week’s Showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of December 7th
Are you looking for the full movie-going experience without having to wait in the long lines that often accompany that experience? Then look no further because Royal Cinemas movie theatre is the answer. Get the whole gang together and enjoy a movie! Reserved seating in all auditoriums.
Here is a list of this week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of Thursday, December 7:
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adult: $10
- Child (under 12): $7
- Military: $8
- Student (college): $8
- Senior: $8
- Matinees, All Seating: $7
FREE “Christmas Classics” Movies
“NAUGHTY OR NICE TRIPLE FEATURE”
Saturday and Sunday @ 1:00pm
- “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”
Triumphant Harmony: Fishnet Ministries Hosts Three Pianos Christmas Concert
A Unique Musical Celebration to Herald the Festive Season in Front Royal.
In the heart of December, when the chill of winter meets the warmth of festive cheer, Fishnet Ministries Church in Front Royal, VA, is set to host an extraordinary musical event: the Three Pianos Christmas Concert. Scheduled for Sunday, December 17, at 6 pm, this concert promises to be a harmonious blend of pianos and voices, celebrating the joy and peace of the Christmas season.
The concert, a novel concept featuring three pianos played simultaneously, is set to be led by Bobbi Andes, a Shenandoah University alumnus, alongside talented pianists Naomi Marie Caricofe and Zack Dodson. This trio of pianists will merge their skills to create a captivating and inspiring atmosphere filled with beloved Christmas Carols. The synchronization of three pianos is a testament to the pianists’ skill and a symbolic representation of the harmony and unity that the holiday season embodies.
Bobbi Andes, renowned for her God-inspired touch on the keyboard, brings a wealth of experience to this event. Together with her husband, Pastor Larry Andes of Fishnet Ministries Church, she has historically guided worship for vast crowds at the Fishnet Festivals. Her profound musical heritage and deep ties with the community infuse this concert with genuine depth and resonance.
Adding to the musical spectacle, vocalists Cheryl Yancey and Tracy Atsiknoudous will lend their voices, further enhancing the melodic experience. The concert will also feature a vibrant display of banners presented by the youth, adding a visual element to the auditory experience.
In keeping with the spirit of giving and community, the Three Piano Concert is offering free admission. Attendees can also look forward to enjoying refreshments, making the event not just a concert but a communal celebration. This musical evening is not just a performance; it’s an invitation to the community to come together and share in the joy and peace of the holiday season.
The Three Pianos Christmas Concert at Fishnet Ministries Church is more than just a musical event; it’s a gathering that epitomizes the essence of the Christmas spirit. Through the harmonious blend of pianos and voices, the concert aims to spread joy and peace, reminding us of the true reason for the season. This unique celebration is open to everyone, promising an evening of enchanting music and festive cheer. Don’t miss this special opportunity to be part of a memorable holiday experience on Sunday, December 17, at Fishnet Ministries Church located beside Rockland Park, 391 Fishnet Blvd., Front Royal, VA 22630
Magical Radio Days Reimagined: Selah Theatre Project Brings a Holiday Classic to Life
Andrew J. Fenady’s ‘Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus’ Hits the Stage This December.
The charm of old-time radio, where imaginations ran wild and stories came to life in the minds of listeners, is being rekindled in Middletown, VA. This holiday season, Selah Theatre Project, in collaboration with Laurel Ridge Community College, is set to enchant audiences with its latest production, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.” The play, written by the celebrated Andrew J. Fenady, is a visual and auditory feast, an adaptation of the beloved 1897 editorial from the New York Sun.
In an era dominated by screens, this production harks back to the golden age of radio, offering a unique theatrical experience. It revolves around a heartwarming exchange where young Virginia, in her quest for truth, writes to the New York Sun asking about the existence of Santa Claus. This inquiry leads Ed Mitchell, the editor, to assign the task to Frank Church, a reporter grappling with personal struggles. Church’s profound response, affirming Santa’s existence, has since woven itself into the fabric of Christmas traditions worldwide.
With nineteen actors, both budding and experienced, the Selah Theatre Project’s rendition promises a blend of nostalgia and innovation. Audiences will be swept away to an era where radio reigned supreme, meeting an array of vivid characters including Virginia, Frank Church, and Santa Claus himself. The cast, under the skillful direction of LaTasha Do’zia, breathes life into this classic tale, ensuring a visual and auditory treat.
Selah Theatre Project, known for its commitment to quality community theatre, finds this production especially close to its heart. The play not only celebrates the Christmas spirit and the innocence of childhood but also stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling. Supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, this production is more than a play; it’s a community event, fostering the arts and bringing people together in the spirit of the holidays.
As the holiday season approaches, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” offers a perfect opportunity for families and friends to gather and immerse themselves in a world of wonder and joy. Selah Theatre Project invites everyone to experience this enchanting production, which not only entertains but also supports the arts in the community. With performances scheduled from December 8-10 & 15-17 at the William H. McCoy Theatre, Laurel Ridge Community College, this is an event not to be missed. Tickets are available online, via phone, or at the door, promising a magical evening for all.
Tickets can be purchased at selahtheatreproject.org or call 540-684-5464 or at the door.